Intense debate on Western Sahara in the Committee of 24

New York, 25/06/2015 (SPS).- The examination of the question of Western Sahara in the UN Decolonization Committee was characterized by numerous interventions defending international legality in Western Sahara, a conflict that almost 40 years.

Swift action must be taken to end the “dangerous status quo” in Western Sahara and to finally grant independence to the “last African colony”, the Special Committee of 24 heard today, as it approved five draft resolutions on a range of items on its agenda.
“This is the last African colony to be decolonized,” Ahmed Boukhari, a representative of the Frente Polisario, told the Special Committee — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.  He implored the Committee to “awaken from its long sleep”.
In the face of the people’s decades-long wait for the right to self-determination, the United Nations annual renewal of Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was “financing the extension of a stalemate”, he said, urging action to conduct the plebiscite, which had been on hold since 1992.
Delegates shared their views and concerns, with speakers calling on Morocco to extend all efforts to move the process forward.  Colonialism was illegal, some pointed out, insisting that the question of Western Sahara must be resolved as quickly as possible in order to uphold the people’s right to self-determination.  Algeria’s representative emphasized that “it is high time to give peace a chance”.
Taking up a report on the “Question of Western Sahara” (document A/AC.109/2015/2), the Committee began a discussion on the issue.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said in the Third Decade aimed at eradicating colonialism the international community had repeatedly called for the right of the Saharan people to self-determination and independence.  That aim had yet to be fulfilled and action must be taken.  The African Union had made efforts to ensure progress in that area and he hoped the process would advance towards that goal.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said his delegation hoped the negotiating process begun by the United Nations would be renewed.  The process would be successful if Morocco ended its delaying tactics, as those obstacles had continued the occupation of its territory.  Human rights groups had reported violations, he said, adding that thousands of refugees had suffered from hunger, displacement and separation from their families.  Expressing support for the people, he hoped the process would resolve outstanding issues.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) said his country supported the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, based on international law.  The African Union’s Peace and Security Council decision focused on close cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations, he noted, adding that Cuba contributed to efforts aimed at helping the people, including through education programmes.
LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia) said the conflict in Western Sahara was a decolonization issue, and noted that the most recent round of talks had not led to any results.  He hoped that a solution compatible with the United Nations Charter would be found in the near future.  He reaffirmed the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, and supported all efforts of the United Nations to those ends.
VANDI CHIDI MINAH (Sierra Leone) said that the question of Western Sahara was one of the most difficult in Africa.  The two sides, Morocco and the people of Western Sahara, were determined to resolve the issue through negotiations.  The African Union was also seized of the matter, and efforts were under way to push the parties to negotiate and reach a settlement that was sustainable and acceptable to all parties.  His country would continue to support those efforts, including by asking the Security Council to be more proactive in finding a solution.  The Special Committee should support all efforts geared towards that end.
AGUSTÍN FORNEL (Ecuador) rejected the fact that in the twenty-first century, colonialism — which impeded peace and development — still existed.  The Third International Decade should put an end, once and for all, to the need for such work.  In that respect, he urged the full cooperation of all colonial Powers with the work of the Special Committee.  On Western Sahara, which had claimed its people’s inalienable right to self-determination, he said that it was solely up to the Saharan people to express their desires.  The question of Western Sahara was clearly an issue of decolonization.  Colonialism in all of its manifestations was a denial of fundamental human rights, he said, urging the parties involved to continue to seek an agreement on the question of Western Sahara.
Taking the floor, AHMED BOUKHARI, representative of the Frente Polisario, said that Western Sahara had been a Spanish colony that was invaded by Morocco in 1975.  “It is an affront for Africa to have this persistent colonial case,” he said, adding that Frente Polisario had repeatedly appealed to the Special Committee to take action.  “This is the last African colony to be decolonized,” he said, adding, “we are facing a dangerous status quo.”
Twenty-three years had passed, he said, since a referendum on the status of Western Sahara had been blocked by Morocco.  That country held a position of “intransigence”, which was the reason why the decolonization process had not progressed.  Indeed, Moroccan obstruction — with the “unconcealed support” of France — was enabled by the United Nations, whose annual renewal of the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was “financing the extension of a stalemate”.  In addition, the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Saharan people had been ongoing for more than 40 years.  Morocco refused to receive the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and sought to prolong the process in the hope that the issue would be forgotten.
The recent Summit of the African Union had adopted a text appealing to the General Assembly to set a date for the resolution of the question of Western Sahara.  The Saharan people were frustrated at United Nations inaction, he said, urging the Special Committee to show that the Organization was active on the matter.  He also asked it to visit the Territory of Western Sahara, which he said would be welcomed by Member States in good faith.  “This Committee must awaken from its long sleep,” he said, adding that “the Saharawi people invite you and await you”.
EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa) said that his delegation believed in the legitimate right of people living under colonialism to exercise their right to self-determination.  To not recognize the Saharawi Republic would be to be complicit in denying the Saharawi people those rights, he said.  The continuous colonial occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco constituted a threat to the credibility of the Special Committee.  It was regrettable that, following four decades of efforts, no proposal had been able to break the impasse between the two parties.  The Africa Union Special Envoy for Western Sahara had taken various relevant actions, such as establishing a Contact Group on Western Sahara in order to ensure sustained high-level attention to the issue.  In addition, the African Union Peace and Security Council had proposed a global boycott of products made with resources exploited from Western Sahara.  Finally, he called on the Special Committee to undertake a visit to that Territory.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said with regard to the “last colony in Africa”, the conflict was a decolonization issue.  The United Nations must ensure the implementation of the principle of self-determination pursuant to its Charter.  Calling for the immediate resolution of the issue, he said that his delegation was deeply frustrated and concerned at the absence of progress.  General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice opinion called for action, he said, adding, “it is high time to give peace a chance”.  He urged the organization, without delay, of a referendum on self-determination.
Turning to human rights, he said it was the duty of the international community to monitor the situation.  As for the exploitation of natural resources, he said exploration activities were in violation of international law with regard to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  All Security Council resolutions had reaffirmed the body’s commitment to the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, while calling on Morocco to immediately withdraw.  The African Union had also taken a strong stand on the situation, and he hoped that reason would prevail in settling the issues.  Algeria would never forego its stand on self-determination, he concluded.
Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said that his country was an official observer of the peace process.  He invited the Committee to visit the region to hear directly from the people in Tindouf and Western Sahara.

Source : United Nations