The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc.
African Union Western Sahara Director: Sonali Patel
ÂŠ 2006 Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc. (IDIA) This document is solely for use in preparation for Philadelphia Model United Nations 2007. Use for other purposes is not permitted without the express written consent of IDIA. For more information, please write us at email@example.com
Introduction _________________________________________________________________ 1 Background _________________________________________________________________ 2 The Saharawi People ______________________________________________________________ 2 A History of Colonialism ___________________________________________________________ 3 Resistance and the Emergence of the Polisario Front _____________________________________________6 Religious Unity and Political Tension ________________________________________________________8 The Referendum, MINURSO, and the Baker Plan _______________________________________________9
Current Status ______________________________________________________________ 11 Policy Positions _____________________________________________________________ 13 Saharawi Republic _______________________________________________________________ 13 Morocco ________________________________________________________________________ 14 Algeria _________________________________________________________________________ 15 States that Recognize the Saharawi Republic _________________________________________ 15 The Remainder of the African Union ________________________________________________ 16
Summary___________________________________________________________________ 17 Discussion Questions _________________________________________________________ 18 Works Cited ________________________________________________________________ 19
Introduction The Western Saharan region is has been largely disregarded by the international community. Although Africa has been decolonized, the aftermath of the redrawing of borders and redistribution of land has left many scars on the continent. The rapid exit of Europeans from Africa in the period of decolonization left Africans to develop political and infrastructure systems that were
lacking as the European powers left. In the case of Western Sahara, the Spanish occupied the area including its native inhabitants, the Saharawis.
Spanish left in 1960, the United Nations General
referendum to decide the independence of the Saharawi people.
Morocco and Mauritania supported the independence of the Saharawis; however, each
referendum slowly came to realization, and Morocco even claimed the territory as part of its kingdom. To assert its ownership of the territory, the Moroccan government sent 350,000 of its civilians into Western Sahara to settle the territory. Yet, while this movement, known as the â€œgreen march,â€? was wholly condemned by the international community, little was done to reverse its effects, and only some 100,000 Saharawis were displaced to Tindouf, Algeria. Immediately after this movement, there was an upsurge in Saharawi resistance movements many of which were unsuccessful.
After a few years, the Polisario
Liberation Front emerged as the dominant independence force, officially declaring the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), an independent state despite Moroccoâ€™s continued claims to the territory. They received aid from Algeria, Mauritania, as well as
Libya. While some African states came to the aid of the Saharawi, many supported, and in some cases still support, Moroccoâ€™s claims to the region. The disagreement regarding the sovereignty of the Saharawi people has caused much conflict between the Saharawis and Morocco. As a result, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was made responsible for overseeing maintenance of the border as well as progress regarding the referendum on Saharawan independence. Despite commitments to peace, both sides are guilty of using military forces in ways that violate the rules established by the United Nations. Numerous attempts to solve this ever-growing political crisis have failed.
International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision granting the Saharawi independence and calling for a referendum has not yet been accepted or acted upon. The Baker Plans initiated by MINURSO have also failed to bring a lasting peace to the region. While the Moroccan government offered the Saharawi people â€œlimited autonomy,â€? the Saharawi refuse to accept anything less then full independence. The continuation of this standoff threatens to undermine three decades of effort by the United Nations and will simply cause further deterioration of the already meager living conditions of the Saharawi people. Acceptance of the ICJ-mandated referendum is integral to finding a solution to the instability in the Western Saharan region, but the African Union must not neglect to recognize the countless lives that hang in the balance.
Addressing the number of
casualties in refugee camps due to natural disasters and malnutrition is essential in establishing a long-lasting solution. Since the UN approach has been largely ineffective in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the African Union must take steps to provide regional cooperation and stability.
