Speaking as part of the citizen-run show "Sahara Debate", Mr. Shoji Matsumoto, Professor of international comparative law at the University of Sapporo in Japan, deconstructed, point by point, the allegations peddled by Algeria and the “polisario” on the so-called representativeness of the pseudo “sadr” and highlighted the conformity of the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative with the International Law, which is based on a “win-win” solution and opens up prospects for peace, security and cooperation in the Maghreb region.
The Japanese professor defined the “polisario” as a group of private persons that is not a subject of International Law and stressed that the “polisario” has never been recognized as a “liberation movement” by the United Nations.
Going back to the history of the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara, the Japanese professor said that the “polisario” did not exist when Morocco officially claimed its Sahara at the United Nations in 1957. It was then created only in the mid-1970s at the instigation of Algeria and Libya during the withdrawal of Spain in 1975 from the Moroccan Sahara.
Thus, for Professor Matsumoto, the UN grants the “polisario” only the status of a simple “petitioner”, like hundreds of other petitioners, within the framework of certain works of the Twenty-Four Committee and of the 4th Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.
For Mr. Matsumoto, even if the “polisario” proclaimed the creation of the pseudo “sadr” and gained a seat in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), bypassing and violating the admission procedures, this entity does not enjoy neither a legal or a popular legitimacy and not even less a democratic legitimacy to be able to claim any kind of representation of the population of the Moroccan Sahara. What is more, the pseudo “sadr” does not exercise any authority or control over any territory.
For this reason, he argued, that the European Union Court of Justice rejected the appeal brought by the “polisario” against the renewal of the Morocco-EU Fisheries Agreement because of a “lack of quality to act”, which clearly signifies that the “polisario” cannot claim to have any legal personality.
In addition, for the Japanese Professor, the pseudo “sadr” is not a member of any international or regional organization, except the African Union. More than three-quarters of the Member-states of the UN do not recognize it. No European, North American or Arab country, except Algeria, recognize it equally, he added. According to Matsumoto, only 30 countries continue to recognize it, mainly African and South American, for purely ideological reasons.
The Japanese professor stated that since 2000, nearly 44 states have decided to withdraw their recognition of the pseudo “sadr”.
For Mr. Matsumoto, the only legitimate representatives of the population of the Moroccan Sahara are the local elected representatives through democratic local and regional elections. Thus, he noted that the Chairperson of the Committee of Twenty-Four sent an invitation to two local elected officials from the Moroccan Sahara to participate in the Regional Seminar of the Committee, held between 2 and 4 May 2020 in Granada, and its substantive session held in June 2019 in New York.
He also pointed out that the Presidents of the Moroccan Sahara region and a representative of civil society were part of the Moroccan delegation that participated in the two UN Round Tables in Geneva in 2018 and in 2019. In this regard, Mr. Matsumoto ceased the opportunity to emphasize the full participation of Algeria during these two Round Tables as a stakeholder in the UN political process on the Moroccan Sahara.
The Japanese Professor believes it is undeniable that the majority of the population of the Sahara lives in Morocco and that a large number of families from the population of the Tindouf camps and leaders of the “polisario” return to Morocco, discrediting the claims of this entity as being the “legitimate representative” of this population.
On another note, the Japanese Professor called on the international community to pay particular attention to the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative submitted by the Kingdom since 2007.
Matsumoto referred to the UN Security Council resolution, which in 2004, called on the parties to overcome the deadlock in this regional dispute by actively seeking a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. To resolve this issue, Morocco submitted to the UN Security Council, in 2007, the Autonomy Initiative inspired from contemporary models on the resolution of territorial disputes, and which is in full compliance with International Law including an inclusive and a participatory approach, he stressed.
For Mr. Matsumoto, the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative, which has the legitimate objective of reaching a final political solution to this regional dispute, is based on two pillars which are the establishment of local and representative institutions allowing the enjoyment by the people of the Moroccan Sahara of their political, social and cultural rights and the preservation of historic sovereignty in this region, in accordance with International Law and the right to self-determination. He added that autonomy remains a balanced solution between national sovereignty and local democracy.
For the Japanese professor, the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative will also allow regional integration that will ensure development, security and cooperation in the Maghreb and which, according to him, remains one of the least economically integrated regions in the world.
The Japanese professor concluded his statement by recalling that since the end of the Second World War, 70 autonomy agreements have been concluded to resolve certain territorial disputes.