WASHINGTON, DC, 22 January 2021 – The newly-confirmed US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin has promised to closely review the Wesern Sahara Question once in office.
The first Black American to be in charge of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, told the senate during his confirmation hearing that he wiill examine the issue “immediately after his confirmation”.
The four-star retired army general was confirmed by a landslide 93 votes for, two against.
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.
Rabat has long claimed that it has sovereignty over the territory, but the international community has held the exact opposite view.
That is until former US President Donald Trump decided, late in his term, to declare the territory a part of Morocco, in exchange for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel.
Lloyd Austin was answering questions by Senator James Inhofe, who is the Senate Defense Committee Chairperson and a fervent defender of the Saharawi cause.
The position adopted by the Trump administration is at odds with international law.
The International Court of Justice rendered a ruling (known as an advisory position) in 1975, reiterating that Morocco did not have sovereignty over Western Sahara.
The United States (unitl Trump), the United Nations and the African Union have all supported self-determination and independene for the Sahrawis.
“We [the United States] have supported a self-determination referendum. The United States has done so since the 1970s, the UN since the 1970s and also the African Union and most of the 52 countries in Africa all have declared that Western Sahara should hold a self-determination referendum,” Inhofe recalled.
The African Union admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as an independent African country
The admission angered Morocco, leading to Rabat’s withdrawal from the continental body.
Ever since Morocco returned to the fold, it has been pushing a number of African countries, including some that previously recognized the SADR, to withdrew recognition in favor of Morocco.
The answer by the incoming Pentagon chief has ggreassured pro-independence campaigners elsewhere across Africa – Somaliland, Southern Cameroons, Puntland, Biafra, etc. – that US foreign policy will continue to uphold the right of peoples to self-determination.