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Corcas Secretary-General, Mr. Maoulainain Ben Khalihenna delivered on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 a speech before the Committee on Foreign Relations and Defense and in the Belgian Senate:


1 - Preamble
2 - Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs: Establishment and functions
2-1 - Reconciliation
2-2 - Sahara development
2-3 - Preparation of Autonomy
3 - Why is this proposal?
4 - Roots of the crisis
5 - Impossibility of organizing a referendum
6 - Breaking the impasse

1 - Preamble

The crisis in Western Sahara is not a question of decolonization. This is not an incomplete decolonization, for the simple and reasonable reason that this issue was resolved in accordance with international law in 1975 between the colonial power, the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Morocco, the same way the two neighboring countries used to resolve their problems. The agreement was taken as an official document by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Thus, the process of decolonization in Morocco was a long and difficult process, but it was also a peace process based on negotiation.

The Sahara crisis is an internal political Moroccan – Moroccan problem, especially among Sahrawis. This crisis took in the circumstances of the Cold War regional and international dimensions. In order to resolve this thorny issue, the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs was established.

2 – The Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs: Establishment and functions

The Constitutive Act of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs states that the Council contributes, along with the King of Morocco, to all matters relating to the defense for regional security of the kingdom, and the achievement of economic and social development in the Sahara region and the preservation of cultural identity.

The Council considered effective representation of all the tribes in the Sahara. It also took into account the representation of different generations: young people, adults and women.

  The three core functions of the Council:

2-1 - Reconciliation

Reconciliation concerns first of all Sahrawis between them, and between Sahrawis and the Moroccan administration. This approach is part of the general reconciliation carried out by Morocco.

The indicator for this issue is reflected in the order by His Majesty the King in May 2006 shortly two months after the establishment of the Council to pardon 46 political detainees who were in prison.

Now all persons are free to express their views, including the views of the separatist thesis. Some activists who call for secession in Europe, America and elsewhere are free to travel from Morocco to the outside, and return to it, while some of these people are not even from the region.

The only limit is the same as the existing limit taken in any democratic country to combat acts of violence, protect property and persons, and this corresponds to the open country like Morocco, reconciled with itself, diversified and democratic.

Let's see what happens on the other side. We have a political military organization  with a a single thinking and orientation, dominating the camps by Kalashnikovs and detention of the main supply stores. In other words, the Polisario as a totalitarian movement does not solve differences with its critics only by force, and sometimes by killing. Therefore, it can not give lessons on human rights to anyone.

On the other hand, only the Polisario Front which is supervising the distribution of humanitarian assistance granted by the World Food Program and the High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations.

How can we talk in this case about representation. But despite this, and in a spirit of reconciliation, we extend our hand to the Polisario, as we consider them our fathers brothers and cousins, and of course our citizens.
2-2 - Sahara development

The Council also plays a role in promoting and guiding economic development projects and social development in the South, and supporting it until full completion.

The Council proposes to His Majesty solutions to all problems and obstacles that are often fertile ground for the growth of social discontent exploited by separatists and providing events as demonstrations in support of their claims.

2-3 - Preparation of autonomy

Preparing autonomy was the most important task undertaken by the Council. The Council held for that purpose a special session for three days starting from May 26, 2006. Meetings, discussions and exchange of views took six months, where work was extended until December 2006.

Thus, the Council organized several meetings in all cities and villages of the Sahara, to explain to Sahrawis the new policy of the Kingdom, and listen to their demands in a climate of freedom and transparency.

The Council also organized visits to the countries implementing regional autonomy, including Spain, France and Belgium.  

The result of all these efforts enabled the autonomy project to go out into existence. It was presented to the attention of His Majesty the King on 6 December 2006. It is revolutionary project for a country such as Morocco, falls squarely within the projects of social and economic issues launched by His Majesty the King since he took the throne.

We must not forget that Morocco, which is one of the oldest countirs, has an important historical heritage in the field of State decentralization and Jacobinism culture during the French protectorate.

