A Conservative MP in the UK parliament is proposing an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara (see end of post for the EDM). In essence this means endorsing Morocco’s partial occupation of Western Sahara, a move that is more likely to destabilise the Maghreb than it is to bring peace and security to the region. If you are in the UK and are worried about this development, you might want to write to your MP. Most MPs will know little or nothing about the Western Sahara conflict, and many will believe that by supporting this “solution” they are doing something positive and sensible. They are wrong. Below is the text of a letter I have sent to my MP, Charles Clarke. Please feel free to modify this text and send it to your MP, or to write your own letter. You can find out who your MP is and write to them using the following website: http://www.writetothem.com. You can find out whether or not your MP has signed this motion here. Don’t let your MP be turned into a Moroccan lackey!
Dear Charles Clarke
It has come to my attention that an EDM (see below) is being proposed in support of Morocco’s “Autonomy Plan” for Western Sahara, by Conservative MP Derek Conway. This is a worrying development, as the Moroccan plan precludes any referendum on full independence for Western Sahara, which it invaded in 1975 and which it has partially occupied ever since. The United Nations and the vast majority of governments have always maintained that a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara should be based on the principle of self determination. Morocco and its supporters argue that the Autonomy Plan provides for self determination within a greater Morocco, but the Polisario independence movement and the majority of Sahrawi argue that self determination must allow for full independence. Morocco has presented its plan as a way forward in solving the territorial dispute, whereas it is in fact a means of obtaining endorsement of its invasion of Western Sahara, and normalisation of its occupation. The Polisario is prepared to allow a referendum which gives the people of Western Sahara the option of independence, limited autonomy as part of a greater Morocco, or full integration into Morocco, in stark contrast to Morocco’s refusal to consider independence as an option. Despite this, Polisario is being portrayed as an obstacle to a solution by Morocco and its growing list of international allies. Mr Conway refers to the Polisario as “separatists”. However, Western Sahara has never been part of Morocco, and this label is therefore entirely inappropriate. The real obstacle to peace in the region is Morocco’s intransigence and long refusal to act in either the spirit or letter of United Nations resolutions on Western Sahara.
Mr Conway may believe that he is helping to promote a solution to this long-running conflict, and he may have persuaded the 121 signatories to this EDM that this approach is both morally and practically sensible. However, it is neither. By endorsing the Moroccan Autonomy Plan, the UK will be legitimising Moroccan expansionism, and endorsing oppression and widespread human rights abuses. Implementation of the Autonomy Plan will not end the partition of Western Sahara, a partition of which few are aware, believing wrongly that Morocco occupies the entire territory. Morocco only occupies about two thirds of the territory, with the remainder being under the control of the Polisario. The Autonomy Plan will not solve the problem of the 160,000 – 200,000 refugees (higher than the figure admitted by Morocco and its allies) mouldering in camps in the Algerian desert – I doubt Morocco would want up to 200,000 pro-independence returnees to go back the territory from which it expelled them and their parents and grandparents.
Endorsing the Autonomy Plan will not make the region more stable or secure. Far from it. There is already an appetite for renewal of the armed independence struggle among the exiled Sahrawi, which the Polisario leadership is doing its best to contain. By removing the prospect of independence and a return home, endorsement of the Autonomy Plan would increase the likelihood of conflict in the region. The result would be a rump Sahrawi state (in the one third of Western Sahara that is under Polisario control) inhabited by angry, armed, pro-independence Sahrawi with nothing to lose, who feel they have been betrayed by the international community. I speak from experience as I work and travel regularly in the Polisario-run “Free Zone”, and am a regular visitor the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.
If Mr Conway’s EDM is successful, it will only help to destabilise the Maghreb and parts of the Sahel, and will make conflict in the region more likely. There will be further humanitarian crises and perhaps an increase in refugee numbers. Algeria and Morocco will suffer internal destabilisation, and relations between Morocco and Algeria will deteriorate. This will have a negative impact on the regional economy and on poverty in this already troubled region. The risk of radicalising young Sahrawi is considerable, and any conflict will provide a context in which terrorism outside of the Sahrawi population can flourish.
I urge you and your colleagues to oppose this motion, not only on moral and ethical grounds, but also for the sake of stability and security in the Maghreb, and indeed in Europe. If Mr Conway’s EDM is successful it will be a disaster for the Maghreb, for Europe, and for Britain’s reputation as an honest broker which supports the right of people across the globe to self determination and freedom from oppression.
Dr Nicholas Brooks
WESTERN SAHARA INITIATIVE
That this House notes and supports United Nations Resolution 1754 adopted by the Security Council on 30th April 2007; welcomes the initiative by the Kingdom of Morocco to grant substantial autonomy to the Western Sahara offering an opportunity to peacefully resolve separatists claims by guaranteeing to all Sahrawis inside and outside the territory a leading role in the bodies and institutions of the region whilst recognising Morocco’s sovereign integrity; and urges the Government to encourage all parties to respond to UN endeavours to establish an enduring solution to this geopolitical dispute of three decades duration.