The Issue of the Western Sahara

The Issue of the Western Sahara:

The Western Sahara is a territory in the northwestern African coast that borders Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria that was previously managed by Spain until the year 1976 when Morocco annexed it. It emphasized along with Mauritania its right to the territory and this is an allegation that is contested by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra (Polisario Front).

The Polisario… the war option

On the 10th of May, 1973 an announcement was made regarding the formation of the Polisario or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro. Then the party announced on the 26th of February 1976 the formation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) who remained based in Tindouf in southern Algeria. And the Polisario continued to defend the right of the Saharan people concerning the matter of determining their own future and their own independence at a time when the Kingdom of Morocco has maintained that the Sahara is an integral part of its territory.

The efforts to determine their own future:

The United Nations exerted efforts to reach a settlement in the Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spain in the year 1976 and the subsequent fighting that broke out afterwards between Morocco and the Polisario with the financial support of Algeria. And Mauritania gave up all of its claims to the Western Sahara in 1979. In 1979, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was active in exerting efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
And the Polisario front calls for the former Spanish colony which is supported by Algeria with a referendum on self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations that opened up for the Saharans three options. They could either unite with Morocco, become independent, or self-governance underneath the Moroccan sovereignty. And Morocco suggested the last option while refusing the idea of independence. And the negotiations continue and are ongoing in this matter between the two parties.

Western Sahara; the second Bermuda Triangle

Al-Rabīʿ walad Idūmū, who is an expert in terrorist ideology, believes that “The region of the Western Sahara will not experience tranquility and will be bothered by weakening security coverage and has become a region under al-Qaidah and the drug traffickers in the Islamic Maghrib. And this renews the call to all of the conflicting parties to speed up a peaceful solution.”

Likewise, on the 15th of April 2011, the Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-moon appealed for increased international awareness regarding the “forgotten conflict” in Africa. He went on to say that political changes and the recent protests in north Africa and the middle east: “led to new challenges for tranquility and security in the Western Sahara which is likely to change the status quo of the conflict.”

Tindouf Camps:

Tindouf is an Algerian Province which is located in southwestern region of the country. Sahrawi refugees arrived there in the year 1975 after fleeing from the fighting during the Western Sahara war. The refugees currently reside in four camps which are close to the remote Algerian city of Tindouf in the middle of the Sahara desert which is exposed to severe weather conditions and dramatic increases in temperatures during the summer and extraordinary lows during the winters in addition to the isolation and the deterioration of their economic situation.

A report was submitted by the American organization Human Rights Watch in the year 2008 which documented the continuation of certain forms of slavery within the camps of Tindouf. However, this report also indicated that the Masters’ collective influence and authority over their slaves is deteriorating to a certain extent.

According to the Polisario’s statistics, the number of refugees in Tindouf has reached 160,000 and they are considered by Rabat to be Moroccan citizens.

36 years since the occupation / establishment of the Western Sahara

The 7th of November 2011 is the anniversary of the Western Sahara’s occupation from the Moroccan point of view (the 36th anniversary of the Green March which involved 350,000 Moroccans who crossed over into Western Sahara in 1975 in response to an appeal of the late king Ḥasan II to do so which symbolically represents the end of the Spanish colonization of this region). The anniversary of the foundation, according to the perspective of the Polisario, gave the new Moroccan King Muḥammad VI an opportunity to renewed his claims to Algeria concerning the Sahrawi refugees in his statement: “Indeed our fellow citizens are still suffering and live in an isolated, sealed-off areas in the Tindouf camps and are still being subjected to the worst forms of deprivation, repression and humiliation, in outright denial of human dignity and their basic, legitimate rights.” In addition to this he added: “We renew our rejection of this humiliating situation as well as the disgraceful schemes of the enemies of our territorial integrity, who have been unashamedly ignoring the calls of the international community, including those of the Security Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so that the latter may carry out a census that would legally safeguard the basic rights of our brothers in the Tindouf camps, and ensure the protection for which they are entitled.”

Conversely, the Polisario front described this as: “A continuation of policies to enable an escape to the front and unyielding inflexibility and a means of running back to the UN resolutions and African Union/United nations settlement plan that was approved by the UN Security Council which was signed by both sides of the conflict in the year 1991 which sought to organize a referendum to decide the fate of the Saharawi people.” The Polisario added: “The Moroccan government has used the issue of the Western Sahara as a coat rack for which every Moroccan crisis has been hung since 1975.” Further adding: “They have taken full advantage of it this time by distracting the attention of Moroccan public opinion away from the problems and real hardships faced by Moroccan citizens with the upcoming November 25th elections on the horizon.”

The Sahara and Moroccan Elections:

And on the issue of the latest parliamentary elections in Morocco, the Moroccan Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said that the Parliamentary elections were witness to increased voter turnout particularly in the Western Sahara at a time when the Sahrawi Foreign Affairs minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek considered the inclusion of (various) desert regions along with the remaining Moroccan regions within the framework of Moroccan elections to be “legally baseless” and: “rejected without restrictions”. He explained these statements saying: “The map of Western Sahara which is available on today’s world map and is likewise endorsed by the UN does not show Western Sahara within the confines of Morocco’s borders.”

References:

• The website of (MINURSO) United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara

• Al-Jazeera Net (7/11/2011)

• BBC November 8th 2010

• France 24 November 8th 2011

• Al Arabiya Net March 21st 2010

• (UPES) The Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union 11/27/2011

• The website: Magharebia

• The website: Assakina