Growing international recognition of Western Sahara offers new hope for Africa’s Last Colony

Recognising the rights of occupied peoples to exist as sovereign nations, in line with the requirements of international law, has always helped rebalance unjust political odds in their favour, as well as bolster international legality. As such, the growing official recognition of the Saharawi state by the international community represents a major essential step towards securing the Saharawi people’s right of self-determination, as underscored by the UN for the past 4 decades, particularly through resolution 1514 which first included Western Sahara in its list of non-self-governing territories; a resolution that subsequently was ratified by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion issued in 1975.

In 1976, and after three years of fierce armed resistance against the Spanish colonial presence, the Saharawis announced the proclamation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. This was primarily to fill-up the void caused by the sudden and anarchic withdrawal of the Spanish administration, which had been the colonial power in Western Sahara for more than 90 years. While the departure resulted in the territory being divided-up between Morocco and Mauritania following the “Madrid Treaty”, this was later rejected by international institutions, describing it as illegitimate.

The Polisario Front, the core body of the Saharawi republic and the political representative of the Saharawi people, launched an all pervasive war of liberation to push back the invaders whose actions had created an outpouring of tens of thousands of Saharawi refugees into neighboring Algeria. Although Mauritania subsequently pulled out of the territory, the Moroccan kingdom expanded its occupation by invading the parts that had been under de-facto Mauritanian control.

An Avalanche of Recognitions

Consistent with international law and in solidarity with the rights of the Saharawi people, African and South American nations were the strongest supporters of the Saharawi struggle for independence, unleashing a domino-like effect of recognitions of the Western Sahara Republic across the two continents. Likewise, other Asian countries have recognised the Saharawi republic, reaching a total of 84 countries worldwide. In contrast, no country has to date recognised Morocco’s sovereignty claims over the territory.

Thus, the colonial issue opposing Morocco to the Polisario Front, which had been politically mediated as a regional conflict, became an international one. In 1984, the Western Sahara Republic became a full state member of the Organisation of the African Union, and subsequently a founding member of its successor, the African Union (AU). Yet, these recognitions have only exacerbated the expansion of Moroccan occupation, aimed at wiping-out all forms of Saharawi existence in the areas under Moroccan control and creating, in the process, new facts on the ground with major coastal cities ending-up under Moroccan control while the remaining 25% of Western Sahara, a desert strip of more than 1000 km long, destined to be under the sovereignty of the Saharawi republic. Between the two portions stands a scar in the desert: the berm, a 2700 sand wall built by Morocco, fortified with barbed-wire fencing, artillery posts and crammed with millions of anti-tank and anti-personal land mines that are still claiming the lives of many Saharawis and their livestock.

In 1991, after sixteen years of armed struggle, the UN brokered a peace plan and the “MINURSO’'(the French acronym of the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara) was established. However, after 25 years of attempts to bring about this promised referendum, the UN peace settlement plan has failed to achieve its main objective: a plebiscite of self-determination.

Morocco’s control of the main “useful” part of Western Sahara, a 1000 km coastline that harbors one of the world’s richest fisheries stock, abundant phosphate rock mines and promising offshore oil reserves, has further driven it to impose a policy of ‘fait accompli’; a stance defended by France at the Security Council and which has been the main stumbling block preventing the implementation of international law in Western Sahara.

The two decades’ investment of the Polisario Front in the UN peace process scheme has, unequivocally, proven to be fruitless. As such, the internationalisation of the Saharawi struggle has become one of the avenues out of this protracted status-quo, and for seeking a way to rebalance the balance of power in favor of the occupied.

Europe’s Landmark Decisions

The direction of the Polisario Front’s political efforts has swerved in recent years towards Europe. As a capstone to decades of diplomatic work, the Saharawis achieved a considerable breakthrough in the European continent in recent years. The first positive response came from the Scandinavian block, subsequently unleashing an avalanche of similar recognitions and other types of actions against the ongoing Moroccan occupation.

Indeed, the recognition of the Western Sahara republic has gained considerable momentum in a number of European Parliaments. In the UK, Italy and Slovenia, for instance, political groups and collectives have demanded recognition of the Saharawi republic, while motions for official recognition were passed by parliaments in Finland, Denmark and Norway.

In Sweden, after a parliamentary motion was passed in 2012 to recognize the Western Sahara republic, the government announced a U-Turn this year, thus contradicting tenants of its own foreign policy, as well as imperiled its cherished stance as a neutral promoter of human rights.

In Spain, the former colonial power, an overwhelming majority of the Spanish parliament deputies recently voted for the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. Yet, despite an enormous support within Spanish civil and political circles, the position of the Spanish parliament and state is still viewed as shamefully lagging behind the advanced stances of the Spanish regional governments, which have demanded the recognition of the Saharawi republic and called for an end to Moroccan occupation – especially as the latter is largely a consequence of unethical historical failures by the Spanish monarchy that need to be addressed.