Background The Saharawi People The Saharawi people reside on little known tract of land on the western edge of the Saharan Desert known as Western Sahara. This land has been the site of an arduous
and bloody conflict between the indigenous Saharawi people and the Moroccan government and people. The Saharawi people identify the Moroccans as “invaders,” and have been fighting to gain their independence since the late 19th Century.1 One of the major points of contention is that the Saharawi people have a culture that differs from their Moroccan neighbors. The Saharawi people descend from Arab Yemenites who intermarried with Berbers and Black Africans in the late 13th Century.2
nomadic people, by the 1960s many had settled into cities and towns.3 Today, the Saharawis reside in an area the size of Nevada just south of Morocco.4 The Saharawis speak Hasseriya, a very pure version of Arabic. They are Sunni Muslims who worship without mosques in the desert camps where most now reside.5 Cultural differences between the Moroccans and the Saharawi people partially explain their years of conflict. While the Moroccans share the Saharawis’ Berber roots, the Moroccan culture has been greatly impacted by trade with Westernized nations. Both the rural and urban populations maintain a high degree of loyalty to Islam, although religious practice in many regions is unorthodox and the demands of industrialization organization have made traditional devotion difficult for those employed in modern sectors.6 These complicating factors ensure that fighting will continue until the Saharawi people are given a definitive response regarding their sovereignty from the United Nations and the international community.
A History of Colonialism International involvement in Western Sahara was minimal until the Treaty of Marrakesh.
Signed 28 May 1767 between Spain and Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben
Abdallah, the agreement was cited in the 1975 ICJ hearings regarding the referendum
Ruddy, 548. Ryan, Nick. “A Forgotten War.” Geographical Magazine (May 1999): 40. 3 Ibid. 40. 4 Hottelet, Richard C. “Western Sahara Climax?” Christian Science Monitor (12 November 1999): 11. 5 Ryan. 40. 6 “Islamic Religion in Morocco.” The Western Sahara. August 2006. University of Pennsylvania. 29 Nov 2006 <http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Country_Specific/Morco_relgn.html>. 2
dispute. The Arabic translation for Article 18 of this treaty, which remains highly controversial, states that: His Imperial Majesty warns the inhabitants of the Canaries against any fishing expedition to the coasts of Oued Noun and beyond. He disclaims any responsibility for the way they may be treated by the Arabs of the country, to whom it is difficult to apply decisions, since they have no fixed residence, travel as they wish and pitch their tents where they choose.7
That is to say, the Arabic version seems to suggest that the Arabs will view fishing expeditions emanating from the Canary Islands as hostile.
Moreover, it implies
sovereignty over the region, suggesting that the Sultan “disclaims any responsibility for the way they may be treated in the country…” The Spanish version, however, reads considerably differently in that it does not suggest any form of Moroccan sovereignty over the area, indeed it denies it: His Imperial majesty refrains from expressing an opinion with regard to the trading post which His Catholic Majesty wishes to establish to the south of the River Noun, since he can not take responsibility for accidents and misfortunes, because sus dominios does not extend so far.8
Perhaps most compelling is a letter sent by the Sultan to Carlos III of Spain stating, “they are not subordinate to nor fearful of anyone, because they are greatly separated from my dominions and I do not have power over them ... These Arabs have no fixed abode and move around as it pleases them without submitting to government or any authority.”9 As far back as the 18th Century, the inhabitants of Western Sahara were a nomadic people that were comfortable in their ability not to answer to a central government or to submit to the control of the imperial powers. In 1799, the Meknes Treaty was agreed upon by Spain and Sultan Moulay Souleiman, reinforcing Spain’s interests in the region, specifically the Canary Islands. Unlike most colonial powers, Spain had limited interaction with its colonies, and was primarily concerned with the Canary Archipelago and the safety of its fishermen.10 Spain’s intentions changed in 1884 following Captain Emilio Bonelli Hernando’s 7
Western Sahara Online. 2003. Marrakesh Treaty. < http://www.wsahara.net/m_treaty.html > Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Aggad. 8
successful conquest of Villa Cisneros, now known as Dhakla. A Spanish royal decree announced: considering the importance of the Spanish installations … and in the view of the documents signed by independent tribes … who have on various occasions asked for and obtained the protection of the Spanish … the King has decided … to take under his protection the territories … between Bahia del Oeste [La Guera] and Cape Bojaodr.11
