Western Sahara 'won't give up fight for freedom'


Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sahrawi Republic [File]

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has been fighting for independence from Morocco for years now. SADR controls a portion of Western Sahara located east of the Moroccan Wall.

SADR claims the whole of Western Sahara hence the conflict with with Morocco. The Standard had a chat with SADR’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek about their struggle for independence.

What is the situation in SADR after the resumption of hostilities with Morocco?

The situation is in general a situation of war since the resumption on November 13 of the armed struggle after Morocco blatantly violated the UN supervised cease-fire and after Moroccan army launched a new expansionist attack against new zones of our territory in Guerguarat region. The Saharawi army is launching daily military attacks against Moroccan military positions and bases in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, while Morocco is still hiding the truth about the new war to its public opinion. Not only that, the UN itself is timidly recognising that there are confrontations but is reluctant to openly address the issue. You probably know for example that the UN Secretary General has been unable to appoint a new Personal Envoy for more than two years. Lately he appointed Mr. Staffan De Mistura, who actually visited the region, and the two parties to the conflict, Morocco and the Saharawi Republic, in January.

Update us on the AU and UN efforts to end the dispute.

The UN as I said just appointed a new Personal Envoy, who did a first contact mission with the two parties, Morocco and Polisario Front, with the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, and also held meetings with other concerned countries, mainly Spain and the US. He is supposed to present a report about his mission in the near future to his boss and to the Security Council. But, UN efforts seem to be in a halt for the last two years at least. there are no negotiations, no real reporting about the Moroccan massive violations and natural resources plunder, no reporting about the new Moroccan military invasion and violation of the ceasefire, and basically the UN is doing little if any effort at all. As for the AU, the continental organisation has been following the situation with a lot of concern. The issue was raised in many occasions during the last two, three years at various levels mainly at the level of the UN General Assemblies and Security Council’s sessions, the AU Summits, including the Summit on Silencing the Guns in 2019, and mainly in the AU Peace and Security Council last march 2021 under the chairmanship of Kenya, in a meeting that adopted a very important resolution calling on the two parties, the Moroccan Kingdom and the Saharawi Republic, to enter into direct negotiations, denouncing the war and stressing the need to respect the AU Constitutive Act and especially the principles of respect of borders and non resolution of conflicts by the use of force. What should be said here is that both AU and UN need to do more about this last case of decolonisation in Africa to avoid serious consequences both on the hegemony and credibility of the two organisations.

What are the prospects for an end to the conflict?

We strongly believe that there is no other alternative to the respect of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to freedom and self-determination. The sovereignty right of the people of Western Sahara is non-negotiable and none can speak on behalf of the Saharawi people on this issue, except the authority Saharawis chose as their representative. And here, I should remind your readers that the people of Western Sahara had already chosen Polisario Front as their legitimate political representative since 1973, and had chosen the Saharawi Republic as their legitimate government since its proclamation in 1976. Besides, the international legality has been clear since the 1960s on the issue of decolonisation, emphasizing that no occupying power, no international organisation, none, can stop the people from exercising their right to freedom and independence. Any entity that does that would be endangering peace, security and international law and should be stopped and sanctioned or forced to abide by the law. Morocco is an occupying power.

What will it take for the Saharawi Republic to achieve its independence and what help if any, would you expect from the international community?

The Saharawi Republic, Polisario Front, and the people of Western Sahara are determined to fight for their right to the end. It will take what it takes, but we will fight for our rights with all legitimate means, including armed struggle, according to the international legality. But we also remain open to all peaceful, reasonable and serious solutions proposed by the international community as long as it abides by the international law. War was imposed on us by Morocco, we have never chosen it. But if it is the only way to push the resolution of the conflict forward we have a duty, as the legitimate representative of our people, to fight that war and this is what we are doing. As for what we expect from other governments and organisations, it is very simple, we only expect them to respect and apply the very laws and conventions that guide their works. I refer here for example to the UN Charter and to the AU Constitutive Act. We ask them to support the oppressed people, to stop the oppressor and to restore peace and law. That’s all we ask for.

How is the relationship between the Sahrawi Republic and Kenya, particularly now that Kenya is sitting in the UN Security Council?

The Republic of Kenya and the Saharawi Republic are enjoying an excellent relationship and aspiring to take it to the highest levels. This support is rooted in Kenyan’s history in defending peoples’ struggles for independence and freedom. Kenya has never been on the wrong side of history. The last resolution of the UNSC adopted last year regarding Western Sahara was a strong signal of the principled and unwavering support of the Republic of Kenya to the struggle of the Saharawi people in their quest for decolonisation and independence.

Martin Kimani (Kenya) Council president for October 2021, speaking in his national capacity, said the UNSC resolution 2602(2021) gives full support to Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s new Personal Envoy, in reinvigorating the process for self-determination in Western Sahara. Comment on this.

Kenya voted in favour of the resolution, desiring to encourage the Personal Envoy to begin his efforts and bring peace to Western Sahara, but it also made it clear that the continuation of the state of occupation is unacceptable and stressed that the UN should pay attention to African efforts in this conflict.

This position comes to reinforce the decision of the 984th session of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, held on March 9, 2021  under the Kenyan Presidency, which outlined a roadmap to resolve the conflict between the two member states of the African Union, the Saharawi Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco. 

What are you expecting from the new personal envoy and the UNSC?

What is urgently needed is that the UN Security Council takes concrete steps to deal with the situation in the territory that has dramatically changed since November 13, 2020 after the outbreak of the new war in Western Sahara.