What can we do to move the political process for a solution of the Western Sahara forward?

Background information for the international
meeting of experts to be held from
12 to 13 December 2014 in Berlin

It was by now almost 25 years ago, that the Frente Polisario declared to lay down the arms and to accept the promise of the United Nations to hold a referendum in the former Spanish colony to determine the future of the territory. It is for more than 40 years that Sahrawi had to flee their country and established refugee camps in Algeria where they have lived ever since. It is for more than 50 years that the United Nations termed the territory of Western Sahara a non-self-governing territory. The Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa, it was in 1884, i.e.130 years ago, that the Congo Conference held in Berlin partitioned Africa in the interest of the then major colonial powers: Spain received the Western Sahara.

Year after year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations submits his report to the Security Council in which he conveys all the relevant facts that call for a clear political intervention of the Council. It is year for year that the Security Council is unable to do anything more than repeat what it had already said the year before. The reason for this is that some of its members prevent it from doing what it is expected to do in response to the facts submitted by the Secretary-General. What the Security Council does, is to call on the parties concerned to continue with negotiations: On the one side, the Security Council refers to the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi, on the other, it accepts realities set by Morocco, which holds the territory occupied in violation of international law.

Nothing will change at the relevant international levels unless pressure from below is increased. We have noted with great interest the response of the Foreign Minister of Germany, Honourable Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to the speakers of the parliaments of the states of Bremen and Berlin, with which the Minister reacted to a letter addressed to him (before his appointment as Minister) and to his counterpart of the Christian Democratic Union in the committee to draft the future foreign policy in the coalition agreement. The response by the Minister stated that the issue of Western Sahara would be given greater attention in future. We have noted with satisfaction how many members of the European Parliament have voted against the protocol on fisheries between Morocco and the European Union. By so doing, they have voted against the exploitation of the natural resources of the Western Sahara. We have noted with appreciation how parliamentarians from different countries have raised their voice in favour of a mutually accepted solution of the problem of the West Sahara.

Why not link the hands of politicians with the hands of civil society organizations and to deliberate on what could be done to come closer to a solution? Why not use the political momentum of having a new government in Germany that expresses its interest in having a stronger international voice concerning this issue. Why not explore what the new European Parliament could achieve if it suggested a new approach to Brussels? Why not cooperate with our partners in the African Union who drew the attention of the European Parliament to the unsolved case of the Western Sahara when the African European summit of April 2014 was prepared? Why not build on the growing solidarity with the human rights activist Aminatou Haidar (i.a. holder of the Solidarity-Prize 2013 of the government of Bremen), who could address parliaments in Africa, America and Europe?

The delaying tactic adopted, in particular played by France and Spain, is not acceptable. Keeping silence as practiced by the European Commission and, amongst other countries, by Germany violates the basic legal and moral obligations of international politics, as it results from the efforts of the international community to promote peace and freedom after World War II. Silence leads to complicity in what has been happening in the almost forgotten last colony of Africa!

The history of negotiations about the future of the Western Sahara proves that new ways and means to negotiate the destiny of Africas’s last colony are needed, as long as these new approaches respect the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara as set out in Resolution 690 of 1991 by the Security Council of the United Nations. There are examples in the history of international affairs illustrating that negotiations can achieve the almost impossible as long as there are driving forces of good will behind them as it was the case of Namibia and the so-called Contact Group that achieved the impossible to get Cuba, Angola, South Africa, SWAPO and other international players to agree on the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 435 of 1978, 12 years after it was passed by the Security Council.

Exploring answers to questions of this nature should be the task of the international expert meeting, which the German organization Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V. (Liberty for the Western Sahara, nonprofit organization) will hold in Berlin from 12 to 13 December 2014. Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V. was created in Germany in November 2012 as a movement of persons who were convinced that a non-governmental political voice in support of the Sahrawi people and their interest in self-determination is a political must.

Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V., its members and the members of its advisory board, hope to have members of the European parliament, parliamentarians in the member countries of the European Union, members of parliaments below the level of the central governments, politicians, and representatives of civil society as participants. The Frente Polisario and the African Union will be invited to advise the conference. We hope for a jointly decided plan of action that sets operational goals for the time to come.

We thank the offices for development co-operation of the states of Berlin, Bremen and Lower Saxony, but also the Österreichisch Saharauische Gesellschaft (Austrian Sahrawi Association) for funding. The funds received will unfortunately not allow to cover the expenses for the participants who will hopefully have their own funds to enable their participation in the conference.

Tanja Brodtmann                                                                         Prof. Manfred O. Hinz

President                                                                                        Spokesperson: Advisory Board
Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V.                                              Freiheit für die Westsahara e.V.


Berlin / Bremen, 12.09.2014