UN deems Morocco as Western Sahara's administrative power.

In presenting its new peace plan for the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara, the United Nations for the first time has referred to Morocco as the "administrative power" of the territory. Earlier legal assessments had rejected this term, which implies Morocco may exploit Western Sahara's natural resources.

In his latest report on Western Sahara to the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan on several occasions referred to "the Government of Morocco, as the administrative power in Western Sahara". This is the term used by the Moroccan Government, not by the people of Western Sahara. Also the UN news service presents Morocco as "the territory's administering power" in a statement.

The UN Vice-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell, in a legal assessment made last year found that Morocco is "not considered" to be the administrative power of the area, which implies that Morocco under no circumstance has the right to act on behalf of the people of the territory or to exploit the territory's natural resources.

Western Sahara is officially considered a case of decolonization by the UN system. This implies that the territory's original population - most of it confined to refugee camps in the Algerian desert since the 1970s - has the right to determine the future of the territory, but also is considered the real owner of its natural resources.

The exiled government of Western Sahara considers itself the legitimate administrative power of the territory, although almost all of it is under Moroccan occupation. Alternatively, Saharawi representative Emhamed Khadad told afrol News that the former colonial power Spain should be considered the territory's formal administrative power, as proper decolonization never took place.

The naming of Morocco as Western Sahara's "administrative power" is highly controversial and an issue of current conflict. The international oil companies Total (former TotalFinaElf) and Kerr-McGee signed contracts with the Rabat regime to explore oil resources off Western Sahara. The legal basis of these contracts has been disputed due to the former UN assessment that Morocco is not the territory's administrative power. The same applies to fishing rights and the exploitation of phosphates.

The controversial terming occurs in the latest of Mr Annan's regular reports on Western Sahara. Here, the UN Secretary-General also presents a new peace plan, representing something of a "compromise", as Mr Annan calls it. The plan calls for Western Sahara to obtain the status of an autonomous Moroccan province during five years and then to hold a referendum on possible independence.

POLISARIO, the liberation movement and legal representative of the Saharawi people, earlier rejected this "new peace plan" due to the fact that the proposed referendum would include a majority of voters of Moroccan origin, introduced to the territory by the occupying power and maintained through large state subsidies.

The "new peace plan" would also for the first time recognise Morocco's claims to the territory, which has been disputed since the colonial power Spain withdrew in 1976.

Information released this year seriously questioned Mr Annan's objectivity in the Saharawi conflict as it was known that he had ordered his Personal Envoy James Baker III to find a solution that would integrate the territory into Morocco five years ago.

Mr Baker, a former US Secretary of State, has personal interests in the US oil industry, which again has an interest in seeing Morocco as the territory's administrative power. It is the same Mr Baker who usually edits the UN Secretary-General's reports on Western Sahara.

[Source: The Guardian (Australia), AFROL News, 13jun03]

DDHH en el Sahara Occidental

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Este documento ha sido publicado el 11ago03 por el Equipo Nizkor y Derechos Human Rights