Western Sahara
Morocco accepts, POLISARIO rejects UN Sahara plan

Related items

News articles
» 13.12.2001 - Nobel laureates appeal to UN over Western Sahara 
» 30.06.2001 - Security Council carefully backs new Sahara plan 
» 27.06.2001 - UN Envoy admits "Moroccan origin" of Sahara plan 
» 25.06.2001 - Morocco accepts, POLISARIO rejects UN Sahara plan 
» 22.06.2001 - POLISARIO shocked by new UN plan for Western Sahara 
» 25.04.2001 - Still no progress in Western Sahara 
» 28.02.2001 - 25 years of Sahara conflict marked 
» 27.02.2001 - Algerian-Moroccan dispute frustrates regional integration 
» 22.02.2001 - UN committee responsible for Sahara opens 
» 09.02.2001 - Ceasefire in Sahara 'null and void' 
» 22.01.2001 - Sahara Marathon to answer Paris-Dakar provocation 
» 22.11.2000 - Sahara crisis grows while Baker busy in Florida 
» 31.10.2000 - UN extends Western Sahara mission 
» 27.10.2000 - Annan sees no progress in Western Sahara 
» 30.09.2000 - UN preparing to abandon Western Sahara? 
» 29.09.2000 - Morocco refuses to cooperate on Sahara settlement plan 
» 28.09.2000 - Great danger of the ceasefire breaking down in Sahara 

» 20.06.2001 - Report of the [UN] Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara 
» "Framework Agreement" on the Status of Western Sahara 

News, Africa 
Western Sahara Archive 
Morocco Archive 
Map of Western Sahara 

In Internet
The Dawn 
Western Sahara Referendum Association (ARSO) 
Western Sahara Weekly News

POLISARIO leader Abdelaziz

«The referendum is our inalienable right to self-determination and independence.»

POLISARIO leader Mohamed Abdelaziz

afrol News, 25 June - The controversial new UN plan for a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara seems to polarise even more the parties to the conflict. While the Moroccan government already has agreed to the plan "as a framework for discussion," the Sahrawi resistance, POLISARIO, threatens war. Even among UN officials, the plan causes controversies.

On the recommendation of former US secretary of state James Baker III, now Personal Envoy of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Western Sahara, the UN is to drop its 10-year-old plan to hold a referendum about the independence of the disputed territory. The territory is to be put under Moroccan administration, though granted autonomy, and within four years, a referendum on its status is to be made, based on the people then living there - something the POLISARIO hardly can accept because Morocco is subsidising Moroccan migrants to the territory, assuring a pro-Moroccan majority.

Most international observers thus have characterised Baker's plan a "capitulation to Morocco" (Giles Tremlett in 'The Dawn') or commenting it as "conceding much to Morocco, and give little away to the Sahrawi nationalist movement" (David Bamford, BBC). 

Positive reactions are only found in Morocco and its long-time ally France, the plan advocating a 'third way' that France and Morocco have been pushing for years. The Moroccan government thus in general already has agreed to the plan, however emphasising that it does not adhere to all the terms, but accepts it "as a framework for discussion." Referring to the plan's referendum in the Sahara province in four years, the organ of the Moroccan governing Istiqlal Party, 'Al Alam', already has said that Sahrawi autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty is "the first and last solution to emerge from the impasse". 

Possible return to armed struggle
Sahrawi leaders have been shocked by the UN plan, where "nearly half a billion US dollars of UN expenditure and ten years work by thousands of UN officials would be wasted if Morocco gets its way" (UK Western Sahara Campaign). "This is a conspiracy by the French-Moroccan party, in the clothes of Baker, to try to make the Security Council change its mind," said POLISARIO's representative in the UN, Ahmed Buhari. "We will not fall in this pitfall."

The POLISARIO representation in Australia today issued the first POLISARIO press statement on Baker's proposal, concluding it was "based on proposals made by the Moroccan government and aim to simply integrate Western Sahara into Morocco and thus legitimise the illegal occupation of the Territory." It reminded the UN that its mandate in Western Sahara "is to implement the peace plan accepted by both parties in 1988 and which is based on the organisation of a free and fair referendum of self-determination." 

Expressing its "utter rejection" to the plan, the statement says nothing about the return to an armed conflict, although the statement that "the responsibility of any deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara will rest on Morocco," may point in that direction. POLISARIO spokesman Ibrahim Mokhtar on the other hand told the press the plan would "implicate the return to armed struggle of the POLISARIO against Moroccan occupation."

The POLISARIO threat to return to the armed struggle, abandoned after 16 years of fighting in 1991 to implement the referendum, is a serious threat. It has been articulated more and more clearly as frustrations with UN Envoy Baker's work increased over the last year. In February this year, for the first time the POLISARIO stated that the ceasefire with Morocco was "null and void". The reason given was that Morocco had "consistently blocked moves to hold a democratic poll agreed to an in international treaty." However, UN facilitated negotiations continued.