For the first time, the Spanish Monarch claimed specific sovereignty over the people of the Western Sahara When the major European powers met at the Berlin Conference of 1885 to divide Africa into colonies, they ratified the Spanish proclamation. Spain also agreed to share with France what was to become the Kingdom of Morocco, and until 1930 considered the Rio de Oro its formally occupied territory. Because the Western Sahara was not reaching its expected economic potential between 1934 and 1946, it was annexed to its protectorate in northern Morocco.12 It became a part of the Africa Occidental Española (AOE) in 1946 and remained so until the dissolution of the AOE in 1958. By 1956, the Istiqlal party in Morocco won independence, giving the Saharawi people hope for freedom, thereby intensifying their rebelliousness.13 This movement continued to increase with Tunisian independence and the Algerian liberation war. Despite violent resistance from the Saharawi people, Spain continued to claim ownership of the “Spanish Sahara.” At one point, the Spanish recruited French assistance, and together pursued military action, entitled the “Ecouvillon,” which subdued Saharawi resistance. This continued until the mid-20th Century, when U.N. pressure and physical conflict began to erode Spain’s colonial authority.14
By 1960, the international
community increasingly advocated decolonization. This pressure increased over the next few years, and by 1963, the General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting that Spain grant independence to the Saharawis. On 20 December 1966, the General Assembly passed another resolution, this time asking Spain to organize a referendum to decide the 11
Damis 8. Aggad. 13 Ibid. 14 “Triumph For Procrastination.” The Economist (4 November 2000) 52. 12
fate of the Saharawi people. Morocco and Mauritania already supported an independent Western Sahara, and by the Nouadhibou meeting Algeria was in support as well.15 Surmounting international support, combined with skirmishes with the Saharawi liberation front beginning in 1974, led Spain to announce the following August that it would hold a referendum allowing the Saharawans to determine the future of the territory.16 While the Kingdom of Morocco had supported Saharawan independence just a decade earlier, the state reconsidered its position on the issue.
Just before Spain
announced its plan to offer independence to the Saharawis, Morocco asserted its presence and its authority by sending three hundred-fifty thousand Moroccan civilians to settle the Western Saharan territory.17 During this “Green March,” one hundred thousand Sahawaris sought refuge near Tindouf, a garrison town in Algeria.18 This action drew much attention from the international community, especially the United Nations. The march even resulted in a 6 November 1975 Security Council resolution condemning the Moroccan action and calling on Morocco to “withdraw from the Territory of Western Sahara all the participants in the march.”19
Resistance and the Emergence of the Polisario Front Resistance by the Saharawi people was a strong force within the region dating to colonization of the region. The Saharawis challenged the Spanish as early as 1906 despite repeated Spanish attempts to quash liberation movements. The liberation cause enjoyed an intense but factional revitalization just before and shortly after Spain finally handed administration of the territory to Morocco in 1975.20 The Mouvement de Resistance “Les Hommes Bleus” (Morehob) was one of the first organizations in the new
Western Sahara Online. 2003. History: detailed chronology. www.wsahara.net/history.html Ibid. 548. 17 “Triumph For Procrastination.” 52. 18 Ibid. 52. 19 Aggad. 20 Ruddy. 52. 16
generation of resistance parties.21 Founded in July 1972 in Rabat, Morocco, Morehob’s goal was to “lead a struggle against Spanish colonialism.”22 The royalist group often referred to Morocco as the “mother country,” and wanted the African kingdom to replace Spain as its ruling nation. Morehob was small throughout its existence, and moved between Morocco, Algeria and Europe before finally dissolving in 1975. One year before Morehob’s demise, a different party arose in the southern area of the territory. Created in 1974 with the encouragement of the Spanish government, the Partido de la Unión Nacional Saharawi (PUNS) was established to create an independent state for the Saharawis closely linked to Spain.
Backed by colonial power and
championed by supporters of Saharawi self-determination, the future of PUNS looked promising; however, the group was seen by some as too supportive of the status quo. Members often clashed violently with other liberation movements, most notably the Saharawi Liberation Front, commonly referred to as the Polisario Front. The Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front) was founded on the 10 May 1973. A tighter, reworked version of the “embryonic movement for the liberation of the Sahara,” the group was formed by a secret congress of anti-colonial militants, Saharawi students from Morocco, and well-educated youth still living in the Western Sahara. Shortly after, a special executive committee appointed by the congress issued a manifesto to publicize creation of the Polisario Front. The manifesto clearly laid out the goals of the group: to reject all forms of colonialism and exercise self-determination. In its mission statement, the Front stated its initial goal, stating: The Polisario Front is born as a unique expression of the masses, opting for revolutionary violence and the armed struggle as the means by which the Saharawi Arab African people can recover total 23 liberty and foil the manoeuvres of Spanish colonialism.
