The development is “another devastating blow” to the separatist front, with most recent UN moves stressing Morocco-friendly talking points.
Rabat – In apparent response to calls that the destination of Tindouf-bound humanitarian aid be more effectively monitored, the UN will act to establish stricter controls in concerned areas.
According to reports, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, wants to make it part of his legacy on the Western Sahara question that cases of reported smuggling and mismanagement of international aid to Tindouf refugees be effectively dealt with.
That determination to strictly monitor Tindouf-bound aid was in full display last week as dozens of officials from the MINURSO—the UN peacekeeping mission in the disputed territory—took part in “special” seminars and technical trainings as a prelude to a “new electronic surveillance” system to track the movements of Tindouf-bound aid.
Reporting on the move in its July 10 edition, Moroccan Arabic language newspaper Assabah emphasized the political repercussions of the development on both the separatist Polisario Front’s legitimacy claims and “political game” in the distressed Tindouf refugee camps.
According to the paper, the development is “another devastating blow” to the separatist front, especially considering that most of the UN resolutions of the Western Sahara conflict have tended to adopt, perhaps incidentally, Morocco-friendly talking points.
During last week’s “special trainings,” Colin Stewart, the MINURSO chief coordinator, and Major General Zia Ur Rehman, commander of the MINURSO forces, supervised the mission’s administrative and military officials as they were introduced to the new electronic mechanism to monitor the entry, exit, and distribution of humanitarian aid to the afflicted Tindouf refugees.
Guterres’ MINURSO wager
In addition to highlighting Guterres’ “personal involvement” in ending years of embezzlement or misuse of UN aid, Assabah argued, last week’s episode also came with a strong message as to Guterres’ position on the importance of the peacekeeping operation.
MINURSO has been at the forefront of heated debates in UN Security Council discussions. Most recently, the US questioned the effectiveness of the mission and asked—successfully—that its mandate be reviewed to six months as opposed to the traditional one-year period.
By contrast, the official announcement of last week’s training sessions provided a glimpse of the UN Secretary General’s unchanged confidence in the necessity of keeping MINURSO operational.
The document points to an working budget of $60.45 million from July 2019 to June 2020, a conspicuous deviation from the Security Council’s decision that the peacekeeping mission be only valid for a renewable six-month mandate.
The contrast, although not a very pointed one, speak volumes about Guterres’ own take on MINURSO. The Portuguese diplomat appears to genuinely believe that the body is of great significance in brokering the much-hoped for political settlement in the decades-long stalemate in Western Sahara.
As far as the soon-to-be-upgraded monitoring mission goes, Guterres’ instructions to MINURSO officials stressed that effectiveness not be only limited to the tracking of humanitarian aid.
In addition to the aid-tracking electronic system, the UNSG reportedly instructed that air and maritime surveillance be increased in disputed areas to more easily identify and track all violations of the UN spirit in the Western Sahara standstill, from Polisario’s reported embezzlement of humanitarian aid to all stakeholders’ reported episodic violations of the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement.
The news of UN upgrading its monitoring of Tindouf-bound products is sure to be welcomed in Morocco with a sympathetic nod. Rabat has been one of the most vocal voices in the Polisario and Algeria-damning chorus regarding the mismanagement of Tindouf-bound humanitarian aid.
Having repeatedly lashed out at Polisario and its Algerian backers for what it sees as sustained “human rights abuses” in the Tindouf camps, Rabat has unceasingly called for more international action to monitor the “tragic situation of the camps’ inhabitants due to the violation of their rights and the embezzlement of humanitarian aids.”