Western Sahara
UN committee responsible for Sahara opens

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afrol.com, 9 February - Yesterday, a new session in the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation opened in New York, coinciding with the start of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. The committee is responsible for the decolonisation of Sahara, but has little credibility.

While UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday claimed that "progress has been achieved" by the Special Committee, experiences have shown the its work has had no effect in territories where independence is contested by the colonial power. This has been most clearly seems in Western Sahara, but also in British territories such as Gibraltar and the Chagos Archipelago and US possessions in the Pacific. 

At his opening speech, Annan confessed "we have yet to see full implementation of the objectives of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples." The 1960 Declaration forms the legal framework of the Committee's work, and has proven a useful basis for organising the ordered transition to independence where the colonial power agrees to the process. 

Indeed, after the disorderly transition to independence in colonies like Belgian Congo, effort has been made and results have been demonstrated in giving new, independent countries a firm base for their transition. When the colonial power agreed to the process, that is. Annan therefore also called for "the goodwill of all concerned" which, regrettably, still is the premise for decolonisation to take place.

When "the goodwill of all concerned" does not exist, as in the Sahara case, the Committee is reduced to little more than a forum of insults. Last year's session, for example, was dominated by rhetoric on the "encouraging achievements" from the First International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and the repression of the total UN failure over Western Sahara.

When Western Sahara was discussed in the year 2000 session, Morocco repeated its claims over "its southern provinces" while the Sahrawi and their allies accused the Moroccan government of "tactics of delaying" the referendum, which was supposed to have been organised in 1991. The "debate" culminated in mutual insults between the parties. Meanwhile, the UN's Special Envoy to Sahara, James Baker III, tried to convince the Sahrawi that they should disregard the UN resolutions on a referendum discussing with the Moroccans - until he withdraw to US politics and left the scene without an arbitrary.

This month, the recognised representatives of the Sahrawi people, the POLISARIO Front, announced that its 10-year-old ceasefire with Morocco "is null and void", explaining that "Morocco has consistently blocked moves to hold a democratic poll agreed to an in international treaty." The POLISARIO thus has lost its patience with and confidence in the UN organs created to lead Sahara into independence; not as any surprise maybe, when the UN is powerless without "the goodwill of all concerned".

Sources: UN sources and afrol.archives

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