Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General who allowed Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara, dead

The late, former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, best known for his participation in the Holocaust, was also heavily involved in the 1975 Moroccan seizure of then Spanish -- now Western -- Sahara. Though the UN was created, in part, to prevent the aquistion of territory by foce, Waldheim's 'diplomatic' passivisity during the 1975 crisis allowed Morocco to grab Spanish Sahara before the native people could vote on independence. Just one of many crimes, like East Timor, that should have landed him in the Hague years ago. I suspect that few tears will be shed in the Sahrawi refugee camps for the late Mr Waldheim.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vreeland exposed

The New York Times published a correction today regarding former Ambassador Frederick Vreeland's 3 March pro-Moroccan hackery on the op-ed pages of the NYT and IHT.

Editors' Note : An Op-Ed article on March 3, about Morocco’s proposal for an autonomous Western Sahara, should have more fully disclosed the background of the author, Frederick Vreeland. Mr. Vreeland, a former American ambassador to Morocco, is also the chairman of a solar-energy company that has had contracts with the Moroccan government.

Is anyone surprised that Morocco can't find an honest person to make their arguments for them?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Spain to open genocide prosecution against Moroccan actions in Western Sahara

Just as Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is making an official visit to Morocco, Spain’s Office of the Public Prosecutor accused Morocco of genocide in Western Sahara.

El Mundo has reported that the famous prosecutor Balthasar Garzón has been instructed to start legal process ‘against the Moroccan officials and military officers for genocide, torture, kidnapping and disappearances practiced by the Kingdom of Morocco against the Sahrawi people’. Thirty-two high Moroccan officials have been named.

Several Sahrawi human rights organizations and solidarity groups in Spain apparently called for the proceedings under international law. Most of cases involved occurred between 1975 and 1980.

El Mundo wrote, ‘Between the 32 defendants are several generals and leading figures in Moroccan politics in last the three decades’. Included is Driss Basri, former Interior Minister outseted by King Mohammed VI in 1999 shortly after the latter ascended to the throne. Sahrawis call the exiled Basri ‘Butcher Basri’. He now lives in Paris.

The case also names several former and serving officials in the numerous security bodies. The accused include some of the most powerful figures in Morocco’s makhzan (the royal-state apparatus of control):
• Hamidou Lanigi, ousted head of National Security, leading member of the Old Guard
• Yasine Mansouri, a royal advisor and intelligence czar
• Abdellaj Kadiri, former DST director
• Abdelaziz Benani, Chief of Staff for Morocco’s armed forces
• Housni Bensliman, head of the Royal Gendarmerie
• Ali Benhima, National Security Chief in the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara
• Abdelhafid Benhachem, Basri’s former aid

The indictment claims that ‘from the 31 of October of 1975 to the present, the Moroccan Army has exerted a permanent violence against the Sahrawi people, first in a predatory war that forced a large part of the Sahrawi population, more than 40,000 people, to flee to the desert, being persecuted and being bombed by the aggressor’s forces with napalm, white phosphorus and cluster bombs, being thrown to the void from helicopters, creating a state of terror and persecution … that last to the present time’.

The dossier apparently contains a list of 206 Sahrawis who ‘disappeared’ at the hands of Moroccan security agents. It adds ‘the disappearance of thousands of people, of who at least 526 Sahrawi, still today, remain in that situation, without their relatives having some knowledge of their whereabouts, and the Moroccan state’s denial of further information to them’.

El Mundo (March 6, 2007), ‘La Fiscalía pide a Garzón que investigue a altos cargos marroquíes por genocidio; Informa a favor de la admisión de una querella por los delitos cometidos contra cientos de saharauis desaparecidos, la mayoría de ellos de nacionalidad española / Entre los acusados está el ex director general de la Seguridad Nacional de Rabat’ by Manuel Marraco, p16.

AFP-Spanish, ‘Sahara: fiscal español pide instruir demanda por genocidio contra marroquíes’
(March 6, 2007)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Interesting Comment on 'Autonomy? How about a confederation?'

Here is an interesting comment on my last post, Autonomy? How about a confederation? from an anonymous source:

From 'arre':

Any solution is illegal, thus probably unrealizable, unless confirmed through a vote with independence as the other major option on the ballot, i.e. an exercise of effective self-determination. I just cannot see a credible way around that within the UN framework. But if that can be arranged, autonomy is clearly an interesting option. Both full independence and full annexation to Morocco holds a potential for disruptive crisis and violence:

* INDEPENDENCE could in a worst-case scenario bring about a failed state if it lacks foreign material/security support and/or as a result of Moroccan subversion (like in East Timor). That W. Sahara would end up as an Algerian satellite is of course also possible, but (a) I can’t see why that is any worse for the West than a Moroccan annexed territory, if Algeria stays reasonably stable and (b) a Sahrawi state would find Morocco both willing and capable to help break any over-reliance on Algeria, for nationalist and strategic reasons.

* ANNEXATION, if forced through w/o Sahrawi grievances seriously addressed, and with hopes for independence not totally extinguished, could lead to future flare-ups when Morocco is weak, and/or a resurgent post-Polisario Sahrawi nationalism turning Islamist. (There's serious potential for that in the Mauritania/W. Sahara Moorish areas.) Also, flooding the desert with ~15,000 armed and experienced Polisario fighters who suddenly lost their raison d'être, source of income and status, while also being more or less cut off from the traditional tribal networks that could contain their activities, doesn't bode well for stability in the area. It is utterly naïve to expect they will all meekly accept to go live on the dole in "Moroccan Sahara" after the humiliation of defeat. Consider the insecurity projected by the GSPC with only a few hundred men in the Algerian Sahara, and how smugglers have chipped away at stability and sovereignty in these areas, and expect tenfold desert unrest if Polisario is broken up forcibly. With this in mind, if autonomy can be accepted in a non-flawed self determination referendum, where it visibly beats independence as an option, then it is clearly an intriguing possibility.

