Security Council’s resolution and Saharawi need for self-evaluation

By: Malainin Lakhal
==> en français
==> en espanol
UN Security Council resolution 1920[2010], which was adopted last April 30, highlights the UN’s failure to solve the conflict of Western Sahara despite all of the analysis and political excuses and arguments that we have heard, or may hear, which are mere attempts to soften the impact of such a resolution. And of course the two parties to the conflict, Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, both welcomed the new resolution in an attempt to score some points at the level of the media struggle facing them, but also for moral reasons. Nonetheless, the resolution didn’t bring anything new (especially not to the Saharawi party) and was a poor reproduction of the previous resolutions.

But before commenting on the resolution, we should try first to dismantle the main points it raises, far from any kind of provocation or attempt to distort its positive points - if there are any- or its negative aspects on the Saharawi issue as a case of decolonisation still unachieved since 1963.

Where danger lies

It is true that the resolution states that the Security Council reaffirms “its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect”, but also, and to conform to pressure from the French, the text followed the same path as the latest resolutions by trying to deviate the conflict from its legal repertoire, which is, it should be recalled, decolonisation. The resolution, in fact, adopted the same old formula of expressing the Council’s welcome of “the commitment of the parties to continue the process of negotiations through the United Nations-sponsored talks”, and at the same time recalling “its endorsement of the recommendation in the report of 14 April 2008 (S/2008/251) that realism and a spirit of compromise by the parties are essential to achieve progress in negotiations.”

So, with regard to the political core of the problem, the UN is still playing the same old game of procrastination, by maintaining the status quo, if not leaning towards support for the French/Moroccan parties, who tirelessly work to legitimize the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara via the attempted imposition of the so-called “autonomy plan” on the Saharawi people and the perpetuation of the conflict while working harder to dismantle the Saharawi resistance, tear it apart, and disperse it as in the Palestinian experience. This is what the Moroccan secret services work on – targeting the Saharawi refugee camps and Saharawi communities in Mauritania, Spain and elsewhere in an attempt to infiltrate the Saharawi national corps to destroy it from inside and to break its unity with any possible, dirty maneuvers.

Human rights.. the blow that doesn’t kill you may makes you stronger

With respect to human rights, the resolution adopted very hazy language that is open to several different interpretations just so the text would be adopted, especially because France has blatantly opposed any wording that would hold Morocco accountable for its human rights violations in Western Sahara and any extension of the mandate of the UN mission on the ground, MINURSO, to include the monitoring and protection of human rights. France, the cradle of human rights and liberties, succeeded indeed in imposing its will even in choosing the term “Human dimension” instead of using the internationally used term “human rights”.

France completely isolated itself inside the Security Council, since it stood alone in defending Morocco, while the majority of the members of the Council expressed dissatisfaction over Paris’s refusal to permit the incorporation of the protection of human rights in MINURSO’s mandate. It became obvious, then, that the Saharawi people are not only facing the Moroccan expansionist occupation, but also the French state, which refuses to let the UN implement international law in an internationally recognized case of decolonisation.

On the other hand, it can be said that the Security Council’s latest resolution was a heavy blow to the Saharawi people, since the Council didn’t “take note” of the peaceful struggle and the sacrifices of the different Saharawi bodies, from the smallest students’ demonstrations in the occupied zones of Western Sahara to the multiple battles waged by the Saharawi human rights defenders during 2009 and in previous years; not to forget the many letters sent by the President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, to all international organizations, in addition to all press releases and reports by international human rights organizations that give undeniable proof of the accountability of the regime of Mohamed VI for the oppression and state terrorism exercised in a systematic way against the Saharawis to force them to bow down to his authority. All these national and international efforts, international campaigns, letters and press releases didn’t help in forcing the UN to assume its responsibilities towards this conflict.

On the other hand, one must recognize that this international pressure, the work of the human rights defenders, and the sacrifices of the Saharawi people forced many people to face difficult choices and pushed the British representative in the Security Council, for example, to face France on the issue of human rights during the debates preceding the adoption of the resolution. These efforts also pushed the rest of the members of the Security Council - especially Nigeria, Uganda, Mexico, Austria and Brazil – to openly criticize the way the so-called “unanimity” in the adoption of the resolution has been reached, since only the permanent members of the Security Council plus Spain - or the famous club of the “friends of Western Sahara” - participated in the final redaction of the resolution.

But, we should also consider that this resolution, with all that it represents of detriments to human rights because of the French position, may help in gathering real and bigger support to the Saharawi cause this year if the Saharawis and their allies and supporters succeed to put more and more pressure by using this significant card and the probable support from international organizations, to whom this resolution is a real slap to the face and a failure of their often “balanced” reports and “moderate” pressure.

Nonetheless, the Saharawi party must reconsider the way it operates and runs this issue. Saharawis must understand that they have failed to coordinate and exploit all of these international efforts and pressure put forth by important organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, Front Line and others, and that they have usually played the role of the spectator, or at best reacted to events instead of creating and supervising them.

