After weeks of suspense, the US spending bill including Western Sahara in the section about Morocco was signed Friday.
Rabat – The White House announced yesterday a partial end to the US government shutdown, ending 37 “excruciating” days of government inactivity. President Trump signed a spending bill to end the country’s longest government shutdown yesterday.
The new budget is in tune with Morocco’s Western Sahara position.
President Trump would not sign previous iterations of the bill into law amid divisive party politicking in the heat of the government shutdown.
While Trump did not secure the $5.7 billion of funding he wanted for his Mexico wall, he raised a white flag yesterday and signed the bill with an option to later explore common ground on border security.
The bill will reopen the government for three weeks, a respite Trump said he will use to get a longer-term bill.
“We have reached a deal to end the shutdown… I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks,” Trump said. “Over the next 21 days I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith.”
Trump noted that a bipartisan committee made up of the House and Senate would present him with a “package for me to shortly sign into law.”
While for the US the end of the shutdown means the resumption of work and paychecks for federal government workers, for Rabat it means the passing into law of a pro-Morocco spending bill in terms of US financial and food assistance to Western Sahara.
“Funds appropriated under title III of this Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara: Provided, that not later than 90 days after enactments of this Act and prior to the obligation of such funds, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the USAID Administrator, shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations on the proposed use of such funds,” read part of the bill.
The language reverses that of an earlier draft which removed Western Sahara from the “Morocco” section in the spending bill, tacitly supporting the Polisario Front’s claims.
The bill’s most critical part, however, as far as Morocco is concerned, is its call for more coordinated actions from US and UN officials to monitor food and financial assistance for refugees in the Tindouf camps in Algeria. The goal of coordination, the bill noted, is to ensure that humanitarian assistance actually reaches the camps’ “vulnerable refugees.”
Morocco has denounced Polisario’s perceived embezzlement and mismanagement of the funds and humanitarian assistance for refugees in Tindouf. For the US spending bill to raise the same concerns implies that Rabat’s repeated calls for international monitoring have not gone unnoticed.