Monday, July 30, 2007



In his speech of enthronement, the King of Morocco has just confirmed, on the eve of the second round of direct negotiations between the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, a position that cannot be more rigid and intransigent regarding the conflict of Western Sahara.

Whilst disparaging the resolutions of the United Nations and particularly resolution 1754 that called for negotiations, without preconditions, between the parties with a view to achieving a mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, the King wants to unilaterally set the rules of the game by imposing the framework and the end result of the negotiations. This is an exorbitant and unprecedented claim in the contemporary international relations.

This attempt to distort reality and to derail the decolonisation process of Western Sahara by resorting to manipulation and fallacious interpretation of law reveals unequivocally a will to perpetuate the colonial fait accompli and to undermine the peace efforts of the international community.

This is a position that is prejudicial and negative and augurs bad for the next round of negotiations. All that Morocco seeks therefore is to impose, in advance, its annexationist vision and not to negotiate the solution called for by the United Nations, which should be mutually acceptable and providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

What the King of Morocco proposes is a diktat that the Saharawi people will never accept. It is a diktat that aims to pervert a decolonisation process and to impose a parody of a negotiated solution, and to make the United Nations a mere registration enterprise. "Autonomy" cannot be but an option along with independence that should be submitted to the democratic and sovereign choice of the Saharawi people in a free and transparent referendum on self-determination organised and supervised by the United Nations.

The Frente POLISARIO, always encouraged by the sincere will to advance and bring the peace process to fruition, will be present at Manhasset meeting with a view to implementing the letter and spirit of resolution 1754 (2007) of the Security Council.

The Frente POLISARIO would also like to seize on this opportunity to hold the international community witness to the intransigent position declared today by the King of Morocco, which threatens with undermining the commendable efforts deployed by the UN Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy as well as by many of good will around the world.

Bir Lehlou, 30 July 2007

Photos from D.. Rally : Sahrawis hands in hands with Americans in Front of the Wehite House


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Future of Western Sahara: Dr.Stephen Zunes

The Future of Western Sahara
Stephen Zunes | July 20, 2007

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus

Morocco's ongoing refusal to allow for the long-planned UN-sponsored referendum on the fate of Western Sahara to move forward, combined with a growing nonviolent resistance campaign in the occupied territory against Moroccan occupation authorities, has led Morocco to propose granting the former Spanish colony special autonomous status within the kingdom.

The kingdom of Morocco, generously supplied with American-made weapons, invaded the largely desert nation – then known as Spanish Sahara – more than three decades ago. It has controlled much of the territory ever since. More then 75 nations have recognized the government-in-exile of Western Sahara, led by the nationalist Polisario Front, and it is a full member state of the African Union.

A series of resolutions by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, as well as a landmark 1975 advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice, have recognized the right of self-determination by the people of Western Sahara. However, France and the United States have blocked the Security Council from enforcing its resolutions. Both countries have perceived a need to strengthen the Moroccan monarchy as a bulwark against Communism and radical Arab nationalism during the Cold War and, in more recent years, as an important ally in the struggle against Islamist extremism.

The ongoing conflict between Morocco and the Western Sahara nationalists, led by the Polisario Front, has resulted in enormous suffering by the Western Saharan people, over half of whom live in refugee camps in neighboring Algeria. It has seriously crippled efforts to advance badly needed economic and strategic cooperation between the states of the Maghreb region facing challenges from struggling economies and rising Islamist militancy.

The Bush administration and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders have enthusiastically supported the Moroccan autonomy plan as a means of ending the conflict. But Morocco's plan for autonomy falls well short of what is necessary to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It also poses a dangerous precedent that threatens the very foundation of the post-World War II international legal system.

Morocco's "Autonomy" Plan
The autonomy plan is based on the assumption that Western Sahara is part of Morocco, a contention that the United Nations, the World Court, the African Union, and a broad consensus of international legal opinion have long rejected. To accept Morocco's autonomy plan would mean that, for the first time since the founding of the UN and the ratification of the UN Charter more the 60 years ago, the international community would be endorsing the expansion of a country's territory by military force, thereby establishing a very dangerous and destabilizing precedent.