This characteristic makes the right of self-governance a revolutionary project in the Arab world Islamic world and Africa, and includes it in the ranks of the democratic countries. Our self-government is similar to other models adopted in other countries, such as Spain, for example.

Autonomy project is not a solution prepared in haste and under pressure. Morocco's initiative to start negotiations to end the crisis and putting an end to the Sahara issue, as well as being a sincere and resolute initiative addressed to all Sahrawis wherever they are, it falls within a profound and comprehensive reform in the context of a comprehensive community project launched by His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

The King of Morocco, the young, courageous and insightful man, with strong democratic and social convictions, developed this program and initiated its implementation since his ascension to the throne.

The expansion of freedoms and peaceful settlement of past violations of human rights through transitional justice processes are a prominent example.

Political rights in this major institutional reform made significant progress, especially with the reform of criminal law and through addressing all the issues of human rights violations without any restrictions or prohibitions.
There is also the reform of the Civil Code, through full equality between men and women in terms of marriage and divorce and family responsibility was established.

This law is surprising in the geographical area to which the Kingdom of Morocco belongs. It was brought a large arsenal of measures to improve the situation of women and combat violence against women.

With the National Initiative for Human Development, perpetuating social and economic rights commenced.

The initiative to negotiate a system of self-rule in the Sahara region is the third part of of these reforms. It is clear that Sahrawis benefited, like their compatriots in other parts of the Kingdom from the above aspects, which is equitable for all; however, the region’s specificities and the national will to continue to expand the scope of freedoms, especially in the Sahara region, is a framework for the development of the Moroccan initiative.

The initiative was designed in the context of the democratic spirit, which calls for consultation and participation of citizens in the preparation of the project.

Therefore, Sahrawi citizens discussed deeply through their representatives in the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs, the form and content of this autonomy. The product of their discussions formed the basis of initiative, in addition to the results of extensive consultation with all other bodies concerned, namely: political parties and civil society organizations ... etc.  

  3 - Why autonomy proposal?

  The question is legitimate, after all, the Sahara is located above the territory of the Kingdom and the majority of citizens, especially Sahrawis agree on the territorial integrity of the Kingdom and loyalty to the King of Morocco.

  On the military side, The Sahara issue was resolved in favor of Morocco, and the other party who lives degeneration currently does not have any ability to return to military confrontation.

However, there are two important impetus towards the development of the Kingdom of Morocco of this initiative, the first reason is humanitarian, particularly the duty placed on the state and nation to all its citizens, particularly Sahrawis in the camps in Tindouf, who are not in a position to choose their return home individually, because they are subject to the outdated and rigid leaders of Polisario.

This difficult situation has been going on for 30 years. Although a number of those were taken to Tindouf in 1975 by fraud and deception, many of them managed to return to stability in Morocco or Mauritania or migrate to other countries such as Spain.

In this context, although the true number of people in the camps is unknown because of the iron fist by Polisario and Algeria who keep the number as military secret, less than one third of the population of the desert camps are among the camps of detainees, Spain and Mauritania, while MINURSO estimates in the context of the census conducted between 1997 and 2001, show that more than two-thirds of Sahrawis stink to their homeland, Morocco, and live on its soil.  

The second reason is political and strategic. The Sahel, deep in the Sahara where there are camps of Tindouf is a danger zone that stretches over a vast area (more than 3 million square meters) across several countries. This region is a scene of many of the mafia networks and criminal activities .

The human smuggling networs passes victims from the candidates for migration across the Sahel region. Stories of immigrants inform that a number of candidates were at the mercy of bandits along the Sahara coast.

  Many of the dissident groups have taken for a long time the Sahel region as refuge, where the movement margin is substantial without control, and out of the reach of their countries.

  Since the emergence of al Qaeda in the region, these groups trade in weapons and drugs. Terrorist groups that are terrorizing Algeria is the core of this threat in the Sahel.

