Of the Sahrawi Republic and moral bankruptcy

03Sep 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Of the Sahrawi Republic and moral bankruptcy

OVER a month ago I did respond to Deus Kibamba’s opinion regarding the conflict between my country, the Sahrawi Republic (SADR), and Morocco. 


I did so then, as I am doing it now, in an act of legitimate self-defence. Deus Kibamba appeared out of the blue to defend, with unfounded statements and wrong concepts, the expansionism of Morocco and to misinform about the Maghreb region.

It was then easy to refute his baseless and absurd affirmation that “Morocco offers lessons for regional integration” and his suggestion that “The stalemate in the Maghreb should be a lesson to regional communities all over Africa.”

I just stated what is common knowledge among politicians, diplomats and journalists with true expertise on the region: there is no integration in the Maghreb and nobody can offer what he has not. 

I warned African regional communities of that misinformation, advising them not to follow our model simply because it is not an example to follow. I explained abundantly why the regional organisation, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), has been born dead and why it is not functioning at all.

Although there is a cease-fire agreement brokered by the UN in 1991 between the POLISARIO Front and the Kingdom of Morocco, supervised by the UN peacekeeping troops in the Territory, there is a de facto state of war. An aggressive Moroccan military berm of more than 2700 km long, surrounded by over 7 million of landmines and barbed wires still divides Western Sahara and its people, separating families and wreaking havoc in the whole region. 

Human rights violations in the occupied part of the Sahrawi Republic are a systematic practice, while the occupying authorities persist in their massive plunder of the natural resources of the Territory.   

On 17 August, in The Guardian, Kibamba resurfaces, this time brandishing his pretentious “…long training in the field of international relations, diplomacy and regional integration” and seeking again to defend and justify the Moroccan illegal occupation and annexation of Western Sahara.

In an article titled ‘Morocco and Sahrawi in African international law: Any comparisons?’, he states: “It shocked me and most of my IR students that one can qualify Morocco as an “occupying power”.  I see no legal basis for this but rather a distortion of the definition of occupation, as established in international, conventional and common law or even wisdom.”

Indeed, what is shocking is Kibamba’s claim that Morocco cannot be qualified as an occupying power. I would like to cite for his reference Resolution 3437 that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 21 November 1979, in which the General Assembly “5. Deeply deplores the aggravation of the situation resulting from the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and the extension of that occupation to the territory recently evacuated by Mauritania; and, 6. Urges Morocco to join in the peace process and to terminate the occupation of the Territory of Western Sahara”. 

This is the language of the UN General Assembly representing the ensemble of the International Community.  

The legal basis for calling Morocco an occupying power, which Kibamba fails to see, were obvious from the very beginning. The legal opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the territorial claims of Morocco left no doubt. 

In October 1975, the ICJ unequivocally ruled that there had never been any ties of territorial sovereignty between the Kingdom of Morocco and Western Sahara. The ICJ also affirmed the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in accordance with the principles set forth in the UN Charter and in the General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 

In December 2016, the European Court of Justice reaffirmed the ruling of the ICJ reiterating that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara and firmly stating that the EU-Morocco trade agreements did not and could not apply to Western Sahara because “it is distinct and separate” from Morocco.

Furthermore, if Morocco is not an occupying power of Western Sahara, then why is there no single international and regional organisation or country in the world that recognises Morocco’s forceful annexation and occupation of Western Sahara? It would indeed have been better had Kibamba taken the trouble to explain to his IR students this undisputed fact. 

I have provided these references in my previous response but, as the saying goes, “there is no deaf worse than he who does not want to hear.”   

It seems that Kibamba, conceited by his presumptuous training, dares to contradict all those authoritative sources of jurisprudence and even to challenge the OAU/AU resolutions. 

Perhaps he ignores the fact that Morocco’s “historical” territorial claims do not end in Western Sahara. Moroccan chimerical empire also encompasses the whole of Mauritania, a part of Algeria and the northern part of Mali. 

Perhaps he also ignores the fact that it took Morocco nine years to recognise Mauritania as an independent country and that, barely a year after the achievement of Algeria’s independence, Morocco also tried to occupy by force a part of the Algerian western desert in 1963. 

Of course, the Algerians, with their wounds still bleeding following a long liberation struggle against colonialism, defeated the invaders pushing them back to their real borders. These are solid, documented historic facts that nobody can deny. History is very important; those who do not know the past cannot understand the present.

In his brief account of the so-called “Green March,” the author refers to resolution 380 (1975) adopted by the Security Council on 6 November 1975, but he wittingly chooses to omit its substance in an embarrassingly dishonest way. 

What resolution 380 (1975) says, which can be verified by his IR students if they wish, is that the Council indeed “deplores the holding of the march” and “calls upon Morocco immediately to withdraw from the Territory of Western Sahara all the participants in the march.” The author also claims that “By virtue of the Madrid agreement, Morocco was duly noted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 3458-8 of 11 December 1975 as the administrating power in the Sahara”. 

This is another unfounded claim. The proof comes from none but the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, in his letter addressed to the President of the Security Council on 29 January 2002, in which he affirms the following: 

“The Madrid Agreement did not transfer sovereignty over the territory, nor did it confer upon any of the signatories (Mauritania and Morocco) the status of an administering Power - a status which Spain alone could not have unilaterally transferred. The transfer of administrative authority over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 did not affect the international status of Western Sahara as Non-Self-Governing Territory” (paragraph 6).

Following his questionable line of argument, the author maintains that “on the international level, the Polisario is not recognised as a liberation movement and does not have juridical or popular legitimacy to claim being the sole and only representative of the Sahrawi population”. 

