Rabat – The kingdom of Lesotho is joining the growing cohort of formerly pro-Polisario countries poised to revise their stance on the Western Sahara territorial dispute, buttressing the reigning suggestion of a pro-Rabat momentum in the latest developments.
In a Note Verbale (verbal note) published on Friday, October 4, the Southern African kingdom announced the “suspension” of all its former “declarations and decisions” in relation to the Western Sahara question.
Lesotho, which had recognized the Polisario-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in October 1985, was until recently one of Africa’s few pro-Polisario voices. The country’s “suspension” of its previous declarations and decisions on Western Sahara is therefore set to be interpreted as yet another blow to the separatist front’s statehood claims.
“The publication of this Note Verbale… follows today’s telephone conversation between Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco, Nasser Bourita, and minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Lesego Makgothi,” reads the declaration from the Lesotho government.
The statement detailed that, during their conversation, the two foreign ministers stressed both their countries’ desire to rekindle their bilateral relations by “removing obstacles,” mostly including their disagreement on Western Sahara, which may have negatively affected the quality of their cooperation.
With Lesotho’s decision coming after a conversation between its foreign affairs minister and Morocco’s Nasser Bourita, some may credit the news with what has been described in the past months as Morocco’s increasingly proactive-looking diplomacy.
In recent years, especially since its readmission to the African Union, Morocco seems to have redoubled its diplomatic arsenal in convincing governments of the historical, legal legitimacy, as well as the “seriousness” and “pragmatism” of its Western Sahara autonomy proposal.
Rabat has also underlined the socio-economic benefits that come with its proposal.
The notion of “proactive” or “constructive” diplomacy has since been used to point to Morocco’s shift from reactive behavior towards pro-Polisario countries to more conciliatory, long-term-oriented diplomatic efforts aimed with the goal of eventually succeeding in having them accept the point that its proposal is the most viable means to end the Western Sahara stalemate.
Lesotho’s move comes amidst a perceived pro-Morocco momentum in UN-led political process to broker lasting peace in Western Sahara.
Most recently, the overwhelming majority of UN member countries renewed their commitment to the body’s agenda of pushing for a politically negotiated, compromise-based political solution.
In the meantime, some countries— mostly in Africa but increasingly in other regions, too —have consistently lauded Morocco’s proposal, saying it the only viable way out of the Western Sahara diplomatic, political deadlock.