By Manele Kassa
By Manele Kassa
Morocco World News
Fez, December 26, 2011
The financial aid granted by the United States to support the reform process in Morocco as per the USA 2012 Omnibus Spending Report, which was adopted by the Senate and signed by President Obama, is intended to all Moroccan regions, including the Sahara provinces. By contrast, the same does not apply to military aid. In fact, the United States Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act for 2012 sets pre-requisites that must be satisfied before the release of US military aid to the Kingdom of Morocco. These conditions are basically about the positions of the Government of Morocco towards the citizens in the Sahara.
Specifically, the Department of State should provide the Congress with sufficient proof that Sahrawis are free to express their opinion about the future of the disputed territory. The DoS should also ensure that the Government of Morocco grants an “unimpeded access” to human rights organizations, journalists, foreign countries representatives, etc. in the Sahara.
What can we infer from this? Do we have efficient lobbying with US politicians in charge of drafting and voting the Omnibus Spending Report, but we fail when it comes to the Committee on Rules at the US Congress chaired by Representative David Dreier?
By looking closely at the document at stake, one finds that Moroccan diplomats and lobbyist have some room to maneuver. Indeed, the act requests proofs of “positive attitude” by the Government of Morocco towards individual liberties to be enjoyed by Sahrawi citizens, but it does not state that Morocco actually violates human rights. With this kind of language, this act neither supports openly the autonomy plan, nor does it openly call for the organization of a referendum. All doors are left open.
It is crucial for Moroccans to target this decisive Committee, and provide its chairman, Representative Dreier, and members with the proofs the committee is requesting, which are readily available. One of these would be that no Sahrawis have been prevented from attending the Polisario’s annual grand conference. But after all, providing the proofs that the committee is asking for should not be the only element of our strategy.
In addition, we should pose questions such as: Why does not the committee apply such measures to the Polisario regime, which has been ruled by the same man for 35 years? How are facts being established about the refugee camps where no reliable census has ever been conducted by the UNHCR? Why is there no mention of the right of the refugee population to have individual access to UN representatives being denied by Algerian authorities (sovereign on Tindouf territory where the camps are located) in violation of international law?
On this last point, it is worth mentioning that the UN Security Council, in its resolution 1979, adopted last April 30 on the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate in the Sahara, called for the first time on the UNHCR to act so that the census of the populations in Tindouf camps takes place, echoing the call made, in this regard, by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon. For decades Morocco has been calling on the international community to coerce Algeria and the Polisario into allowing such a census, but the Algerian regime has been adamant in preventing it from taking place.
The reason behind Algeria’s position is the fear that an international census might unveil to the international community that the numbers of Saharawis living in Tindouf as declared officially by the Polisario do not reflect the reality on the ground. Many studies conducted over the past decade have pointed out that the Polisario has been inflating the figures for the sole purpose of maintaining the level of humanitarian aid to the population residing in Tindouf provided by non-governmental organizations, governments sympathetic to the Polisario and other entities.
The same studies show that the bulk of this humanitarian aid is being embezzled not only by the Polisario, but also by the Algerian government, and that this aid finds its way to the black market in Mauritania and other sub-Saharan countries.
With the US being a source of aid, it should be just fair that the US Department of State launch a probe into these allegations in order to shed more light over the practices of the Polisario in Tindouf. However, such measures are not expected to stem from a spontaneous initiative by U.S. senators. The only way this can happen is if Morocco conducts an aggressive PR campaign to convince US decision-makers of the necessity that light be shed on the reality on the ground in the Tindouf camps.
Manele Kassa is a contributor to Morocco World News
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
Editing By Ahmed Azizi