INTRODUCTION: African heads of state left Kenya for home on Saturday (27 June) after a summit meeting that produced outlines of a settlement of the long war in the Western Sahara where Algerian-backed guerrillas have been fighting Morocco.
GV Conference building in Nairobi
CU OAU Secretary-General Edem Kodjo speaking in French
GV Delegates seated
CU President Goukouni Oueddei of Chad
CU Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia
CU President Abdou Diouf of Senegal
CU President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
CU King Hassan of Morocco speaking in French with delegates listening
Background: INTRODUCTION: African heads of state left Kenya for home on Saturday (27 June) after a summit meeting that produced outlines of a settlement of the long war in the Western Sahara where Algerian-backed guerrillas have been fighting Morocco. The conflict goes back to 1975 when Spain ended colonial rule over the territory and divided it between Morocco and Mauritania. Rebels backed by Algeria, and later by Libya, opposed the partition and began a steadily intensifying guerrilla war. At the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) meeting delegates agreed that a referendum be held among the people of the Western Sahara.
SYNOPSIS: Heads of State at the conference were told by OAU Secretary-General Edem Kodjo that it was generally agreed the referendum would be held under the control of the United Nations and the OAU.
Mr. Kodjo said the OAU committee would be given special powers to carry out the resolution. It was not an easy matter, he stressed, to organise a ceasefire in a sensitive region like the Western Sahara. That was why the committee, formed by the President of Nigeria, Mali, Tanzania, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, should meet quite soon to prepare the way for the ceasefire and referendum.
The referendum and elections in the Western Sahara will be held to decide whether the former Spanish colony should remain under Moroccan control. The OAU decision on the referendum was one of the achievements of what's been described as a highly successful annual conference. The Nairobi summit was considered to have seen more positive thinking and action than previous conferences of the OAU at Freetown and Monrovia.
President Goukouni Oueddei of Chad helped conference proposals by approving the formation of an African peace-keeping force to replace Libyan troops in his country.
For the first time during the OAU meeting, Morocco's King Hassan agreed on Friday (26 June) to the proposal of a referendum in the Western Sahara under international control.
King Hassan said whatever the cost, Morocco was once again prepared to show its total goodwill and its determination to remain a useful member of the OAU. His country would work continuously for the aims of the OAU's charter to be achieved. By agreeing to the practice of referendum, highly regarded in Africa, he said Morocco was responding to wishes expressed by many friendly heads of state -- African, Arab and European.
Finding a solution to the problem of the Western Sahara was the first important step taken at this 18th summit meeting of the OAU. King Hassan's agreement to the referendum took the conference by surprise. Previously he has been uncompromising in his assertion of Morocco's sovereignty over the territory.