- HASSAN MASIKY
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As central to a just and humane solution to the conflict are the unspoken words of Mr. Walsum. According to interviews conduct with him after he left his position with the MINURSO, The Dutch diploma did not believe that the Polisario front was a representative of the civilians in the camps. He complained privately of the reluctance of the Algerian authority to grant him open access to talk freely with the refugees, even though, part of the MINURSO mandate is to “repatriate the refugees of Western Sahara, a task to be carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “. In short, the former head of the UN mission did not view the Polisario as viable part in the conflict. Being diplomatic, he would have never mentioned that Algeria is keeping the conflict floating at the expense of the civilians in the Camps, but it was implied in his final report. Mr. Walsum compassionate stance was not lost however as pronounced by the position of the UNCHR in their last unofficial comments.
Another sign of a possible solution to the Moroccan-Algerian conflict is the recent comments by the UNCHR chief asking the Algerian authorities to live up to its responsibilities as a host of the refugees in the Tindouf camps. As I stated in my posting a year ago- http://moroccoboard.com/viewpoint/68-hassan-massiki/361-dire-conditions-in-refugee-camps-in-tindouf-algeria , the Algerian government is in violation of International law by keeping thousands of civilians in deplorable conditions without the right of movement. The refugees of the Tindouf camps have the right to ask for resettlement in Morocco, a third country or move to live any where in Algeria.
The timid reaction of the Algerian authority to the UNCHR call for the resettlement of the Tindouf refugees, coupled with the Moroccan positive reaction to the idea may be a sign of a change in Algiers. Morocco will not necessarily be the destination of many of the refugees. According to people familiar with the tribal make up of the civilians living in the Camps, a number of the Sahrawis are actually natives of the Mauritania Sahara, rather than the Moroccan. The Polisario political leadership has always had the option to settle in Spain, Cuba or other “friendly” country.
Furthermore, the talk of an opening a land access between the Moroccan Sahara and Tindouf is a further sign of an improvement in the Moroccan-Algerian relations on this issue.
At this juncture, it is up to Morocco to show the world its wiliness to give all Sahrawis refugees that may return to Morocco under UN supervision international guarantees of well treatment, freedom of movement and access to international human rights organizations.
Mr. Walsum conclusions are more relevant today than ever. The Western Sahara conflict is revolving from a political-military dispute between Morocco and Algerian to a regional humanitarian crisis. Aside form background noise coming from naïve and aimless left wing groups and some Che Guevara “wanabes” , the international community is ready to adopt the Moroccan Autonomy plan with international guarantees and some type of UN supervision as the platform for a final solution to the Sahara problem.