Against the recent eruption of violence in Western Sahara and the ongoing occupation
Dear Chairwoman Woodward, dear Secretary-General Guterres, dear members of the Security Council, we, the Executive Committee of the German party DIE LINKE, on behalf of its more than 60,000 party members, express our great concern about the recent eruption of violence in Western Sahara and the 46-year occupation of the resource-rich territory by the Kingdom of Morocco.
In November 2020, Morocco broke the ceasefire agreement negotiated with the Sahrawi liberation movement Frente Polisario 29 years earlier. Previously, Sahrawi activists peacefully blocked a trade route that passes through the neutral buffer zone between the occupied territories of Western Sahara and Mauritania. On 13 November, the Moroccan military illegally entered the buffer zone near Guerguerat in the south to evict the Sahrawi demonstrators and at the same time to construct a new extension of the separation wall in the neutral area. This is a clear violation of the 1991 Settlement Plan and the 1997/98 Military Agreement No. 1, both of which prohibit any military presence in the buffer zone. A day later, as an act of self-defence, the Frente Polisario declared war on Morocco. The Polisario attacked Moroccan positions behind the 2,720-kilometre-long continuously mined separation barrier and is still continuing to do so. The unresolved conflict in Africa's last colony threatens to escalate into open war.
We call on all UN member states, the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council to work towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. We call on them to stand by the side of the Sahrawi people and, after 46 years of Moroccan occupation, to stand up for their right to self-determination as enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter and the two UN human rights Covenants of 1966.
In April 1991, after 16 years of disastrous war, the UN mission MINURSO was established through UN Security Council Resolution 690. The prime aim of the mission is to organize a referendum on the independence of Western Sahara. This goal has not been achieved to the present day. Since 2002, the referendum has not even been mentioned anymore in the respective UNSC resolutions to extend the MINURSO mandate, even though such a referendum is the key to a peaceful settlement of the Western Sahara conflict. In order to transform MINURSO into a real peace mission, we call on the Security Council to include the following demands in the follow-up mandate after the current MINURSO mandate will expire on 31 October 2021:
- resumption of the demand for “a free, fair and impartial referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara” (cf. UNSC resolution 973, 1995)
- creation of a specific roadmap for holding the referendum no later than one year after passing the resolution
- extension of the mandate to document human rights violations and relevant international law and protection of the Sahrawi population
- implementation of a comprehensive demining mission along the 2,720-kilometre-long separation barrier and its surrounding areas
After Horst Köhler resigned from the office of UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara in April 2019, there is an urgent need to restaff this position as soon as possible in order to revive the peace negotiations.
On the UN list of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories (“colonies”), Western Sahara is by far the largest and most populous. The UN Charter states in Article 73 that the interests of the people of non-self-governing territories must always take precedence over those of the administrative power: “to promote to the utmost […] the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories” is the “sacred trust” of the administrative power, which explicitly includes economic development. In 2001, in resolution 56/74, the UN General Assembly urged the administrative powers “to ensure that the economic activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories under their administration do not adversely affect the interests of the peoples but instead promote development” and reaffirmed “the inalienable rights of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to their natural resources”. And in January 2002, the then Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell, stated unequivocally in a binding legal opinion that the exploitation of the resources of Western Sahara without consultation and against the interests and benefits of the Sahrawi people was contrary to international law.
Morocco exploits various resources in the Western Sahara which constitutes a violation of numerous international treaties, resolutions and expert opinions. Central collaborators and thus beneficiaries of this violation of international law are the EU and a large number of European corporations. For example, Siemens and Continental are significantly involved in the exploitation of the Bou Craa phosphate mine, the largest phosphate deposit in the world. Siemens, the Italian company Enel and the French company Voltalia are planning the construction of entirely new wind farms in highly profitable large-scale projects. HeidelbergCement, ThyssenKrupp, DHL, Schenker as well as French, Finnish, Spanish or Swiss companies are involved in a large number of infrastructure, agricultural or energy projects in Western Sahara without the Sahrawi people benefiting from them.
Internationalism, solidarity between the peoples and the worldwide establishment of sustainable peace are at the centre of our value system. We stand in solidarity with the Sahrawi people who suffer from exploitation and oppression and appeal to the world community to work hard towards an end to the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Asserting the right to self-determination in Western Sahara can only be achieved with united forces and with the great commitment of the UN. No more time must pass and no more people must fall victim to the military conflict. The time to act is now!
Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger for the Party Executive Committee of DIE LINKE