Algeria is distressed fearing the time when Morocco claims back the Tindouf region and strongly objects to Morocco setting a precedent by reuniting with its Southern Regions of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro. Whereas Morocco relies, with confidence, on historical facts on which it set the basis of its rightful claims. This was evident when King Hassan II took the initiative to engage in a diplomatic mission and moved swiftly to prove to the world he Kingdom’s case. In addition to history, Morocco relied on legal UN procedure using the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, UN Special Committee on Decolonisation of 1963, the UN General Assembly resolution 2072 (XX) of 17 December 1965, the General Assembly resolution 2229 (XXI) of 20 December 1966, and repeated each year from 1967 to 1973 and to the Moroccan final recourse to the ICJ through the UN resolution 3292 (XXIX), adopted by the UN General Assembly (with 87 votes in favour, 0 against and 43 abstentions) on 13 December 1974, asking the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on the matter. Morocco officially sought an opinion from the ICJ and provided all documents confirming Moroccan sovereignty over the Southern Regions for centuries. There is ample evidence of the Sahraoui population allegiance, the traditional Bay’a established first by the Awraba Amazigh Tribe to the Imam Idris I in the IXth century, a tradition that has been used ever since in all other regions of the Kingdom, whether considered Bled Siba (Secular territories) or Bled el Makhzen (Imamate territories), to their respective Moroccan sovereigns. They have also shown their engagement to the freedom of the region against the Spaniards in 1524, when Amazigh Saadyeen dynasty that included the Sahraoui population destroyed the Spanish shack set up in Fort de Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña. Their combat was indistinguishable from that of the rest of the Empire and Kingdom. They joined with the rest of the Moroccan Liberation Army to free Sidi Ifni, Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro, as recorded in many written documents. So the Sahara is in fact the origin of the birth place of Morocco as a nation-state, whether dating back to Idris I and his Awraba Wife Kenza or Her son Idris II or grandson Mohammed who created, with the advice of his Amazigh grandmother, the first federal state system in the world dividing the kingdom into 12 regions. It was on this basis that King Mohammed VI revived this principle at local and regional elections of 2015, as stipulated in the 2011 Constitution. In addition and to complete el Bay’a, Friday prayers and religious ceremonies were also celebrated in the name of the Grand Imam the Sultan or the Commander of the Faithful. The Royal Mint produced coins of the sultans being represented on the coinage in Morocco and were circulated throughout the empire bearing the image of their Monarch. The sultan contributed directly to the building of the Ribat in Smara which was initiated by Mae el Aynan in 1898 and the Sultan Abdelaziz also appointed him as the local Caid at the time. Mae el Aynan, contrary to some transliteration, should be understood as the man of Two Water Springs and not two eyes, as the word in Arabic for a spring or an eye is the same. The family never stopped fighting both the French and the Spaniards. And for this long historical struggle for the return of the region that Morocco has always felt in its Sahara and the Sahara in its Morocco, or as Hassan Alaoui writes, «Ce n’est pas l’effet d’une vision ou d’une allégorie, mais le Maroc tire ses origines, dira-t-on, du Sahara parce que, des siècles durant, ces provinces ont constitué le prolongement de sa vocation africaine que le colonialisme a baptisé empire chérifien avant de le battre en brèche. L’anachronisme qu’a constitué l’occupation espagnole du Sahara n’avait d’égale qu’une volonté de maintenir cahin-caha un empire en Afrique pour faire contrepoids à la France, au Portugal et à l’Angleterre»i. King Mohammed VI confirms this reality in the strongest terms in his speeches addressed particularly to the Algerians, the Polisario and their supporters when he said, “Morocco will remain in its Sahara, and the Sahara will remain part of Morocco, until the end of time.”