Pazzanita, Anthony and Tony Hodges. “The Mouvement de Resistance ‘Les Hommes Bleus’ (MOREHOB),” Historical Dictionary of the Western Sahara, (New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1994): 300. 22 Ibid 300. 23 Ibid.162-3.
This first public statement spoke largely of political ideals but did not mention any particular course of action, hazily referring to a general “total liberty.”24 One year later, a second congress meeting 25-31 August 1974 more clearly defined the Polisario Front’s goals: “In the face of these manoeuvres, the Saharawi people have no alternative but to struggle until wresting independence, their wealth, and their full sovereignty over the land.”25 Despite receiving almost no external support its first two years, the Polisario Front raided a Spanish port days after issuing its first manifesto and began publishing a monthly journal called 20 de Mayo the following October. Algeria was at first reluctant to support Polisario, focusing its energies on Morehob until 1975, when the government decided that the faction was ineffective. Eventually, Libya gave the group broadcasting facilities and a small amount of arms as Mauritania issued a few passports and harbored some Polisario leaders. Mauritania also tacitly involved itself in guerilla missions. When Spain finally withdrew from the region, Polisario began to assert itself as the voice and fist of self-determination of Western Sahara, announcing the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as an independent state.26 SADR is now recognized by seventy different regimes, including the Palestine Liberation Organization.27
Religious Unity and Political Tension Religious and political life were enmeshed in the early centuries of Islam.28 A pledge of religious allegiance by a population to an Islamic ruler (“bai’a”) gives religious sovereignty to that leader. For example, the Moroccan sultan was the “steward of God,” personifying both the church and the state. The Sunni Muslim Saharawis in the Western Sahara likewise pledged this allegiance to the Moroccan sultans in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is important to re-emphasize here that, because the sultan was recognized as the head of the Muslim church, it was possible to accept him as a religious leader while 24 25 26 27 28
Ibid. 164. Ibid. Ruddy, 52. Ryan, 40. Damis, 19.
expressing much distrust for him politically. Indeed, the Saharawis did this, to the chagrin of the Moroccan central government.29 Moroccan political leaders and the sultan took this religious allegiance as a simultaneous pledge of territory.
misunderstanding is at the core of the Saharawi-Morocco conflict. Morocco now seeks to retain the Western Sahara because of deep religious tradition. In 1975, the Kingdom of Morocco petitioned the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution that would ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to advise on two questions.
The ICJ was to determine if the Western Sahara was
autonomous (terra nullious) when Spain colonized the area, and if so, if there were there any legal ties between Morocco and Mauritania.30 According to Morocco’s logic, if the ICJ were to confirm that Western Sahara was indeed a part of the Berber empire at one time, then Morocco would be justified in retaining the area. The ICJ ruling was not advantageous to the Moroccan cause: The Court’s conclusion is that the materials and information presented to it do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity. Thus the Court has not found legal ties of such nature as might affect the application of resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara, and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples in the territory.31
With this ruling, the ICJ confirmed the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. The Spanish referendum, in this way, was approved in the international arena.
The Referendum, MINURSO, and the Baker Plan A referendum vote was agreed upon by Morocco and the Saharawi, enabling the inhabitants of the Western Sahara to choose their political future by way of the ballot. Unfortunately, neither side seems to be able to agree on the specifics of the referendum, such as who is eligible to vote in this highly controversial election. Moreover, each side accuses the other of trying to load the ballot box.32 Part of the Polisario mistrust stems from recollection of the Green March. To them, the Green March and other such 29 30 31 32
Ibid 20. Ruddy 52. Ibid 52. “Triumph For Procrastination.” 52.
