Morocco is deeply concerned over the potential ramifications of a proposed amendment to the United Nations (U.N.) Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) chart to include human rights monitoring. If the purpose of such revision is to nudge the U.N. negations in a more positive direction, Morocco’s Royal Cabinet considers discussions over human rights observers as a distraction that would lengthen the conflict and may backfire.

 

News that “the United States is “in discussions” over proposing that MINURSO expand its mission to include monitoring human rights as confirmed by the U.S. embassy in Rabat” and reported by the Washington Post is not sitting well with Moroccan officials and could have negative implications on the Moroccan-American relations at a critical time for both countries.

 

The State Department proposal will not produce the desired results, but rather the opposite or jeopardize the close intelligence and military cooperation between Washington and Rabat. The Kingdom considers the presence of monitors in the Southern Provinces as interference in its internal affairs.

 

For Moroccan officials, the Obama administration’s decision ‘to realign its position” is an action that overlooks their country’s recent democratic achievements. The new constitution and the formation of several independent watchdog agencies, such as the Moroccan National Human Rights Counciltasked with advancing a civil rights agenda, are few examples of King Mohammed VI steps toward creating good governance and more open and democratic society.

 

Rabat seems especially troubled by the involvement of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) in drafting the American proposition. RFK center, a known supporter of the Western Sahara separatists Polisario Front, a former communist guerrilla backed and financed by Algeria and a host of leftist governments around the world, has been biased in its assessments of the human rights situation in the Moroccan Sahara while overlooking abuses in the Polisario run camps in Algeria.

 

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry is mystified by this change of position.  Considering recent comments by departing Secretary Clinton supporting Rabat’s Local Autonomy proposal, observers in Rabat assert that Kerry Kennedy’s, President of the RFK Center, easy access to the new Sectary of State John Kerry is behind this controversial decision.

 

In fact, the timing and the source behind the new American proposal is irking the Moroccans and may damage the excellent relations between the two nations.

 

In a swift reaction to these developments and per King Mohammed VI instructions, the Royal Cabinet called a meeting of heads of major political parties in the country to discuss “the latest developments of the Sahara question”. Such immediate response at the highest level of the Moroccan administration signals displeasure with the State Department move and could lead to a chill in the American-Moroccan relations.

 

 By proceeding with its proposal, the Obama administration will finds itself concurring with the likes of Cuba and Venezuela, fervent supporters of the Western Sahara separatist, while antagonizing a close ally. In an unusual move, King Mohammed VI dispatched his advisors to Moscow and Peking to lobby the two veto yielding powers against the proposed American amendment. Rabat can always fall back on Paris its traditional supporter to defeat any resolution deemed hostile.

 

Some diplomats are perplexed over the timing of the American pronouncement. This is a particularly perilous time in North Africa and the Sahel where terror groups are active and the U.S. intelligence agencies are in need of cooperation and coherence among all its partners in the war on terror. The Moroccan officials made it clear that sending monitors to the Western Sahara will complicate international security efforts in the region.

 

In a show of displeasure and without mincing his words, a Moroccan official described Washington’s decision as a gesture of ingratitude toward an ally that, unconditionally and consistently, supported the U.S.  diplomatic presence, operations and plans around the world for years.  

 

Moroccans irritation with Washington is unusually pointed and sharp. They feel taken for granted by their American allies. The State Department determination to change the MINURSO mandate seems to target Morocco, an ally after all, when Washington chooses to ignore similar requests proposed for different UN missions around the world. 

 

As a Moroccan diplomat put it, how could the State Department jeopardize centuries of friendship and strategic partnership to appease the ideological whims of a small group of die-hard supporters advocating for a guerrilla group recognized for its ties to America’s enemies?

 

The United State government goal to “support long-term political and economic reform through bilateral assistance and to promote effective and democratic will only be achieved by working closely with its allies. Morocco’s effort to promote human rights cultural is a work in progress and need time to mature. 

HASSAN MASIKY

17/04/2013