If the people of Western Sahara accepted an autonomy agreement over independence as a result of a free and fair referendum, it would constitute a legitimate act of self-determination. However, Morocco has explicitly stated that its autonomy proposal "rules out, by definition, the possibility for the independence option to be submitted" to the people of Western Sahara, the vast majority of whom – according to knowledgeable international observers – favor outright independence.

International law aside, there are a number of practical concerns regarding the Moroccan proposal. For instance, centralized autocratic states have rarely respected the autonomy of regional jurisdictions, which has often led to violent conflict. In 1952, the UN granted the British protectorate (and former Italian colony) of Eritrea autonomous status federated with Ethiopia. In 1961, however, the Ethiopian emperor revoked Eritrea's autonomous status, annexing it as his empire's 14th province. The result was a bloody 30-year struggle for independence and subsequent border wars between the two the countries. Similarly, the decision of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to revoke the autonomous status of Kosovo in 1989 led to a decade of repression and resistance, culminating in the NATO war against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Moreover, there are no enforcement mechanisms included in the proposal, and Morocco has a history of breaking its promises to the international community regarding the UN-mandated referendum for Western Sahara and related obligations based on the ceasefire agreement 16 years ago. Indeed, a close reading of the proposal raises questions as to how much autonomy is even being offered initially, such as control of Western Sahara's natural resources and law enforcement (beyond local matters). In addition, the proposal appears to indicate that all powers not specifically vested in the autonomous region would remain with the kingdom. Indeed, since the king of Morocco is ultimately invested with absolute authority under Article 19 of the Moroccan constitution, the autonomy proposal's insistence that the Moroccan state "will keep its powers in the royal domains, especially with respect to defense, external relations and the constitutional and religious prerogatives of His Majesty the King" appears to give the monarch considerable latitude in interpretation.

In any case, the people of Western Sahara will not likely accept autonomy rather than independence. For years, they have engaged in pro-independence protests only to be subjected to mass arrests, beatings, torture, and extra-judicial killings. There is little reason to expect that the Moroccan authorities would change their ways under "autonomy."

U.S. Defends the Moroccan Proposal
Despite all these serious problems with the Moroccan proposal, both the Bush administration and congressional leaders of both parties have rushed to try to legitimize what amounts to an illegal annexation of one country by another. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns called it "a serious and credible proposal to provide real autonomy for the Western Sahara," a point underscored before the House International Relations Committee by assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs David Welch. Although the well-organized refugee camps are largely demilitarized and, even during the 16 years of armed struggle against Morocco, the Polisario never engaged in acts of terrorism, Welch warned in the course of his testimony that the camps present "a potentially attractive safe haven for terrorist planning or activity."

Congressional leaders of both parties appear to be allying themselves with administration hard-liners. Congressman Tom Lantos of California, whom the Democrats have chosen to chair the House International Relations Committee, referred to the Moroccan proposal as "reasonable and realistic" and called on the Polisario to accept it. He was joined by 172 other members of the House, who signed a letter declaring it "a breakthrough opportunity" and a "realistic framework for a political solution." Given the widespread opposition in the international community to legitimizing Morocco's act of aggression, the letter concludes by urging President Bush to "embrace this promising Moroccan initiative so that it receives the consideration necessary to achieve international acceptance."

The letter was drafted and circulated by Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York, whom the Democrats have chosen to chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East. Other Democratic leaders joining their foreign policy leadership in supporting Morocco's right of conquest included Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel. Prominent Republicans signing the letter included Minority Leader John Boehner, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Indeed, more than 80 of the signers are either committee chairmen or ranking members of key committees, subcommittees and elected leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, yet another indication in this post-Cold War era of a growing bipartisan effort to undermine the longstanding principle of the right of self-determination.

