The geopolitical and legal reality of Western Sahara

Tags : Western Sahara, Morocco, Frente Polisario, UNO, MINURSO, decolonization, selfdetermination,

The situation of the Sahrawis is a particular situation and a major geopolitical problem in this multipolar and, therefore, unstable world. The Sahrawis live under Moroccan occupation in the coastal area. In the desert and sparsely inhabited free territories, in the refugee camps of Tindouf in Algeria or in exile throughout the rest of Africa and the world. The modern Sahrawi question has its roots in the final stages of Francoism where the Sahrawis were represented in the Spanish Cortes with their attorneys.

During the Franco era, the Sahrawis perpetuated the Djema’a, a kind of congregational form of government typical of tribal societies and whose function was political, legal and commercial. This supposes a type of autonomous government in the Spanish Sahara that pre-existed European rule and that served as an element of defense of Sahrawi sovereignty against the Moroccan sultans, who only managed to penetrate the Sahrawi territory in a religious manner when some tribes accepted the Maliki branch of Islam that considers the King of Morocco as Amir al Muminin (Prince of Believers) in a religious authority that, on the other hand, did not undermine the independence of the Sahrawis.

But also against other powers, such as Spain, which had to negotiate with these institutions to control the terrain.

Faced with the Moroccan urban population and culture of a mixed Arab-Berber nature, a nomadic and sovereign culture developed whose relationships were not one of dependence and Moroccan dominance but rather a relationship between equals : Moroccan sovereignty and Sahrawi sovereignty that owned its own territory with its resources. , political institutions, population and the ability to relate on equal terms. In fact this is very important because the relations between the Sahrawi leaders and the Moroccan sultanate were equal and their treaties ranged from peace agreements to trade agreements.

In the late Franco era, the Djema’a was dissolved and the PUNS, the Sahrawi National Union Party, began to prepare to begin the Transition in the region, but the lack of interest and the agreements that were compromising the interests of Juan Carlos I with the United States, France and its great ally Morocco made Madrid disengage from the PUNS, which caused these members to join en masse the POLISARIO, which had already been carrying out insurgency work since 1973.

The Madrid Agreements, null and void, sold the territory of Western Sahara to the Moroccans and Mauritanians. Here comes, however, the Sahrawi drama. The POLISARIO, as an armed socialist combatant group, was aligned with Algeria, a close ally of the Soviet Union against the interests of Morocco and Mauritania, which was quickly defeated in the Western Sahara War and left the board. Morocco was the counterweight of the revolutionary socialist bloc in the region and the only real rival of Algeria and the USSR. France and the United States, with Spain harassed by a tightrope transition and unleashed terrorism, could not defend the Hispano-Sahrawis.

To understand the situation and the differences between Moroccans and Sahrawis, which we already discussed in political and historical terms as two differentiated sovereign entities and in neighborly relations, we will continue arguing. The truth is that both peoples are very different in their geolectal space: while the Moroccans speak Dariya Arabic, the Sahrawis speak Hassenia, a variety of Arabic closest to classical Arabic. On the other hand, at an ethnic-cultural level, they are located within the geographical space of the peoples of the Sahara and therefore form part of a cultural space shared with Mauritanians, Tuaregs and other peoples of the region beyond the Moroccan urbanites of the mountains and the mountains.

A unanimous ruling from The Hague in 1975 established that, although relations between Sahrawis and Moroccans were historical, they did not constitute rights of Moroccan sovereignty over those lands or over their inhabitants. Therefore, any claim by Morocco, Spain or Mauritania of sovereignty over these people is unrealistic and illegal, which is why on this matter it counts against the Madrid Agreements of 1975. Resolutions 1514 and 1541 on the decolonization of the territories that guarantee the freedom of the Sahara but also its territorial integrity according to the Utis Possidetis Iuris (maintenance of the borders inherited from decolonization) as well as the Stimson Doctrine , which does not allow the validation or legalization of the occupation due to accomplished facts or the extension of the occupation over time.

All of this is based on the principle that illegal acts cannot constitute law nor can their actions be validated based on accomplished facts or « realpolitik », although in practice the attitudes of certain states go against Public International Law itself. These ideas: that of Sahrawi independence (legally defended) and the Moroccan Islamist and imperialist theses inspired by Allal El Fassi , his Istiklal party and Rabat’s desire to expand territory to build Greater Morocco led to the clash.

