Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Retreat of the warriors.

Picture courtesy of www.theyoungturks.com

On August 07th, Fouad Ali El Himma resigned from his official position of deputy Minister of the Interior of Morocco. El Himma is the powerful counselor of the King of Morocco and his resignation, officially to participate in next month parliamentary elections, left many speechless, to the point that it was called a political earthquake. I don't write about Moroccan politics on this blog but something similar to the Moroccan event happened in the U.S made me do that. Another powerful counselor resigned this week : Karl Rove. The White House most influential Aide ever quit suddenly.

There are interesting similarities between the two men : they both work discreetly and quietly, have a very strong influence on their bosses, and consequently on the major policies of their countries. However, the aftermath of their resignation will be, for sure, not similar.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

News from the recognition battlefield...

According to this info, Cape Verde withdrew its recognition of the Sahrawi Republic. The newswire mentions that this decision follow a similar decision taken by Kenya in June. Are these isolated events or are we witnessing a pattern here ? We will see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

W.S event at the Congress.

The transition from school to a job isn't easy. Being busy, I couldn't update the blog for weeks, but here is a good occasion to do so. The Western Sahara Foundation is hosting an event for Sahrawi children at the Congress tomorrow. Registration is required and the room will be filled with Western Sahara fans. A demonstration is also planned at lafayette Park at noon.

The Sahrawi Children's Program and The US-Western Sahara Foundation with Honorary Congressional Hosts
Senator Russ Feingold
Senator James Inhofe
Senator James DeMint
Congressman Donald Payne
Congressman Joseph Pitts
Congressman Zach Wamp
Congressman Tim Ryan

cordially invite you to a reception with

Sahrawi refugee children visiting the USA featuring Sahrawi Music and testimonies

Thursday, July 26, 2007 2200 Rayburn House Office5-7 pm Building, Capitol Hill

Please RSVP name and office represented (acceptances only) by email to skswm@aol.com by phone to 703-534-4313.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Second round of negotiations is set for August.

It seems that Morocco and Polisario decided to meet again in August to continue their negotiations about the Western Sahara. No word has filtered about what exactly they agreed on in Manhasset, but apparently both parties camped on their 180 degree far away positions. Well, at least they agreed on something peaceful.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Western Sahara at the US Congress, again...

On June 6th, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs organized a Hearing on the topic of the U.S Policy Challenges in North Africa. Chaired by Tom Lantos, the Committee questionned David Welch, Assistant Secreatry of State for Near Eastern Affairs. The Hearing discussed the U.S relations with the North African countries, mainly Morocco, Algeria and Libya. The Western Sahara conflict was the first issue to be discussed. In fact, the opening statement of Lantos started with the Western Sahara. A transcript of some of Welch testimony is also available.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The International Court of Justice And The Western Sahara

The story is happening in december 1974. At the the request of the U.N General Assembly, the U.N Secretary General asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) located in The Hague (Netherlands) to give an Advisory Opinion on the Western Sahara issue by answering two questions :
1. Was Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakeit El Hamra) at the time of colonization by Spaon a territory belonging to no one (terra nullius) ? and 2. What were the legal ties between that territory and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mauritanian entity ?
On October 16th, 1975, the Court delivered its advisory opinion which came like this :
" With regard to Question I, "Was Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet El Hamra) at the time of colonization by Spain a territory belonging to no one (terra nullius)?",
- decided by 13 votes to 3 to comply with the request for an advisory opinion;
- was unanimously of opinion that Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet El Hamra) at the time of colonization by Spain was not a territory belonging to no one (terra nullius).
With regard to Question II, "What were the legal ties between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mauritanian entity?", the Court
- decided by 14 votes to 2 to comply with the request for an advisory opinion;
- was of opinion, by 14 votes to 2, that there were legal ties between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco of the kinds indicated in the penultimate paragraph of the Advisory Opinion;
- was of opinion, by 15 votes to 1, that there were legal ties between this territory and the Mauritanian entity of the kinds indicated in the penultimate paragraph of the Advisory Opinion ".

