(News of The Sahara)
Western Sahara Mission Newsletter. N°1, December 2001
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- Editorial: The Big Bluff
- POLISARIO : The choice of the Sahrawi people must be respected
- Algeria refutes the Framework Agreement
- Nobel Laureates Appeal to Kofi Annan
- Moroccan press and Western Sahara,
- Association : Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, by Ahmed Benani
- "United Nations in Western Sahara", by Mark Thomas
and the Big Bluff
Those who allege that the UN Settlement Plan in Western Sahara cannot be implemented and the referendum cannot be organised want only to dupe every body. They are just telling a big bluff. Why?
The 130,000 appeals presented by Morocco is solely a pretext to hold up the referendum process. It is not a valid reason for asserting that the Settlement Plan cannot be implemented. Indeed, the UN can proceed with the re- identification of these people. But it will be a huge waste of time and money as these candidates were already rejected by UN Identification Commission. At most, the number of appeals which can be accepted will not exceed a thousand and this will do little to change the result of the referendum That is why Morocco has rejected the referendum and alleged that it cannot be held.
It is thus clear that Morocco's objection to the Settlement Plan stems from a fear of its out come. That is the truth. This position became patently clear when Rabat proposed, instead, an "autonomous status" for Western Sahara as a solution to the conflict. This proposition is contained within James Baker's recently presented "framework agreement".
The so-called "framework agreement" was fully rejected by the POLISARIO and the Sahrawi Government, because it gives Morocco sovereignty over Western Sahara even before the result of the referendum is known. According to it, millions of Moroccan settlers will be allowed to vote along with the Sahrawis (who now make up a small minority in Occupied Western Sahara) in what is supposed to be a free and fair referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people!
Now we understand the Moroccan position, but the question is : why are the UN Secretary General and his Special Envoy trying to play the Moroccan game? The coming days will certainly help us to get a clearer answer. (Akhbar Es-Sahra)
Choice of Sahrawi People Must be Respected
Meeting in an ordinary session, the National Secretariat of the POLISARIO Front once again noted that "any solution to be viable, fair and lasting in Western Sahara must respect the choice of the Sahrawi people". It appealed to the European Union to "commit itself in an active way for a fair and lasting solution to the Moroccan-Sahrawi conflict" so as to contribute to the "reinforcement of stability and the development of cooperation" in the Maghreb region. (10.12.2001,SPS)
''Algeria like POLISARIO refutes the framework agreement presented recently by James Baker'', asserted president Bouteflika, recalling that in his last visit to Houston where he met Baker to whom he recalled that the security council "gave him the possibility to think about a solution that could get the agreement of all the concerned sides", declared Tuesday 18 December 2001 in Brussels, president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was responding a question on Western Sahara following a long audience with the chairmen of the two chambers of the federal parliament.
''James Baker is a competent man. He is thinking about such a solution and he asked for an extra time from the security council and he obtained it, and the Minurso as well'' also indicated President Bouteflika, pointing out "Algeria will examine with a lot of attention what he would propose. And when we will see that it is really a third way, I say a third way that does not destroy the legitimate dream of the Sahraouis, and that would take into account the fundamental interests of Morocco and the countries of the region, it is clear that we will be the first ones to take out a solution of the situation". (Algeria Press Service, APS, 19/12/01)
Six former Nobel Peace Prize Laureates signed the 11th December, 2001, an appeal to UN Secretary-General about the conflict in Western Sahara. José Ramos- Horta (1996, East Timor), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992, Guatemala), Oscar Arias Sánchez, (1987 Costa Rica), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980, Argentina), Máiread Maguire (1976, Northern Ireland) and Cora Weiss for the International Peace Bureau (1910)attested : "An abandonment of the referendum plan in Western Sahara would constitute a betrayal of the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self- determination."(Office of Nobel Prize Laureate J. Ramos-Horta,12.12.01).