  In this regard, we cite here the words of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan in his report dated April 19, 2006: "The current stalemate encourages the emergence of violence, this violence will not lead to the independence of Western Sahara, but will condemn another Sahrawi generation to live in the Tindouf camps"

Beyond these arguments posed by logic and objective data, there is also the argument of international legitimacy, as evidenced by international community and regular reports of UN General Secretaries asking parties to the conflict to negotiate, and suggest what might bring about progress.

  This is exactly what was made by the Kingdom of Morocco by offering to negotiate on its proposal for self-government as a concrete solution openning up new prospects for a fair equitable and acceptable solution.

4 - Roots of the crisis
1-4 – Emergence and history of the Conflict

It is necessary to clarify the complex situation faced by Morocco during colonization. For a better understanding of the causes of this deadlock and development that led to the current situation, before colonization and the imposition of Protectorate to Morocco, Morocco was a fully sovereign country, independent and united, and the Sahara was under Moroccan sovereignty. There was no entity in the Sahara separated from Morocco. 

The Sultan of Morocco exercised his authority through the appointment of some officials, such as Caids or their personal representatives. The existing documents show that whenever a foreign power tried to enter into the Sahara, or when some of its nationals were kidnapped, the Sultan of Morocco settled problems with the powers concerned.

The negotiations were conducted through the mediation of ambassadors. This is evidenced by the official Moroccan and foreign documents. These documents exist in Rabat, Paris, London, Madrid and Lisbon and Berlin. One needs only to refer to it, to know that Morocco has always enjoyed sovereignty on the Sahara. 

With colonization, the issue got complicated. At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Morocco was divided between 3 powers: international powers in Tangier, and fragmentation into separate areas between Spain in the north and south, and the French protectorate in the center.
    The decolonization process with France and Spain followed was as follows:
The French part was restored one time in 1956
With Spain, decolonization was long and difficult, but was always peaceful through dialogue and negotiation.

    The territories under the Spanish Protectorate were divided between north, center and south. They were retrieved through successive stages: the north in 1956, Tangier in April 1956, Tan-Tan and Tarfaya in 1958, Sidi Ifni in 1969 and the Sahara in 1975.

    The current problem emerged in the interval between the return of Sidi Ifni and the Sahara. Decolonization cannot be reduced into agreements between the emerging entities and colonial rational entities. There are people on the ground claiming. In the case of Morocco, there were men calling for the need to retrieve all the national territory. Moroccan citizens in the Sahara were members of the National Liberation Army in the southern part. They included the parents of about thirty young men who would found Polisario in 1973 in Mauritania.

    These veterans were expelled for the territorial integrity who tried to complete the independence of Morocco from north to south, after a heroic resistance against a joint operation by the French and Spanish. This process was called secretly "process" Ecouvillon Operation "
    The operation was shared between France, which was occupying Algeria and Mauritania, and which felt that the Moroccan Liberation Army was a serious threat to its property in North Africa. Sahrawi combatants were therfore deported with their families, as well as a large part of their tribes
To the independent Morocco

2-4 - Birth of Polisario

In Tan-Tan, the young men from those families could not bear to see their region still under colonization. They tried during the years 1971 and 1972 to remind this situation. They did this in the context of the stage, where the Cold Car and progressive movement of internal and external opposition to the Moroccan state imposed struggle for existence.

    The great irony of the seventies that the young men demonstrating in Tan Tan, included the founders of the Polisario Front, would be jailed by the ones who would try two putsches against the central authority few months later. We should make it clear here that these young protesters, who would found the Polisario were then studying at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat.

    In this context, Libya and Algeria were in the Eastern bloc, while Morocco was an important ally of the West. The young protesters in Tan Tan did who were subjected to systematic torture and humiliation in prison, did nit understand what was happening. They only protested so that  Morocco can recover its Sahara.

The most active ones established the Front. It was natural for these young people to go to settle in Algeria, which was then the meeting place of all the activists against imperialism in Africa. At this moment, the Sahara issue took a regional dimension.