UN change of mind
Baker early indicated he did not see the referendum as the only possible solution, and last year proposed that Morocco and POLISARIO should negotiate directly to search alternative solutions, as the referendum never seemed to materialise. This proposal caused protests by the POLISARIO, which saw and sees the referendum as "their inalienable right to self-determination and independence," already defined by the International Court of Justice in 1975. 

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

«The referendum would produce one winner and one loser and the states were therefore too high.»

UN Secretary-
General Kofi Annan

In fact, both James Baker and Kofi Annan as late as October last year criticised Morocco for the failure to implement the referendum. Annan thus stated, "It is also the view of my Personal Envoy, which I share, that if the Government of Morocco is not prepared to offer or support some devolution of governmental authority that could be discussed... the [UN] Mission [to Sahara, MINURSO] should begin hearing the pending appeals from the identification process on an expedited basis, without regard as to how long it might be expected to take to complete them." UN officials working in Sahara have made even clearer statements making "Moroccan bullying" responsible for the nine years of failure of having a voter list being drawn up.

Within less than a year, Baker's and Annan's argumentation has changed considerably. Their new report, defining the new plan, concludes that referendum process became a "zero-sum game" that each side felt it absolutely had to win, since, "due to the nature of the agreement that the UN was trying to implement, the referendum would produce one winner and one loser and the states were therefore too high."

Annan and Baker conclude that "there are serious doubts as to whether the settlement plan can be implemented in its present form in a way that will result in an early, durable and agreed resolution of the dispute over Western Sahara." They are equally doubtful as to "whether any other adjustments to the settlement plan would resolve [long-term] problems, since the endgame would still produce one winner and one loser."

Plan splits UN administration
Most international press reports being critical towards the concessions given Morocco in Annan's new Western Sahara plan, the focus is that Morocco now is rewarded for its policy of delay to implement the referendum. Annan and Baker also clearly state in their report that they have lost patience with the settlement plan that was to assure the referendum. They conclude that the UN had "erred on the side of unfounded optimism and persisted in its efforts longer than it should have."

UN officials operating in Western Sahara strongly disagree. Firstly, they claim, it is wrong to reward Morocco, as the country is the principal responsible for the failure to implement the referendum. Secondly, the hold it is not correct that the referendum cannot be arranged within short, even if one has to process all the Moroccan appeals to the voter list. 

Frank Ruddy, once a senior UN official in Western Sahara, has blamed the UN for not standing up to the "Moroccan bullying" that prevented a voter list being drawn up. "Morocco did not simply influence the referendum; they controlled it, down to what days the mission worked. Morocco tapped UN phones, intercepted UN mail and searched the living quarters of UN staff with impunity," retired US ambassador Ruddy concluded after his mission in Western Sahara. 

High-ranking MINURSO officials further allegedly very recently have confirmed to Carlos Wilson, executive director of the US Western Sahara Foundation (pro-POLISARIO) that "the referendum could be held this afternoon," if the UN would stop caving in to Morocco's obstruction of the process. The UK Western Sahara Campaign confirms this view, saying it "believes that the referendum could take place within six months if the UN applied their own signed agreements," that is to say, allowing Moroccan appeals to be heard. The UN has received appeals to the voter list from 131,038 people, the majority residing in Morocco, but the majority of these cases have already been heard (and rejected). 

Plan probably accepted
The Baker and Annan plan is to be presented to the UN Security Council tomorrow, 26 June (not Saturday, as earlier reported on afrol News). POLISARIO's strongest supporters are not represented in the Security Council. On the contrary, veto holder and Moroccan ally France is totally in agreement with the plan. The United States, another veto holder, are believed to follow its former Secretary of State, James Baker, and are interested in cutting UN expenditures. Another US interest is strengthening Morocco as a bulwark against Muslim fundamentalism. 

Of the approximately 60 countries recognising POLISARIO as the legitimate government of Western Sahara (half of them African countries), none is a UN Security Council veto holder. Mauritius, Africa's present member in the Council, has recognised the 'Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic', but does not hold a veto. 

If the Security Council adopts the plan, this would mean the end of the referendum process, at least for four years. The fate of the Sahrawi people would then rest in the hands of three governments, which according to the plan are to continue the process after Sahara is made a autonomous Moroccan province; Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, together with the POLISARIO. Morocco and Mauritania are for the total integration of Western Sahara into Morocco. Algeria, still POLISARIO's most outspoken ally, has officially protested against the plan but has sent Baker a memorandum saying it does not rule it out as a basis for talks. 

The Algerian government is experiencing great pressure from its main allies, France and the US, to reconcile with Morocco. The new UN plan is seen in both Washington and Paris as a possible path to an aim more important that the Sahrawi issue; the stability in Northern Africa, which would have been significantly strengthened if the 25-years-old conflict between Morocco and Algeria, mainly based in the Sahara issue, could be replaced with an alliance.

Sources: Based on UN sources, press reports, POLISARIO, Moroccan govt. and afrol archives

© afrol.com. Texts and graphics may be reproduced freely, under the condition that their origin is clearly referred to, see Conditions.

   You can contact us at mail@afrol.com