After years of silence or wooden talk certain Moroccan papers are beginning to tackle the reality of Western Sahara with a certain degree of seriousness. For example, the daily L'Economiste published reportage carried out in Smara and El Aaiun, as well as interviews with the Wali of El Aaiun and the Secretary general of the OADP party. Other organs of the press criticise this opening up because it gives Morocco a bad image. It seems that in La vie économique of 07.12.01 Fouad Nejjar denounced those who want to change things with "radical reforms aiming to save the country from chaos and decline". Among these reforms a journalist allegedly suggested "the adoption of a different approach with the Sahrawi people, who have the right to self-determination" (Arso, Weekly News 51, 16 &endash; 21 December 2001)
In an article on the situation in Morocco and the Maghreb, published recently on Internet, Moroccan Professor Ahmed Benani wrote about the Western Sahara conflict in the following terms: "Why Morocco doesn't think about its African retaking root with its natural neighbours : The Sahrawis and the Mauritanians. Without invoking from the time being the confederation formula, we can definitely imagine an association of "free-exchange" between the three spaces : Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania. These three entities will have each one its full ant complete sovereignty, but they will create the basis of a common market with total free circulation of goods and men". (Ahmed BENANI, Docteur ès sciences politiques de l_Université de Lausanne, Professeur d_Histoire et sciences des religions, 09.12.2001)
"It would be wrong to describe the UN as merely useless: when it comes to protecting the west's interests (in particular, America's), the UN is a past master at being ineffectual to great effect. Nowhere is this quite so evident at the moment as Western Sahara.
"Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975, brutally napalming civilians as they fled across the border into the Algerian desert. The Sahrawis fought to liberate their country until 1991; then the UN stepped in, brokered a ceasefire and set about overseeing a referendum on the sovereignty of the country. The referendum was initially scheduled for 1992. Ten years and half a billion UN dollars later, and there is still no sign of a ballot to decide the country's future. "The delay has been caused by the UN's inability to confront Morocco's insistence that the 200,000 Moroccan settlers who have moved into Western Sahara are allowed to vote on the future of the territory. Given that the UN has declared 86,000 Sahrawis to be on the electoral register, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is an attempt to rig the poll. If Morocco's idea of a free and fair referendum means that citizens from one country get to decide the future of another country, then I think we should all be eligible for a vote in Morocco. In fact, we might even be able to parachute Shaun Woodward into a safe seat there - it would be worth it just to hear him declare "I have always loved Rabat and regarded it as my home", while his butler stands outside a mosque holding his shoes.
"The UN mandate has always recognised the Sahrawi right for self-determination, until now. James Baker, who was US secretary of state under George Bush Sr, is the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Western Sahara, and has just finished his report to the UN Security Council. His proposals, if adopted, amount to such a huge about-turn as to make Woodward's path seem like a Roman road by comparison. The report states that "to be qualified to vote in such a referendum a voter must have been a full-time resident of Western Sahara for the preceding one year" - thus allowing the hundreds of thousands of Moroccan settlers to take part in the biggest voting fiasco since Florida. Even more incredible is Baker's proposal that the vote should no longer be about the country's sovereignty, but that the Sahrawi people should accept the status of an "autonomous region" under Morocco. In effect, the UN has moved from working towards the return of the Sahrawis' country, to offering them a place on the local council that will be subject to Moroccan law, currency, foreign affairs and military control.
"Members of POLISARIO, the Sahrawi liberation movement, have fought and died for 15 of the 25 years they have spent in refugee camps; they have spent ten years waiting for the UN. For what? ( ) While Europe and America have uttered the usual soothing platitudes about defending people's rights to self-determination, they have exploited Western Sahara's natural resources. The European Union has negotiated with and paid Morocco for the fishing rights off the Western Sahara coast. The mining industries have worked with Morocco to extract Western Sahara's phosphate resources. The west's arms dealers have been more than happy to grab some of Morocco's military budget for the region, which amounts to at least $lm per day. So although the UN has been ineffectual and craven to an aggressor nation, it hasn't been an unprofitable time". (Mark Thomas, New Statesman, 02.07.2001)