3-4 - Sahrawi National Unity Party

On the other side of the border that separates the parties, in the same country, Morocco, there were other young people living similar experience, but was going in the opposite direction, ie the direction of unity. These young patriots belonged to the same tribal groups.

  The Spanish colonial authorities thought they could use them to create a secessionist entity in the Sahara. These young men gathered in the Sahrawi National Unity Party, including current members of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs, in particular their leader and current President, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, were working for the national unity as experienced by their parents, as they saw them defending it.

  They went to the north of the country to participate in the national effort to defend their country's unity. Therefore, Mr. Ould Errachid presented oath of allegiance and the allegiance of Sahrawis to His Majesty King Hassan II in 1975

4 - 4 – Recovery of the Sahara

   In the meantime, Morocco tried an other action to recover the southern part of its territory. This time, His Majesty King Hassan II resorted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, asking two questions:

1 – Was the so called Spanish Sahara v terra nullius?
2 - Otherwise, what was its ties with the Kingdom of Morocco?

    The answers to the questions were positive for Morocco:
  1 - No, this land was not terra nullius
2 - There was a legal allegiance link between the Sultan and the nomadic tribes of this land. For Morocco, as for Spain, these answers were important. Morocco was supported by the International Court of Justice. Facing the intransigence of the Spanish authorities it launched the Green March, which enabled the recovery of Sahara  without clashes. Negotiations and agreements took place in order to close this file.

  5-4 - Beginning of war

    There was not any protest against the arrival of the Moroccan authority, or any act of militias to this moment. Thousands of people were assembled carefully by the Polisario in Tifaritu and Bir Lahlou in the Tindouf camps where camps were prepared in advance.  

Libya and Algeria were the two main countries allies of the east of the camp at this phase of the Cold War in North Africa.

    Therefore, Libya was financing and arming Polisario with most sophisticated weapons that even some of the regular armies of developing countries did not have.

    Algeria, headed by President Boumedienne supported the legitimate rights of Morocco at the beginning of the conflict. Boumediene announced publicly his position supporting Morocco to regain the southern provinces during the Arab Summit in 1974.
However, Boumediene would change his position for several reasons, mailnly because of the border dispute that broke out between Morocco and Algeria. Therefore, he took part in the creation of the so called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976. He then became major sponsor of Polisario after the abandonment of the Libyan support in 1983.

At the global level, and given the status of the conflict between the two camps, the Sahara issue shifted from the regional dimension to the status of an international crisis under the influences of the Cold War. The issue is to assess the situation and avoid reducing the ongoing impact of the conflict on security and stability of the Mediterranean Sea.

4-6 Algerian Position

    Algiers took the torch, and war broke out in 1976 and continued until 1991, but in the field, Algeria would weaken at the end of 1989, just after the months of October and November of the same year during the last important battles. The security wall built by Morocco contributed to securing the Sahara. 

However, it is not surprising that the end of military operations and strengthening the status of the impasse for the Polisario coincided with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the most powerful and symbolic event of the end of the Cold War.

    It is worth noting that during the long path of the Sahara, observers and neutrals noted that every positive action by Morocco in the direction of truce, was systematically opposed by Algeria. Thus, Algeria deprived Morocco of its right over Sahara. 

In 1975, when Morocco organized the Green March, Algiers expelled 52 thousand Moroccans who participated in the liberation of Algeria; they are still claiming compensation for the damage they suffered.

After the decolonization of the Sahara region and its return to Morocco in 1975, Algiers declared the establishment of Sahrawi Republic, the entity created without international legitimacy, with a maximum of the population in Tindouf, which was not consulted. This entity exists only on Algerian territory and on the Internet.

When His Majesty King Hassan II accepted the organization of self-determination referendum in 1981 in Nairobi, the Algerian authorities fraudulently inserted the Sahrawi Republic in the Organization of African Unity.

And when Morocco accepted Baker Plan I, Algeria blew it up by proposing division.
Recently, when Morocco completed the autonomy initiative for the Sahara, the Algerian authorities tried to destroy it by saying it cannot be considered a new project that can solve the conflict and satisfy with the aim to sow dissent and confusion in the minds of world public opinion. We mention in this context the attention paid by the eastern and western capitals to autonomy in Morocco.