The unification of Morocco which ended the Arab Sunni Caliphate or Chi’a Imamate started in the Sahara when the Almoravid Sanhaja Imazighen chased out the Chi’a Arabs and created a Sunni-Maliki Moroccan Amazigh Empire that extended its rule to many regions of Africa and el Andalus, today’s Spain. It was left to the Zenata Almoravids to consolidate their achievement when they succeeded them in the XIth centuryii. Furthermore, under the first Alaoui reign of Moulay Ismail (14 April 1672 – 22 March 1727), the Moroccan empire remained strong in its Sahara and extended from the Moulouya River in the North East, and with the help of units from the great Tekna Sahraoui tribal confederation of Lamta Sanhaja Amazigh reached Timbuctoo in Mali and Dakar in Senegal. Ever since this campaign, the black Africans integrated further Morocco when a large number of them became part of Moulay Ismail’s army and were selected to form the first Moroccan Royal Guards and still part of the Royal Palace today, and the reverse is also true. In 1880, Hassan I ruled the empire from Tangier to Timbuktu, putting Western Sahara and Mauritania in the heart of his Empire, going further east to control all of the Algerian Sahara to the Sudanese Mali territories where many Moroccans settled and form part of the Malian population today. His empire was under threat when European colonialism and the policy of divergence, started to take strong action against humanity starting with the various Berlin Conferences from 1881 to 1885, followed by 1906 Algeciras Conference that sealed the fate of an Independent Morocco by turning it into a Protectorate Administration. This was reminiscent of the Entente Cordiale of 8 April 1904 which marked the end of the French-British conflicts that dates from at least Napoleon’s presence in Egypt. Its consequence resulted in the Pyke-Sykes Accords secretly signed on 16 May 1916 which was designed to divide for ever the Levant of today’s conflicts. The Europeans increased their aggressions in the Middle East and Africa when Morocco was well embedded in its Sahara. These points demonstrate clearly that Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara is historical, continuous and form an indivisible part of the whole. The Sahraoui Imazighen are the founders and consolidators of the Moroccan Empires throughout the history of Tamazgha, the original inhabitants of North Africa and the Sahel regions extending from Mauritania on the Atlantic to the Sudan on the Red Sea, spreading north to Egypt, covering thus all of North Africa including the Sahel regions which are part and parcel of this shared history. The Imazighen of North Africa including the Sahel, epitomise the early sedentarisation of Humanity that started some 10 000 years ago, making them culturally contemporary to Anatolia, Sumer and Egypt forming together the first world Civilisation we see today, but ironically hijacked and turned upside down to be called, by some short sighted scholars still living in colonial past history, as ‘Western Civilisation’iii. In addition, there are many other documents as the ones signed with Spain or the United Kingdom when Morocco paid a compensation to the British to free its territory occupied by Mackenzieiv, or the many wars fought in the region over the centuries, be it that of Ma el Aynan and Gouraud of 1908-1909 or that General Monier of 1910, few months before the death of Ma el Aynan in Tiznit on 23 October 1910. The war continued without any real interruption till the most modern and savage ground and air war using gas to cleanse the region, conducted during the ‘Operation Ecouvillon-Ouragan’, involving a coalition of the French and the Spaniards fighting against the Moroccan and Sahraoui Liberation Army (MLA) in 1958v. It is also worth mentioning that had the MLA received the support it needed from Rabat at the time, the outcome would have been different, just as had Abdelkrim received the support he needed from central Morocco, the balance of power would have been different and the occupying armies would have suffered the same effect as the Spanish army endured at the battle of Anoual or as Lyautey’s army experienced at the battle of Ouargha and Moroccan independence would have been achieved in 1920s and the question of Western Sahara would have ended there and then and would not be discussed today. This may be a pure speculation but with a lot of reasons to believe it.vi The other main mistake was made when the Moroccans negotiated the independence of half Morocco in the 1950s and not all of it, as Algeria later did with France insisting on the inclusion of the ‘Sahara Français’vii. The Istiqlal and other leaders were eager to get into power, reminiscent of the ‘Communist PPS’ headed by Benabdellah, is doing today by joining the Islamists. He was eager to retain his lucrative ministry of housing and became more interested in who should head such a ministry and not the interests of all Moroccans and got into an alliance with his half-brother Islamist fascist and Zionist extremist party, just as the ‘communist’ PPS was viewed by many in the past. This was the attitude adopted during the negotiations with France when many of the delegates, and not all, were eager to seize power in independent Morocco and rip the benefits by exchanging one colonial rule by another, as Frantz Fanon writes in his famous theory of violence or the reverse theory on colonialism and neo-colonialism, rather than securing the integrity of Historical Morocco. ‘In fact colonialism did not end immediately but just got transferred’ as Frantz Fanon maintains, “National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used of the new formulas introduced, decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon. At whatever level we study it – relationships between individuals, new name for sports clubs, the human admixture at cocktail parties, in the police, on the directing boards of national or private banks – decolonisation is quite simply the replacing of a certain “species” of men by another “species” of men. Without any period of transition, there is a total, complete, and absolute substitution.”’viii In fact, this substitution did not disappear with time as Fanon thought it would, but it became the norm after three generations of Makhzen and tribal rule that also coerced the Bled Siba into submission, though a secular Amazigh is becoming more and more vibrant and represent the only way out to achieving individual freedom and build a totally secular state for all. ‘Whereas Ben Barka based his concept of neo-colonialism on the continued colonial policies in the Third World after gaining