5 juillet 2007


 Sahara issue requires ‘much realism and compromise’ to reach solution
We want to tell the Polisario that the Sahara issue requires much realism and compromise to reach a satisfactory solution for all the parties involved and which is, by the way, a form of self-determination, » said Chairman of the Royal Advisory Council on Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), Khalli Henna Ould Errachid.
  The statement came on the sidelines of the Council’s extraordinary session, held here Friday, to consider latest developments on the territorial integrity of Morocco following the first round of direct talks over the Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario held in Manhasset (New York outskirts). 

    « I call them (the Polisario) as I did in New York to recognize that the settlement of political issues goes through compromise and consensus, » he went on to say.

   The Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is subject of a dispute between Morocco and an Algerian-backed Polisario separatists, who lay claims to the Moroccan southern provinces retrieved by the north African kingdom from the Spanish rule in 1976 under the Madrid Accords.

    Touching on the council’s extraordinary session, Mr.Ould Errachid deemed « constructive, » discussions among the Council members, noting that the latter expressed « their support » to the manner these talks were carried out and to the stance of the Moroccan delegation, which took part to these talks.

    A solution to the Sahara issue can only be achieved through the implementation of Morocco’s autonomy initiative “as a final, just and total solution that is accepted by all the parties and considered by the International law as being a real form of self-determination,” he concluded.  

    On June 18-19, Morocco and the Polisario launched the first round of talks on the Sahara in Manhasset, in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolution 1754 that called on the parties to engage in direct negotiations in « good faith and without preconditions. » A second round is slated for the second week of August.      
  CORCAS – 2006 - 

11 mai 2007




On the 16th of March, an analysis report relating to the recent development of the
Western Sahara issue, written by Jacob Mundy, appeared on “middle east report on line” 

 Not only the title “
Western Sahara between autonomy and intifada” is misleading; but even the content of his five page report. 


It will be interesting to clarify some historical and legal aspects; in addition to the recent events concerning the future of
Western Sahara. Hoping that the reader will learn more about the reality of events surrounding the
Western Sahara dispute. 


Even if the idea of autonomy is not new, Morocco has recently proposed a project for a substantial autonomy of
Western Sahara. The project consists of giving
Western Sahara a substantial autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Sahraouis are expected to be offered a parliament with power over local policies in terms of management and decisions concerning “southern provinces”, cabinet ministries, and their own judiciary, but the Moroccan flag would fly over the territory, the currency and stamps would be Moroccan, and the Moroccan king would remain the highest religious authority in the land. 


It is in the same context that the royal advisory council for Saharan affairs, commonly known by its French acronym CORCAS, was revived by King Mohammed VI in march 2006, by enhancing its official status and defining its role to “foster the culture of dialogue, and thus pave the way for our citizens to help in this process and make practical proposals on matters pertaining to our country’s territorial integrity” (speech of 25th of march delivered by the monarch of Morocco). 


This culture of dialogue is the king’s innovative initiative to seek solutions to significant issues facing
Morocco. In 2004,
Morocco’s truth and reconciliation commission was created to investigate past human rights violations and propose political and judicial reforms which were approved by the king. CORCAS was another example of the king innovative approach to make use of dialogue to find solutions to complex social and economic issues. It is worth mentioning that CORCAS is composed of 140 members (among them 14 women) they represent an ethnic, political, and tribal section of Moroccan society most of CORCAS’s members are representatives from all Sahraoui tribes, including the father of the Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz. 


CORCAS’s main task is to seek input from all parties concerned and affected by the 30 year old dispute in order to follow the right way towards a substantial autonomy for the
Western Sahara. In this context the polisario was invited to take part of this national dialogue. Up to now the polisario leader has refused. 

kingdom of
Morocco has not yet formally submitted its proposal to the United Nations and to the parties concerned (
Algeria and Polisario ) . 





From the Moroccan point of view regaining Western Sahara in accordance with the treaty of
Madrid of 14 November 1975 marked the end of a continued struggle that lasted over a century. The treaty in question created tension in the northwest of
Africa. The Algerians blamed
Morocco for refusing to recognise that the Sahraouis had the right to make their own decisions. What they did not appear to realise was that the entire Moroccan population, including Sahraouis, had been fighting for the return of the Sahara since 1884, when
Spain laid claim to the area, and since gaining the incomplete independence in 1956.
Morocco had continued the fight for unity and territorial integrity. 