That's it.
This is the exact ICJ Opinion on the Western Sahara. But that's half (or three quarters, depending on your position on the conflict) of the cup...the court completed its opinion quoted above by a "penultimate paragraph of the Advisory Opinion" that explains the nature of the ties between the Western Sahara and Morocco and Mauritania. So here is that juicy part fully quoted again :
" The materials and information presented to the Court show the existence, at the time of Spanish colonization, of legal ties of allegiance between the Sultan of Morocco and some of the tribes living in the territory of Western Sahara. They equally show the existence of rights, including some rights relating to the land, which constituted legal ties between the Mauritanian entity, as understood by the Court, and the territory of Western Sahara. On the other hand, 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 a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly 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 of the Territory ".
In the war of arguments that characterizes the Western Sahara conflict, both Morocco and the Polisario try to use the ICJ decision to their favor. Morocco holds on to the decision itself which recognizes the existence of legal ties between the kingdom and the territory of Western Sahara. Morocco further relies on the first part of the explanatory paragraph which recognizes the existence of legal ties of allegiance between the Sultan (King) of Morocco and some sahrawi tribes. On the other hand, Polisario uses the other part of the explanatory paragaraph which doesn't recognize the existence of Moroccan sovereignty on the territory and aknowledge the right of self determination of the peoples of the territory.

The same thing happens with both parties supporters. Don't be surprised when reading about the subject if you find that the original text of the ICJ Advisory Opinion is largely cut to reflect only one position or to try to influence readers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Polisario and Morocco meet around one table in The Netherlands.

Don't be surprised, the information is true...a Dutch-american has succeeded in bringing a Polisario representative and Morocco around one table. Here is the story : As part of her project to prepare meals from 80 countries, Jenny Jaffe has invited a Polisario representative in the Netherlands to cook couscous for her. Nothing about Morocco for now, but look at the picture showing the ingredients, the couscous brand is called DARI. If you google DARI couscous, you will find that it's a company located in the Moroccan city of Sale. So it's a Moroccan couscous.
Obviously, Jaffe has succeeded in a pre-negotiations scoop by bringing Polisario and Morocco around one table ! Bravo Jaffe !
P.S: I should mention that One Hump or Two was the first to inform about the Sahrawi couscous but he missed the ingredients part !

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Speaking in the name of Sahrawis

In the wake of the U.N meetings about the Western Sahara and the buzz surrounding the Moroccan Autonomy plan, websites and blogs started to be filled with analyses, points of view, and comments about the issue. However, the resulting contributions represent generally the ideas of Americans and foreigners. Some of these analysts and commentators rely on the same source they are themselves alimenting. Others rely on few comments made here and there by some Sahrawis, draw a complete "analysis" of the Western Sahara, and put words in the mouth of Sahrawis as if they have been living in the Western Sahara for years.
Photo Courtesy of slapps.org

I mentioned in another occasion that the missing part in these discussions is the voice of those who are most concerned: the Sahrawis. I think there are two reasons for that. The first and main one is language. English, as my post deals with English websites, is not a popular language in all North Africa, much more in the Western Sahara where people, at most, speak Spanish as a second language. The second reason is access to computers and Internet. What is a daily life accessory in the U.S is a luxury in the region. Although the Moroccan side of the Sahara has a modern infrastructure and people can afford to buy computers there, still it's not at the reach of the average person. In the camps, it's worse as refugees have still to go to U.N facilities and fill forms to make phone calls (I still don't understand that procedure, why people in the camps have to go to the U.N to make phone calls ?). It's obvious that their access to a computer and to Internet would be a monumental task.

For these reasons, Sahrawis are the missing voice in English websites and blogs. Of course, some Sahrawis do participate to Internet discussions, but they are only a few and definitely can't represent the multiple array of sahrawis that live in the Western Sahara or in the camps in Algeria, either in terms of ethnicity (belonging to a specific sahrawi tribe) or politically (pro-Morocco, pro-Polisario, neutral or another status).

