From: Francisco Javier Bernal <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: MOROCCO (sic): POLITICS-MAGHREB - 10-YEAR CEASEFIRE MAY NOT HOLD.
MOROCCO (sic): POLITICS-MAGHREB - 10-YEAR CEASEFIRE MAY NOT HOLD.
By Nizar Al-Aly.
MARRAKESH, Jan. 28 (IPS) - The Polisario Front, which is fighting for the
independence of the Western Sahara, says it has not ruled out resuming its
against Morocco to achieve the emancipation of the North African desert
"My people are preparing for the resumption of war (against Morocco), if
proves a necessary means to obtain freedom and independence," said Mohammed
Abdelaziz, leader of the Polisario Front and President of the Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic (SADR).
The SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front in 1976 as the political
authority of Western Sahara. The republic was admitted to the Organization
African Unity (OAU) during the 1982 summit of Nairobi (Kenya). OAU founder
Morocco quit the pan-African body to protest the admission of the SADR,
it considers a "mirage entity."
Abdelaziz, who is currently visiting Cuba, one of the SADR's major allies
supporters, insisted "we will not allow anyone to usurp the Sahrawis' right
freedom, no matter how high the price that we would pay is and no matter how
long this war will take."
A cease-fire between the Polisario Front and Morocco has been in effect
1991, when MINURSO, the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the region,
was deployed in the Western Sahara to oversee a process to hold a referendum
over the territory.
The conflict began in 1974, when Spain first promised the Sahrawis, the
indigenous people of Western Sahara, then a colony of Spain, the right to
However, Spain withdrew from the colony before the vote was held. Meanwhile,
Rabat had already objected to a vote on self-determination, claiming the
northern portion of Western Sahara as part of Morocco, while Mauritania
claimed the southern portion.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled that neither Morocco
Mauritania could claim the territory of Western Sahara and that the Sahrawis
had the right to vote on self-determination.
On the day of the ruling, Oct. 16, 1975, the late King Hassan of Morocco
announced a "peaceful" Green March of 350,000 Moroccans into the Western
The Polisario, the political movement formed by the Sahrawis originally to
independence from Spain, went to war against Morocco and Mauritania when the
country was invaded by Moroccan and Mauritanian soldiers.
The Polisario defeated Mauritania in 1979, but the war against Morocco
continued for many years until the cease fire brokered by the United Nations
occurred in 1991. The United Nations established MINURSO to oversee the
cease-fire and a referendum allowing the Sahrawis to vote on independence or
incorporation into Morocco.
With the chances to hold the referendum growing slimmer because of
insurmountable differences between Morocco and the Polisario over voters'
the United Nations Security Council voted in June 2001 for what it called a
political solution to the Western Sahara question. The accord, brokered by
former secretary of state James Baker, would confer on the population of
Western Sahara the right to elect their own executive and legislative bodies
and to run their own local government administration, territorial budget,
Within five years, a referendum on the final status of the Western Sahara
be held. Morocco, which considers the Western Sahara "a part and parcel of
territory," already okayed the proposed accord on the condition that it
the territory under its sovereignty. But the Polisario rejected using a
referendum as the sole possible option to settle the issue.
The Polisario chief, who was speaking to Sahrawi pupils in Havana, accused
Morocco of "blocking" the referendum process. He voiced confidence that the
vote will "inevitably lead to the independence of Western Sahara."
James Baker, who acts as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal envoy
for the Sahara, met last week with King Mohammed VI of Morocco in Marrakesh.
No details were disclosed on the meeting, but the Moroccan press said Baker
"came with new ideas on ways to speed up the materialization of the
Another U.S. mediator, Lacy Swing, who is United Nations Special Envoy for
Sahara, visited Algeria last week "to exchange views with Algerian
on the prospects to settle the issue."
Algeria, which hosts the Polisario in its southwestern town of Tindouf, is
front's mentor and major supporter. Algiers adopts the same position as the
Polisario regarding Baker's accord and sees the referendum as the ideal way
out of the conflict, which has raged in North Africa for 28 years now.
(c) 2002 Global Information Network.
GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK
IPS NEWSFEED 28/01/2002
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