It is not by chance that the general assembly resolutions adopted in 1965 and 1968 confirming the right to self-determination  refer not only to the population of Ifni, but also to that of Western Sahara. Resolution 1514 considered to be the charter of decolonisation, states in paragraph 6 that : “any attempt to destroy partially or wholly the national unity and territorial integrity of a country are incompatible with the aims and ideas of the UN charter”. 


When the Algerian question was being examined by the UN general assembly in 1961, Morocco was one of the first to defend Algeria’s territorial integrity which Morocco evoked to regain the
Sahara by basing itself not only on history and law but also on the wishes of the population. Morocco had always possessed Western Sahara in the same way as its
northern provinces.   


In1956, when the protectorate had come to an end, Morocco demanded the return of
Western Sahara in order to reconstitute national unity and integrity. Moroccans believe that the recovery of the ex Spanish Sahara was a result of a lengthy national struggle, they pointed out that in 1957 this struggle had resulted in the placing of the Moroccan army of liberation in some areas of the
Western Sahara. If it was not for the joint military intervention in 1958 of both French and Spanish troops (Ecouvillon operation) the liberation and reintegration of the Saharan territory would already be carried out. This explains why for a legal and political point of view, the
Western Sahara’s issue is still very much in the foreground of Moroccan minds. 


In fact the UN recognize two different decolonization problems, that of territories which , at the time of colonization, had no international juridical status to which the procedure providing for self-determination and independence applies, and other territories constituting an integral part of a state, this is clearly the case of Western Sahara, as the international court of justice in the Hague expressly recognized that Western Sahara was not a territory without a master but one over which Morocco exercised its sovereignty “……that at the time of colonization of Western Sahara by Spain, the Cherifian state had a particular character is certain. The particularity lay in that it was founded on the religious link of Islam which united the populations, and on the allegiance of the various tribes to the Sultan through the intermediary of their Caids or Sheikhs, more than on national territory” (see international court of justice / advisory opinion 16/10/1975 ) 


The link of allegiance is not just formal but has an effective and concrete juridical character which was recognized by the international court of justice, as the normal basis for the tie of nationality. The court therefore decided that
Western Sahara was not a TERRA NULLIUS. Its population, although consisting mainly of nomads, was organized in tribes under the authority of elected sheikhs. It found that legal ties of allegiance between the Sultan of Morocco and the tribes living in the

territory of
Western Sahara existed and that this legal situation was recognized not only by the Sultan and the population concerned, but also by the international community. 


As for the wishes of the Sahraouis, these were expressed on several occasions, firstly within the framework of mass participation in various electoral consultations organized in
Morocco since 1975. Sahraouis were and still are able to vote for their representatives in the different local, regional, and professional institutions, as well as in the parliament. When it comes to the Sahraoui population, more than two thirds of sahraouis live in the
Sahara within Moroccan borders. The rest which is around twenty per cent, including the political and military leadership of the Polisario live in the Tindouf camps inside





Historical facts show that the Polisario, which Algeria claims to be the only liberation movement of the
Western Sahara, was created shortly before the decolonization of the territory. In fact the creation of the Polisario took place in Zouerate in
Mauritania, by twenty one Sahraouis the 28th of April 1973. 


The Polisario has been feeling internal pressure, since the 1991 ceasefire. Thousands of  Sahraouis living in the refugee camps in Tindouf are kept against their will, and do not enjoy the basics of freedom of expression but in any case after three decades of isolation in a harsh environment, youngsters who have never been allowed to visit nor to join their families in the Sahara rail in frustration, according to Mrs Khadija Hamdi the wife of the leader of the Polisario “ young sahraouis started to get tired of struggling and living in the refugees camps” she added in an interview with a Spanish newspaper  “youngsters do not share the same goals, nor the same preoccupations like their parents” (see newspaper : “Levante” Spanish 08/01/2007 ). 


A return to armed confrontation with the Moroccan army is unlikely to happen although
Algeria fully supports the Polisario. Diplomatic sources believe that it is almost certain that
Algeria would not permit a resumption of hostilities from its soil. 


A new movement was created in July 2004 called KHAT AL SHAHID (martyr line) which advocates a negotiated settlement of the
Sahara dispute. Mahjoub Salek, spokesman for the movement in an interview with TelQuel magazine explains that it represents itself as an alternative to the current Polisario front leadership, and is preparing a draft resolution of the conflict addressed to all the parties concerned including Spain, the EU and the UN (See TelQuel magazine / Morocco n°243-2006). 