Fassi preached a form of government in a democratic institutional form with parliament and a constitutional monarchy, all subject to Moroccan religious and traditional principles that, at the same time, had to be established in parallel to the political project of  » Greater Morocco  » and the basis of the Moroccan dominion over Western Sahara. What was put forward was, precisely, the relations between Sahrawis and Moroccans that The Hague identified as between equals and the Moroccans as relations of vassalage that handed over sovereignty to the sultan.

The war broke out from 1975 to 1991. With the Fall of the USSR came the time when the UN deployed MINURSO to monitor the peace and ensure a referendum. Hassan II referred positively to this referendum in Nairobi in 1981 at the Summit of the African Union Organization by recognizing the right of the Sahrawis to decide. The referendum would be carried out in accordance with the 1974 Spanish census in which both those registered who are still alive and their descendants would vote.

The referendum has not yet been held and MINURSO continues to be deployed in the territory without achieving any of its objectives: there are no negotiations, there is no referendum and there is no peace, since since 2020 there has been fighting between the POLISARIO Front and Morocco in the liberated territories and in the area of ​​the illegal wall of Western Sahara, impassable due to the line of fortifications, anti-personnel mines, ditches, trenches and machine gun nests.

Morocco, whose objective was to close the POLISARIO’s access to the sea to avoid maritime agreements between POLISARIO – Algeria at a geopolitical level, converged with the United States, which did not want a socialist power linked to the USSR in the North Atlantic. This made the course of the war that, but what other objects did they have?: the exploitation of the phosphate mines of Fos Bucraa, the land and maritime exploitation of Sahrawi wealth in a territory under Spanish colonization de jure and Moroccan de jure. largely facto (except in the liberated territories) . In fact, the exploitation of these resources could be considered the type of War Crime of Looting, punishable by the Geneva Conventions, as well as looting in Sahrawi archaeological sites.

In fact, the greatest Moroccan obsession is to control the airspace as it has been trying to do for years with the Sahrawi waters. For this reason, on March 21, the Attorney General of the European Union recommended suspending the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement for including the waters of Western Sahara in said Agreement. Both the EU and the UN have reiterated that Sahrawi waters should not be added to the fishing or water agreements with Morocco as it is a territory pending decolonization.

Despite everything, today Western Sahara meets the requirements of the Montevideo Convention on what a state is:

The SADR owns territory (20% of the disputed territory of Western Sahara);

Permanent population settled in cities or villas such as Bir Lehu, Tifariti etc… although also nomadic;

Government, represented by its State structure by having a Sahrawi National Council that, through the powers established by the 1991 constitution, has the legislative power of the country, without having the executive power embodied in the President of the Republic (Brahim Ghali at this time). );

Likewise, this structure has given it the ability to relate with other countries on equal terms.

Due to the Moroccan diplomatic offensive, whose objective is to isolate the POLISARIO, many countries have put aside their relations with the Sahrawis, however there is a particularity of Public International Law and that is that once a state is recognized, the recognition cannot be annulled except In the event that the country ceases to exist (in the case of Yugoslavia, South Yemen or Czechoslovakia), at most diplomatic relations can be broken, which would remain suspended and frozen, until their new normalization or not.

Definitely. The question of Western Sahara is endorsed by UN Resolutions, courts such as those of the EU, The Hague or the UN . They are different peoples with different cultures and languages ​​that, except in specific moments (ending in the Middle Ages with the Saadi dynasty in 1659, which only occupied the northern area of ​​the Sahara) had relations of vassalage, but from then onwards, for more than five centuries they have been a free and independent people except in the Spanish period. The Sahrawis and Moroccans have been only and exclusively neighbors, which is why the Sahrawis are supported by the entire international legal infrastructure of the UN, the EU, The Hague or the ICJ despite the realpolitik to which Morocco has subjected countries like Spain, United Kingdom, France or the United States out of fear of the multipolar scenario, economic interests and the new geopolitical context of blocs. (Photo: Wikipedia )

Source : Otra lectura, 26/05/2024

#WesternSahara #Morocco #UNO #MINURSO #Spain #Mauritania

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