Moroccan officials accused of intimidating Western Sahara diplomat at African Unity event

Moroccan officials accused of intimidating Western Sahara diplomat at African Unity event
Moroccan officials reportedly attempted to stop a Western Sahara diplomat from entering an event celebrating the organisation that foreran the African Union.
2 min read
31 May, 2023
Western Sahara is a disputed territory on Africa's north-western coast [Photo by RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]

Moroccan officials have been accused of intimidating a representative from Western Sahara at an Organisation of African Unity celebration in Australia last Thursday.

The diplomatic event in the Australian capital devolved into an ugly altercation when Moroccan officials abused a representative from the disputed North African territory and attempted to block him from entering the venue.

Live Story

Sahrawi representative Kamel Fadel, who had been formally invited to the Albert Hall event by the South African delegation, was initially stopped from entering the venue by Moroccan diplomats.

Other African ambassadors and Australian police were later forced to intervene, according to a video seen by The Guardian

The video shows three Moroccan officials barring the entrance to Albert Hall to prevent Fadel from entering. Fadel subsequently tried to push his way in, before getting into a shouting match with the Moroccan officials.

He finally entered the venue thirty minutes later, escorted by African diplomats.

"This is a total embarrassment for the African missions here and I, as a police officer, shouldn’t have to be dealing with this," African police agent Chris Hedley said in the video.

"You have embarrassed yourself and any goodwill you had with the people here is gone," Hedley added later. 

Live Story

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the west coast of Africa. Although partly controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), it is claimed by Morocco and is largely occupied by Moroccan forces. 

Morocco’s claim to the territory is largely unrecognised by the international community. 

Last week’s event was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the OAU, the forerunner to the African Union. 

Fadel had been invited as a guest of South Africa, a matter which had been agreed upon with the Australian authorities.

In a statement issued later, he expressed his "sincere thanks and gratitude to all the African ambassadors who did the right thing and prevented the attempt to hijack the Africa Day event in an unprecedented and illicit manner".