Statement for International Relations Subcommittee on Africa,

Global Human Rights, and International Operations

Hearing: Getting to "Yes": Resolving the 30-Year Conflict over the Status of Western Sahara

November 17, 2005

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this very important hearing entitled Getting to "Yes": Resolving the 30-Year Conflict over the Status of Western Sahara. It is time that this conflict over Western Sahara be resolved so that the peoples of Western Sahara, Morocco and Algeria can live their lives in peace. Our nation was birthed and established on the right to self-determination, and I strongly believe that the only way to bring a final resolution to this conflict is through the holding of a free, fair and transparent referendum for self-determination.

For over three decades, the lack of resolution to this conflict has caused extensive human suffering. It is time this conflict is resolved in order to end the suffering of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families, including the suffering of those who have lived in refugee camps since 1975. I have personally visited the refugee camps in Tindouf, and I have met with delegations that have traveled to the United States. The stories of those who suffered as a result of this conflict all have a common theme &endash; the people want this conflict to end, want to be reunited with their families, and want to be allowed to rebuild their lives in peace.

In addition to the humanitarian side to this conflict, there are regional, global and national security issues. I, and other Members of Congress, remain deeply concerned that conflict between the parties, if left unresolved, has the potential to disrupt the peace and stability in the Maghreb region, thus threatening the interests of the peoples of that region and of the United States. The Western Sahara conflict needs to be addressed urgently and fairly to the benefit of the peoples of the region. If this issue is resolved as a result of peaceful action, it will provide a signal to the Broader Middle East and North African region that there are successful alternatives to violence in the pursuit of national aspirations. If this issue continues to linger unresolved, however, and violence should break out anew, I shudder to think of the consequences for the people of that region and the entire world.

Mr. Chairman, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "All peoples have the right to self-determination." I have worked on the issue of Western Sahara since the beginning of my service in Congress &endash; again, I say it is time that there is a resolution to this conflict. Thank you again for holding this hearing and for allowing me to participate. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses.

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