-Moroccan diplomats should embrace President Obamas’ UN ambassador in waiting. Samantha Power, a human rights activist familiar with Africa, is likely to entertain Morocco’s grievances regarding the U.N. slow action investigating human rights abuses in the Sahrawi Camps of Tindouf, Algeria. The challenge, however, remains Moroccan diplomats’ difficulties in articulating their government’s messages and policies. Moroccans, home and around the world, wonder if their present delegates to UN are up to the challenge. Yet, this nomination presents Rabat with the opportunity to start fresh in New York.
Since President Obama made changes to his foreign policy team and in view of the fact that the issue of human rights in the Western Sahara will come up at the UN again, Moroccan officials in Rabat ought to consider changes to their strategy in New York. With Susan Rice at the head of the National Security Council and Samantha Power at the UN, the Moroccan foreign ministry has no choice but to undertake drastic policy changes. If not, the status quo will amount to diplomatic suicide with far reaching consequences.
To placate Power’s progressive and advocacy driven brand of leadership, Moroccan officials need to do a better job documenting cases of human right abuses in the Tindouf camps, including Algeria’s role in warehousing an unknown number of civilians and depriving them of the right to free movement.
More importantly, Rabat has to stay consistent and unwavering in its messages. Moroccan delegates should focus on the cases of “Moroccan citizens of Saharan heritage being held hostages in Tindouf.” Families of Sahrawis living against their will in Algeria should appeal to Ms. Power who champions humanitarian intervention.
Moroccans should be undaunted when it comes to asking for international and independent access to refugees in Southwestern Algeria. They must argue that it is essential for the UN and the US to know who lives in the camps and under what social and political conditions.
If Ms. Power stays true to her illustrious doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Sahrawis should appeal to her to save the refugee population of Tindouf. In fact, the US government has the moral obligation to investigate claims of political persecution of dissidents to the Polisario (Algeria backed Western Saharan separatist armed group) leadership.
Having criticized the United Nations for subsidizing peacekeeping mission that have been around for years without progress, the Harvard-trained Power is likely to reproach the failures of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to hold a referendum . Thus, Morocco must stress, early on in the debate, the true reasons behind the endless renewals of the MINURSO missions.
Despite all the criticisms aimed at its policies, Morocco has kept its Sahara open to independent and unbiased observers. On the other hand Algeria has repeatedly denied NGO’s requests to visit the Tindouf camps under the pretext of military restrictions. If” a number of obscure issues will gain sponsorship at the highest level of government with Rice and Power in position to influence President Obama” as an American observer predicts, then the US role in freeing the thousands of civilian in Tindouf should on the menu.
Morocco’s human rights progress in the Sahara remains unknown to policy makers in New York and Washington. While more needs to be done to further liberties in the realm of free expression, Moroccan Sahrawis, with no connections to foreign powers, have more rights than ever before. And yet, the UN and the US mission have failed to take notice.
In reading Samantha Power’s “biography” and publications, Moroccan diplomats should be able to foresee the nature of her diplomatic approach. As a defender of the oppressed and the persecuted, the future U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is inclined to view the Western Sahara conflict as a case of an “indigenous people fighting an outside oppressor.” If that is the case, then the Moroccan diplomacy should prepare for an uphill battle to change the hearts and the minds of the new American team at the UN.
However, if Rabat takes the initiative and pre-actively implement the U.N. Secretary General recommendations, as highlighted in his last report on the Western Sahara, Ms. Power will approach the Moroccan positions in a progressive and constructive manner. Moroccan diplomatic missions should communicate and relay in a clear manner their government’s achievement and future plans in the Sahara. In few instances, officials stumbled to convey facts regarding pro-Algeria elements fermenting violence in the Saharan cities of Laayoune and Smara.
Ambassador to be Power, who witnessed unimaginable atrocities in the Balkans during the Bosnia war, will take, without doubt, interest in the plight of the Sahrawi population. The question is: which version of the Western Sahara dossier would she ponder?
The answer lays with the Moroccan envoys in New York and Washington. Their diplomatic presentations will determine the success of the Moroccan positions which are evident and yet “hard” to depict. Ms. Power, known for her resolve and compassion, will assess all perspectives as long as they are thoughtful and ethical. While she believes in giving a human rights dimension to the US foreign policy, Power understands the virtues of real politics.
Foreign policy experts predict changes at the US mission in the UN under Power, while Moroccan observers have noticed no adjustments in Morocco’s diplomatic actions and approaches in reaction to this selection. Rabat should learn from the ”Susan Rice” incident and propose fresh initiatives and bold actions.
Written by Hassan Masiky