On the other hand, the EU court, after a lawsuit lodged by the Polisario Front, annulled in 2015 the EU-Morocco agricultural agreement due to its inclusion of products exported from the Saharawi occupied territories; a move viewed by some analysts as a landmark decision in the history of the occupation.

In a similar vein, the Polisario Front, through an approach with the Swiss Federal Council, has become party to the Geneva Convention, reinforcing its status as the sole representative of the Saharawi people and, inter alia, obliging firms involved in exploiting and plundering Western Saharan resources to abide by its legal authority in this non-self-governing territory.

In the context of the internationalisation of the Saharawi struggle, this important step will definitely be followed by others, offering an alternative path to the futile peace process currently staling under UN auspices. The statement made by Khatri Addouh, who heads the Polisario negotiating team, and served as interim president of the republic after the passing away of the late Mohamed Abdel Aziz, did not rule out the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic seeking UN recognition as an observer state; a linchpin move that – once achieved – will enable the Saharawis to regain the initiative, enhance their presence at the international level and overcome the status-quo by creating its own new facts on the ground.

Such a move will strengthen the position of the Polisario Front at the negotiating table and reduce France’s influence at the Security Council, sidestepping its unjust and disproportionate support for Morocco in favor of support for a more pluralistic and democratic world.

Undoubtedly, the UN-sponsored peace plan in Western Sahara has tangibly collapsed; with the recent expulsion by Morocco of Minurso staffers a last nail in its coffin. However, the recognition by international institutions, individual governments, countries and states of the Saharawi Republic can still restore hope to the Saharawi people, drive away the looming resumption of armed hostilities, salvage the sanctity of international law and legality, and put an end to colonialism in Africa’s last colony

Khalil Asmar*

Khalil Asmar is a Saharawi blogger 

Follow at @Sahara_Voice 

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Morocco’s thug diplomacy strikes back at an AU meeting

Mohamed Salem Ould Salek representing the Saharawi delegation at the African Union (photo archive) 

​Just before the kicking off of Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) that is taking place at the Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre in Maputo in Mozambique, a nearly toe-to-toe backstage altercation erupted between the Moroccan and Saharawi delegations.  
The incident occurred when the Moroccan delegation headed by Morocco FM Naser Bourita attempted to forcefully block the Saharawi delegation from having access to the conference room.

As seen in joint footage, Security intervened and kept the two delegations apart before it could boil over into an even more volatile situation.

In a previous article in FreedomSupport site, we have demonstrated with leaked documents   how Morocco bribed some africans diplomats and delegations prior to its joining the African Union.

Morocco’s collosal campaign of buying off the africans seems not to have worked opening the gate wide to this recursive thugs behaviour.

After this incident, many african diplomatic delegations expressed their firm support to the Saharawis, denouncing the Moroccan behaviour which they described as unacceptable.

 Nevertheless, calm was restored and the Saharawi delegation got its seat with the rest of the african countries members of the african Union.

In a comment on this Japenese African Summit, South Africa minister of trade and industry Rob Davis said that “The objective of the meeting is to review progress following the adoption of the Nairobi Declaration together with its Implementation Plan during the TICAD VI Summit, held Kenya last year. The meeting will also review the status of implementation of the Yokohama Action Plan (2013-2017), adopted at the TICAD V Summit held in Japan in 2013,”.

The Nairobi Declaration aims to strengthen the African’s continent growth through partnerships with Japan while the Yokohama Action Plan spells out goals to be achieved and specific measures to be implemented through the TICAD process during the 2013-2017 period


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Mr. Horst Köhler of Germany – Personal Envoy for Western Sahara

Secretary-General António Guterres announced today the appointment of Horst Köhler, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. 

The new Personal Envoy succeeds Christopher Ross of the United States who completed his assignment on 30 April 2017.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Ross’ tireless efforts and dedication to facilitate negotiations between the parties in order to achieve a just, durable and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

Mr. Köhler brings more than 35 years of experience in government and international organizations, including as President of the Federal Republic of Germany (2004-2010), Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. (2000-2004) and President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London (1998-2000).  Mr. Köhler also served as State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance (1990-1993) before being appointed President of the German Savings Bank Association (1993).  
Mr. Köhler graduated from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen with a Diploma in Public Economics and Political Sciences in 1969.  He also obtained his doctorate degree in Economics in 1977 and has been an Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen since 2003.

Born in 1943, Mr. Köhler is married and has two children.

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Le think thank européen ECFR : « le Maroc a besoin de l’aide et de la pression internationale sur la monarchie » 

Publié avant le référendum sur la constitution par l’influent Think Tank, The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) qui compte parmi ses dirigeants l’ancien secrétaire général de l’OTAN l’espagnol Javier Solana et l’allemand Joschka Fischer ancien ministre des affaires étrangère, le rapport met l’Union européenne face à ses responsabilités vis-à-vis de la monarchie marocaine. 