In a complex conflict such as the Western Sahara, hearing from all the Sahrawis is important. But when some analysts jump on that factor and start generalizing that the Sahrawis want this and that, then it's academically not honest. Some of that is coming from Polisario motto that it's the "only legitimate representative of the Sahrawis", therefore it's the only entity who can say what sahrawis want and act in their name. I think that's wrong. Just from my contacts with different Sahrawis, many of them don't recognize that motto and doesn't want Polisario to speak for them. Included in this category are Sahrawis loyal to the Moroccan monarchy living in Morocco and abroad. Furthermore, there has never been a general election, a referendum, or any kind of tribal council that elected Polisario as a representative. The Polisario Front doesn't want to discuss its "representativity" of the Sahrawi people and consider it a fait accompli that is not discussable. It's very antagonist from an organization which rejects the Moroccan fait accompli in the Western Sahara. This of course doesn't mean that Polisario don't speak in the name of certain sahrawis. I presume that Polisario members are abundant in the camps and that the refugees are to certain extent favorable to the Front (I aknowledge that I can't base my presumption on a solid survey or academic research).

The bottom line: Sahrawis are generally absent from Western Sahara debates in English. As long as this factor exists, there should be some restraints from speaking in the name of the Sahrawi people. On the other hand, efforts should be done to help Sahrawis express themselves in English. As an American who has done so much in the camps said "There is such a need for the Sahrawi to be able to have their own voice in our country".

Monday, April 30, 2007

Happiness is everywhere !

Well...it seems that everybody is happy with the Security Council Resolution 1754. The Polisario Front declared its victory because the resoultion didn't consider the Moroccan proposal as the only solution to the conflict. Morocco is also declaring victory because the Security Council no longer refers to the Baker plan and because it has positively designated its Autonomy Initiative. Finally, Algeria, the I-am-not-so-concerned-but-concerned party is also happy !
Let's just assume that the spirit of happiness will last during the expected negotiations and that it will result in a...happy end.

Security Council Resolution 1754 (2007)

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all its previous resolutions on Western Sahara,

“Reaffirming its strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy,

“Reaffirming its commitment to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and noting the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect,

“Reiterating its call upon the parties and States of the region to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations and with each other to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution,

“Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented on 11 April 2007 to the Secretary-General and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution; also taking note of the Polisario Front proposal presented on 10 April 2007 to the Secretary-General,

“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 13 April 2007 (S/2007/202),

“1. Reaffirms the need for full respect of the military agreements reached with MINURSO with regard to the ceasefire;

“2. Calls upon the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara;

“3. Requests the Secretary-General to set up these negotiations under his auspices and invites Member States to lend appropriate assistance to such talks;

“4. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report by 30 June 2007 on the status and progress of these negotiations under his auspices, and expresses its intention to meet to receive and discuss this report;

“5. Requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the situation in Western Sahara before the end of the mandate period;

“6. Calls on Member States to consider voluntary contributions to fund confidence-building measures that allow for increased contact between separated family members, especially family unification visits;

“7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance in MINURSO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including pre-deployment awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;

“8. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2007;

“9. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Western Sahara is hot subject at the U.S Congress

After weeks of intense lobbying from Morocco, Polisario, and their respective allies, Representatives have sent two different letters to the President. The first one calls for a referendum and considers the Autonomy plan as a violation of International law. 45 congressmen signed it. The second letter calls for the support of the Autonomy plan considering it a historic opportunity to solve the conflict. According to will (I don't have the will to count), 180 congressmen signed that one.
I am not sure if the letters are still being signed, but it seems that pretty much it with signatures. I think these two letters show that the Western Sahara conflict is not a forgotten case in the American Congress and that there are people who care about the issue. However, the second (or maybe the real) significance of the letters is the demonstration of force. Unfortunately, an important point wen't missing in both documents : a call to bring the involved parties to negotiate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Arab perspective of the Western Sahara

It seems that the Western Sahara issue is not a popular subject in the Arab medias. However, I found this article in Asharq alawst that demonstrates a point of view about the conflict. The newspaper presents itself as the leading arabic international daily.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Memoriam

picture courtesy of answers.com

War is easy...when you aren't fighting it.

In 1988, the year PANAM flight exploded over Lockerbie, two USAID contractors’ airplanes on their way from Senegal to Morocco were hit by SAM missiles launched by Polisario fighters. One aircraft crashed and all its American crew and passengers died. The second plane was able to land later safely in Morocco. The civilian aircrafts were doing anti-locusts work as part of a US disaster assistance to Africa following an important locust outbreak in the continent. Later, Polisario Front apologized for the mistake...

