Morocco reaffirmed internal autonomy for Sahara, no compromise over territorial integrity

BYYasir Rehman


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Kingdom of Morocco Wednesday reiterated its resolve for the internal autonomy of the Sahara region as its integral part without compromising the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

“Sahara was, Sahara is and will remain an integral part of Morocco and we will never compromise over our territorial integrity “,Khalihenna Ould Errachid, Chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS ) told Vibe Media Australia in an exclusive interview at the Council office in Rabat.

The interview focused on the question of Sahara. Editor Vibe Media travelled to Morocco for first-hand information on the issue, which is hampering regional peace, stability and development. People in Morocco widely believe that the Sahara issue resulted from colonization.

The CORCAS Chairman delineated the historical origins of the issue. He explained that unlike other countries, who were colonised, Morocco had two colonizers and this conflict artificially developed.

“The artificial conflict is the result of the old polarization that marked the period of the Cold War, quite complicated period in the history of international relations”, he observed.

Ould Errachid who himself belongs to the Sahara area explained the issue with maps and detailed presentation on developments ever since the artificial issue created and since Morocco submitted the autonomy proposal to address the issue peacefully.

On UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination in Sahara region, he clarified that Morocco has always supported the United Nations initiatives and peace efforts but insisted that all inhabitants of the territory should be eligible to vote in the referendum.

He said that UN initiated the complicated referendum process in 1991 but it miserably failed in 2004, as Sahrawian are scattered and live in four neighbouring countries Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Mauritania and UN could not identify the genuine voters.

“In order to hold a genuine, impartial, honest and credible referendum, it’s mandatory to establish first who are entitle to vote in Sahara. Every individual, their origin, ancestry, tribes they belong to must be identified”, he asserted.

Foundation of Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS)

Throwing light on the establishment of Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), Ould Errachid said that after UN referendum process fiasco, King of Morocco established CORCAS as a royal consultative body on Sahara affairs with a mandate to come up with internal autonomy plan for Sahara.

The 141 members of CORCAS are Moroccan and Sahrawi political and tribal notables, representatives for women and youth groups and civic society officials. Of these members 14 (10%) are women. Notably, the father of the late Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz is a member of the CORCAS.

“Morocco is committed for an everlasting and peaceful resolution and it revived the momentum to address this issue by offering internal autonomy initiative for the Sahara region”, he said.

CORCAS Chairman said that founding principles behind the establishment of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs are the defence of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom, achievement of economic and social development in the Sahara as well as the preservation of its cultural identity.

Mr Rchid highlighted the relevance of the Moroccan solution for the permanent settlement of the Sahara region by granting autonomy.

He said the Kingdom of Morocco presented the autonomy plan to the United Nations in 2007, as a courageous and just initiative to break the status-quo of the situation since the cease-fire in 1991.

Internal Autonomy is a win-win formula

“Autonomy plan is a win-win situation for all concerned bearing trickle down effects and it would ensure the prosperity and development of southern provinces (Sahara) keeping the cultural identity of the region intact”, he believed.

He reaffirmed that in the whole exercise, Morocco will preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty and on the other hand, people of Sahara would be able to run their internal matters in the autonomous region.

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He also explained the proponents of the current UN attempt by UNSG Personal Envoy Horst Köhler to revive the political negotiation process between the parties. Horst Köhler hosted the round table held in Geneva in December 2018.

UN support for a political solution

The UN Security Council, on 1 February in a resolution expressed its support for the UNSG Personal Envoy Horst Köhler, in conducting his mandate of facilitating a political solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara.

Khalihenna Ould Errachid expressed his firm belief that the international community would endorse Morocco autonomy plan for a lasting solution of the issue, which has hostage the regional cooperation thus hampering the prosperity and development of the region.