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  • The Moroccan protests aren’t a good thing

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on March 9th, 2005 (All posts by )

    I wonder why some think that this is a good thing:

    Rabat — Tens of Thousands of Moroccans hailing from different parts of Morocco marched in Rabat to express their support for the Moroccans still detained in the Tindouf camps. They urged the United Nations and the international community to press on Algeria to set the prisoners free.

    The March was organized by Collectif Watanouna – set up on January 20- calling on international organizations to “intervene to put an end to the sufferings of families and children, who are separated from their mothers, and to release all Moroccans held in Tindouf.”

    These Moroccans were imprisoned for more than 25 years, following the artificial struggle over the Moroccanity of Southern Moroccan provinces. This struggle opposes Morocco to the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which has tried to separate the provinces, known as Moroccan Sahara.

    Moroccan associations from all over the country, leaders of some Moroccan parties and Moroccan artists participated in this March. They chanted slogans accusing Algeria of maiming and killing Moroccan soldiers and civilians, violating the international law and Geneva Agreement for the treatment of prisoners of war.

    I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble, but the reason the Polisario tried to separate the West Saharan territories from Morocco was that Morocco annexed them forcibly. And since this is a protest staged by the Moroccan monarchy, and a pretty brutal one at that, against Algeria, a democracy, I really don’t think that this involves a yearning for freedom. What it does involve are some old friends (this article is from December 2001):

    A BAD time, it seems, for the cause of self-determination. For tens of thousands of refugees who have been waiting a decade for the United Nations to hold a referendum on the independence of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, the right to choose their fate is disappearing.

    On a North African tour this week, France’s president, Jacques Chirac, delighted Morocco by naming Western Sahara “the southern provinces of Morocco”. Most Saharawis expect nothing better of the French, Morocco’s protector. It is more worrying for them that the United States, which used to act as a counterbalance, now appears to be jumping on board. Last month two oil companies, one French, one American, signed deals to prospect for oil in Western Saharan waters.

    TotalFinaElf, based in Paris, gained a 115,000 square-kilometre (44,000 square-mile) area off the coast of Dakhla, the former colonial capital. Houston’s Kerr McGee took a 110,000 square-kilometre area of water farther north. Both signed their deals with Morocco, ignoring the other official claimant, the Saharawi independence movement, the Polisario Front. Polisario vainly waved a 1991 UN resolution against “the exploitation and plundering of colonial and non-self-governing territories by foreign economic interests”.

    TotalFinaElf insists that it has no political position on Western Sahara: as yet, it is contracted to search, not drill, for oil. But as at sea, so on land. This month the company is again financing the Paris-to-Dakar car rally, whose course through Western Sahara under the supervision of the Moroccan army so angered the Polisario Front last time that it called it a declaration of war. But few took the threats seriously. Polisario could once muster 15,000 guerrillas, but the rally, in January, went ahead without a shot being fired.

    Negotiations have fared no better. Polisario’s president, Mohammed Abdelaziz, whose rule extends to four wretched camps in the Algerian desert, invited Morocco’s King Mohammed for face-to-face talks. The monarch did not deign to reply. Mr Abdelaziz was welcome as a subject, mocked Morocco, to pay homage.

    But the biggest nail in Polisario’s coffin has been the UN, which promised so much and delivered so little. After ten years and half a billion dollars failing to organise a referendum, the UN’s Security Council has now approved a plan that will convert Morocco’s de facto rule to de jure.

    I’m all for releasing those Moroccan soldiers, but the Moroccan protests have nothing in common with those in Lebanon, and certainly nothing to do with freedom.