King Mohammed VI identifies anomalies over the management of Western Sahara Conflict

King Mohammed VI of Morocco delivered a speech to the Moroccan people on the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the Green March, which allowed Morocco to recover its sovereignty over the so-called Western Sahara.

With a forthright language, King Mohammed VI reaffirmed Morocco’s determination not to cede an iota of its territory over the “Western Sahara,” and called on the United Nations and the United States to clarify their positions on the conflict.

The International Community:

While recalling that Morocco has shown readiness and good faith in solving the territorial disputed based on a spirit of compromise and a win-win approach, he emphasized that Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory is “not negotiable.”

“It must be emphasized, however, that Morocco’s sovereignty over its entire territory is effective, inalienable and non-negotiable,” the King said.

The sovereign stressed that the autonomy plan, presented by Morocco to the Security Council in April 2007, is “all Morocco can offer” in terms of negotiations with the Polisario, adding that any deviation from the political process or an approach that doesn’t respect the terms of Moroccan sovereignty over the ‘Western Sahara’ would undermine the United Nations action.

“The autonomy initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer in terms of negotiation to achieve a final solution to this regional conflict,” he noted.

Echoing the Moroccan government’s concerns over the attempts made by the Polisario, Algeria and their supporters to expand the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Organization of the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights, the Moroccan monarch emphasized that he rejects any such attempts.

“No’ to any attempt to reconsider the principles and criteria of the negotiation process, or any attempt to revise and expand the MINURSO mandate to include such matters as the supervision of the human rights situation,” he said.

In this regard, he called on the United Nations to clearly determine the way in which it intends to address the issue moving forward and avoid any deviation from its core mandate in the conflict.

While he valued the “positive role” played by the United States in finding a political solution to the conflict, he stressed that its position on the conflict remains ambiguous. He, therefore, called on the American administration to clearly define its position.

“While valuing their support for Morocco’s efforts and for the negotiating process on the basis of the autonomy initiative, I am calling, today, for a clear position concerning this conflict,” he noted.

“At a time when they reaffirm that Morocco is a model for democratic development, an influential state in ensuring security and stability in the region and a partner in the fight against terrorism, there is some ambiguity in the way they deal with the question of its territorial integrity,” he added.

While the United States has often expressed its support to the UN-led political process to achieve a political and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict, it never clearly showed a clear support to the Moroccan stance.

“We continue to consider as serious, realistic and credible the autonomy proposal made by Morocco to settle the dispute”, has been the same statement repeated by every U.S official in recent years, be it President Barack Obama, Secretary of State, John Kerry, or the US Ambassador to Morocco, Dwight Bush, last month.

The US ambiguity on the conflict was in display in April 2013 when the then US Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, presented a draft resolution to the Security Council that contained a provision calling for the expansion of the mandate MIUNRSO to include a human rights monitoring mechanism.

This provision was finally dropped from the draft resolution following a diplomatic campaign led by Morocco to avert such scenario.

Algeria: A main party in the conflict

On this concern, The King of Morocco made clear that  “there will be no solution” to the Western Sahara conflict without Algeria. King Mohammed VI called therefore Algeria to fulfill its responsibility as the main party in this conflict.

The Domestic ground:

In this strongly-worded speech, the King said that the question of this disputed territory is the issue of every Moroccan citizens, that it is an existential issue for Moroccans, adding that it will remain Moroccan “until the end of time.”

“The Sahara is not an issue for Saharan people only. The Sahara is the cause of all Moroccans. As I said in an earlier speech: the Sahara is a crucial, existential issue, not just a question about borders,” the king emphasized.

“Morocco will remain in its Sahara, and the Sahara will remain part of Morocco, until the end of time,” he added.

While renewing Morocco’s determination to defend its rights over territory against all odds, he recalled all the sacrifices the Moroccan people have made in order to preserve this part of the country and allow the Saharawis to lead a dignified life.

“In addition to the lives given for the Sahara, Moroccans have made other forms of sacrifice – moral and material – for the development of the southern provinces, sharing whatever they had with their brothers and sisters in the south,” the King said.

This statement was a clear message directed to those who support Polisario and Algeria’s claims that Morocco is exploiting the natural resources of the ‘Western Sahara’ to the detriment of its population.

The Moroccan king recalled the situation that prevailed in the territory when Spain ceded it to Morocco in 1975 and its situation at the economic and infrastructure levels nowadays. He pointed a fact that many overlook when they accuse Morocco of exploiting the wealth of the ‘Western Sahara.’ He recalled that not only Morocco doesn’t benefit from the alleged wealth of the territory, but that latter has rather constituted a burden for the Moroccan people, who had to pay from their own pocket to contribute to its development.

“It is a fact that what is produced in the Sahara is not even enough to meet the basic needs of its population. Let me say this, in all sincerity: Moroccans have borne the cost of developing the southern provinces. They have paid out of their own pockets and given from the earnings intended for their children so that their brothers in the south may lead a dignified life as humans,” the King underscored.

“Since we recovered the Sahara, for every single dirham of revenue from the Sahara, the state invests 7 dirhams there, as part of the solidarity between the regions and between the sons and daughters of the nation.”

To back his statement, the Moroccan monarch made a comparison between the human development indicators in the region in 1975 and nowadays, as well as between the Saharawi cities and the rest of Morocco.

In this regard, he said that while human development indicators were 6% lower in the Sahara than in northern in Morocco, they are now above the national average.

“Today, those indicators are much higher in the southern provinces than the national average. Therefore, let me say this, loud and clear: stop spreading false allegations that Morocco is exploiting the region’s wealth,” he said.

By African Bulletin