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African Union - IDIA

African Union - IDIA

PhilMUN 2007 1

PhilMUN 2007 1 Introduction The Western Saharan region is has been largely disregarded by the international community. Although Africa has been decolonized, the aftermath of the redrawing of borders and redistribution of land has left many scars on the continent. The rapid exit of Europeans from Africa in the period of decolonization left Africans to develop political and infrastructure systems that were lacking as the European powers left. In the case of Western Sahara, the Spanish occupied the area including its native inhabitants, the Saharawis. When the Spanish left in 1960, the United Nations General Assembly pushed for a referendum to decide the independence of the Saharawi people. Originally, both Morocco and Mauritania supported the independence of the Saharawis; however, each withdrew its support as the Western Sahara referendum slowly came to realization, and Morocco even claimed the territory as part of its kingdom. To assert its ownership of the territory, the Moroccan government sent 350,000 of its civilians into Western Sahara to settle the territory. Yet, while this movement, known as the “green march,” was wholly condemned by the international community, little was done to reverse its effects, and only some 100,000 Saharawis were displaced to Tindouf, Algeria. Immediately after this movement, there was an upsurge in Saharawi resistance movements many of which were unsuccessful. After a few years, the Polisario Liberation Front emerged as the dominant independence force, officially declaring the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), an independent state despite Morocco’s continued claims to the territory. They received aid from Algeria, Mauritania, as well as

PhilMUN 2007 2 Libya. While some African states came to the aid of the Saharawi, many supported, and in some cases still support, Morocco’s claims to the region. The disagreement regarding the sovereignty of the Saharawi people has caused much conflict between the Saharawis and Morocco. As a result, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was made responsible for overseeing maintenance of the border as well as progress regarding the referendum on Saharawan independence. Despite commitments to peace, both sides are guilty of using military forces in ways that violate the rules established by the United Nations. Numerous attempts to solve this ever-growing political crisis have failed. An International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision granting the Saharawi independence and calling for a referendum has not yet been accepted or acted upon. The Baker Plans initiated by MINURSO have also failed to bring a lasting peace to the region. While the Moroccan government offered the Saharawi people “limited autonomy,” the Saharawi refuse to accept anything less then full independence. The continuation of this standoff threatens to undermine three decades of effort by the United Nations and will simply cause further deterioration of the already meager living conditions of the Saharawi people. Acceptance of the ICJ-mandated referendum is integral to finding a solution to the instability in the Western Saharan region, but the African Union must not neglect to recognize the countless lives that hang in the balance. Addressing the number of casualties in refugee camps due to natural disasters and malnutrition is essential in establishing a long-lasting solution. Since the UN approach has been largely ineffective in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the African Union must take steps to provide regional cooperation and stability. Background The Saharawi People The Saharawi people reside on little known tract of land on the western edge of the Saharan Desert known as Western Sahara. This land has been the site of an arduous

Morocco and the African Union
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