Sunday, December 20, 2009

Western Sahara & Sarkozy

Nicholas Sarkozy should not get too much praise for his success in getting Aminatou Haidar, the hunger striking Western Saharan human rights activist back into her own country. It is Sarkozy's France that has consistently provided diplomatic backing and a veto in the Security Council for all attempts to force Morocco to abide by its own promises, the UN resolutions and the International Court of Justice determination that the people of Western Sahara are entitled to self-determination.

Sarkozy's pressure on King Mohamed to allow Haider back home was impelled more by French embarassment at the way her hunger strike was drawing worldwide attention to the Moroccan occupation and consequent human rights violations which France has protected from international action. Indeed, in the last days of Javier Perez de Cuellar's tenure at the UN, France even tried to ambush the Security Council on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve to accept Moroccan occupation. "Tis the season!

The King recently re-emphasised that he was prepared to give the finger to the international community - but sadly the international community mostly does not care. Arab states are happy to denounce the illegal wall and refugee problem in Palestine while ignoring the even longer sand berm that Morocco built to bisect Western Sahara and the thirty five year occupation. The US began by treating the Moroccan occupation as a preemptive move against "communist" Algeria but does not really care anymore. Morocco's position as the closest Arab state to Israel probably counts more than any residual Cold War motives.

Then US Ambassador to the UN said after the occupation, “China altogether backed Fretilin in Timor, and lost. In Spanish Sahara, Russia completely backed Algeria, and its front, known as Polisario and lost. In both instances the United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”

Since then the French have inherited that American role. Just as Indonesia's egregious oppression in Timor brought the issue back onto the international agenda, Aminatou Haidar's brave stand is bringing Western Sahara back as unfinished business. If one hunger striker can embarass Sarkozy that much, the time is long past for France's role to come under more and embarassing scrutiny.

1 comment:

Twinlance Books said...

My book Allah's Garden: A True Story of a Forgotten War in the Sahara Desert of Morocco actually gives a full history of the region, its culture, and politics in the form of a true story based on one Moroccan doctor's experiences being help captive in the Western Sahara for nearly 25 years. It also combines his story with my time in the Peace Corps and my learning about this doctor's amazing plight and courage.

Thomas Hollowell