The Polisario can not be the sole and legitimate representative of Sahraouis, especially if we take into account that two third of Sahraouis do live under Moroccan sovereignty and most of them fully support the substantial autonomy project. At the same time, some of those living as refugees in Tindouf camps, south-west of
Algeria back the autonomy seeing it a solution that guaranties political, economic and social rights of Sahraouis. 


Despite the ideological decline of the Polisario it remains a radical totalitarian movement particularly in its methodology. It claims that the number of refugees in the Tindouf camps is around 155.000 people. The UN HCR estimates the figure between 70.000 and 90.000. The Moroccans estimate is lower. The Polisario has two reasons for inflating this number. It enables it to strengthen its legimacy as a main player in the conflict and also to receive humanitarian aid which is distributed in proportion to the number of refugees. 


The Polisario was severely accused of human rights abuses, the detention, killing, and the abusive treatment of Moroccan prisoners of war from the late 70’s to 2006. Other accusations were that some of the Sahraouis are kept in the Tindouf camps against their will and do not enjoy freedom of expression. 


In a report published in 2003, amnesty international concluded that “freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be restricted in the camps controlled by the Polisario near Tindouf in south western


A full and comprehensive report of an independent committee of inquiry into allegations of violations of human rights, crimes, abuses and various other  irregularities brought against the polisario front, was submitted to the special political and decolonisation committee (fourth committee) of the United Nations on the 4th of October 2006. This 38 page report  deals with the following aspects : 


  1. the use of torture; 

  2. the absence of even the minimum level of judicial process; 

  3. the condition of detention; 

  4. forced labour and rape; 

  5. Malnutrition of prisoners and absence of medical care; 

  6. the abdication of Moroccan citizens within the international recognised frontiers of


At the present time the Polisario is losing momentum. In fact, all the signs indicate that it will weaken further more in case the status quo remains. The Polisario leadership believes that the referendum is the only way to remain an active player in the conflict with the aim to achieving its goal.                      





           The first version of Mr James Baker’s plan who was nominated the UN special envoy to the
Western Sahara, called Baker I or the framework agreement, was delivered in 2000. It was meant to give the inhabitants of
Western Sahara self–determination through a large autonomy within the Moroccan sovereignty. A part from defence and foreign policy, all the capacities would be in the responsibility of a local government. Morocco accepted the plan while
Algeria and the Polisario rejected it. 

The second version, called Baker II, proposed a new framework agreement giving five years of autonomy to Western Sahara within Moroccan sovereignty, where after  the referendum is to be held, provided that the  inhabitants of
Western Sahara will be allowed to vote. 


Algeria and the Polisario accepted the plan especially after
Morocco rejected it. The rejection of Baker II plan by Morocco and Baker plan I by
Algeria and the Polisario, prompted Mr James Baker to resign. Following the failure of Mr Baker mission it does not appear that the Polisario have much chance of winning the present diplomatic battle particularly that the Kingdom of Morocco has approved the first draft for a large autonomy for the Western Sahara. 


The Moroccan government held a series of meetings to discuss the proposal with Moroccan political parties and the representatives of sahraouis before completing the final draft which is expected to be submitted to the United Nations sometime during April. 


The current deadlock between the Polisario and Morocco can not be allowed to carry on because with it comes the suffering sahraouis who are in detention in the Tindouf camps in





On October 31st 2006 the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously for a six month extension of the MINURSO. The 1720 resolution urges both parties, the Polisario and Morocco, engaging decisive discussions during the next six months, also the US delegate asked
Morocco to present its announced autonomy plan and to engage in discussions with all sahraouis, including the Polisario. An interesting point here is the call for the inclusion of all sahraoui voices including the Polisario. 


For a general point of view a call for negotiations, or any form of discussion is a positive step towards the resolution of conflicts. Therefore it is wise for all parties concerned to consider the substantial autonomy proposal as a basis for any future settlement because it aims to come up with a peaceful solution where there is neither a winner nor a loser, and in respect of dignity of all the parties. 


The Moroccan proposal is in line with the relevant international standards, and respects the regional specificities and expectations of the local population. It is an open and constructive response to the expectations of the international community and the repeated calls of the United Nations Security Council. Most of world countries welcomed with interest the autonomy proposal put forward by Morocco, deeming that it would create a new dynamism of dialogue to overcome the current deadlock and to contribute to settling the dispute over
Western Sahara. 


To conclude international community would like to see “entente” take shape between all parties, it does advocate dialogue because it is the shortest path so that peace and harmony prevail in the North African region. 


Rabat, March 9th 2007. 


11 mai 2007

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11 mai 2007

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