Will The UN Security Council Succeed To Start The Ball Rolling Again On A Referendum Of Self-Determination In Western Sahara?
The question of Western Sahara is on the agenda of the UN Security Council for this month as the mandate of the UN Mission to Western Sahara (MINURSO) ends by the 31st. Hopes are pinned on this meeting to take serious actions to accelerating the protracted decolonization process of the territory and stopping the attempts aiming to deviate the Mission from its original task, namely the holding of a referendum of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
Since The significant work of the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy Mr. James Baker in 2004, which was rejected by Morocco, the UN has frozen the decolonization process at the UN Security Council level to comply with France’s desire to sidetrack the issue.
The UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres submitted his annual report (S/2020/938) on 23 September 2020 to the UN Security Council, which did not bring any new regarding the decolonization process of Western Sahara, rather than maintaining the status quo. The key point in Guterres’ report is the “overall calm prevailed in the territory” to show the UN Mission’s viability to stay in the territory.
In his report to the General-Assembly A/75/367 of 29 September 2020, the Secretary-General reaffirmed that “the Security Council addresses Western Sahara as a matter of peace and security”. Meanwhile, he said that “The Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples address it as a Non-Self-Governing Territory and an issue of decolonization”. Here someone can notice how the UN itself manipulates the international legitimacy.
In his assessment, Guterres did not reflect the real situation the people of Western Sahara live in as a result of Morocco illegal occupation of the territory. He did not mention the military blockade imposed on the occupied territories of Western Sahara where civilians are subjected to daily aggression and intimidation by Moroccan authorities. Some were sentenced to life and 30 year of prison for no guilt but their opposition to the Moroccan occupier. Part of the population lives in exile in hard conditions, for more than 45 years. Others hang around in the diaspora. Guterres averted speaking of the moral damage inflicted on the lives of those people as a result of waiting for the UN to comply with its promise to decolonize their land.
On the contrary, Guterres did not condemn Morocco’s intransigence in its illegal occupation of Western Sahara nor the ongoing plundering of the natural resources of the territory. He did not explain how unlawful the illegal deals that Morocco has concluded with many foreign countries and companies, including the European Union in areas such fishing and agriculture.
Even Guterres swallowed his tongue in front of the restrictions imposed by Morocco on the freedom of movement of MINURSO and its activities, including the fact that the mission's vehicles do not have own plates. His intention to polish the image of Morocco was evident when he mentioned “Morocco investment in infrastructure “ and opening “Consulates general".
Was it not worth for Mr. Guterres to praise the SADR (Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic? As it is a great achievement for the people of the Western Sahara who are proud of it as well as its prestigious position in the African Union. Was it not important to highlight its role in guaranteeing peace and security besides to its dedication to cooperate frankly with the UN ongoing efforts despite the uselessness of its work?. Finely, Was it not worth for the UN Secretary-General to reflect the reality of the resistance of the people of Western Sahara, which is an example of struggling for the legitimate right?
There is a deliberate intention to exclude the AU from participating in the ongoing political process for one reason that France does not like any African voice among them as the African Union supports the legitimate struggle of the people of Western Sahara and defends the SADR. Was it not worth for Guterres to take advantage of Morocco joining the African Union to invite it to reconciliation with the SADR?. Or that would foil the France’s dirty plans in Africa!!.
Guterres downplayed the Moroccan military-mined-wall of 2700 km long and the ongoing reinforcement of fortifications along it. He refrained from highlighting the danger the wall has caused to people and animals' lives and as it prevents families from meeting. The General-Secretary himself was instructed by the Security Council in 2017 to stop the serious violation committed by the Moroccan army in August 2016 in the buffer strip of Guerguerat. Unfortunately, three years latter, the same problem is still standing due to Guterres’ neglect to preserve Morocco's interest.
The incomplete decolonization of Western Sahara dates back to Spain’s failure to fulfill its promise towards the people of the territory as a result of its abandon in favor of the Kingdom of Morocco in 1975 in a blatant violation of international law. The 1991 ceasefire came after both parties, the Polisario front (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia EL-hamra y Rio de Oro) and the Kingdom of Morocco had agreed on a Framework Agreement for a referendum of self-determination, which gained all international stakeholders’ consensus and support. It has been stalled due to lack of political will of Morocco.
The Security Council and the Secretariat can not ignore that Morocco is the occupier power of Western Sahara as stated in the UN General-Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV). Meanwhile, they recognize the inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and independence as they are the rightful owner of this territory.
Therefore, they should bear in account that the direction they are taking is a dead end as the region will not live in peace and stability unless the people of Western Sahara enjoy their legitimate right to self-determination and independence.
The United Nations made significant steps when the Security Council approved, in its resolution 658 (1991),the full text of the settlement proposals as accepted by the two parties, the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco, on 30 August 1980. The Council also outlined the plan to implement those proposals.
The International community has not yet resumed its responsibility to comply with its obligations towards the implementation of the international legitimacy according to the UN Charter and Resolutions. However, the Resolution 1514 (XV) is the base of all the process of decolonization of Western Sahara which guarantees the respect of the inalienable right of the people of the territory to self-determination and independence.
It was clear at the failure of first date of the referendum that Morocco would resort to maneuvering to prolong the conflict while consolidating its occupation of the territory. The UN , especially the Security Council and the Secretariat, have acquiesced to France’s pressure to align with interests of the Moroccan occupier.
This means that the Security Council, especially the five permanent members , has to change the way it deals with the issue. The only viable solution is the holding of a free, fair and transparent referendum of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. The stalemate may lead to unpleasant consequences if the Security Council will not break it. The reinstatement of the Personal Envoy does not mean anything while the positions of the five members are still ambiguous.
Deich Mohamed was the Office's Chief of late President Mohamed Abelaziz and former Ambassador to Zimbabwe.
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