The government has distanced itself from the appeal for the expulsion of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from the African Union (AU) signed by former minister of foreign affairs Lesego Makgothi last weekend.
Minister of foreign affairs and international relations, Lejone Mpotjoane, on Wednesday said the government would investigate the involvement of Makgothi in the signing of the controversial appeal.
Known as the “Tangier Appeal”, it was first signed on November 4, 2022, in Tangier Morocco by former prime ministers and ministers from Guinea-Bissau, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Benin, Comoros, Liberia, Gabon, Malawi, Cape Verde, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kenya.
During the meeting held in Marrakech last weekend, Makgothi and the former minister of foreign affairs of Madagascar, Patrick Rajoelina, and Lamine Kaba Badjo, former minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Gambia, signed the appeal.
The Moroccan media claimed that â€œwith these new countries, the number of signatories now stands at 19â€.
It also reported that the 19 signatories reiterated their commitment to work together and exclude â€œthis non-state entityâ€, SADR, also known as Western Sahara, from the AU.
Minister of foreign affairs and international relations, Lejone Mpotjoane, told the media on Wednesday this week that the Lesotho government was aware of the media reports.
â€œThe Government of Lesotho disassociates itself from this alleged signing of an appeal by the former minister Makgothi and reiterates its long and cherished principled position on SADR or Western Sahara,â€ Mpotjoane said.
He said Lesotho and Western Sahara maintain cordial bilateral relations and the successive governments of Lesotho have maintained their support for Western Sahara to gain independence from Morocco.
He indicated that Lesotho and Western Sahara had exchanged high-level visits citing the official visit to Western Sahara by the former Prime Minister, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane in 2012 and the official visit to Lesotho by the President of Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali, in 2018.
He said these exchange visits have gone a long way in consolidating the existing cordial relations between these two African Countries.
â€œLesothoâ€™s foreign policy is premised upon the principle espoused by the founder of the Basotho Nation, King Moshoeshoe I, namely â€œKhotso Ke Khaitseli ea kaâ€ literally translated to mean â€˜Peace is my sisterâ€™. It is underpinned by the principles of sovereign equality of all states, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-use of the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and the right to self-determination,â€ he said.
Mpotjoane also explained that concerning the right to self-determination, Lesotho calls for the legitimate right to self-determination of those countries and nations that still do not enjoy self-determination in accordance with the United Nations (UN) principles and resolutions.
He further stated that based on the countryâ€™s foreign policy, which has remained virtually the same since obtaining independence in 1966, Lesotho has maintained a principled position to support the struggle for the People of Western Sahara.
â€œIndeed, Lesotho exists as a country today because of solidarity with others, and her independence and sovereignty shall, to a large extend, continue to depend on solidarity with other states,â€ he said.
The minister also told journalists that the Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) organized a solidarity conference on Western Sahara in 2019 in South Africa and the decisions of that conference were endorsed by the SADC summit that was held in Tanzania in August 2019.
Lesotho participated in both summits at the highest level.
â€œThus, the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho will continue to maintain her principled position on Western Sahara and reiterates her support to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as an independent African country, co-existing side by side with the Kingdom of Morocco in peace and security.
â€œIt is regrettable that Western Sahara remains the only colony on the Continent of Africa contrary to the principles of the UN Charter. The issue of Western Sahara is a question of decolonization which remains to be completed based on the exercise by the Sahrawi People of their inalienable right to self-determination and independence,â€ he said.
Mpotjoane also said the government of Lesotho underscores the need for creating conditions that would allow the holding of a peaceful and fair referendum for the self-determination of the People of Western Sahara.
â€œThe Government, therefore, pronounces Lesothoâ€™s support for peaceful negotiations, aimed at holding the referendum between Western Sahara and Morocco on an equal footing and without pre-conditions.
â€œFinally, the Government of Lesotho will investigate the alleged involvement of Mr. Lesego Makgothi in the signing of the so-called Tangier Appealand other related activities on the part of Mr. Lesego Makgothi and take appropriate action, if necessary,â€ Mpotjoane concluded.
Makgothi in 2019 attempted to unilaterally change Lesothoâ€™s position to that of constructive neutrality on the issue of Western Saharaâ€™s decades-long struggle for independence.
He announced that Lesotho no longer supported Western Saharaâ€™s right to independence and said the country had resolved to be neutral on the issue.
The was an uproar and the government had to immediately issue a statement reaffirming Western Saharaâ€™s right to independence.