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Confusion over Kenya's Ruto comments to break ties with Sahrawi independence fighters

Kenya's new president William Ruto speaks to the media after signing the book ...   -  
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Brian Inganga/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


There is confusion over whether Nairobi has cut ties with the contested Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara after Kenya's new president announced the break but then deleted his tweet.

A tweet by Kenya's new president, William Ruto, announcing on Wednesday a break in his country's diplomatic ties with the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Republic (SADR) was deleted hours later, adding to the confusion.

Kenya is withdrawing its recognition of the SADR and taking steps to reduce its presence in the country," Ruto wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning after talks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

A little later, he deleted this message without providing an explanation.

This unexpected announcement came barely 24 hours after the inauguration ceremony of Mr. Ruto, which was attended by the leader of the independence movement Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, in Nairobi.

The Algerian-backed Polisario Front wants an independent state in Western Sahara, a vast desert area that Morocco considers part of its own territory.

Bourita delivered a congratulatory message from Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Ruto said, adding that the two countries had agreed to improve relations "in the areas of trade, agriculture, health, tourism and energy, among others.

"Kenya supports the UN framework as the exclusive mechanism to find a lasting solution to the dispute," President Ruto also said on Twitter, maintaining this message.

- Tough diplomatic battle -

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara lies at the western end of the vast desert of the same name, which stretches along the Atlantic coast.

The Polisario, which proclaimed the SADR in 1976, continues to demand, with the support of Algeria, the holding of a referendum provided for by the UN at the time of the signing of a cease-fire between the belligerents in 1991.

For its part, Morocco, which controls 80% of the territory, advocates autonomy under its exclusive sovereignty.

Both sides are engaged in a bitter diplomatic battle to secure the support of their allies.

The UN, which considers Western Sahara a "non-self-governing territory" in the absence of a final settlement, has deployed a peacekeeping mission there, the Minurso.

The Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura was appointed last November as the UN Secretary General's special envoy to try to find a political solution to the conflict.

The African Union (AU) recognises the Sahrawi Arab Republic as one of its members.

In a speech last month, Mohammed VI urged Morocco's partner countries to "clarify" their position on the issue of the disputed territory of Western Sahara and to support it "unequivocally".

This issue is "the prism through which Morocco views its international environment," the sovereign said.

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