Why this introduction? I have always been opposed to easy declarations and calls for war in the Western Sahara. Since the ceasefire, the two parties stopped the fighting and it should last. War will bring mistakes: houses will end up being bombed, civilians will also die, urban terrorism may show up. There is no doubt about it. It's easy to threaten to return to the war from comfortable offices in Washington, London, or Algiers, but it's the people on the ground who are going to suffer from it. Deaths from both sides, more suffering to the refugees, and waste of much needed money in weapons purchases.

The thing is, if the fighting starts again, it's very improbable that Polisario fighters will be able to take over any territory from the large Moroccan Army. I hope the new U.N Secretary General will be able to bring the two parties to the negotiation table and dump the threats of war.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Towards the end

The recent weeks have witnessed intense diplomatic efforts from Morocco to lobby for its autonomy plan. Moroccan cabinet members have toured the world capitals (Washington, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Ryad, Cairo, Tripoli, and others) to gather support for their plan. Polisario leader also came to New york and Washington while sending his foreign minister to Cuba. Regardless of what practical solution each party is suggesting, it seems that the Western Sahara is heading towards something.
A major pressure is being put by Morocco to adopt the autonomy and close the subject forever. If it happens, the Polisario may be in a difficult position. I suppose that Algeria will be too as it will be stuck with thousands of armed Polisario soldiers within its territory. Polisario may count on an uprising of its supporters withing the Moroccan controlled part of the Western Sahara, but there is no strong indication of their number and strength.
I personally think that the current population of the Western Sahara will be the decisive card in this issue. Who ever wins the heart of the sahrawis will win Western Sahara, so let's see who is smarter.

Friday, March 02, 2007

One month and few days left

Here we are again, approaching the 6 months deadline that was set by the U.N Security Council to find a solution to the Western Sahara issue. Morocco has announced the autonomy plan and some details started to show up in the press. We learn that the Sahara will have a chief of state, a cabinet, and a parliament. Moroccan officials have also toured a number of capitals including Washington to introduce their plan. The Polisario kept its usual position, refusing anything but a referendum. Algeria is also on the same tone: we are not a part of the conflict and we support the self-determination of people. Based on the latest news, it seems that the Kingdom is very enthusiastic about its autonomy plan and is determined to go ahead with it.
I personally think that, at least recently, Algeria didn't do much to help solve that conflict. Its position as a host and main supporter of the Polisario enables it to have a strong mediation role between the two parties. A role that it didn't fulfill and the refugees have been sitting, LITERALLY, in the camps for decades now. The humanitarian aspect of the Western Sahara conflict has not been given its right value; however, I am not surprised. Third world countries, i.e under-developed, i.e in development (choose one as you wish) have in common, to certain degree, a disregard for their population and for Time.
I fear that the refugees' camps in Tindouf have become a card that everybody try to play with and get the most of it. Instead of solutions that help refugees to get a stable life and a prosper future, you see pictures, disputed numbers, and powerless humans waiting for international help to survive.

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.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The refugees and the clock

Whenever I see pictures from the refugee camps, I think about the waste of time that the refugees are suffering from. Time is a rich resource that wise and rational people preserve. Regardless of the circumstances that created these camps, I feel that the clock has stopped at the time they were built. Pictures from the camps usually show people wondering around, bringing water, or playing cards. A classic image of confined refugee camps around the world and that have been criticized by some humanitarian NGOs.
Some sources highlight that the rate of educated children in Tindouf camps is elevated; however, confining refugees in closed camps creates a passive and inactive lifestyle that limits human power to take free decisions, move, build, innovate and enjoy life pleasures. It's a general fact that exists in refugee camps, not only in Tindouf's.
Although some refugees were able to leave to european countries or elsewhere, the majority is still stuck in the camps' timeless state. All the parties involved in the conflit share a responsibility in this situation, but apparently, it seems they are not really time fans.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

