S A H R A O U I E S
JAMES BAKER : THE UN IN BANKRUPTCY
The former American Secretary of State, Mr James Baker, personal envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for Western Sahara, travelled to Morocco, Algeria, to the Saharawi camps and to Mauritania from 14 to 17 January last to present new proposals with a view to unblocking the situation. But once again, they are not respecting resolutions from the UN on decolonisation and the right of peoples to self-determination. M'Hamed Mohamed Cheikh, Polisario Front representative in Switzerland and with the UN in Geneva. gives us his analysis of this nth tour of the American, James Baker.
In charge of the Saharawi dossier since his appointment in 1997, Mr Baker was mandated by the Security Council, in virtue of resolution 1429 of 30 July last, to present before its next meeting, which was due to take place at the end of January 2003 and was postponed until the end of March, settlement proposals for the conflict based on respect for the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.
The proposals which have just been put forward by the UN personal envoy to the two parties in conflict - the Polisario Front and Morocco - and to the observer countries, namely Algeria and Mauritania, are in fact, neither a fifth way, nor a new settlement plan for the conflict, but no more and no less than a repetition of what we've already seen and a scarcely modified rehash of the framework agreement, previously presented in June 2001 by the same personal envoy, and which the Security Council refused to endorse.
It should be noted that these proposals, which constitute in fact, a trap, are a new draft of the "third way" or what is commonly called "the framework agreement". They provide for a transitional period of four to five years during which there would be an executive power, called the "authority for Western Sahara", a legislative power and a judicial power. These bodies would be elected by the 86,425 voters identified by the UN commission preparing for the referendum of self-determination.
After these four or five years, the United Nations would organise a referendum to decide the final status of the territory : independence, integration or any other option agreed by the two parties. Participating in this vote would be the 86,425 persons mentioned above, their children having reached voting age AND 110,000 Moroccan settlers living in the territory before 31 December 1999. That is to say that the referendum is really aimed at the Moroccan settlers who would represent over 65% of the voters. That is after 16 years of incipient war, 12 years of truce and patience, with arms down, and altogether 28 years of indescribable privations, painful exile for the population in the refugee camps near Tindouf and of humiliation for the Saharawi population in the territories under occupation, the UN has set everything up so that in the place of the Saharawi people, the referendum should be organised for the benefit of the Moroccan settlers who carry out a policy of populating and assimilating which denatures the character of the territory of Western Sahara.
However the only people who should decide its fate through a referendum of self-determination is actually the Saharawi people, whose representatives figure on the list of identification drawn up by the United Nations. The documents and resolutions of the United Nations since the sixties could not be clearer on this and the Peace Plan together with the Houston Agreement, signed by the two parties to the conflict in 1997, if anything are more explicit.
How, then can one explain these shifts which in no way honour the United Nations as a symbol and expression of a world order which should be based on rights and international law? Baker's proposals would at least have had the merit to clarify one thing : by going back on the commitment he took in 1997, this time the UN special envoy for Western Sahara has reached a limit. The delaying tactics that he has employed in recent times can only contribute to disqualify him for having a special interest, for in international law you cannot be judge and an interested party at the same time.
The Security Council will renew MINURSO's mandate until the end of March to enable the Polisario Front and Morocco to communicate their responses to the UN one month before the deadline. What is certain, is that the Saharawis will never accept the framework agreement which they reject without appeal and even less any new way it might have been dressed up, because it constitutes quite simply a substitution for the right to self-determination which is the corner stone of the United Nations doctrine on matters of decolonisation and a legitimisation of the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco.
The Saharawi people who base their claims on international law, are not asking for any way around the law, only to be able to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination through the organisation of a free and democratic referendum - that and that alone.
(translation by C.L.)