18 June 2013

Western Sahara: The Inconvenient Uprising Nobody Wants to Talk or Hear About

London — The British digital common, Open Democracy has published yesterday, Monday, an article on the situation in Western Sahara where it affirmed that Western Sahara represents "the inconvenient uprising nobody wants to talk (or hear) about"

HICHAM YEZZA, the article's writer confirmed that "In Oct 2010 - before Tunisia, before Tahrir Square, before Occupy Wall Street and Gezi Park - was the Gdeim Izik protest camp in Western Sahara, the first, now forgotten, spark of the Arab Spring. For 28 days, thousands of Sahrawi men, women and children set up camp in the desert, a few miles outside the capital, Layyoune, in protest against Morocco's three-decades-long occupation, only to see their camp obliterated by Moroccan police and many of its organisers detained, allegedly tortured and sentenced to life in prison after speedy military court trials"

"And yet, in the three years since, despite hundreds of arrests, incarcerations, injuries, deaths, and countless systemic abuses, the international community's apparent indifference towards the Sahrawi question has remained largely unperturbed. While media headlines this month have been heavily dominated by the deepening tragedy in Syria and the street clashes in Turkey, there has been a virtual silence regarding the demonstrations - possibly the biggest in Western Saharan history - that have shaken the country these past few weeks". He added

He also said "Having been recognised by the UN as under Moroccan occupation since 1975, the Sahrawi people have been, for forty years, waiting for an independence that seems to be forever receding beyond the horizon of possibilities".

the article highlited that although "Western Sahara being on the United Nations' list of "non-self-governing territories" for decades, the UN's mission in the country, MINURSO, has so far been the only one of its kind in history not to include a human rights monitoring and reporting component, due to staunch Moroccan opposition.

Even more absurdly, Morocco has enjoyed the right to vet and amend the UN mission's reports before their publication. In April this year, the US floated a proposal for the annual UN Resolution renewing MINURSO's mandate to include an explicit Human Rights remit. The Moroccan response was swift and loud, marshalling the full extent of its diplomatic and political arsenal, including the cancellation of the 'African Lion' military training exercises it holds annually with the US. In the end, the strategy worked and the US relented, dropping its proposal, says Hicham

he recalled that "Although the resulting resolution, UNSC 2099 - passed by the UN Security Council on April 25 this year, retained significant references to human rights, less than 24 hours later protesters were brutally suppressed by Moroccan police, which was accused of using "excessive force" by the Amnesty International representative. A week later, on May 4, thousands of Sahrawis took to the streets - waving flags and chanting pro-independence slogans - to demonstrate against the occupation as well as the UN's meek surrender over UNSC 2099".

the article reported that Jenn Abelson recently put it in the Boston Globe, "Western Sahara is emerging as a case study on the limits of the international community's power to help a people win self-determination when they choose not to be violent, but to follow the rules."

Indeed, numerous activists, notably Aminatou Haidar, have warned that a new generation is fast running out of patience with this debilitating status-quo. Continuing prevarication and complacency on the part of the international community, they warn, could well see a catastrophic, possibly irrevocable, return to the pre-1991 era, noted the article

Hicham Yezza mentioned also that "As the African Union celebrates 50 years since its inception this year, it seems rather perverse that the continent is still afflicted with the most literal manifestation of colonialism. Until this stain is excised, Africa's Last Colony will remain a damning testament to yet another abject failure of the international community to stand up for principles over interests".

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