CAPE TOWN, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday expressed regret over the readmission of Morocco to the African Union (AU).
The ANC "notes the regrettable decision" by the AU to readmit Morocco into the organization, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.
The 54-member AU voted overwhelmingly to readmit Morocco following a lengthy debate at the 28th AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Monday. Thirty-nine of the 54 states approved Morocco's return to the AU.
"This decision represents a significant setback to the cause of the Sahrawi people and their quest for self-determination and independence in the Western Sahara," Kodwa said.
The ANC notes that the AU decision paves the way for the Kingdom of Morocco to take their place amongst the community of nations and to enjoy the benefits of AU membership, whilst the Sahrawi people continue to suffer under an unjust occupation of their ancestral land, Kodwa said.
By readmitting Morocco into the AU is tacitly endorsing the longstanding occupation of the Western Sahara, the ANC claims.
Morocco has to date failed to comply with successive UN resolutions on the issue of the Western Sahara, most importantly the holding of a referendum on self-determination, the ANC says.
It was mainly countries led by former liberation movements on the continent, amongst them South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique as well as Botswana and Algeria, which opposed the decision. All of these countries have been active supporters of the rights of the Sahrawi people and their right to an independent homeland.
"The ANC, whilst respecting the decision of the AU, hopes that in coming months the AU will not allow the matter of the independence of Western Sahara to be swept under the carpet of political expediency. Rather the quest for the self-determination by the people of Western Sahara takes centre stage on the AU agenda," Kodwa noted.
Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony under dispute since 1975 between Morocco and the Polisario Front which proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a government-in-exile in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria.
The Western Sahara has been on the UN list of non-self-governing territories since 1963. A UN-led process of negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario is lagging behind.
Morocco says it is ready to grant autonomy rule to Sahrawi people, while the Algeria-backed Polisario demands holding a self-determination referendum.
The ANC keeps longstanding fraternal ties with the Polisario Front and the SADR.