African Union - IDIA
PhilMUN 2007 11 Current Status Today, the central concern in the Saharawi region is not the tension between Morocco and the Polisario, but rather the condition of the refugees that have taken residence in tent villages throughout the desert. After nearly 30 years of war, camps are replete with unsanitary conditions, a lack of running water, and scarce amounts of food for livestock. The harsh conditions in the Algerian desert, which render it prone both to flash flooding and to sandstorms, threaten its inhabitants. 38 An African Union delegation, braving the harsh conditions, accompanied the African Union President’s Committee in a five-day solidarity visit beginning 8 November 2006. 39 In addition to distributing much needed humanitarian aid, the visit was designed to show African community solidarity to a people who have suffered immensely due to the occupation of their territory. The African delegation also met with representatives of the Red Cross International Committee (CICR), World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to “[raise] their awareness about the need to continue bringing and increasing the necessary assistance to the Saharawi refugees.” 40 In November 2006, Algeria also showed its desire to aid the Saharawi by providing humanitarian assistance. The Algerian delegation came with 400 tons of semolina flour, brought by a caravan of twenty trucks that travelled more than 1,800 kilometers to reach the Saharawi refugee camps. 41 One of the most complicated obstacles to maintaining the refugee camps was the flash flooding throughout the Tindouf region in early February 2006. Between 50,000 and 60,000 refugees were left homeless after their mud brick shelters failed to withstand the flooding. Schools and dispensaries were also severely damaged. The UNHCR, WFP, and the Algerian Red Crescent immediately organized an emergency response to address the crisis, and Algeria dispatched a humanitarian convoy to bring relief to Saharan refugees. In the early stages of the emergency response, MINURSO not only provided 38 Ibid 40. 39 http://www.spsrasd.info/sps-e081106.html 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid.
PhilMUN 2007 12 water tanks, but also helped distribute and coordinate assistance. While such rapid responses must be commended, tragedies such as these emphasize the fragility of these refugee camps. Tent cities provide little stability, and without a resolution to the question of independence the Saharawi people stand to suffer the most. MINURSO has spent ten years and a half billion dollars organizing the referendum, and the effort is all but frustrated. 42 The Moroccan government and the Polisario party seem no closer to agreement than they were in 1975. James Baker, the former United Nations envoy to Western Sahara, has proposed a different solution to the problem. His proposal of “limited autonomy,” recently approved by the United Nations, delays the referendum another five years. The Baker Plan calls for determining and defining a state of limited autonomy under the Moroccan government. 43 Regardless of the pessimistic outlook of some observers, others claim that relations with Morocco are becoming more positive. King Mohammed of Morocco is said to exhibit a “lighter touch” than his father, and his actions have demonstrated goodwill towards the Sahawari. 44 He replaced Minister of the Interior Driss Basri, who was “feared and hated” by the many he oppressed, and he freed fifty-six political prisoners in a show of solidarity towards the “sons of the Sahara.” 45 Moreover, evidence shows that Morocco’s human rights record may be improving. However, as Morocco continues to prevent the referendum, many believe that Saharawi freedom is not Morocco’s primary concern. Although both sides have been trying to achieve peace, neither will concede any of their terms. Secretary General Report S/2006/249 notes a significant decrease in the amount of violations made by the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government. Furthermore, the Polisario lifted restrictions on the movement of United Nations military observers which had been in place for several years, allowing access to its military units for inspection purposes. From 14 October until 15 March 2006, MINURSO observed 42 “Polisario’s Sinking Hopes.” 44. 43 Ibid. 44. 44 “Triumph for Procrastination.” 52. 45 Ibid. 52.