Kagame, UN envoy Kohler discuss Western Sahara conflict


President Paul Kagame on Friday received UN secretary-general envoy and former German president Dr Horst Köhler at Village Urugwiro in Kigali.

The two leaders discussed how the United Nations and the African Union can work together to bring lasting peace in the troubled Western Sahara region, according to Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who attended the meeting.

Köhler is now the Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres for Western Sahara.

Kagame officially takes over the chairmanship of the African Union on January 28.

“Dr Horst Köhler and President Kagame discussed a wide range of topics and shared ideas on how the AU can partner with the UN in bringing lasting peace in Western Sahara,” Mushikiwabo told reporters shortly after the meeting.

“The United Nations strongly believes that African leaders can play a big role in addressing the issues in the Western Sahara and Köhler’s meeting with President Kagame helps both the UN and the AU on how they can contribute to finding solutions for that region,” she added.

Occupied by Spain until the late 20th century, Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa, partially controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied.

It shares borders with Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

The region has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 upon a Moroccan demand.

Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi) and is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting desert flatlands.