campaigns are examples of the creation of a false ratio of Moroccans to indigenous Saharawis, potentially tipping the referendum unnaturally and unfairly in Morocco’s favor. Morocco has a similar claim against the Saharawis, accusing them of identifying random desert people as Saharawi to inflate their numbers, arguing that Saharawi claims of one hundred-forty thousand members are unreasonable and false.33 Also at issue are the 65,000 people who identify as Saharawis living in Morocco proper.34 Only two thousand of these people currently qualify as eligible voters, and Morocco is appealing the rest.35 The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was created as an interim administration and peacekeeping force in response to these differences.36 Publicly proposed by then-U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in June 1990, MINURSO was to be responsible for monitoring the cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, supervising the withdrawal and confinement of Moroccan troops, identifying voters, overseeing the return of Saharawi refugees, conducting the eventual referendum, and announcing the results of the vote. Squabbles over Minurso’s size, the number of Moroccan troops to be recalled, and other specifics delayed its inception until finally a Security Council resolution on the 27 June 1990 requested a detailed report on the practicalities and cost of the mission. The report came out on 19 April 1991 and shortly thereafter a Security Council resolution established MINURSO. The body consists of three units: civilian, military, and security. The civilian unit is responsible for legal, legislative and administrative matters during the interim before the referendum.
The military unit provides lightly armed forces for
peacekeeping purposes. Lastly, the security unit is a civil police force responsible for law and order in the area, including the supervision of Moroccan police forces.37
33 34 35 36 37
Ibid 52. Ruddy 52. Ibid. “The Mouvement de Resistance ‘Les Hommes Bleus’ (MOREHOB).” 452. Ibid.
Current Status Today, the central concern in the Saharawi region is not the tension between Morocco and the Polisario, but rather the condition of the refugees that have taken residence in tent villages throughout the desert. After nearly 30 years of war, camps are replete with unsanitary conditions, a lack of running water, and scarce amounts of food for livestock. The harsh conditions in the Algerian desert, which render it prone both to flash flooding and to sandstorms, threaten its inhabitants.38 An African Union delegation, braving the harsh conditions, accompanied the African Union President’s Committee in a five-day solidarity visit beginning 8 November 2006.39 In addition to distributing much needed humanitarian aid, the visit was designed to show African community solidarity to a people who have suffered immensely due to the occupation of their territory. The African delegation also met with representatives of the Red Cross International Committee (CICR), World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to “[raise] their awareness about the need to continue bringing and increasing the necessary assistance to the Saharawi refugees.”40 In November 2006, Algeria also showed its desire to aid the Saharawi by providing humanitarian assistance. The Algerian delegation came with 400 tons of semolina flour, brought by a caravan of twenty trucks that travelled more than 1,800 kilometers to reach the Saharawi refugee camps.41 One of the most complicated obstacles to maintaining the refugee camps was the flash flooding throughout the Tindouf region in early February 2006. Between 50,000 and 60,000 refugees were left homeless after their mud brick shelters failed to withstand the flooding. Schools and dispensaries were also severely damaged. The UNHCR, WFP, and the Algerian Red Crescent immediately organized an emergency response to address the crisis, and Algeria dispatched a humanitarian convoy to bring relief to Saharan refugees. In the early stages of the emergency response, MINURSO not only provided 38
Ibid 40. http://www.spsrasd.info/sps-e081106.html 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid. 39
water tanks, but also helped distribute and coordinate assistance. While such rapid responses must be commended, tragedies such as these emphasize the fragility of these refugee camps. Tent cities provide little stability, and without a resolution to the question of independence the Saharawi people stand to suffer the most. MINURSO has spent ten years and a half billion dollars organizing the referendum, and the effort is all but frustrated.42 The Moroccan government and the Polisario party seem no closer to agreement than they were in 1975. James Baker, the former United Nations envoy to Western Sahara, has proposed a different solution to the problem. His proposal of “limited autonomy,” recently approved by the United Nations, delays the referendum another five years. The Baker Plan calls for determining and defining a state of limited autonomy under the Moroccan government.43 Regardless of the pessimistic outlook of some observers, others claim that relations with Morocco are becoming more positive. King Mohammed of Morocco is said to exhibit a “lighter touch” than his father, and his actions have demonstrated goodwill towards the Sahawari.44 He replaced Minister of the Interior Driss Basri, who was “feared and hated” by the many he oppressed, and he freed fifty-six political prisoners in a show of solidarity towards the “sons of the Sahara.”45 Moreover, evidence shows that Morocco’s human rights record may be improving. However, as Morocco continues to prevent the referendum, many believe that Saharawi freedom is not Morocco’s primary concern. Although both sides have been trying to achieve peace, neither will concede any of their terms. Secretary General Report S/2006/249 notes a significant decrease in the amount of violations made by the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government. Furthermore, the Polisario lifted restrictions on the movement of United Nations military observers which had been in place for several years, allowing access to its military units for inspection purposes. From 14 October until 15 March 2006, MINURSO observed 42
“Polisario’s Sinking Hopes.” 44. Ibid. 44. 44 “Triumph for Procrastination.” 52. 45 Ibid. 52. 43
only eight new violations of the agreement by the Royal Moroccan Army and four new violations by the military forces of the Polisario, reflecting a decrease of almost 50 per cent compared to the previous reporting period.