The main problems I think are what Driss Basri (for his own self-interested reasons) pointed out: that Sahrawi autonomy risks feeding into Moroccan separatisms (mainly Rif), and Morocco really cannot afford to emasculate the central state if it wants to continue reforming/developing. Autonomies in these kinds of underdeveloped areas invariably turn into inefficient, money-gobbling and reform-resistant local fiefdoms for tribal, central gov-blessed apparatchiks. (That will happen in W. Sahara too, and the Khelli Henna crowd is a good example of the kind of self-serving elite which will run it, if indeed anything is left for them to run after the Moroccan state’s lawyers have had their say post-independence.) The other problem, which Basri underlined, is that permanent autonomy could very well in the long run serve to strengthen Sahrawi particularity and feed into resurgent nationalism in times of crisis, even if support for independence will dip immediately after autonomy is granted. This is particularly so if the way it is brought about is not 100% acceptable, i.e. with a proper UN-sponsored vote, so as to kill off the Polisario discourse once and for all. Then the whole conflict would bubble up again, only more intractable, with the clear-cut colonial border and popular sovereignty principles long gone, leaving only historical distrust, ethnic suspicion and dolchstoss myths in their place.

That would really be the worst of two worlds, and if autonomy is to be attempted, to avoid this it needs: (a) Foreign backing to resist creeping Moroccan subversion. Achievable, Spain is perfect for the part. (b) Foreign money to sweeten transition. Achieveable, and necessary also in the case of independence or integration etc. (c) Large enough initial powers to be able to present it as a no-losers compromise. Not sure Morocco is ready to do this, we’ll know in April inshallah. (Thought it won’t be anything near your “confederation” suggestion.) (d) To be coupled with a discourse or principles that explicitly sets W. Sahara out as a special case, so that the Rif (or the Kabylie in Algeria for that matter) will not follow by demanding same, starting a vicious spiral. Achievable, just package it right. (e) Self-determination, some form of free and fair referendum on independence or autonomy, to demonstrate that the conflict is over and that there are no issues of principle to invoke against Moroccan sovereignty – come what may, the conflict is over. Some CORCAS shenanigan simply will not do, but here I fear Morocco simply cannot deliver. The MAP recently sent out something about how the support of CORCAS was tantamount to self-determination … it read very much like a trial balloon. If that is the way they’re going to go about the self-determination issue, someone needs to kill the autonomy plan quickly, because that will undermine not only Western Sahara but Morocco too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Autonomy? How about a confederation?

Autonomy for Western Sahara is all the rage. Moroccan officials and parties can’t stop lauding King Mohammed VI’s autonomy project. After thirty years of conflict with the Polisario independence movement, Rabat seems to think that it has found the magic wand. Just grant Western Sahara autonomy and all their problems will vanish.

The Moroccan elite seems to think they can solve the Western Sahara dispute unilaterally without having to sweat the little details -- you know, a twenty-year old bilateral peace process with Polisario, self-determination and the right to vote on independence, decolonization, international law and Security Council resolutions and the fait accompli of Western Saharan nationalism.

But Paris and Washington can’t wait to be done with Western Sahara, so they’re happy to encourage Rabat. The other option, coercing Rabat into accepting the international consensus, the 2003 Baker Plan, is not an option. When it comes to Morocco, its all carrots.

The other problem is that no one really knows what Morocco’s ‘autonomy’ means for Western Sahara because Morocco has yet to produce any details for a specific proposal. Forget the nitty-gritty; we don’t even know the broad generalities. Who will defend the territory, what happens to the settlers, and who can dissolve the government? Does autonomy mean, in reality, just special regional status, or does it mean that Western Sahara will enjoy the same freedoms Catalonia now has from Madrid? Despite these vexing, superficial and preliminary questions, which have yet even been discussed in open, autonomy presses on.

From Rabat to Madrid to Paris to Washington, everyone seems to think autonomy's the natural solution. It’s a compromise! Morocco gets a little and Polisario gets a little. Morocco’s ‘sovereign rights’ are respected, as are Polisario’s national rights. The tricky part is working out the details. Oh, and that pesky right of self-determination that has kept Western Sahara on the United Nations agenda since 1964.

But is autonomy the only compromise? There’s division, of course, but who wants an even smaller, less stable and less secure -- and thus less independent -- Western Sahara? And does Morocco get Al-Ayoun, what many Sahrawis consider their capital? And Smara, their spiritual capital? No, division is not a good option.

So what’s left? Federalism, but which requires a massive overhaul of the Moroccan constitution? So then Moroccan voters would have a veto over the Western Sahara peace process. And even the loosest federalism still makes Western Sahara just another region of Morocco. That's not very attractive to Polisario.

There is another option, one that has been largely ignored. That is confederation: Western Sahara would become largely independent, with its own government and military. In exchange for this freedom, Western Sahara would exist as a part of Morocco’s internationally recognized ‘historical territory’, the Moroccan flag will fly alongside the flag of Western Sahara, and the King of Morocco will approve the Prime Minister of Western Sahara in much the same ceremonial fashion as in the United Kingdom. Morocco gets a little, and Polisario gets a little. Morocco agrees to never invade or interfere with the government of Western Sahara and Polisairo agrees never to secede and to always recognize their deep historical relations. This agreement can be established through a treaty between Polisario and Morocco; no messy constitutional overhaul necessary. We all live happily ever after -- once this is approved through self-determination.

Indeed, the late, great King Hassan II of Morocco once said something to the effect of, leave the stamp and the flag Moroccan, and everything else is negotiable. But the problem is that Mohammed VI isn’t his father … yet.