Washington - I have watched Polisario representatives at work for years. Unlike Moroccan officials who lobby top officials, Polisario activists abroad always target staff members and young activists working in key government agencies around the world or assisting high-ranking international organizations officials.
Washington – I have watched Polisario representatives at work for years. Unlike Moroccan officials who lobby top officials, Polisario activists abroad always target staff members and young activists working in key government agencies around the world or assisting high-ranking international organizations officials.
Polisario sympathizers are always seeking out the idealists who will commiserate with the thousands of displaced Sahrawis lingering in refugee camps in Algeria. Mr. Ban’s statement about a Moroccan “occupation” of the Western Sahara is the fruit of this low intensity diplomatic war.
Unfortunately, Morocco once again took the bait and overreacted to what can only be described as a diplomatic “faux pas” and not as a drastic change in the UN position on the Western Sahara conflict. Moroccan diplomats cannot only be harsh, but must also be accurate. Attacking a sitting U.N. Chief will be viewed as a negative tactic that could damage Morocco in the long haul.
The Moroccan officials should have held some lessons about how to approach future diplomatic crisis after the Susan Rice incident at the United Nation Security Council. Alas, there were no lessons learned. If Rabat hopes to mobilize international support for its Local Autonomy Plan for the Sahara, trying to tarnish Mr. Ban’s image is not the way to go.
An overreaction is a reflection of a weak Moroccan diplomacy and plays into the Algerian narrative of the “Moroccan bully intimidating the defenseless” Sahrawis.” Bashing Mr. Ban will impact how other UN diplomat view Morocco. In fact, the next UN chief will undoubtedly remember this episode. The question is how this incident will impact his view of the Kingdom?
The so-called Western Sahara has been and will always be Moroccan. It is the duty of Moroccan officials to make that case on the international sense using historical, cultural and political arguments rather than accusations against a specific UN official. The Moroccan initiatives always lack in details making their arguments appear sterile.
Where were the Moroccan diplomats when the UN announced the visit of its chief to the Polisario camps in Algeria? Why haven’t they asked him to pressure the Algerians for a census of the displaced civilians in these camps?
The Moroccan officials and activists complaining and bashing Ban Ki-moon should have been rigorously and continuously protesting the visit long before it started. They should have sent letters to the U.N. asking for an investigation into allegations of large-scale theft of food aid intended for the Sahrawis in Tindouf.
Rather than attacking the head of the UN, Morocco should ask for an international accountability on the U.N.’s tepid approach in dealing with Algerian interferences in the political decision making process of the Sahrawis in Tindouf.
Mr. Ban is nowhere near solving the Western Sahara conflict and may not even know the details of the dossier. With wars in Syria and Ukraine among other more pressing crisis around the world, Morocco and the Sahara are not hot subject for the UN.
Moroccans have every right to protest Mr. Ban’s statement. They can post enthusiastic comments, start petitions and write articles. However, if this kind of activism turns into a mean spirited campaign against a UN official, then the image of Morocco will be tarnished.
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