The violations included continued
incursions by both sides into the buffer strip by armed elements, construction of new physical structures, and movement of weapons and military units without prior notification of or approval by MINURSO. The African Union is one of the few organizations that continues to recognize the Saharawi Republic.
The body has been providing humanitarian assistance to the
Saharawi people to alleviate the difficulties they face as they await a referendum on their political future.
With, military tensions easing, the atmosphere is conducive to a
constructive solution. The mission of the African Union remains to develop an effective, feasible answer to the problems plaguing Western Sahara in order to create a lasting, meaningful peace.
Policy Positions Saharawi Republic The Saharawi Republic maintains that the establishment of an independent Saharawi state through a just and regular self-determination referendum is the “best way for the consecration of security, peace, and stability in the region because this is the democratic solution conforming to the UN Charter.”46 The Saharawi people maintain that they have rightfully been granted their independence through passage of the Security Resolution more than three decades ago. The Saharawi Minister for Occupied Territories and Communities, Mr. El Khalil Sid M’hamed, argues against Moroccan claims that Saharawan independence is a threat to stability in the region. The Minister highlights that it was Morocco’s colonial presence in Western Sahara, against the will of the Saharawi and against the stated desires of the international community, that caused
“The President of the African Union’s Committee for Refugees Visits the Saharawi Camps.” 11 November 2006. Sahara Press Service. http://www.spsrasd.info/sps-e081106.html
PhilMUN 2007 tension in Morocco, Maghreb, and North Africa.47
14 While the Saharawans are not
opposed to bilateral negotiations with the Moroccan government, they are hesitant to engage in discussions before clear objectives are established. The Saharawans hope to engage in meaningful talks with Morocco once that government sets forth its highly anticipated plan to resolve the issue of Saharawi independence.
Morocco Morocco’s refusal to join the African Union because of the status of Western Sahara has caused tension with some of its closer allies. Since early 2006, the Security Council has been waiting on a Moroccan plan to give extended autonomy to the Saharawans, but the political viability of the plan remains to be seen. Morocco clearly wants to retain sovereignty while granting real autonomy to a population that seeks complete independence. Having fought thirty years of separatist wars, the Sahrawis will not settle for limited freedom as a region of Morocco. Morocco blocked both Baker Plans, not allowing any solution that could give the Saharawi people real independence. Morocco is also blocking voting on the referendum, arguing that refugees from neighboring countries, especially those from Morocco, cannot be counted as residents of the Saharawi region and therefore should be ineligible vote. The only solution that Morocco is willing to consider is for the parties to agree on a “transfer of competences to the local populations … within the framework of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom.” Keeping this in mind, Morocco is ready to submit its autonomy plan for consideration. Morocco also supports the approach of Peter Van Walsum, the United Nations secretary-general’s personal envoy to Western Sahara.
negotiations stalled in early 2006, the Moroccan government is willing to participate in direct negotiations with the Saharawans, provided that Algeria be present as well.48
Ibid “Report of the Secretary General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara.” United Nations Security Council. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/568/50/PDF/N0656850.pdf?OpenElement
Algeria Algeria has been active in the Saharawi region, providing emergency assistance and humanitarian aid whenever necessary. Algeria currently hosts refugee camps near its borders for the Saharawi refugees, the most commonly known is Tindouf. Since 1975, the government has fully supported the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara, delivering arms, training, financial aid, and food for more than thirty years without interruption. As a strong advocate for peace in the region, Algeria is fully invested in seeing the Polisario achieve Saharawan independence. Algeria was responsible for the establishment of a 1991 cease-fire agreement in Algiers which many hoped would lead to a peaceful resolution of the matter. While it has taken a very active stance in the issue, Algeria refuses to take part in direct negotiations between the Polisario and Morocco. The government feels that as they are not a party to the conflict they do not have the right to actively engage in negotiations, instead advocating bilateral talks between the Saharawi and Moroccan governments.49 While Algeria disagrees with Moroccoâ€™s stance on this issue, both Algeria and Morocco have aimed to improve their relations with the hope of achieving a meaningful, long lasting resolution to the conflict.
