Only Autonomy’: Morocco to UN Envoy on Dispute with Western Sahara
Morocco is adamant that any settlement of the decades-old dispute with Western Sahara will be resolved exclusively on its autonomy plan. The Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told the UN envoy for Western Sahara Staffan de Mistura that the only settlement Rabat would accept was autonomy within Morocco.
He called for a political solution based exclusively on the Morocco autonomy plan, which is in the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom. Morocco is sticking to its demands as the US, under former President Donald Trump, recognized Rabat’s annexation of the territory. The Kingdom regards Western Sahara as an integral part of its territory. It has maintained de facto control over most of the region. However, the United Nations and other countries have brushed off Morocco’s claims.
The territorial dispute goes back to 1975 when Spain withdrew from the region. Morocco took advantage of this and entered its civilians into Western Sahara through the Green March and took the land for their own. But it wasn’t easy. There was resistance from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Polisario Front. They claimed to be representatives of the indigenous Sahrawi people and fought for independence.
The UN backs referendum on self-determination to resolve this issue, but Morocco doesn’t support this. In November 2020, Morocco deployed its military to settle the Sahrawi protest. Meriem Naili, an international law researcher at the University of Exeter, believes Western Sahara is a black hole in terms of the human rights situation. She said Morocco doesn’t allow officials from the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the occupied lands.
According to Freedom House, civil liberties in the Moroccan-controlled territory are severely restricted. In April 2022, security forces violently assaulted five Sahrawi women activists. These women had participated in peaceful protests, and voiced self-determination for their people.
The population here cannot enjoy political rights because of the territory’s status and lack of sovereignty. The Polisario has accused Morocco of exploiting Western Sahara’s natural resources.