First of all, I want to highlight that there is no room to bargain on any Moroccan’s allegiance to his country and the unity of its territory. This analysis serves as a rational approach to a dossier that is lasting more than it should, and to clarify what many either do not comprehend or it is considered a taboo and therefore they avoid bringing it in public forums.
No Moroccan, regardless his residency, thinks twice about whether Sahara is a Moroccan territory or not. Sahara became, for decades, something all Moroccan breath and have to deal with in their every day encounters. Sometimes directly, and in many occasions without them noticing it. For Forty years now, the Kingdom of Morocco made the Sahara dossier its priority and it tops its agendas in all national and international gatherings. Moroccan officials, and citizens alike, cannot let an occasion escape without squeezing the subject of Sahara in the conversation.
It seems to me, at times, that Moroccans are programmed about Sahara.. Sahara or nothing at all!
I just want to highlight here that back in the days, when the Moroccan authorities and Secret Services were running the country with a fist of iron, many who dared to speak up their minds and stated an opposite opinion than that of the government’s, did actually face imprisonment, torture, exile, and some were sentenced to death. There was only one version when it comes to Sahara: Do as you are instructed and do not use your brains and do not talk back or criticize the official government’s statements.
I will not drag the introduction any further, and I will go straight to the core of the subject.
In the recent weeks, the Leftist government in Sweden presented to the Parliament a proposed document to recognize the “Front of Polisario”. While the Moroccan government went, almost, quiet about this move, the civil society, the political parties and Moroccans all over the world went ballistic about this proposal. Was this anger justified? Was it legitimate? On what grounds and bases Moroccans showed their discontent about the Swedish decision?
I think the questions that Moroccans should have asked and angered about should have been:
What Morocco and Moroccans did to promote the Moroccan proposal for the Sahara autonomy internationally?
Is the Moroccan diplomacy and the so-called “Moroccan Lobby” worldwide did enough for the Moroccan top dossier?
Why on earth the dossier of Sahara that sucked billions of Dollars for Forty years is kept a hush-hush affair and only few can handle it?
Why the public is not fully aware of the details of what is going on in the negotiations, and only receives handpicked information?
With total honesty, the Moroccan policy in handling the dossier of Sahara is not truly transparent. The blurry approach and, I dare to say, the incompetence of the Moroccan diplomats in handling the conflict put lot of question marks on the credibility of their work. I will exclude one top diplomat, Ambassador Omar Hilale, who always had the courage to stand up for the Moroccan principals, and without having the complex of inferiority before other negotiators. He is a feared and fearsome diplomat and negotiator.
An example of how the Moroccan diplomacy fosters an amateur approach to the dossier of Sahara. On June 17 2015, The Guardian, which is a well-known and widely read newspaper in the United Kingdom and the Western Hemisphere published an article titled: “Leaked cables: Morocco lobbied UN to turn blind eye to Western Sahara in ‘House of Cards’ operation”. Up to this moment as I write this analysis, there was no response from any official channel, nor did the Moroccan embassy in London react to what has been published. I can state hundreds of publications that attacked Morocco’s sovereignty, but the striking and the bitter reality states that Rabat is so passive in its response, that if it responds. All those publications accuse Morocco of violating human rights and “occupying” Sahara. Yet, nothing is done, besides from some condemning and demonstration here and there, while every Moroccan becomes, magically, an expert in Sahara floods the social media with all sorts of criticisms to the entity that “dared” to question the Moroccan sovereignty over that crucial part of the country. Here is the full article for those who want to read it:
Let us not kid ourselves. We cannot win the hearts and minds of the international community with the manner in which Morocco handles its foreign policy, diplomacy and its top national dossier. Those residing in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Sweden, China, and in many other influential international players can testify that the Moroccan diplomatic machine is out of order and so mediocre. On the other hand, the “Sahraoui” activists do all they can, with the financial support of Algeria of course, to hold meetings with local officials, organize seminars and conferences in universities and think-tanks, and they know how to convince the world that Morocco is actually violating every human right in its Southern Territories. Therefore, they demand an international intervention to “save” them and their children.
Shall I just mention here how Moroccan officials responded to Javier Bardem and his documentary “Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony”? The misguided and the misleading documentary came out in 2012, and since then, there was no official response and NO entity in Morocco took the initiative to come up with a documentary that will unveil what Javier Bardem hid in his Algerian financed work.
If we bend over, why do we complain when the world kicks us in the back?
Shall I mention also that Morocco failed to appoint an Ambassador to Stockholm and the position is vacant for the past three years, and the same applies in the Moroccan embassy in Bern, Switzerland? Please read my extensive analysis on this topic in my previous analysis:
So, whom shall we blame for the Moroccan political and diplomatic blunders? The others who seek what will work best for their policies or shall we blame ourselves for letting the whole nation down?
Morocco mishandled the dossier of Sahara for decades, and we only reap what we sow. It does not take a genius to figure out that many are benefiting from the conflict and they are actually thriving from it. It is obvious and clear that all parties are making tons of money from the ongoing fruitless negotiations. Sahara is the milking cow or that chicken that ovulates golden eggs, so why bother finding a solution?!
Morocco possesses plenty of tools to turn the whole negotiations around and does not even need to convince the world of its rational and legitimate proposal. We should never bother to state the obvious; it is actually down to the world to put up with what is obvious. Does Morocco apply this? No, it does not!
The present is so uncertain due to the secrecy covering the handling of the dossier of Sahara and the immaturity and the improvisation of the Moroccan political and diplomatic decisions. It is obvious that Moroccan adversaries will use all their tools to promote their cause, and we should not blame them; it is a conflict and there are no rules for the game. The smarter and the hard worker shall win the ring and its audience.
The future is blurry due to the uncertainty of the present. How can we predict what the future will be holding if those handling the conflict are keeping their cards very close to their chests?! It seems that it is not Moroccans’ Sahara; it is rather their own Sahara and they do with it what pleases them. If it is the case, why not make it clear to all so we cease from engaging in defense of what they believe is theirs?! The King says one things, and he makes it clear that all Moroccans should be involved in defending their land, all their land. The entourage receives the orders, goes AWOL, and keeps the whole affair a top classified file. I, for one, do not know who the person in charge of the dossier is! I can assure you all that the dossier is bigger than the Minister of the Foreign Affairs, and he has no saying in it. This is a fact! So, who is in charge? As per people, every Moroccan was taught that Sahara is a Moroccan territory, and that is it! Were Moroccan taught the history of the Moroccan sovereignty over Sahara? No! Were they taught that not only Sahara is a Moroccan territory, but so is Tangiers, Oujda, and the rest of the country? No.
Let us be more rational and pragmatic in our approach. If Moroccans felt that, there was no double standards in how the government deals with Sahara and Sahraouis and favors them, maybe, and I say maybe, the manner with which Moroccans approach the whole conflict could have been different. Only those who benefit from the conflict are widely seen on media outlets and national and international forums, and with them those who have no idea what they are talking about, and just repeat what they were told naively. Yet, they all claim to be experts on Morocco and Sahara.
Is this how Morocco sees its diplomatic efforts and parallel-diplomacy that will better serve promoting its proposal? If the answer is yes, then the future is not only blurry; there will be no future at all, and future generations will live under the same status-quo we all live under since 1975.
Dr. Mourad Beni-ich
Political & Strategic Analyst
United States of America