«Bien que le Maroc soit généralement considéré comme un pays plus stable, plus avancé et plus démocratique que beaucoup d’autres pays d’Afrique du Nord, il pourrait lui aussi connaître des troubles», écrivent Susi Dennison, Nicu Popescu et José Ignacio Torreblanca, les trois auteurs de ce rapport de l’ECFR.
La tactique du roi

Pour eux, une révolution de type égyptien ou tunisien n’est pas d’actualité au Maroc, «les marocains se sentent de plus en plus frustrés par le vernis démocratique de leur pays. Ils réclament aujourd’hui davantage de limites au pouvoir royal ainsi que la fin de la corruption et du clientélisme. En somme, les Marocains veulent un roi qui ‘’règne mais ne gouverne pas”, comme le résume le slogan du mouvement du 20 février», constate les chercheurs de ce think thank européen.

Ces derniers qualifient le régime marocain de «monarchie autoritaire». La possibilité d’évoluer progressivement vers une démocratie constitutionnelle est sur la table. «Pour autant, les jeux ne sont pas encore faits. Même si le mouvement s’est amplifié, il ne semble pas encore menacer le roi Mohammed VI au point de l’obliger à céder une partie importante de ses pouvoirs en créant de véritables institutions démocratiques», tempère l’équipe de l’ECFR.
La réforme constitutionnelle est pour les auteurs «un jeu tactique du roi. Dans l’immédiat, ni lui ni son entourage ne semblent prêts à modifier de façon significative l’équilibre du pouvoir au Maroc». Cette situation met l’UE face à des défis très différents de ceux rencontrés en Egypte et en Tunisie.
«L’UE doit maintenant utiliser l’influence considérable dont elle dispose au Maroc pour accentuer la pression en faveur d’une démocratie véritable. »
Le Maroc est un pays résolument tourné vers l’Europe, qui entretient des liens économiques et commerciaux très étroits avec les Etats de l’Union Européenne (UE) et qui accorde une grande valeur à son statut privilégié dans le voisinage de l’Europe méridionale. Pour ces raisons «L’UE doit maintenant utiliser l’influence considérable dont elle dispose au Maroc pour accentuer la pression en faveur d’une démocratie véritable. Elle doit débattre avec les mouvements de jeunes, y compris avec les islamistes, et proposer des conditions d’échanges commerciaux plus avantageuses». Sur ce plan, les auteurs recommandent que Bruxelles ratifie l’accord sur l’agriculture avec le Maroc, «ce qui constitue un pas en avant important vers ce que le Maroc réclame depuis longtemps : un meilleur accès aux marchés européens. L’UE doit prendre la tête de cette initiative». Toujours économiquement, les pays de l’UE doivent soutenir la «destination Maroc», spécialement suite à l’attentat de Marrakech fin avril, «une aide très importante doit être apportée à l’industrie touristique marocaine pour retrouver un climat de sécurité et de confiance», propose les trois chercheurs.
Selon eux, l’UE a tout intérêt à encourager des réformes politiques aujourd’hui afin de ne pas se trouver, d’ici quelques mois, face à une répression et une situation d’instabilité comme en Syrie. En conclusion, le Think Tank estime que «le Maroc a besoin de l’aide de la pression internationale sur la monarchie pour pousser cette dernière à accepter des réformes».

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(Video) Yeslem, the rapper from the 42 years long #WesternSahara refugee camps tells the story 

Yslem, the young Saharawi rapper, who was born in the Saharawi refugees camps, talks about his inspirations and motivations to write his lyrics and music for the Western Sahara’s cause. 
In 1975, the Saharawis took refuge in south west Algeria and set up four tent cities after having been chased out of their land by the extremly brutal invasion of Morocco military forces after the departure of Spain, the former colonial power. Morocco kingdom imposed a ruthless and unmerciful control of the territory where thousands of Saharawi civilians perished in prisons or in mass graves; a genocide where banned weapons of mass destruction were used in front of a silent world.
Yeslem describes the hardships and misery of an exiled nation that still lives in one of the most inhospitable places in the world, Lahmada desert area south west of neighbouring Algeria. He tries to raise awareness on this cause of global unjustice through his rap music that stems from the hardships of the refugee camps where he was born and brought up in. 

