Saharawi President: Sahrawi people will take measures to defend their legitimate rights, and expect concrete actions from the UN to decolonise Western Sahara

Bir Lehlou (Saharawi Republic) 10 September 2020 (SPS)- The President of the Saharawi Republic and Secretary General of Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, affirmed in a letter to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, that the “Saharawi people are determined to take the necessary measures to defend their legitimate rights”, stressing that they expect the UN “to bring to a successful conclusion the decolonisation of the last colony in Africa”.

The letter delivered to Gutteres on Tuesday also reveals Saharawi people’s frustration from the UN inaction and failure to implement the mandate of its Mission, in addition to its tolerance of Moroccan obstacles to peace.

Following is the complete text of the letter, which was also handed to the President of the Security Council to be published as an official document of the Council:

H.E. Mr António Guterres          

Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations, New York

Bir Lehlou, 7 September 2020

Mr Secretary-General,

Twenty-nine years have passed since the establishment of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by Security Council resolution 690 (1991) to implement the UN-OAU Settlement Plan that was accepted by both parties, the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, in August 1988 and approved by the Security Council in its resolutions 658 (1990) and 690 (1991).

As you are aware, the essential aim of the UN-OAU Settlement plan consists in achieving “a just and definitive solution of the question of Western Sahara in conformity with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) by means of a ceasefire and the holding of a referendum without military or administrative constraints to enable the people of Western Sahara, in the exercise of their right to self-determination, to choose between independence and integration with Morocco” (S/21360; para 1). In line with the UN-OAU Settlement Plan, the UN Observer Group to be established to monitor the implementation of the peace plan “will function in accordance with the general principles applicable to United Nations peace-keeping operations” (ibid, para 20).

The United Nations however has so far failed in implementing the mandate for which MINURSO was created, and thus successfully completing the decolonisation of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa. What is even worse is that both the United Nations and MINURSO have all along maintained a deafening silence in the face of Morocco’s continued annexationist actions whose aim is to impose a fait accompli by force in the occupied Western Sahara and to undermine the legal status of the Territory as a Non-Self-Governing Territory pending decolonisation.

Moreover, the United Nations has chosen to turn a blind eye as Morocco persists in its actions aimed to undermine the exclusive international nature of MINURSO and to handicap the operational capacity of the Mission to implement its mandate. Morocco continues to impose the use of Moroccan vehicle number plates on MINURSO vehicles and it insists on affixing Moroccan stamps on the passports of MINURSO personnel upon their entry to and exit from Western Sahara. Morocco also refuses to allow MINURSO access to any local interlocutors in occupied Western Sahara, which handicaps the Mission in the implementation of its mandate, as highlighted in numerous reports of the UN Secretary-General.

Mr Secretary-General,

When the Frente POLISARIO decided to accept the ceasefire in 1991, it was—and is still—predicated on the full implementation of the UN-OAU Settlement Plan for which MINURSO was exclusively established. For the Frente POLISARIO, the ongoing ceasefire is an integral part of an integrated package deal, namely the UN-OAU Settlement Plan, which was accepted officially by both parties, the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, and approved by the Security Council in its relevant resolutions. The ceasefire, therefore, can never be considered as a separate arrangement from the UN-OAU Settlement Plan or an end in itself, but only as a means to create the necessary conditions for implementing the peace plan whose ultimate goal is the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara in line with the terms of the UN-OAU Settlement Plan.

The failure of the UN Secretariat and the Security Council to act robustly to end Morocco’s deliberate attempts to torpedo the mandate of MINURSO and to forcibly entrench and “normalise” its illegal occupation of parts of our country has severely undermined the credibility of the UN and deepened the loss of faith amid the Sahrawi people in the already fragile UN peace process. In this context, following the adoption of Security Council resolution 2494 (2019) on 30 October 2019, the Frente POLISARIO announced that it was left with no option but to reconsider its engagement in the UN peace process that has been drastically deviated from its agreed course. In our letter  (S/2020/66) dated 28 December 2019, we outlined a series of urgent actions that both the UN Secretariat and the Security Council, acting within the scope of their respective responsibilities, should adopt to restore the confidence of the Sahrawi people in the UN peace process.

In our letter, we also emphasised the need to ensure the independence and impartiality of MINURSO, which entails that the Mission should treat both parties equally. It is utterly unacceptable that, because of Morocco’s policy of blackmail, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of MINURSO and other senior officials of the Mission cannot meet with the Frente POLISARIO in the Liberated Territories of Western Sahara, despite the existence of documented evidence that former SRSGs had held meetings with the Frente POLISARIO in those areas. We regret that neither the UN Secretariat nor the Security Council has taken any action in this regard.

In concluding, after twenty-nine years since the entry into force of the UN-OAU Settlement Plan and the ceasefire, the Sahrawi people are determined to take the necessary measures to defend their legitimate rights and to ensure that MINURSO fulfils its mandate and functions in line with the general principles applicable to UN peace-keeping operations. What we expect from the United Nations, therefore, is to see concrete and serious actions made towards the full and rigorous implementation of the peace plan by enabling our people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence, thus bringing to a successful conclusion the decolonisation of the last colony in Africa.

I would be grateful if you would bring this letter to the attention of the Members of the Security Council.

Please accept, Mr Secretary-General, the assurances of my highest consideration. 

Brahim Ghali

President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO". (SPS)

090/500/60 (SPS)