New Internationalist

‘2011: The year for justice for Western Sahara’

Campaigners attending a meeting this week will be told that 2011, the 20th anniversary year of the UN ceasefire in Western Sahara will be a crucial year in the future of the region.

‘Under the terms of the United Nations ceasefire in 1991 a referendum on self-determination was guaranteed to the Saharawi people,’ said Sidi Brahim, the Deputy Representative for the Polisario Front in the UK. ‘This referendum has been blocked by Morocco for two decades but as international pressure grows we are confident 2011 will bring Western Sahara closer to justice.’

Morocco’s occupation of the country of Western Sahara began in 1976 when the Spanish colonizers departed and has continued for 35 years, despite over 100 UN resolutions and an opinion by the International Court of Justice. A 15-year war between the indigenous Saharawi people and the occupying army ended in 1991 with the promise of a vote on self-determination. That promise has been repeatedly broken, with Rabat only offering Western Sahara a form of limited autonomy.

International pressure is growing on the European Union not to renew its controversial fisheries agreement when it terminates in March. The agreement signed with Morocco allows European countries to fish Western Saharan waters in breach of international law and there is growing consensus among European parliamentarians that it should not be renewed.

In April the UN will vote on whether to extend the remit of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights. MINURSO is the only UN peacekeeping force without such a remit despite repeated reports of human rights abuses in the territory from organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

‘As the referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan last week shows, with support from the international community obstacles can be surmounted and disagreements set aside,’ continued Mr Brahim. ‘We hope that in 2011 we will see significant progress towards a similar successful outcome in Western Sahara.’

The meeting will be on Wednesday 19th January.
44-48 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JP. 6.30pm-8.30pm
If you would like to attend please visit

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  1. #1 Kawsar 18 Jan 11

    Mr Simanowitz,

    You may want to know that Morocco has NEVER occupied the Sahara, which was part of Morocco well before the Spanish colonization. That your Western mind does not acknowledge how sacred the ’baia’, allegiance to the Moroccan king, is in our part of the world is not our problem. We also have difficulty dealing with some Western concepts. Other parts of Morocco also had other militants who threw away the French or Spanish occupier. It is enough that France gave Algeria a good portion of the western part of Morocco by drawing an arbitrary frontier between the 2 countries (or was it a deliberate attempt to start a conflict?) Morocco does not need to be amputated from its southern provinces because of a handful separatists backed by Algeria. The population is so tiny, that it will never be able to establish a viable state, and you know that. The Algerian people are sick and tired of their government funding a separatist movement in Morocco instead of taking care of its own people, recently, four have set themselves on fire, so why don't you ask their families what they think of the support Algeria gives to non Algerian groups.

  2. #2 Mohamed 07 Apr 11

    you must be dreaming

    The sahara has and is and will always be Moroccan, besides the south of Morocco is mixed with the north. Come inside and see what`s happening here.
    moreover those who represents sahraouis people most of them are Algerians, even theire so called LEADER is from Marrakech a (treator), I wonder how muh they paid you to write this article, or maybe you must be spanish

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Stefan Simanowitz a New Internationalist contributor

Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist, writer and human rights campaigner.

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