SADR proclamation: Diplomatic, legal gains of Sahrawis amid Moroccan arrogance, flagrant violation of 1991-cease fire (Part1)
Despite a cease-fire in 1991 that put an end to the armed combat and the UN efforts toward self-determination, Western Sahara remains a disputed territory.
The Saharawi people continue their honorable struggle for independence and continue to garner additional support for their just cause, as they celebrated, a couple of weeks ago, the 46th anniversary of the establishment of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with much determination and enthusiasm to recover their inalienable rights.
Despite the persistent attempts of the Moroccan occupier to obstruct international efforts aimed at the decolonization of the last colony in Africa, the Sahrawi people remained, over the years, committed to their just cause, until the recovery of their inalienable right to self-determination. They opted for the peaceful means, until the flagrant violation by the Moroccan regime of the ceasefire agreement, on November 13, 2020, which forced them to resume their armed struggle.
Western Sahara is a Non-Self-Governing Territory of the UN that lies in the Sahel region bordered by Algeria, the Kingdom of Morocco, and Mauritania. This territory is home to the Sahrawis, a collective name for the indigenous peoples living in and around the region. They speak the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic.
Similarly, many others also speak Spanish as a second language due to the region’s colonial past. Their 50-year dispute broke out when the territory was first occupied by Morocco in November 1975, as thousands of Moroccan civilians, flanked by the Moroccan military, crossed into Western Sahara in defiance of Spain, which ruled the region since 1884, a step denounced by most countries and institutions, including the International Court of Justice which stated, a few days before, that there was no “legal tie of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State”.
Historically, in 1963, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization declared Western Sahara, a Spanish colony since 1884, a ‘non-self-governing territory to be decolonized’ in accordance with UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 1514 (XV). Two years later, the UNGA adopted Resolution 2072 (XX), requesting Spain, as the administering power, to withdraw and decolonize the territory. In subsequent resolutions, the UNGA repeatedly invited Spain to organize a referendum on the self-determination of the Sahrawi people under the auspices of the UN. Responding to this request, the Spanish administration eventually announced to organize a referendum in the first half of 1975. Subsequently, Morocco and Mauritania put a spoke in the wheel by raising claims towards the territory of Western Sahara. The Court found that neither Morocco nor Mauritania could claim any territorial sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara, and negated the existence of any legal ties.
On November 6, 1975, Morocco launched the so-called ‘Green March’, a march of 350,000 Moroccans, a number four times the size of the Sahrawi population back then, into the territory of Western Sahara.
According to Adala UK, on that day, Morocco organized what it called a “Green March” to officially invade the North of Western Sahara moving 350,000 Moroccan settlers to the territory. This occupation coincided with the termination of the Spanish status as Administrative Power, creating a vacuum that imposed on the UN to assume its responsibility there.
Subsequently, the UN Security Council deplored the holding of the march, calling upon Morocco to immediately withdraw all the demonstrators from the territory of Western Sahara; however, its effort was in vain.
It was obvious that Morocco was violating not only the UN Charter’s principles, such as abstention from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, but also the African Union Constitutive Act’s sacred principle of “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence”.
The International Court of Justice’s opinion of 1975 indicated, also, that the native Sahrawi people of Western Sahara are the only sovereign power in Western Sahara. It also considered that it “has not found legal ties of such a nature as it might affect the application of 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.” (para. 129, 162) (Adala UK).
This status quo did not please the Sahrawi people; in response to the Moroccan occupation, they mobilized for armed struggle under the leadership of the Polisario Front, the successor of the liberation movement of Seguia el-Hamra and Oueded-Dahab of Mohammed Bassiri, created on May 10, 1973. This Frente has been recognized by the UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 of 1979 as the sole legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people.
Years later, precisely in 1991, the warring parties concluded a ceasefire agreement, culminating in the establishment of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which is assuming its responsibility till nowadays.
Despite a cease-fire in 1991 that put an end to the armed combat, Western Sahara remains a disputed territory. Nowadays, Morocco controls parts of the territory. However, the United Nations refers to Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory and maintains a stance favoring self-determination for its people.
The UN body is attaching great interests to the Sahrawi cause, expressing willingness to find a solution ensuring the self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Council. Do note that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed, last November, Staffan de Mistura of Italy as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.
The new Personal Envoy succeeds Horst Köhler of Germany, who completed his assignment on May 22, 2019, and to whom the Secretary‑General is grateful for his steadfast and intensive efforts which laid the foundation for a new momentum in the political process on Western Sahara. In January, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, accompanied by a UN delegation, arrived in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Smara, as part of his first tour in the region that included Algerian and Mauritania.
The African Union (AU) remains constantly committed to resolving this conflict, notably through its supreme mechanism. The most recent of the Sahrawi diplomatic victories was the participation of the SADR, represented by its president Brahim Ghali, in the 6th African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Summit held recently in Brussels, consecrating the SADR as an inescapable reality in spite of the fallacious declarations and the maneuvers of the Moroccan occupier.
For its part, Algeria considers the Western Sahara dossier a question of decolonization between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco given that this territory is inscribed on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, pending the implementation of the historic resolution 1514 of the General Assembly, which establishes the right of colonized peoples to self-determination and independence, and Algeria will always remain peace patron at the regional and international levels. Algeria has always reiterated its keenness to continue to support the Sahrawi people to obtain their right to self-determination and independence, considering this position as an international obligation, and Algeria will always assume its role as negotiations’ supervisor.
Despite the fact that the United Nations officially considers Morocco and the Polisario Front as the main parties to the conflict, former UN Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan viewed Algeria as a stakeholder in the Western Sahara conflict, stressing its presence in all discussions and negotiations.
After the swearing-in ceremony of the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, he delivered his first presidential address, in which he reaffirmed Algeria’s steadfast stance on the issue of Western Sahara, considering it an issue of decolonization in the hands of the United Nations and the African Union.
Russian Federation, for its part, supports the direct talks between the parties of the conflicts; Morocco and the Frente Polisario. Noting that the Russian military observers are deployed to the Mission, it always stresses that it is unacceptable to dilute previously agreed parameters and thereby undermining the core principles that could pave the way to a mutually acceptable settlement.
China, Angola, Peru, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea, in addition to other countries from all the continents of the World, on different occasions, underline the importance of resuming negotiations as soon as possible on the basis of Charter principles and previous Security Council decisions, while calling upon all stakeholders to remain committed to the process and to work for a just and mutually acceptable solution.
South Africa has always voiced its support and honorable positions in defending the liberation of the African continent in international forums, in particular, the issue of the Sahrawi people, noting that Africa will not be free as long as Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa, is occupied.
(To be continued)