States that Recognize the Saharawi Republic Angola, Algeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe all recognize the Saharawi Republic. Each state is therefore invested in regional peace, if not the independence of the Saharawi people. While overall humanitarian support in this region is minimal at best, the majority of the support the Saharawans receive comes from these states.
Perhaps the most
surprising state to recently recognize the Saharawi independence was South Africa, whose strong economic ties with Morocco originally precluded them from recognizing the SADR. Yet, through time and political pressure, South Africa made the decision to recognize the existence of the SADR. Many of these states also contribute troops to 49
â€œReport of the Secretary General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara.â€? United Nations Security Council. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/568/50/PDF/N0656850.pdf?OpenElement
MINURSO to help maintain peace in the region. While most states have allied with the Saharawi due to political pressure, few nations have become actively involved politically in the matter. Fostering a sense of responsibility in these states to develop a feasible political solution to Saharawi independence is vital to finding an overall solution to this concern.
The Remainder of the African Union Nations that have not yet been discussed, including Eritrea, Somalia, Ghana, Egypt, and Senegal, disregard the African Unionâ€™s decision to recognize the Saharawi people as a sovereign entity. Yet, although Ghana has not formally recognized the SADR, the government has provided troops to help keep peace in the region.50 While these states have each independently made the decision to on some level recognize the SADR, almost all of these nations have individual motives for not formally recognizing the Republic. They range from economic or political pressure from Morocco to merely indifference to the Saharawan struggle. Many of these states, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, face their own humanitarian crises, and are therefore disinterested in becoming entangled in this debate.
These economic and political alliances will be
extremely important in determining whether or not to take action in Western Sahara.
â€œReport of the Secretary General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara.â€? United Nations Security Council. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/568/50/PDF/N0656850.pdf?OpenElement
Summary The Saharawi have fought for millennia against perceived invaders, and the struggle continues today as they fight for independence and the end of Moroccan influence. The nature of the struggle has forced the Saharawi people to reside in many refugee camps, which are often unsanitary and lack clean water. While international, regional, and governmental efforts have been made to alleviate human suffering, more must be done to ensure that the basic needs of the Saharawans are met. Yet, despite the conditions they are forced to endure, the Saharawi people maintain their desire for independence from Morocco. While many solutions have been proposed to the crisis during the thirty-year standoff between Morocco and the Saharawi Republic, none of them have effectively dealt with the main issues plaguing the area. While the United Nations called for a referendum on the question of Saharawi independence almost thirty years ago, petty arguments have precluded the referendum from taking place. Moreover, the Baker Plans, as well as all other multilateral initiatives, have failed to achieve meaningful consequences. As a result, in 2006 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that it may be time for the UN to step aside and allow the Saharawans and Moroccans to attempt bilateral negotiations to address the question of Saharawi independence. However, while the two parties struggle with this concern, the entire region is destabilized. As an African body that understands the unique problems plaguing the continent, the African Union must take an active role in solving this crisis before it escalates further. Steps must be taken to ensure that the Moroccans and Saharawans are able to negotiate peacefully rather than revert to violence and bloodshed.
Discussion Questions • Should the African Union be actively involved in the question of Saharawan independence? • What measures could the African Union take to ensure that sovereign nations attempt to implement their proposed solutions? • Is legislation enough? Would sanctions or tariffs be more effective? • What role do humanitarian concerns play in the issue of independence? Should the African Union give humanitarian aid the Saharawi? If so, how and in what form? • How do discrepancies in the formal recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic affect the solution that the African Union will present, if at all? • Should there be greater involvement between the African communities to prevent new military violations and general uneasiness? What preventative measures should be taken, if any? • Should negotiations between the SADR and Morocco be bilateral? Should Algeria have a role in the proceedings? • Both Morocco and SADR have been accused of inflating the number of civilians that qualify for the referendum on independence. How should the numbers be determined? What qualifications should be necessary to vote?
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Published on Nov 4, 2010
Western Sahara Director: Sonali Patel The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc. © 2006 Institute for Domestic & Interna...