Morocco: Peace proposal for the Sahara

Vicenç Fisas, El País - English Edition 27/04/2002.

Translation of:
Una propuesta de paz para el Sáhara, Vicenç Fisas, El País, Madrid, 27.04.02.


The UN Security Council is soon to decide on the proposal made by James Baker, the secretary-general's personal envoy for the Western Sahara question, summed up in four possibilities: to carry out the adjustment plan (the plan designed by the UN a decade ago), to revise the framework agreement project (Morocco's autonomous region proposal), to consider a possible division of the territory, or to wind up the UN Sahara mission, Minurso, which would mean a definitive abandonment of the question. Though it will finally be the Security Council that must decide the Sahara's future, each of the words used by Baker in his latest reports has special significance, insofar as they reflect something more than his personal state of mind, and constitute an invitation to make a shared reading of the situation, always from the common denominator of pessimism.

For Baker "it is highly unlikely that the adjustment plan, in its present form, can be put into is senseless to go on examining, at the moment, the framework agreement project" and "it is senseless to go on considering a possible division of the territory" (since Morocco is not now disposed to do so). Since no formula seems to offer a clear road, Baker proposes that the Security Council itself should pronounce sentence, without the parties agreeing to what they decide, the decision not being subject to negotiation. Baker is correct in the penultimate paragraph of his report, when he says that "the UN is not going to resolve the problem of the Western Sahara without demanding that one or other of the parties, or both, do something they are not going to do voluntarily." In other words, 26 years after the outbreak of the conflict, the perception is that the conflict cannot be resolved by proposing an outcome of 'I win, you lose.' In his report, Baker looks for a "realistic solution" and hints at the partition plan in saying that he would "give to each party something of what he wants, but not all," adding that this option would allow maintenance of the Minurso, which might be interpreted as a system of guarantees the UN would offer for due development of the partition plan.

Baker's proposals or options for consideration by the Security Council must not necessarily be seen as sealed compartments, or as separate and mutually incompatible options. We should consider their capacities to complement each other with time, generating new options that would help to unblock the present situation which is a human drama for the 165,000 people living in the Tindouf camps.

I propose as a starting point to accept a partition of the territory, recognizing that it is not the best solution, but possibly the least bad one, and the one with the greatest possibilities. Though the way of dividing the territory would have to be the object of negotiation it would be reasonable for the Frente Polisario to control the so-called 'Southern zone,' with capital in Dhakla, a territory which ought to have a corridor of continuity to the north, including territories presently under the control of the Polisario, to reach the frontier of Algeria. The frontier contact of Algeria with the new RASD and with Morocco is important, in function of a regional development plan I will presently discuss.

The 'Northern zone' would be provisionally joined to Morocco as a region with ample autonomy, which would in turn serve as a driving force in the autonomic process that the king of Morocco has promised for his country. After a certain time both the Moroccans of the northern zone and the Saharans of the

Southern would be consulted, in a referendum under the auspices of the UN, as to whether they prefer to continue this way or whether they prefer to begin a process of unification, co-sovereignty or federation. From the first, both the Saharans who remain in the northern zone and the Moroccans who decide to stay in the southern zone would have dual nationality, and the UN would see that their rights were respected. North and south, one as an autonomy and the other as an independent state, would join the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), thereby promoting their relations with the region and with Europe. The EU and the US would have to use all their economic potential as an incentive to reduce tension in the area, to create the regional infrastructures and development necessary for these countries. Aid to the RASD has to be made compatible with developing Morocco's relations with Europe; while, in diluting this country's tensions with Algeria, the UMA might serve many of the aims for which it was created.

In processes of this type, measures that generate confidence are vital. In this sense, it seems clear that no foreign military presence should be allowed in the whole present territory of the Western Sahara, and it might be equally desirable for the 'Northern zone' to be a completely demilitarized region, a buffer zone, which would help the new RASD to get along with a minimal and non-offensive army, thus centering all its political and economic effort on the reconstruction of the new state, looking toward a future Maghreb, more focused on satisfying the basic needs of its population.

Moroccans and Saharans cannot always be at odds. The partition proposal, with the variants indicated, ought to serve to later begin a slow process of coming together in social, political and economic matters. But, before entering upon this difficult and inevitable stage of reduction of hostilities and hatreds, any proposal made by the Security Council will have to take into account the deeper needs of the peoples involved, their dignity and security. Only by starting there can we go any further.

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