Former Clinton administration officials have also weighed in to support the contention that the people of Western Sahara should give up on their widely acknowledged claim to independence and instead accept the suzerainty of the autocratic Moroccan monarchy. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in an open letter to President Bush, also encouraged him to back the Moroccan plan, which she claimed gave "the people of the Western Sahara a true voice in their future through the full benefits of autonomy as presented by Morocco, a credible political solution can be achieved." The letter was signed by a host of other prominent Democrats.

Distorting the Facts
Prominent Democrats have joined the Bush administration in distorting the facts of the conflict. For example, UN monitors report that the Polisario has scrupulously honored its 1991 ceasefire agreement with Morocco despite the Moroccans' refusal to honor their reciprocal commitment to allow the holding a referendum on independence to take place. Nevertheless, Lantos has insisted that "peace has been summarily rejected by the rebel Polisario Front in favor of . . .guerrilla ambushes." The House Democrats' chief foreign policy spokesman also blames the Polisario for forcing most of the Western Saharan population to live in "arid refugee camps," ignoring that they are living in these camps as a direct result of Moroccan repression.

Despite well-documented reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other reputable human rights groups monitoring the situation in the occupied territory that public expressions in support for self-determination are routinely suppressed, Lantos has also expressed his confidence that "Morocco will do nothing to stifle debate among the people of Western Sahara."

In a prominent op-ed column in The New York Times this past March backing Morocco's autonomy plan, President Bill Clinton's ambassador to Morocco Frederick Vreeland falsely claimed that the Polisario Front, which has led Western Sahara's independence movement since the territory was under Spanish control, was a creation of Algeria in order to advance its own irredentist claims. In reality, the Polisario grew out of earlier anti-colonial movements that long pre-dated the establishment of the independent Algerian state and only began receiving substantial Algerian assistance after the Moroccan conquest in 1975.

Vreeland also claimed that the Polisario-administered refugee camps in Algeria are potential recruiting grounds for al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists. In reality, the Polisario Front is a secular nationalist organization, the Western Saharans tend to observe a relatively liberal interpretation of Islam, and the Algerian government – which has only recently emerged from a hard-fought war against Islamist insurgents – would certainly crack down decisively at even a hint of such extremist activities within its territory. Indeed, there have been no credible reports of any radical Islamist activities by the many hundreds of UN officials, scholars and relief workers – including those from U.S. evangelical Christian groups – who have spent time in the camps.

Nor would an independent Western Sahara, endowed with generous natural resources and governed by the Polisario Front's increasingly pro-Western leadership, constitute "a weak independent state" that "would likely morph into a terrorist-controlled one" as Ambassador Vreeland ominously predicted in his article.

Interestingly, The New York Times refused to run any of the op-eds submitted in subsequent weeks by a number of reputable North African scholars refuting Vreeland's claims or raising objections about Morocco's autonomy plan. Nor did the newspaper of record bother to mention that Ambassador Vreeland now serves as chairman of an energy company with contracts with the Moroccan government to develop energy resources in occupied Western Sahara.

Other former officials have had to be more open about their affiliations. Former Connecticut Congressman Toby Moffet, who has lobbied his fellow Democrats to back the Moroccan plan by raising the specter of a growing al-Qaeda threat in North Africa if it's not accepted, has had to register as an agent of a foreign government for his services on behalf of the Moroccan monarchy. On the Republican side, former Florida Republican Party chairman Alberto Cardenas , who co-chaired 2004 re-election campaign, in that state, has also been hired by the Moroccans.

Implications of U.S. Support
Support for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara is indicative of a growing bipartisan rejection of the international legal norms that have governed international relations since the end of the Second World War. At that time, when the victorious allies agreed to never again allow invading armies to conquer other peoples without a collective response. While some have tried to blame the bipartisan congressional support for Israel's efforts to annex East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and parts of the West Bank as a consequence of the alleged power of "the Jewish Lobby," the strong bipartisan Congressional support for the annexation of Western Sahara by the Arab kingdom of Morocco demonstrates that members of Congress are nowadays quite willing to support the illegal conquests by U.S. allies of their weaker neighbors even without pressure from a well-organized ethnic minority.

