African leaders failed to open their summit meeting for the second day today, plunging the Organization of African Unity deeper into crisis.
At the end of today's deliberations, Peter Onu, the OAU's assistant secretary general, announced that the trouble-plagued summit would convene for an official opening at 4 p.m. Wednesday regardless of whether the required quorum of 34 could be achieved.
A 3 1/2-hour afternoon meeting for all members today was labeled an informal session in the hopes of luring opposing camps to the conference table.
However, a compromise on the crucial issue of admitting the self-proclaimed Sahara Arab Democratic Republic as the OAU's 51st member remained as elusive as ever. At least 19 African states boycotted the meeting as a signal of their refusal to recognize the government representing the Polisario guerrillas fighting Morocco for control of the former Spanish colony of the Western Sahara. A Sahara Arab Democratic Republic delegation, headed by its president Mohammed Abdelaziz, was in the conference hall.
The issue has divided the organization since February 1982 when the OAU's secretary general, Edem Kodjo of Togo, recognized the country's sovereignty without taking a full vote of the membership. The OAU failed twice last year to convene a summit in Tripoli, Libya, because of deep divisions on the same issue and the representatioon of Chad.
Hopes of healing the rift here at the seat of the OAU's secretariat have dimmed with the emergence of at least two clearly defined camps. Members of the self-styled progressive camp, headed by Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi, are adamant that the Polisario government be recognized as an independent state. The other faction, led by Guinea's President Ahmed Sekou Toure with the strong backing of Morocco, comprises a mix of political viewpoints that is weighted with states that are considered to be more moderate and conservative in their outlook.
Between these two blocs is a hastily formed committee of nine moderate states that have launched a major lobbying effort to avoid a complete collapse of the summit by appealing to those delegations that have refused to leave their hotels.
While several members in each bloc have a vested interest in the sovereignty of the Western Sahara, for most the dispute is an opportunity to demonstrate political alliances. Morocco has been fighting against the Polisario for the territory that touches its border since Spain abandoned its claim there in 1975.
With the support of the United States, Morocco has been able to prolong the war for the phosphate-rich desert area. Many other states backing Morocco also are deemed to either have conservative governments or be friendly to the United States and other western powers. They include Cameroon, Somalia, the Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Djibouti. However, the analysis is not quite that simple.
Toure, whose country is a western neighbor of the disputed territory, has long been a leading spokesman for Morocco, even though he is known as a revolutionary leader with leftist leanings.
The Libyan-led faction includes countries with leftist governments such as Algeria, which has been a chief source of arms for the Polisario, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
The group seeking to find a compromise is under the influence of Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Malawi, countries that have neither recognized the the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic nor agreed to boycott the OAU in the hopes that the future of the organization can be secured. A Nigerian proposal in today's meeting that the Polisario stay away from the opening session and wait until membership is put to the vote was turned down.