Friday, February 16, 2007

Wait and see

There is a lot of talking about the Moroccan Autonomy plan in the Sahara. Based on the newswires, Morocco will present, in April, its autonomy plan to the United Nations. The Moroccans have already started a big campaign targeting international capitals. But Polisario categorically rejects the idea, announcing that it won't accept anything except a referendum for self-determination. Although I abstained in the past from giving suggestions about how the conflict could be solved, a task that has been lasting for more than 30 years and consumed the efforts of many heavy weight personalities, I have this modest suggestion. Here it is, simple and clear:
  1. Morocco presents its autonomy plan.
  2. Polisario accepts it and go back with the refugees to the Western Sahara.
  3. The Western Sahara is living under a relative autonomy and is populated by new tens of thousands of sahrawis.
  4. Sahrawis impose their will on the ground : they either accept to continue living under the autonomy or militate for independence.

The difference between situation Nr 4 and the present is that all sahrawis will be living under the same frontiers, there is no secret number of refugees, or a controversy about their status (refugees or imprisoned). They are free, on their land, all together and from all the tribes. They have the power then to seek what they want and make the world a witness of it.

I know that this idea will be rejected by many people. Actually, it may scare both Morocco and Polisario. Morocco because if sahraouis don't like the autonomy system, the kingdom may end up with a revolt from inside and in front of the whole world. And Polisario leaders because Sahrawis may end up liking life under the Moroccan flag.

That was my contribution to restart my temporarily idling blog.


At 10:49 PM, Anonymous alle said...

First of all, thanks for your comment at my blog. It's appreciated.

Second, the problem with your solution: any solution that requires one party to start by committing suicide is unlikely to gain that party's acceptance.

As you've put it, this requires of Sahrawi nationalists to unlaterally destroy their only political asset (Polisario/SADR, which has gained recognition as representative of the Sahrawi people through the UN, holds extremely precious diplomatic state recognitions, an OAU seat, etc; not to mention that it is the only functioning organization to militate for independence both inside and outside WS), install its civilian population under a dictatorship hostile to its aspirations (and with a history of brutal abuse of that same population), and, furthermore, to explicitly state that it is wrong and should not have a state. (That's the precondition of al this, and as son as it happens, the self-determination issue will be swiftly swept aside by a thankful international community. Then there is no way to revive it anymore: you can't decolonize yourself twice.)

Also, as for the practical reasoning -- to imagine that Sahrawis could simply "restart" their struggle from under Moroccan control is naive to the extreme, I fear, even if one leaves aside the fact that their only vehicle for doing so to date (Polisario) would be dissolved. It takes no account of how Morocco has acted during 30 years of control over the territory, and it leaves out of the picture that the whole case of the Sahrawis is built, not on people being in Tindouf, but on the principle of self-determination and of respect for African colonial boundaries. Both those principles will, with your solution, immediately start working AGAINST Sahrawi independence as soon as the UN closes the file. They will be reduced to the status of Kabylia in Algeria, Rif in Morocco, or Katanga in Kongo: regions who will never, ever, ever be accepted as independent states by the international community (because that would be synonymous with approving of the Balkanization of Africa). That's quite the obstacle, even if one generously assumes that Morocco would allow them to "militate" once the world has washed its hands and turned away.

But while we're at it, I too have a suggestion: that Morocco hands over Western Sahara to the SADR, pulls out all troops, recognizes it as an independent state, and then begins negotiations with the Sahrawi government to be allowed back in... See the problem with that one? :-)

At 8:19 AM, Blogger StudentintheUS said...

Good points. In fact, I don't think many people will agree with my suggestion (not solution). It is true that once Polisario accepts the Autonomy, it's difficult to go backward. The thing is, and honestly, I don't see for now, unless somebody has more insight about the Western Sahara issue, an incoming solution. The refugees have been wasting their lifes in the camps for more than thirty years. A whole population is constrained to begging the international community for food. I know that sahrawis are proud people. What happened that made them to accpet living confined in camps waiting for the unknown? Whereas other civilisations study, work, create, build, develop, and expand, the refugees are living in a timeless state. The problem is, Time exists and it is running. On the diplomatic level, Morocco and Polisario are still entertaining the same fight : how many countries recognize or not the Sahrawi republic. It has been ongoing for decades, with a continuously updated list of countries from both sides.
I think Morocco and Polisario have to do something unexpected in their traditional to exit that vicious circle. Concessions may be neccessary.

At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Concessions can be made if there's a dialogue. I would like to know what the people living in the refugee camps think about all this stuff. Autonomy seems really to be the most reasonable solution to end this stupid war of words. A new State in the Maghreb won't make the region safer.
The parents, great or great great parents of those refugees are moroccans. They live in Morocco. Abdelazi's father is still alive: he is from Marrakech.
So why should we as citizens of this world encourage a new State? Why not talk? Why not forget Algeria and it's bad influence on this sad story?
Morocco is making a historical step by offering Autonomy. Why not give peace a chance?

Haoula from Rabat

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous alle said...

Haoula: I have no problems with autonomy under Moroccan rule, it strikes me as one of the most sensible end-results.

But it will be both impractical and illegal, if it is not done through self-determination, meaning a referendum where Western Saharans either chose Morocco (including autonomy, if that is what Morocco wants to offer) or an independent state. Let the people decide for themselves, with no involvement from Morocco, Algeria or the Polisario -- just as the UN has always demanded.

And that way, incidentally, you'll also find out what the people in Tindouf think.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's me again,

Alle do you sincerely think that the milititary forces in Algeria will let the sahrawis in Tindouf make an independant choice? The algerian army won't let the sahrawis in Tindouf vote for autonomy in Morocco. Remember the 1992 elections and the bloody civil war. You know I think that even if the polisario wanted a dialogue with morocco, Algeria would definitely say "NO".


At 12:28 PM, Anonymous alle said...

Haoula, if you read the peace plan signed by Morocco and Polisario in 1989, you will see that BEFORE the referendum, all Sahrawi voters in Tindouf are supposed to move to the parts of Western Sahara, west of the wall, that are today under Moroccan control.

After a short election campaign, the referendum will then be monitored by the UN (Minurso), with neither Morocco or Polisario allowed to interfere. The Algerian army won't even be present in the country. So there is no way that Algeria could affect the Sahrawi vote once Sahrawis have left Tindouf, except by airing propaganda on TV and radio. But Morocco can do that too.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Spaniard from said...

Hi guys,
from what I read in this post, the idea of all sahrawis moving to a new Moroccan Western Sahara came to my mind for the first time:
in such a case scenario, I find it hard that they would be able to decide for their own future, whether they were in an "autonomous" region or plain and simple Morocco.
If waving a sahrawi flag is currently dealt with by sending the police over I think we should not be idealistic, and believe that matters would get worse in the inmediate future. Many thousands would be taken to jails.

We are approaching the negotiation dates, Spain, France and the USA would like to sign an agreement and archive this issue so that it is over. I guess they want the Polisario to agree to the Moroccan "Plan". But... lets be realistic again, NO country recognises Morocco´s sovereignity over the Sahara, whilst 60-80 countries recognise the SADR... Polisario is the only option that (most probably) represents Sahrawis.

Should the US/France/Spain/Morocco decide on Western Sahara? It is people (not natural resources) we are talking about!

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