Ironically, the majority of House members who were in Congress in 1991 and have gone on record seeking to legitimize Morocco's aggression against Western Sahara voted to authorize the Gulf War on the grounds that Iraq's aggression against Kuwait was so egregious that it justified a massive military response.

Most supporters of Morocco's autonomy plan deny that they are legitimizing aggression. They argue that some sort of compromise, or "third way" between Western Saharan independence and integration with Morocco, is necessary to resolve the conflict and that a "winner take all" approach is unworkable. Encouraging such compromise and trying to find a win/win situation is certainly the preferable way to pursue a lasting peaceful settlement regarding most ethnic conflicts and many international disputes. However, Western Sahara is a clear-cut case of self-determination for a people struggling against foreign military occupation. The Polisario Front has already offered guarantees to protect Moroccan strategic and economic interests if allowed full independence. To insist that the people of Western Sahara must give up their moral and legal right to genuine self-determination, then, is not a recipe for conflict resolution, but for far more serious conflict in the future.

The irresolution to the conflict is not a result of the Polisario's unwillingness to compromise. Rather, it represents the failure of the UN Security Council – as a result of the French and American veto threats – to place the Western Sahara issue under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Such an action would give the international community the power to impose sanctions or whatever appropriate leverage is required to force the Moroccan regime to abide by the UN mandates it has up until now been able to disregard thanks to its friends in Paris and Washington.

In the comparable case of East Timor, only after human rights organizations, church groups, and other activists forced the U.S. government to end its support for Indonesia's occupation did the Jakarta regime finally offer a referendum that gave the East Timorese their right to self-determination. It may take similar grassroots campaigns to ensure that the United States lives up to its international legal obligations and pressures Morocco to allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own destiny.

Stephen Zunes ( is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy in Focus. He is the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and the forthcoming book, co-authored by Jacob Mundy, Western Sahara: Nationalist and Conflict Irresolution in Northwest Africa (Syracuse University Press.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Death of a Sahrawi prisoner in a clinic in Agadir

El-Ayoune - Western Sahara
Friday July 6, 2007

Death of a Sahrawi prisoner in a clinic in Agadir

The Sahrawi prisoner, Mr. Dada Ali Ould Hamma Ould Nafaa, born in 1976 in El-Ayoune, died today Friday July 6, 2007, in a clinic in Agadir, following a disease. This Sahrawi prisoner was imprisoned with the local prison of Ait Melloul (Agadir - Morocco) after being condemned to two years of firm prison. We point out that this prisoner suffered from a disease and had not received the necessary care on the suitable moment following a negligence of the penitentiary direction.
While presenting its sincere condolences to the family of lost, the asvdh alarms, once more, the international opinion on the gravity of the situation of the Sahrawi prisoners in the Moroccan prisons what requires an international campaign for the improvement of their situation.
This death is an alarm to act before other similar cases reproduce. On this subject, we recall the situation of the Sahrawi students imprisoned with the local prison of Salé who started a hunger strike since June 10, 2007.
And in relation to the topic the Sahrawi detainees within Moroccan prisons, the Sahrawi political prisoners, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed BARKOUH, Mr. Mouloud Mohamed Ahmed BARKOUH and Mr. Khalihenna Sheikh Ali Dlaimi, imprisoned in the black prison of El-Ayoune, will start a first hunger strike for 48 hours, demanding :
1- To be isolated from the common right prisoners, and be gathered with the rest of the Sahrawi political prisoners
2- To profit from the right to information and communication
3- To profit form the right to balanced nutrition
4- To profit from the right to medical treatment
5- Open visits for families and friends
We point out that these Sahrawi political prisoners had been arrested in Smara on June 26, 2007.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Report of the Secretary-General on the status andprogress of the negotiations on Western Sahara , June 30 , 2007

Report of the Secretary-General on the status andprogress of the negotiations on Western Sahara

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) of 30 April 2007, by which the Council called 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 would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. In that resolution, the Council also requested the Secretary-General to provide a report by 30 June 2007 on the status and progress of those negotiations under his auspices, and expressed its intention to meet to receive and discuss that report. The present report covers developments since the issuance of my report dated 13 April 2007 (S/2007/202) and describes both the preliminary consultations and the status and progress of the negotiations.