The Saharawi response

Many people, both Saharawis and non Saharawis, argued that the responses of the Saharawi political leadership to the UN Secretary General’s report and to the Security Council’s resolution were insufficient. Despite the fact that they succeeded in focusing on France to isolate it and show it as the real problem and rival of the Saharawi people, the few official responses expressed were very mild and tried in many cases to give false interpretations to the words and terms in the resolution to come up with false victories. Thus we can certainly not agree with the Saharawi leadership’s reading, though we oppose any kind of pessimism and though we do understand how hard the struggle is.

It is true that we do not have first-hand facts and information as this leadership may have, but as interested observers we think that the majority of people had long ago understood that the UN and its actual approach to the conflict under Chapter VI of its Charter (recognizing that it is trying to violate this Charter through “realism and spirit of compromise”) will only lead to autonomy no matter what be the final formula of this “solution” that France pushes with all its influence, the US doesn’t really oppose and Spain thinks can end the Moroccan blackmailing.

After the strong letter sent last April 14 by the President of the Saharawi government to Ban Ki-Moon, Saharawis felt that their leadership had finally listened to their opinions and expressed some of their anger and protest. The letter was followed by the Saharawi foreign ministry’s statement one day after declaring the Saharawi decision to reconsider the relation with MINURSO if it fails to fulfill its real mandate. Perhaps concrete steps were also adopted on the ground to give proof of the Saharawi determination to implement this decision, but we were all surprised later by statements that hinted at the possible retraction of acting upon these threats. Here we must stress that after threats of such actions, if the Saharawi leadership is really going to pull out without convincing reasons, it will cost the Saharawis a lot of their much-needed credibility.

“If it is impossible to avoid death.. then it would be shameful to die as a coward”

The impression we give to others by repeating “threats” with no effective actions to follow is really undermining the Saharawi image, and thus this attitude must stop because it is useless and will only harm our credibility. Rather, why not adopt real and methodical steps that can help in rebuilding this credibility and can send effective messages that reflects the bitterness and anger raging in Saharawis’ hearts everywhere? And there are many steps that can be adopted starting with stopping any kind of “positive” and “kind” collaboration with MINURSO as a representative of the UN, because the role of the “responsive” and “good boy” we have been playing for decades has clearly not paid off. And this is not an accusation against MINURSO, nor is it a denial of their rights as individuals, But as a UN mission, it doesn’t deserve any kind of respect from the Saharawis since it has not only insolently failed to meet its duty of organizing the referendum, but also failed to protect and monitor human rights. And worse, in many cases former members of this mission became agents of the Moroccan ministry of the interior through participation as zealous members of suspicious lobbying firms on Rabat’s payroll.

On the other hand, Saharawis should not continue to threaten to resume war unless they are really going there. I strongly believe that Saharawis do not need to resume war to liberate Western Sahara if they meet one condition: a real, sincere and strict reevaluation of their movement to reform and to remedy the many defects they have, not only in the administration of our affairs, but also in their vision that is becoming more unclear and perhaps, to an extent, not sufficiently unified. That said, it should be clear that without this internal review there is no possibility to talk about success in the Saharawi struggle with or without war. There is no use of war if Saharawis are unable to exploit its results in their favour. But in the end, if there is no other way but resuming the legitimate armed struggle to achieve the liberation, then why not?

The need for a stand with the self

It is high time for the Saharwis to ask the right questions to evaluate the choices they have made for the last two decades of successes and failures in their struggle. What have they realized and what have they failed to achieve? How did they succeed in unifying the generations on the same level of understanding and readiness to fight? Did they really succeed in this? How successful were they in making the most of their national human resources? And what are the obstacles that may have hindered this exploitation? Further, what do they really want, and why not follow new methods to realizing what they want if the old ways failed? What are the obstacles that hindered the best use of their resources? What are the real challenges the Moroccan invaders put on the ground? And what the Saharawis have done to face them?

The questions that can help improve the vision are easy to find, while hesitating to face them and thinking that playing the waiting game is in the Saharawis’ favour, or that it is against the Moroccans only, is an incorrect evaluation, as time is playing against everyone, and may well affect the Saharawis’ aspirations if they fail to protect them. Meanwhile, hesitating to find remedy to the defects in the Saharawi body will certainly affect its “unity” and “strength” - two factors that are needed now more than ever.

Finally, Saharawis must understand and be convinced that the solution of the conflict of Western Sahara will not be given by the UN, US or France; rather, it is the Saharawi people themselves who hold the tools to achieve victory. So how can the Saharawi militants or friends and supporters of the Saharawis, make this victory quick and with the minimum number of casualties? This is another question that we need all to answer... and quickly.

Malainin Lakhal
Secretary General of the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union
Saharawi refugee camps