Friday, January 24, 2014

Mauritius Breaks Ties with Western Sahara, Leaving Only 44 Backing SADR; Tongan Recognition of Kosovo in Doubt

The number of countries recognizing the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (S.A.D.R.) continued to dwindle this week as the Republic of Mauritius withdrew its diplomatic recognition.  Mauritius had first extended recognition to the S.A.D.R.—also known as Western Sahara—in 1982.  The Mauritian foreign ministry said it still supports the (largely moribund) efforts of the United Nations (U.N.) to end the conflict.

Western Sahara was known as the Spanish Sahara until Spain withdrew in 1976, leaving the northern two-thirds of the territory to Morocco and the southern third to Mauritania.  Morocco instead invaded the entire country and has since subjected it to brutal occupation while the indigenous, non-Arab Sahrawi people’s Polisario Front rebel group has insisted on the independence of their S.A.D.R., which now governs only a sliver of territory east of huge defensive sand walls built by Morocco.

The Polisario Front still asserts Sahrawi sovereignty.
The move by Mauritius—coming after withdrawals of recognition last year by Panama and Haiti (reported on at the time in this blog) and Paraguay earlier this month (also reported in this blog) now leaves the Sahrawi people with only 44 states—mostly in Africa and Latin America recognizing the legitimacy of their struggle for self-determination.

States which recognize the S.A.D.R. are shown in green.
Dark grey countries have withdrawn previous recognition.
Mauritius, though a tiny country, is, as Haiti was, symbolically significant.  Mauritius, off the coast of eastern Africa in the Indian Ocean is a vocal opponent on the world stage of colonization of sub-Saharan African peoples.  Mauritius still claims the Chagos Archipelago, a.k.a. the British Indian Ocean Territory, as its own (see a recent article from this blog on the Chagossian cause), and in 1982 it unilaterally ended its relationship as a Commonwealth realm of its former colonial master, the United Kingdom, becoming a full republic.

The flag of Mauritius
Meanwhile, Hashim Thaçi, the prime minister of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo—still technically claimed by the Republic of Serbia after declaring independence in 2008—announced on his Facebook page this week that his country had secured the diplomatic recognition of the Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific.  Later, that was called into doubt and there is as yet no confirmation from the Polynesian monarchy’s foreign ministry in Nuku’alofa.  If true, Tonga would be the 106th independent state to recognize Kosovo, whose membership in the U.N. General Assembly is still effectively blocked by the veto powers of Russia and China on the U.N. Security Council.

A Sahrawi man with the flag of his struggling state.
[You can read more about the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Kosovo, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

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