THE visit by President of the Sahrawi Republic Brahim Ghali last week will remain a historical one for many reasons.
It is a visit that will mark Zambiaâ€™s clear position on the status of the Sahrawi Republic whose independence, sovereignty and recognition remain controversial.
This visit follows an earlier one in October last year by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Foreign Affairs Minister Salem Ould Salek.
President Lungu assured the minister that Zambia remained committed to strengthening relations with Sahrawi for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
President Lungu also assured Sahrawi President Brahim Ghali that Zambia was in solidarity with that country and its peopleâ€™s emancipation., stressing that Zambia cannot undo its contribution to the Sahrawi people in their quest to being a sovereign state.
â€œWe are truly behind Sahrawi for the emancipation of the country and its people,â€ the President said.
This is against the backdrop that last year Zambia pulled the rag on Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, also known as Western Sahara, by saying it had withdrawn recognition.
It is therefore clear that Zambia is now restating its position on the status of the Sahrawi Republic.
Some commentators have argued that President Lungu is teetering on a delicate diplomatic undertaking by hosting Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic leader Ghali barely weeks after Moroccan monarch King Mohamed VI cancelled his State visit to Zambia.
However, it is important that sovereign countries make their sovereign choices, even though it is widely held that international politics is the politics of the unequal.
Zambia has therefore rightly decided to make a bold decision in solidarity with the people of Sahrawi Republic.
President Ghali also met former President Kenneth Kaunda during his three-day visit.
Dr Kaundaâ€™s administration was key in fighting for liberation across the continent and recognised Sahrawi during his 27-year reign.
President Lungu has not therefore re-invented the will.
The Sahrawi Republic, officially the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is a partially recognised state that controls a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.
SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara.
The SADR government controls about 20â€“25 percent of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or the Free Zone.
Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern provinces.
The SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory to be occupied territory, while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR-held territory to be a buffer zone.
The claimed capital of the SADR is Laayoune, while the temporary capital has been moved from Bir Lehlou to Tifariti.
The Sahrawi Republic has diplomatic relations with 40 United Nation (UN) states, and is a full member of the African Union (AU).
Following the Spanish evacuation of Spanish Sahara, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords on November 14, 1975, leading to both Morocco and Mauritania moving in to annex the territory of Western Sahara. On February 26, 1976, Spain informed the UN that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities, leaving no Administering Power.
Neither Morocco nor Mauritania gained international recognition, and war ensued with the independence-seeking Polisario Front claiming to represent the Sahrawi people.
The SADR was proclaimed on February 27, 1976, as the Polisario reiterated the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political vacuum left by the Spanish.
Laayoune in Moroccan-controlled territory is the claimed capital, whose proclamation was made in the government-in-exileâ€™s provisional capital, Bir Lehlou.
It has remained a Polisario-held territory since the 1991 cease-fire. On February 27, 2008, the provisional capital was formally moved to Tifariti. Day-to-day business, however, is conducted in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.
International recognition and membership
As of last year, the SADR has been recognised by 85 states. Of these, 37 have since â€œfrozenâ€ or â€œwithdrawnâ€ recognition for a number of reasons. A total of 40 UN states maintain diplomatic relations with the SADR, while a further seven also recognise the state.
Although it is not recognised by the UN, the SADR has held full membership of the AU, formerly the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) since 1982.
Morocco left the OAU in protest in 1984 and remains the only non-AU member since South Africaâ€™s admittance in 1994.
The SADR participates as guest on meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement or the New Asianâ€“African Strategic Partnership, over Moroccan objections to SADR participation.
On the other hand, Moroccoâ€™s claim to Western Sahara is supported by the Arab League.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Sahrawi Republic President Brahim Ghali visit historical