    Currently, we ask the brotherly and friendly country Algeria to hold the outstretched hand, in order to facilitate reconciliation between Sahrawis, convince the Polisario, to be more flexible, and maintain neutrality it claims when addressing the Algerian and Moroccan people and the World. Algerian officials strongly declare "Algeria is not involved, because it has nothing to claim or give”

    Accordingly, Algeria will be working to match join actions to words, and will thus contribute to the settlement of the Sahara issue.

5 - Impossibility to organize a referendum

After the ceasefire agreement in 1991, following the admission of Morocco to hold a referendum and end Sahara conflict in 1981 in Nairobi, the United Nations began preparations for the basic stage for the identification of the electorate.

But it turned out that the identification process was impossible because of obstructions by Polisario which refused to identify the Sahara inhabitants, despite their agreement with the identification criteria predetermined by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
 In this regard, we must know that the United Nations has never been able to hold a referendum based on identification process since the creation of the United Nations in 1945.

    To organize such a referendum, it  was necessary to identify all the Sahrawi population, wherever they live. Here, too, the colonization conditions and its consequences during withdrawal complicated the situation.

During the Berlin Conference of 1884, was future property of colonial powers were drawn.

   French and Spanish offices identified maps, but did take into account only the geographical scope neglecting the human and social aspects.

As a result of this situation, tribes and even families found themselves distributed among many countries that share the vital space of Saharan tribes, namely Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Mauritania.

    In order to have a democratic referendum based on identification, it is essential to include all tribes in their spaces.

   How shall we proceed in this case? Should we gather all tribes in the Moroccan part? enabling members of the same family to vote and depriving others from voting?

    The only just and democratic solution that respects international legal standards in the field would have been the compilation of the historic geographical area of the tribes, to enable all Sahrawis to vote.  

The referendum could be up to the moment  honest, fair, democratic and equitable. We would never need to ask "Who is who?" And " from which tribe is he? But to do so, the
borders of all the countries mentioned above should have been changed.

 In addition, this step is a political aberration that could have led to instability.

The United Nations attempted for more than 10 years to overcome difficulties. Tried Secretaries-General of the United Nations since Mr. Peres De Cuellar tried to find a way out of this confusion by using dozens of experts across the world.

International organizations came to technical and political impossibility to organize such a referendum based on identification.
6 - Breaking the impasse

The road was blocked, then, and this is what led the United Nations to explore another way to find a solution to the problem. The UN Secretary General appointed former Secretary of State James Baker as Special Envoy.

   James Baker held negotiations with all parties and submitted first proposal known as Baker Plan 1 which was accepted by Morocco, and refused by Algeria and Polisario. Then there was Baker Plan 2, which was refused by Morocco and accepted this time by Algeria and Polisario.

After this draw noted by the United Nations, there was the conclusion that the latter option may be a political negotiation between the parties to pull the conflict out of the impasse.

    The United Nations stressed on several occasions that the parties to the conflict must begin negotiations to reach a just, equitable and acceptable solution to all parties. This is what proposed by Morocco, in the context of
openness and in line with the resolutions of the Security Council and the United Nations.
Polisario, backed by Algeria, submitted of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon a document that does not carry anything new. However, as announced by the chairman of the Council, Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid, during the extraordinary meeting "it is certain that the children of the Sahara, wherever they reside, in the Sahara regions, or Tindouf camps, and even Polisario leaders, will come to the conclusion, sooner or later, that the only solution possible is autonomy. "

There is no other solution satisfactory to all parties. This is the profound fair and equitable conviction for every Sahrawi  regardless of the United Nations actions and the elements of the file. Sahrawis believe that the Sahrawi after 32 years of the conflict, there is no solution that ensures the rights of all parties, peace and equity, except from autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

Source: Council
(News on Western Sahara issue / CORCAS)


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