Friday, August 19, 2005

Polisario releases last Moroccan POWs

The Western Sahara is one of the world's forgotten conflicts. When the Spanish colonizers left the territory in 1976, it was annexed by both Morocco and Mauritania. By 1979, the Mauritanians withdrew and Moroccans now occupy the entire territory and claim it as its own. The occupation provoked a long independence struggle by the armed group the Polisario Front. Self-determination is supported by a civilian group known by its French acronym ARSO, which wants a referendum.

(Part of me has always wondered why the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza long provoked vicious hostility and was used as the excuse for anti-Israeli vitriol but other regional occupations like Syria of Lebanon and Morocco of the Western Sahara, barely registered on Arab consciousness)

The Moroccan regime has long resisted calls for a self-determination referendum because it knows it would lose. I suppose if I'd lived under oppressive foreign occupation for nearly 20 years, I wouldn't be too friendly toward my occupiers either.

Yet, the Morrocan regime is also ham-strung by the fact that the Western Sahara has become such a cause for nationalist elements that the very survival of the country's monarchy might be threatened if the king ever agreed to Saharawi independence.

A provisional Western Sahara government proclaimed the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (known by its French acronym RASD).

The Moroccan annexation has never been recognized internationally and has even been explicitly rebuked by both the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council. However the RASD government was admitted to the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) in 1984. Morocco promptly resigned from the OAU in protest and has never joined the AU.

Resolution to the conflict has long resisted international efforts at mediation, largely due to Morocco's refusal to agree to a fair referendum. The kingdom wants its own manipulated voter rolls used as the basis for such a vote while the Saharawi want a fair census conducted by outside observers.

However, despite the impasse, there has been a positive step recently. This week, the Polisario unilaterally release the last Moroccan prisoners of war it was holding. Hopefully, the Moroccans will respond with a similiar gesture of good faith. But given the domestic pressure on the monarchy to not cede an inch, it's hard to fathom where any progress on the conflict can be made.

6 Comments:

At 4:36 AM, Blogger sokari said...

Syria was never an occupying force in Lebanon and it is a gross misinterpretation of facts to compare the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon to that of occupied Palestine or the Western Sahara. It wasnt until the murder of Lebanese PM Hariri that the western media began to use the term "occupation" to describe the Syrian presence. This simply being propaganda and a means to justify a possible western (US) intervention in that country.

How you can even hestitate on the occupation of Palestine by Israel I cannot begin to imagine. Do you not read history. Frankly I am shocked that you write such things. FYI the "Wall" in Morocco that separates the autonomous region of WS was built by the Israelis. I suppose they built it as a practice for their own wall. The world is not so simple as to break it down in Arab/non Arab, good/evil and using such simplistic explanations compeltely distorts the truth.

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Owukori,
First, I did not 'hesitate' on the occupation of Palestine by Israel, whatever 'hestitate' means in this context. I oppose the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. No hesitation there, madam. Only someone looking for an argument could see an approval of the Israeli occupation in my comments.

If by 'hesitation,' you mean I call attention to the fact that the Israeli occupation is not the ONLY occupation in the world (besides Iraq)... I'm sorry if pointing out the obvious 'shocks' you but you'll have to deal with this.

Syria was an occupying force for Lebanon for a long time; many human rights organizations and other interested groups have pointed this out for a long time. It's only recently that the western media has bothered to notice.

If Syria was not an occupying force in Lebanon, then US is not an occupying force in Iraq. Frankly, I buy neither contention.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Yes, Syria had thousands of troops in Lebanon purely out of the goodness of its heart. It was in no way designed to protect the puppet government it set up. Hariri was fine so long as he accepted Syrian dominance but as soon as the former PM and much of the rest of Lebanon started questioning it, he was mysteriously gunned down. And those huge demonstrations of Lebanese demanding Syrian withdrawal? Oh yes, another creation of the US. I can't stand Pres. Bush any more than you but this is absurd by any standard.

I've often shredded the fake pretexts for the US aggression of Iraq by pointing out that no one, Iraqis included, like to be dominated by a foreign power. The Lebanese are no different and they decided to stand up and say so this year. To act like this spontaneous outrage was an invention of the Bush administration (rare than an expected expression of human nature) is pathetic and insulting.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger KNL said...

Morocco is the most chauvanistic country in all of North Africa. Every conflict in North Africa since the French left has been started by Morocco. They claimed that Algeria, MAuritania, the Sahara, and even Senegal was all part of "Greater Morocco" and invaded Algeria, Sahara and refused to recognize Mauritania's independence for several years. King Hassan II was like Saddam in his chauvanism and heathenry and like the Shah of Iran with his arrogance. His son is no different either.

-Nouri, Algerian

 
At 3:46 AM, Blogger sokari said...

Of course Israel is not the only occupying force that is why we are discussing Morocco (an Arab country)You say "(Part of me has always wondered why the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza long provoked vicious hostility and was used as the excuse for anti-Israeli vitriol but other regional occupations like Syria of Lebanon and Morocco of the Western Sahara, barely registered on Arab consciousness) My point is why should you wonder about Israel? The people of Lebanon were never forced out of their country, prevented from moving in and out of their country, from doing whatever business they choose to do, educating their children in any way they choose, made to carry racist ID cards, placed in ghettos and camps (though the Lebanese managed to do the same to Palestinians) so in what way did Syria "occupy" Lebanon. They had a military presence and influenced the government and as you say supported the puppet government it set up - none of these amount to an "occupation" and to say so is to insult the people of Palestine, Iraq, and Western Sahara. The Lebanese people were quite right to call for the withdrawal of Syrian troops and other personnel which they have now done and if I was in Lebanon at the time I would march with them.

I never implied or stated that the demonstrations were anything to do with Bush.

What I did say was the Western media's sudden push on the Syrians was an American invention - two very different movements there - one for Lebanon and its autonomy and one for America and its interests which are not necessarily those of Lebanon anymore than Syria's were in the past. I believe the Lebanese showed that in their demonstrations.

 
At 9:28 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Owukori,
"The people of Lebanon were never forced out of their country, prevented from moving in and out of their country, from doing whatever business they choose to do, educating their children in any way they choose, made to carry racist ID cards, placed in ghettos and camps "

Your comments are quite astonishing. By this standard, the United States and Britain are not in occupation of Iraq.

My words are quite clear and I stand by them.

"Part of me has always wondered why the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza long provoked vicious hostility and was used as the excuse for anti-Israeli vitriol but other regional occupations like Syria of Lebanon and Morocco of the Western Sahara, barely registered on Arab consciousness."

The comment did not ask WHY the Israeli occupation provoked hostility and opposition. Anyone who reads my other blog knows that I advocate an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and a creation of a viable Palestinian state. Only someone looking for an argument could infer this as a justification or minimization of the Israeli occupation.

My comment asked why Palestine provoked hostility and opposition WHILE other occupations provoked little or none at all. Even if the Israeli occupation was, say, twice as odious as the Moroccan occupation, then shouldn't Western Sahara provoke half the outrage as Palestine? Yet outside Algeria, which has self-interested reasons, hardly anyone talks about Western Sahara.

 

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