Friday, March 25, 2005

Large autonomy would help settle Sahara dispute, former UN official

Morocco-Algeria, 3/24/2005

Former chief of the UN mission in the Sahara, Erik Jensen has suggested that the three-decade long Sahara dispute opposing Morocco to Algeria-backed separatist movement "Polisario" could be settled through granting a large autonomy to these Moroccan Southern Provinces.

Speaking at a meeting hosted, Wednesday, by the International Peace Academy in new York, Erik Jensen who led the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara - known by its French acronym "MINURSO"- said it's high time to find a negotiated political solution to the Sahara conflict. Morocco retrieved the former Spanish colony in 1975 under the Madrid Accords it signed with Spain and Mauritania. However, the Polisario front, backed by neighbouring Algeria, has been claiming the separation of these Provinces from the rest of the Kingdom.

Jensen who spoke about changes at the international level, citing in particular the end of the Cold War, said that the more time passed, the more difficult it became to carry out a referendum in the Moroccan Sahara.

He noted that initiatives undertaken by the UN to settle this dispute, "have led to nothing so far," suggesting in this regard, that the granting of a large autonomy to the Sahara provinces, would help settle this issue and contribute to the rise of the a Maghreb entity.

Erik Jensen also underlined the suffering endured by the population "living in the refugee camps," in an allusion to thousands of Moroccan-Sahara natives held against their will by the Polisario in the Tindouf Camps, south-western Algeria. He warned that "the young generations who grew up there may not know anything else but those camps."

During the meeting, the audience was handed a copy of Jensen's new book on the Sahara "Anatomy of a Stalemate."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I just read your article about Erik Jensen, and yes, I have a few comments to make.

First, if you go to Jensen's new book on the Sahara "Anatomy of a Stalemate, page 93, he states: "It was my assessment, and that of many well-informed observers, that a referendum on a politically negotiated deal, presumably involving a fair degree of autonomy for Western Sahara within the Kingdom of Morocco, offered the most realistic way of permiting self-determination"

I believe this is very different from what you said in your article, that Jensen suggested that the dispute "could be settled through granting a large autonomy to these Moroccan Southern Provinces."

If you really read carefully Jensen's words, he never said that autonomy would be the way to settle the dispute. In fact, he actually talks about autonmy as a step to achieve self-determination. Therefore, self-determination is what he suggests as a resolution to the conflict, not autonomy.

Second, I don't totally agree with your terminology choice when you refer to Western Sahara as "these Moroccan Southern Provinces." In the first place, the conflict is still unresolved, so I believe it is not appropriate and very presuntuous to assume an outcome in favour of Morocco. Secondly, Morocco is not the administering power of Western Sahara. If you look at the UN list of Non-Autonomous Territories, Morocco is not listed as administering power. Morocco has been administering the territory "de facto", but not "de iuris", that is, not according to international law. This means that legally, Morocco is not the "owner" of the territory. Western Sahara is a territory still pending decolonisation, and therefore, it doesn't belong to Morocco.

Third, I also would like to make some remarks about the Madrid Accords. I am sure you are aware that their legality is very unclear and, as many experts have pointed out, they are in violation of International Law. Firsly, due to the lack of legitimacy of those who intervened in their signature, in this case Morocco and Mauritania, as clearly stated in the ruling of the International Court of Justice of 1975. Therefore, under International Law, Spain is still the administering power of the territory, not Morocco. And even in the case that they were valid, the Madrid Accords state clearly that they DO NOT transfer soverignty to Morocco or Mauritania.

Secondly, the Madrid Accords are null because they violate a "ius cogens" norm, the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people, which has been repeatedly recognised by the UN and other Organisations. All of this was reaffirmed in a ruling of the UN Office of Legal Affairs of 29th January 2002.

Thirdly, The Madrid Accords are not even valid in Spain as they have never been published in the Boletin Oficial del Estado, a requirement for any legally binding document to be actually "legal" and in effect.

Finally, regarding the comment on the refugee camps found in your article, Jensen does NOT allude to these "Moroccan-Sahara natives held against their will by the Polisario" in his book, not even once. On the contrary, he talks about the thousands of refugees that fled Western Sahara towards southern Algeria (counted some 165.000 nowadays by UNHCR) due to Morocco's attacks, including attacks with napalm of "refugee concentrations at Guelta Zemmour and Uom Dreyga" (p. 29) at the end of 1975.

I hope this helps.

1:47 PM, July 18, 2005  
Blogger saad said...

Thanks for the input.

Your analysis is very articulate. Even i don't share some the views you expressed, i found it very interesting to read.


10:42 PM, July 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, my pleasure. Although I do believe that certain rely more in facts and don't necesarily depend on a view of something. But I have to say that I also found your article interesting...


1:49 AM, July 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, my pleasure. Although I do believe that certain things rely more in facts and don't necesarily depend on a view of something. But I have to say that I also found your article interesting...


1:51 AM, July 21, 2005  
Anonymous barney said...

Saad et al:

I find the West Sahara question one of the more interesting ones of the day.

From what I read, Morocco says that the West Sahara and Morocco were one 'area' before Spain took W. Sahara. I don't know whether this is true or not, but it should be easy to discern. For if it IS true, then Morocco would seem to have a legitimate claim to regain the territory. If it is not true, then it should be left up to the W. Saharans how they want to be governed.

At this point, I have no information to assess the claim of the polisario. In fact, I have no information as to who the polisario really are. Are they really people who lived in the West Sahara when it was governed by Spain?
Are they really Algerians? Was polisario originally composed of W. Saharans but now Algerians? I don't know and it DOES make a difference.

Considering the behavior of their leadership, particularly with regard to the inhabitants of the camps at Tindouf, I have a gut reaction against them, but this is no way to determine the future of a group of people.

Being a cynical type, I see the hand of Algeria behind this, and believe that if the polisario gains control of W. Sahara, then it will become, de facto, a territory of Algeria, regardless of the wishes of the W. Saharans.

A real mess, isn't it?


11:21 PM, August 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Barney,

the International Jourt of Justice in the Hague expressed very clearly in its advisory opinion (Nov 1975) that Western Sahara at the time of Spanish colonization was not a territory belonging to no-one (terra nullius) but there are NOT sufficient evidence to point out that it belonged to the Kingdom of Morocco, except some, and only some, nomadic groups had ties of allegiance (I would call them commercial) with the Sultan of Morocco.


1:02 PM, December 01, 2005  

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