independence. People had a very rudimentary notion of it, thinking that once foreign troops left the barracks, colonialism ended. Unlike Fanon in inverse theory of colonialism, Ben Barka believed, in fact, that real independence required a struggle for economic, social and cultural independenceix. This was no different to what Emile Roche, a French radical in support of French colonialism wrote in 1955 claiming that an independent state should be able to manage its own economic affairs as well as be able to balance its resources with its needs, but never specified when and who should determine the right time and conditions. He believed that the Moroccans were not yet ready to run their own affairs to grant them independence.x However, Abdelkrim Khatabi, the exiled President of the Rif Republic, condemned completely the negotiations that have taken place and opted for a total defeat of France if fought on all sides: from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco to Mauritania. This would have paralysed and defeated the coloniser, shortened the war in Algeria and saved many lives that were lost there, thus unifying the Maghreb in one Amazigh nation. He considered that one unified action involving the Amazigh Maghreb (Tamazgha) with the Arab Mashreq to include the rest of the so-called Arab League and Arab Nationalist Aspirations would achieve liberation. But the fact was that there are no Arabs and even el Hijaz and Nejd opted to be referred to as Saudis, and Islam itself left that country and moved to Sumer Abbasid Baghdad and Assyrian Omayyad Damascus, before they all vanished to oblivion under the Ottomans in 1517 and later the Ibn Saud reproduced instead an anti-Islam in Wahhabism of XVIIIth century. With this possible union, Abdelkrim predicted that France would have been defeated in Tamazgha and the Middle East, just as it was defeated in Indochina or in the Suez crisis few months later. Because of Fassi converts and their self-interest before national interest, Abdelkrim refused to return to Morocco and left instructions not to be buried there and when he died on 6 February 1963, his wishes were respected and his body is still in Egypt, where he felt, as a pure Amazigh, totally free.
It was only when the Istiqlal Party was marginalised after the adoption of the first Moroccan Constitution in 1962 and Allal el Fassi (IP) failed to share power with the King with his imported neo-Salafism from Egypt linked to the political Concept of “Arabness” that he started to act. He used the clothes of “Arabs” once more to deceive Moroccans when he knew that the First Constitution does not make any reference to an ‘Arab’ Morocco, other than the use of the Arabic language, though at the time the French language was the dominant language in use in all Moroccan administration, businesses and international relations as it is still the case today. Arabic is limited to sorcerers and soothsayers to chase the ‘Arab’ devil that inhabits the Arab body. As a result of his failures, he embarked at promoting Arabic which is only a skin-deep and seen as a foreign language by the majority of the original inhabitants of Morocco. As we have seen, even the Arabs of Saudi Arabia refuse to call themselves Arabs but Saudis. The Arab concept did not reflect the inspiration of the Amazigh people or promote their culture and political power sharing, and even the people of the Hijaz and Nejd consider themselves Saudis and not ‘Arabs’. In addition, they rejected the Hanbali School that was originally accepted and followed in the Arabic speaking Kingdom of el Hijaz and Nejd until the country became the property of Ibn Saud family and opted for a new Wahhabi school which was not part of the original Four Sunni Schools. El Fassi, a converted Iberian Christian to Islam, was against restoring the legitimate rights of the Original inhabitants to have access to their language Amazigh, set against multi-party systems in Morocco and became a thorn to other more liberal parties receiving the attention of the King and devised schemes to secure favours from the Palace, by using tactics to divert attentionxi. After his failure, he started to claim the Greater Morocco, the same tactic the Istiqlal is doing under Chabat, an Awraba Bransa amazigh from Taza, by claiming back, and rightly so, the historical right to return Tindouf, but lip service is paid to liberate Ceuta, Melilla and other islands or the Amazigh Gouaches of the Canary Islands or promote Amazigh language and culture that dominate innovation in Morocco, as there is no Arab culture in Morocco other than Islam, which universal and left Mecca immediately after the death of the Prophet.xii
The ICJ and Moroccan Claim
Morocco has been involved with the UN since the adoption of the UN Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, especially Paragraph 6 which rejects any action which disrupts the territorial integrity of a pre-colonial state. It was on the basis of this resolution that Morocco added the question of the Moroccan Western Sahara to the UN list of territories to be decolonised in 1965. Furthermore, Morocco excluded the inclusion of the Western Sahara from the agreement reached at the Organisation of African Union of the Cairo declaration of 21 July 1964, (Resolution AHG/R.S. 16).xiii The Moroccan claim does not start from these dates but it is eternal, as Western Sahara is Morocco and not the other way around, especially since the Sanhaja Sahraoui Almoravid Dynasty founded the Nation-State of Morocco, from the heart of the Sahara extending to Tangiers, Europe, North Africa and West Africa including the Sahel. However, the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation of 1963 declared that Western Sahara a “non-self-governing territory to be decolonised” in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, and ever since the UN repeated its calls requesting Spain to decolonise the Territory in accordance with the General Assembly resolution 2072 (XX) of 17 December 1965. After the failure of the repeated calls made by the General Assembly resolution 2229 (XXI) of 20 December 1966, and repeated each year from 1967 to 1973, the situation between Morocco and Spain became tense. As a result of the seriousness of the affair, the Spanish government finally responded favourably to the UN’s request to hold a referendum. It was only in 1973 that Spain conducted a census in order to hold such a referendum in the Western Sahara, when the conflict between Morocco and Spain was at its peak. It was this census that provided in December 1974 the number of the Sahraoui people in the Sahara making a total population of 73,497 inhabitants.
