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Western Sahara, Rete Saharawi: Renewing Mandate Won’t Bring Peace

“Once again, the absence of democratization in the United Nations penalizes populations that, although they are the global majority, they are the minority in supranational institutions,” said Ivan Lisanti, president of Rete Saharawi, commenting on the news regarding the renewal until 31 October, 2021, of the MINURSO mandate that was approved on 30 October 2020 by the United Nations Security Council resolution 2548.

What does the international political resolution mean? De facto, in the absence of “concrete measures to advance the peace process sponsored by the United Nations” it is “a very unfortunate and unacceptable return of the policy to “leave things as they are” in Western Sahara,” read a statement by the Polisario Front, the only legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, recognized by the international community as the interlocutor in the Peace Plan signed with Morocco.

MINURSO is the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, established in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire between the Polisario Front and Moroccan troops, verify the reduction of Moroccan troops in the territory, ensure the release of all Western Saharan political prisoners or detainees and organize the referendum on self-determination that allows the Saharawi people to choose their own government and re-claim the territories occupied illegally by Morocco.  The mandate has been renewed every year since 1991 and today – in the opinion of Italian associations that fall under the umbrella group, Rete Saharawi, who have been committed to solidarity with the Saharawi people for years – it has proven to have failed and the risk is an end to the ceasefire.

A concrete risk, especially now that there are tensions in El Guerguerat, in south-west Western Sahara, where, since the beginning of October, there have been clashes between Moroccan troops and a group of peaceful Saharawi protesters. This is a strategic border crossing between Moroccan-occupied areas of Western Sahara and the Liberated Territories which should be monitored by MINURSO and that Morocco uses for illegal trading of natural resources from Western Sahara.

“Two generations of Saharawi,” says Fatima Mahfud, representative of the Polisario Front in Italy, “were born and raised waiting for the day of democracy to come. They are being denied this by Morocco and also by the United Nations when it arrived in the region with the promise of a solution to the conflict. What is happening today is what the Polisario have predicted for years: entire generations of youths are tired of false promises, they want to take their destinies into their own hands and at least stop the illegal exploitation of Western Saharan natural resources. Demands that should be guaranteed by the United Nations Code of Ethics. Demands to which the most important thing must be added: if you ask a population to wait for a referendum, the mission of those who ask for this wait is to monitor human rights. The Saharawi are tired of hearing that the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is considered a low-level conflict.”

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