The story of the people of Western Sahara
is a tragic and unfortunate one. It is
a vivid example of how a tolerant and
moderate people are being let down by
the UN and almost forgotten by the outside
Located on the Atlantic coast of northwest
Africa, Western Sahara was a Spanish colony
until 1975, when it was invaded and illegally
occupied by two neighbouring countries
Morocco and Mauritania.
Western Sahara is the size of Britain
and is rich in mineral resources. Morocco's
invasion was the result of greed and an
attempt to divert attention from the regime's
The invasion provoked a long and bloody
war with the Saharawi people under the
leadership of the Polisario Front, the
movement that had fought for independence
from Spain. Soon Mauritania gave up its
claim and withdrew from the part it occupied.
Since its occupation of the Western Sahara,
Morocco has embarked on a brutal campaign
of human rights abuses. As a result, more
than 170,000 Saharawis have fled their
homeland and now live in makeshift refugee
camps situated in the desert of south-west
Algeria and are dependent on foreign assistance.
For the past 12 years the United Nations
has been involved in finding a peaceful
resolution to the conflict through the
organisation of a referendum on self-determination.
Despite its efforts and the huge costs
involved - more than US$500 million -
the UN has so far failed to accomplish
its task because of Moroccan obstructions
and delaying tactics.
On July 30, the UN Security Council adopted
a resolution which reaffirmed the validity
of the UN and Organisation of African
Unity (OAU) Settlement Plan, and rejected
the "Draft Framework Agreement"
proposal, which intended to give Western
Sahara an autonomous status within Morocco.
The Council asked the UN Secretary General
and his Personal Envoy, James Baker III,
to continue their efforts in order to
provide a genuine opportunity for the
Saharawi people to exercise their right
to self-determination and report back
to the Council before January 31 next
Throughout 26 years of occupation, the
Saharawi people have conducted their struggle
within international norms. They have
never undertaken hijackings or suicide
attacks. Terrorism was avoided from the
outset but the Saharawi struggle has always
been either neglected or put on the backburner.
Unfortunately, some Western powers have
extended their military, financial and
political backing to the Moroccan regime
in its illegal occupation and terrorist
war against the Saharawi people.
Morocco's brutality has been rewarded,
while the patience and good behaviour
of the Saharawi people are being ignored.
Morocco has been plundering the resources
of Western Sahara with the complicity
of some multinational corporations. Last
year, two American and French oil companies,
Kerr McGee and Total Fina Elf signed deals
with Morocco to explore along the coast
of the disputed territory.
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