Both France and the US supported Spanish proposals in the UN, but in December 1974, they voted with Morocco, in favour of resolution 3292 (XXIX) acknowledging the need for consultation with the ICJ at The Hague. France, from the very beginning of the Saharan conflict of the 1970s, adopted a policy of understanding and sympathy for the Moroccan claim. France also made some efforts to bring together Spain, Mauritania and Morocco, the main parties involved in the dispute and the solution, as Algeria was not an involved party in the conflict. The issue coincided with a period of very good relations and friendship between France and Morocco in general, and at personal level between Hassan II and Giscard in particular. The latter gave signs to the Government of Morocco, on his official visit to that country from 3 to 6 May 1975, that the Quai d’Orsay would make available to the Kingdom all its documentation on the Sahara in order to support the Moroccan case at the ICJ. In his press conference of 6 May 1975, Giscard declared in Rabat that he was: “très favorable à des conversations directes entre les principales parties intéressées”.xiv
It is on these historical facts and many others outlined above that Morocco based its claim as prescribed on the UN Charter guaranteeing the unity of pre-colonial territories. George Joffé writes: “Moroccan claims on the region are based on UN Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960, particularly on Paragraph 6 which rejects any action which disrupts the territorial integrity of a pre-colonial state.”33 Morocco and Mauritania prepared the ground and unified their actions which were agreed by Boumediene at the Arab Leaders conference meeting in October 1974 and agreed to present their case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. They finally submitted it to the ICJ to give an advisory opinion to the UN on the Sahara question.34 The ICJ had to look into “resolution 3292 (XXIX), adopted by the UN General Assembly (with 87 votes in favour, 0 against and 43 abstentions) on 13 December 1974.”35 The Court agreed on 9 January 1975 to look into the questions raised by the General Assembly and give an advisory opinion and not a judgement on the following two questionsxv:
I. Was Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet el Hamra) at the time of colonisation by Spain a territory belonging to no one (nullius)
And should the majority opinion be “no”, the following would be addressed:
II. What were the legal ties between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mauritanian entity?
The Court gave its decision on 16 October 1975.xvi It was ambiguous giving satisfaction to everyone and justice to none. The compromise judgement rendered was that:xvii «The Court decided by a vote of 14 to two that it would decide. It was of the opinion, by 14 votes to two, that there were legal ties of allegiance between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco. Furthermore, it was of opinion, by 15 votes to one, that there were legal ties between this territory and the "Mauritanian entity". However, the Court defined the nature of these legal ties in the penultimate paragraph of its opinion, and declared that neither legal tie implied sovereignty or rightful ownership over the territory. These legal ties also did not apply to “self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.”xviii Joffé writes that:
The Court found that, although there were legal ties between the populations of the Western Sahara and Morocco, these did not amount to territorial sovereignty. Indeed, as has been discussed elsewhere, the inherent contradictions between Islamic concepts of state sovereignty and those current in international law would have made it surprising if the Court had reached any other conclusion.xix
The Hague judgement showed clearly that the Bay’a principle, established in Morocco by the Amazigh Awraba Prince in 788 referred to earlier, an Islamic tradition of a quarter of the world’s population was not significant to the ICJ. Nevertheless, the Moroccan Government interpreted the Hague judgement as supporting their historical claim to the territory, and therefore considered the issue as settled and for Hassan II to organise a mass march to enter its Moroccan southern regions.