Sahara conflict: UN supports an agreed political solution

The Security Council will renew the mandate of MINURSO
Peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) consult a map as they travel through vast desert areas of Smara in Western Sahara

PHOTO/ONU/MARTINE PERRET  -   Peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) consult a map as they travel through vast desert areas of Smara in Western Sahara

On 28 October the UN Security Council will adopt a new resolution on the conflict in Western Sahara. Following the various statements made by the permanent members of the Council (France, USA, Great Britain, Russia and China), and the information leaked to the media from the two meetings held in October (2 and 14), the Security Council will adopt the report presented by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, and will ask the parties involved in the conflict to continue negotiating in order to reach a peaceful, consensual and agreed political solution. On the basis of the Secretary General's proposal, the Council will extend MINURSO's mandate, limiting its functions to the supervision of the ceasefire and the control of military arrangements and population movement, agreed in previous Resolutions, but excluding the control of human rights in the territory and in the refugee camps. 

Despite the stubbornness shown by South Africa, the only member of the current Security Council in its non-permanent role, in ensuring that the Resolution includes the demand for a referendum on self-determination, Atalayar has learned that the document to be approved on 28 October does not include such a clause. 

South Africa, the only member of the Security Council, will attempt in its remaining two months as a non-permanent member to present initiatives favourable to the Polisario Front, of which it is one of the main supporters on an international scale. 

If the forecasts of the next Security Council Resolution are confirmed, it will mean a serious setback for the Polisario Front's diplomacy, which is advised, supported and financed by Algeria's diplomacy. Faced with this situation, Polisario will have only two alternatives: either continue to flee with its extreme and unrealistic positions or seek a pragmatic political solution based on the Moroccan proposal of advanced autonomy for the Sahara region, in accordance with international law and with independent guarantees of its implementation. 

Other Saharawi political and human rights movements and organisations, such as the Saharawi Movement for Peace, the Jat Achahid current, the Saharawi Human Rights Association and other NGOs operating in the territory, are more in favour of seeking a solution agreed with the Moroccan government than defending maximalist positions that are impossible to put into practice. In the current world crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of countries represented at the United Nations General Assembly and its own Security Council would not agree to reopen an armed conflict anywhere in the world, and even less so in Northwest Africa, at the very gates of Europe. 

Only a pragmatic and peaceful solution is realistic. However, some sectors of the parties to the conflict are pushing extremism. But whereas in Morocco the Royal Palace keeps under control those who seek a definitive solution by force, in the Polisario Front the extremists nestle in their own direction. The sending of "civil society militants", who have been harassed by Polisario militias, to the Moroccan-Mauritanian border post of El Guerguerat and the town of Mheiriz used by MINURSO convoys leaving El Aaiun and crossing the Moroccan defensive wall to travel to the Tindouf refugee camps shows that the Polisario sector that is hostile to a peaceful solution to the conflict is very strong in its own direction. This is shown by the aggressive statement made by Polisario's Secretary General, Brahim Ghali, who, in response to the warning of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, demanding the lifting of the fence maintained by a group of Saharawis at the El Guerguerat pass, has declared that he "takes note of what Guterres has said, but that El Guerguerat will remain closed", thus going against international legislation on the movement of goods and people.

This, together with the tense situation in the region near the Tindouf camps, caused by the death of two Saharawis from Dakhla camp, Ma Uld Hamdi Uld Suilem and Aliun Ak Idrissi, who were prospecting for gold on land close to the camp and located around the Algerian town of Uinet Bellakraa, only makes it more urgent to find a political solution to the conflict.

The Saharawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEH) denounced "before public opinion the savage criminal act perpetrated on Monday 21 October against a group of Saharawi gold diggers". According to ASADEH, when an Algerian army patrol approached the site, most of them were able to escape, but two Saharawis were trapped in the well dug for their work. When the military patrol used burning blankets to expel smoke, perhaps with the intention of bringing them to the surface, the two Saharawis were trapped inside and died. In the absence of an official version from the Algerian authorities or the Polisario Front, the only version circulating in the camps and among the Saharawi population in the territory and the diaspora is that provided by ASADEH.