La Guerra Olvidada : when Moroccans and Sahrawis were fighting together

The scene is happening at the end of the 1950's. Troupes from the recently independent Morocco joined by sahrawi tribes are fighting the Spanish in the region of Ifni. Ifni was the residence of the General Governor of the Western Sahara territory. The forces made a series of incursions and even sieged the city of Ifni; however, the spanish army was later able to counter the offensive by use of airplanes and warships, weapons that their opponent didn't have.
Can we learn something from History ?
P.S: English and Spanish articles about La Guerra Olvidada in Wikipedia.
Picture link courtesy of star-firearms.com

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The countdown: 6 months for Morocco and Polisario

On October 31st, the U.N Security Council voted unanimously for a 6 month extension of the MINURSO. The 1720 resolution urges both military parties, Morocco and Polisario, to engage in decisive discussions during the next 6 months. Also, the U.S delegate asked Morocco to present its announced Autonomy plan and to engage in discussions with all sahrawis, including Front Polisario.
An interesting point here is the call for the inclusion of all Sahrawi voices, including the Polisario Front. In fact, all Sahrawis whether they are living in Morocco, Algeria or elsewhere have the right to FREELY express themselves and say what they want. I mentioned before that I know sahrawis who want to live under the sovereignty of Morocco, and I know others who want to have their own independent country. You will find such radically opposite views in whole branches of the Sahrawi tribes, adding to the complexity of the situation.
I hope both parties will open their minds and rise to the level of people expectations by engaging in serious multi-party negotiations.
Picture courtesy of www.un.org

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Western Sahara at the House of Commons

Yesterday, the British House of Commons (equivalent to the U.S House of Representatives) held a debate on the Western Sahara conflict where Representatives strongly defended their points of vue. The discussion deals mainly with the referendum, the fisherie agreement between Morocco and the European Union, and human rights. It's worth reading if you have time. In fact, this debate is a typical model of the discussions that you find about the Western Sahara. The traditionnal issues of the sahrawis allegiance, the referendum, and the refugee camps in Algeria are raised and two different parties strongly defend their position. I saw that before. Isn't it time to think about the issue in a new and creative way ?
Picture link courtesy of www.parliament.uk

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The voice of wisdom

According to this newswire, U.N Secretary Genaral Kofi Annan has called, on Tuesday, for direct talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front in order to overcome the current deadlock of the Western Sahara conflict. Annan insisted that there should be no preconditions for such negotiations.
From a general point of vue, a call for negotiations or for any form of discussion is a positive step towards the resolution of conflicts. I know that previous discussions have been held between the two parties on the US soil in the 1990's, so I hope that any eventual negotiation will have a better outcome. Morocco and Polisario Front should do concessions and review their ideological positions in order to solve this conflict. Leaders can stop the suffering of the Sahrawis in the camps. So, stop dogmatizing and open your hearts and minds to the voice of wisdom.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The U.N 4th committee says: see you next year.

During the 61st U.N General Assembly, the 4th committee has adopted on Friday the 13th, a new resolution on the Western Sahara issue. The resolution ends with an invitation to the U.N Secretary General to submit a report about the implementation of this new/old resolution...next year.
Thanks Abdallah Baali (Algeria representative to the U.N, 1st picture) thanks El Mostafa Sahel (Morocco representative to the U.N, 2nd picture) for that wonderful debate that solved the Sahara problem and gave the international community an appointement... for next year.
I said in a previous posting that the Sahrawis will wait a long time if they think the U.N will solve their problem. The analysis of the vote debate reveals the Algerian and Moroccan "behind the scenes" work. For Sahrawis who aren't living in the refugee camps, this resolution doesn't change many things, but for those still in the camps, that's tough. A "next year" invitation means another year of living under harsh conditions, another freezing nights, another blindness from lack of medical treatment, another waiting for humanitarian aid, another waste of time. Not all Sahrawis though are living under the same conditions. Those living in Morocco, Mauritania, Spain or elsewhere enjoy the benefits and comfort of modern cities. They should not forget their brothers and sisters. I think it's time for them to SPEAK. Say what you want, Express yourself, Solve the problem. This conflict has to end.
Pictures links courtesy of UN.org and moroccotimes.com