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Res Turner, the French Rap Star who campaigns for a free #WesternSahara 

Res Turner on stage lifting the Saharawi republic flag during the “End of the Weak” national Rap competition 
The french Rap Impro star Res Turner dedicates his award as the best Rap Impro singer of 2017 in France to the Saharawi refugees and to their just cause for freedom and independence. The award ceremomy of the final round of “The End of the Weak”, a national competition in rap improvising which engulfed the best french rappers specialised in improvising the song lyrics, was an occassion for the french rapper to express his unwavering support to the Saharawi people dedicating his award to the refugees of Western Sahara.
The french rap impro star who is also a two times world champion, showed up on stage lifting the Saharawi republic flag, and in his public speech he expressed his firm solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Saharawi people who still suffer from the ongoing Moroccan occupation that has lasted for more than 40 years. He, subsequently, made an appeal to the public for the solidaritywith the Saharawi cause.

In 2015, Res Turner won the world champion  of Rap Impro in Canada and on stage he showed up with the Saharawi flag and made the same call of solidarity.

It should be noted that Western Sahara has been under the Moroccan military occupation since 1975. A portion of the Saharawi people fled to neighbouring Algeria for a safe heaven and the remaining portion has been under one of the most  brutal forms of occupation in modern history despite more than hundrerds of UN resolutions, International and European Courts of Justice call to Morocco to end the occupation. 

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Le Makhzen et la leçon du Sahara Occidental pour le Rif 

El Hoceima: Des jeunes cagoulés, pierres dans les mains visant les forces policières marocaines 

Le site marocain “Yabiladi” vient de publier un scoop sur des confrontations sanglantes entre des manifestants et les forces de sécurité à El Hoceima; la ville marocaine qui connaît depuis plusieurs mois le “Hirak”, une mouvance populaire pacifique pour l’amélioration des conditions de vie des rifains; les autochtones de cette région nordique misent au placard depuis l’indépendance du Maroc en raison de leur caractère frondeur, leur irrédentisme et de leur aversion au régime monarchiste.
« Un groupe d’individus, dont certains étaient encagoulés, ont procédé, lundi à Al Hoceima, à des actes de provocation et à des jets de pierres à l’encontre des forces de l’ordre, causant des blessures à différents degrés à 39 éléments de ces forces ayant nécessité leur transfert à l’hôpital pour recevoir les soins », lit-on aussi sur l’agence officielle MAP, citant les autorités locales. 

 « Ces individus se sont également attaqués au service des urgences de l’hôpital provincial, causant des dégâts matériels à ses dépendances et à l’une des ambulances qui transportait deux éléments blessés des forces de l’ordre », ajoute-t-on de même source, précisant que « les deux blessés à bord de l’ambulance ont été agressés, ainsi que des éléments de la protection civile ».

Pourtant, le Hirak a passé plus de six mois de pacifisme sans aucune incident sanglante. En riposte, l’état au premier  lieu misait sur le pourrissement et l’enlisement de cette mouvance populaire, mais la persistance pacifique et civique des rifins débouche sur un embrasement généralisé de l’état marocain.

L’oppression hideuse s’avère la seule issue pour mettre un terme à cette mouvance, les manifestants sont brutalement réprimés et les leaders sont détenus dans les geôles du Makhzen. 

Le Hirak, en revanche, reste attacher aux principes du pacifisme, mais il semble que le régime monarchique de Rabat veut écorner la qualité civilisée de cette mouvance sociale. 
La leçon du Sahara Occidental

Les sahrouis depuis 2005 ont entamé une résistance pacifique dont plusieurs méthodes de lutte pacifiste sont mises en exergue et malgré la brutalité policière et militaire, les sahraouis avec une maturité exceptionnelle ont réussi à maintenir sa qualité pacifique. 

Néanmoins, le Makhzen a cherché par tous les moyens mesquins possible pour ternir l’image de la révolte des sahrouis; l’utilisation des agents secrets et des voyous à la solde du régime monarchique contre les forces policière pour, d’une part, donner une justification aux interventions musclée des forces d’occupation et d’autre part, piéger les sahraouie dans la spirale de la violence. Un traquenard que les sahrouis ont bien évité et leur résistance pacifique continue jusqu’à nos jours.  

Un policier qui aurait été blessé lundi dernier à Al Hoceima porte la radiographie d’une femme enceinte dévoilant les manigances du régime monarchique de Rabat 

C’est aussi la même stratégie que les forces du Makhzen viennent d’adapter dans le Rif ce lundi dernier dans les rues de El Hoceima; utiliser des agents et voyous aux ordres du palais royal pour ecorner la nature pacifique de la révolte des rifains et semer la zizanie et le désarroi dans les rues des villes et villages d’un Rif en plein mouvance pour la dignité et la liberté et donner, par conséquence, la légitimité aux interventions policières brutales contre les manifestants pacifiques rifains. 

Ce subterfuge makhzanien, qui s’avérait un fiasco tonitruant aux territoires occupés du Sahara Occidental, va-t-il donc réussir au Rif? 
Khalil Asmar

Twitter: Follow at  @Sahara_Voice 

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