To prove his point totally wrong, I would like to refer the author to Resolution 35/19 on the Question of Western Sahara adopted by the UN General Assembly at its 56th plenary meeting on 11 November 1980 to hopefully realise how unfounded his claim is. 

As if the above-unmasked misrepresentations of the author were not enough, Kibamba goes on to claim that “As for the allegation that Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara lacks international recognition, suffice here to recall that the UN Secretary General has asserted that the independence of “Western Sahara” is neither a realistic option nor an attainable objective”. 

The overconfidence in his sources seems to have led him to rehash this preposterous claim in an embarrassing and unprofessional way. Let it be abundantly clear to everybody that no UN Secretary-General has ever uttered such unfounded statement, and I do challenge Kibamba and his sources to name the UN Secretary-General who allegedly said this and where and when he did so. I look forward to his meeting this challenge as readily as he seems to act in venturing these kinds of statements.  

Reproducing verbatim the Moroccan well-known war propaganda, the author further claims that: “…the situation of the sequestered Sahrawi inside the Tindouf camps, is unique in the eyes of international humanitarian law. Taking hostages, for decades, entire population of men, women and children to score political gains…”

The Sahrawi refugees, whom the author describes as hostages, arrived in Algeria fleeing the horrors of the Moroccan invading troops. During their exodus through the desert hundreds died under the bombardment of Morocco’s warplanes with napalm and many disappeared. Mass graves of that period were discovered and documented recently by European forensic experts.     

The refugees referred to as ‘hostages’ by the author have been visited by eminent personalities such as the late Oliver Tambo, the then Presidents in office Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano, the late Thomas Sankara and four successive United Nations Secretaries-General. 

There is a UNHCR permanent office in the Sahrawi refugee camps as well as many NGOs including the Spanish Red Cross, ECHO, Solidarité Internationale, Oxfam and Triangle. Many governmental and parliamentary delegations as well as journalists visit the Sahrawi refugee camps and the SADR liberated territories on a regular basis.

An honest Moroccan journalist, Ali Lmrabet, editor of the weekly magazine in French, Demain, visited the Sahrawi refugee camps in 2003. Upon his return, he was sentenced by a Moroccan tribunal to three years in prison. He was also prevented from exercising his job as journalist during a period of ten years because he did not describe the refugees as “hostages”. In the same vein, the author claims that “…the refugees held against their will in the refugee camps of Tindouf by the Algerian army and its Polisario proxies.” This language should sound familiar in Tanzania! 

It is a reminder of how the regime of Apartheid, the white minority government in Rhodesia as well as the colonial rulers in Angola and Mozambique attacked Tanzania for hosting the African refugees and the Liberation Movements. 

We all remember how heroes such as Mandela, Tambo, Mondlane, Machel, Neto, Chissano, Mugabe, Nujoma and others were branded as terrorists. Those great men and brave freedom fighters, who symbolize the pride of Africa, were also hosts of Algeria and enjoyed its hospitality and support. No wonder that Amilcar Cabral called Algeria ‘the Mecca of the Revolutionaries.’

The solidarity and support of Tanzania with just causes is proverbial; it is a shining and bright jewel in her history as a paramount actor in the liberation of Africa to such an extent that Prime Minister in the white minority government of Rhodesia, Ian Smith called Nyerere “the evil genius” behind the liberation wars’ (Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an era.)   

Julius Nyerere also was the righteous genius and promoter of former OAU’s Ad Hoc Committee of Wise Men that paved the way for the admission of the Sahrawi Republic (SADR) into the continental organisation when the Committee realised that Morocco was never sincere in its intention to allow the referendum of self-determination to take place. As Julius Nyerere clearly said, “No nation has the right to make decisions for another nation, no people for another people”.

That legacy and historical and moral heritage is a highly valuable asset that must be protected from corruption by all means. Endorsing false, defamatory statements and wrong concepts in the narrative is equivalent to smuggling faked products and adulterated foodstuff into the domestic market.

We know who is moving the pawns in its war against us. Only unscrupulous individuals with no credibility to lose accept being used as cannon fodder to harm and hurt the feelings of others. 

They are like hired assassins who, for a handful of dollars, murder people they do not even know. Morocco’s modus operandi of buying peoples’ consciences was unmasked when its official correspondence was revealed by the hacker Coleman.

 Once the recruited agrees to use Morocco’s official vocabulary and narrative, he or she immediately becomes an “expert” and, most probably, is sent to New York as petitioner during the UN Fourth Commission session to lobby for Morocco’s colonial thesis. 

I conclude by pointing out that the inverted commas that the author uses to refer to my condition of being a diplomat will not affect that condition. However, it is indeed hard to believe that someone who has “long training in the field of international relations, diplomacy and regional integration”, as Kibamba authoritatively claims, is capable of coming up with such an incoherent piece that is fraught with all sorts of preposterous biases, misrepresentations and sheer falsifications. 

After all, Kibamba’s piece is no more than an amateurishly concocted replica of the propagandistic pamphlets distributed worldwide by Moroccan officials and their co-opted media outlets.

On a concluding note, I hope that my “provoking rejoinder,” as Kibamba describes it, is not the only thing that will inspire his interest for further research about this issue but also the realisation that integrity, rigour and high sense of responsibility are indispensable for any trustworthy and serious work, journalistic or otherwise. 

*Mr. Brahim Salem Buseif is the Ambassador of the Sahrawi  Arab Democratic Republic in Tanzania