Kenya/Morocco: Ruto tweet ends decades-old policy on Western Sahara… or does it?

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 15 September 2022 13:59

Kenya's deputy president William Ruto. Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Kenya’s new President William Ruto on Wednesday deleted a tweet that revoked his country's long-standing recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), after a meeting with Morocco Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita at State House Nairobi.

Hours after meeting Bourita, who delivered a congratulatory message to him from King VI, Ruto said Kenya would wind down the mission of the SADR in Nairobi.

After his initial, now deleted tweet caused a diplomatic furor, Ruto sent out a more reserved one stating that: “Kenya supports the United Nations framework as the exclusive mechanism to find a lasting solution of the dispute over Western Sahara.”

The new president has not explained why the tweet was deleted, causing confusion on Kenya’s policy on the Morocco-Sahrawi stalemate.

The shock announcement came a day after Sahrawi President Brahim Ghali attended Ruto’s inauguration, and was recognised before dignitaries and thousands of people who attended the event.

Undiplomatic

The majority of Kenyans on social media see it as a diplomatic blunder.

“Ruto must have received wrong advice. That was undiplomatic of him. That’s why the tweet was deleted,” Hillary Ingati, a political analyst in Nairobi, tells The Africa Report.

William Ruto is living up to long held fears that he is a brute who is prone to influence for self-gain

Dr. Ekuru Aukot, a politician and constitutional lawyer, echoes this sentiment saying the decision should be rectified. “President William Ruto must rescind that revocation.”

The Communist Party Of Kenya has also condemned Ruto. “William Ruto is living up to long held fears that he is a brute who is prone to influence for self-gain,” the party said in a statement.

Ruto’s decision has also elicited reaction from the region, with Tanzanian opposition Politician Zitto Kabwe terming it as wrong.

“President William Ruto is showing his colours! Western Sahara has been under Moroccan occupation for decades. Why support Moroccan colonialism? I condemn this reactionary decision,” he said on Twitter.

Fertiliser deal?

Reports suggest that Ruto’s promise to deal with Kenya’s high cost of living – by promising to lower the price of fertiliser – may have been the reason behind the revocation. Morocco is an important country to Kenya as it has the ability to offer the much-needed commodity to farmers, at a cheaper price.

Ruto becomes the only Kenyan leader, since independence in 1963, to have announced an end to a decades-old policy, which has been supporting Sahrawi to pursue its self-determination through a referendum.

During their time in power, former presidents Mwai Kibaki (deceased) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Ruto’s predecessor) pushed for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, a move that has always been protested by Rabat.

The territory of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has been claimed by Morocco since 1975, and in the past, Kenya has always argued that the boundaries of Western Sahara – as vacated by the Spanish colonists – should be left unchanged.

In 1979, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that provided for the unequal rights of Western Sahara people in their own discretion and liberty.

A referendum meant to determine the future of the region has never been organised as both sides disagreed on who should participate.

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