II. Activities of my Personal Envoy

2. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), my Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, held preliminary discussions in New York separately with representatives of the two parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, and with those of the two neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania, in preparation for a meeting of the parties. During those consultations, my Personal Envoy listened to the concerns and positions of the parties and neighbouring countries with regard to the conduct of the negotiations, and the parties reiterated their will to enter into negotiations in good faith under my auspices.
3. In May and June 2007, my Personal Envoy also consulted the representatives of interested Member States, including France, the Russian Federation, Spain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, in New York, and briefly visited London, Madrid, Paris and Washington, D.C., for additional consultations. During those meetings, he sensed a commitment to maintaining the momentum towards a negotiating process and a willingness to provide political support and lend assistance in order to make the negotiations possible. It was also reiterated to him that the Security Council had consistently made it clear that it would not impose a solution to the question of Western Sahara, but that it was committed to assisting the parties in achieving a mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
4. In a letter dated 25 May 2007, I invited the parties to send delegations to meet with my Personal Envoy, Mr. van Walsum, at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, New York, on 18 and 19 June 2007. In my letter, it was specified that the discussions would be private. In similar letters, I invited Algeria and Mauritania to attend the Manhasset meeting as neighbouring countries.
5. The meeting took place at the Greentree Estate on 18 and 19 June, as planned. The parties held separate meetings with my Personal Envoy, as well as two sessions of face-to-face discussions, for the first time since direct talks had been held in London and Berlin in 2000. Representatives of the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, were present at the opening and closing sessions and were consulted separately during the two-day meeting. In principle, they were also welcome to attend the joint meetings of the parties, but all delegations had accepted the understanding that when either of the parties preferred to meet without neighbouring countries, neither neighbouring country would participate.
6. The meeting was opened by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe, who underlined that in the preparation of a process of negotiations, it was important to establish an atmosphere of good faith and mutual trust. He also appealed to the parties to exercise discretion and respect confidentiality; and urged all delegations to employ good judgement and refrain from using language that could inflame rather than support an environment conducive to fruitful negotiations. He reminded the meeting that the success or failure of the negotiations would ultimately be determined by the political will of the parties to resolve their differences through dialogue and compromise. The United Nations, through the good offices of the Secretary-General, was there to facilitate the discussions in every way possible; but it was the responsibility of the parties to forge a mutually acceptable solution.
7. In facilitating the negotiations, my Personal Envoy asked for an open and frank but nonetheless respectful discussion. During the discussions, the parties reiterated their commitment to the process and appeared determined not to be the cause of a breakdown of the negotiations. Although they both confirmed their respect for the principle of self-determination and accepted Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) as the mandate for the negotiations, their positions remained far apart on the definition of self-determination.
8. The parties agreed to the communiqué of my Personal Envoy, contained in the annex to this report. In his closing remarks, my Personal Envoy expressed his satisfaction at the positive atmosphere that had prevailed during the negotiations. He added, however, that a negotiation process could not be sustained by atmosphere alone.
9. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Greentree Foundation for having made available the Greentree Estate as the venue for the meeting held on 18 and 19 June 2007.


Communiqué of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, agreed with the parties meeting at the Greentree Estate, Manhasset, New York,19 June 2007

In accordance with Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) of 30 April 2007 on Western Sahara, the Secretary-General arranged for Morocco and the Frente Polisario 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 would provide for the self‑determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Under the Secretary-General’s auspices, the meeting was held at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, New York, on 18 and 19 June 2007, with the participation of the parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario. Representatives of the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, were also present at the opening and closing sessions and were consulted separately.
During the meeting, negotiations started as requested by Security Council resolution 1754 (2007). The parties have agreed that the process of negotiations will continue in Manhasset in the second week of August 2007.