Dr. Sidi Mohamed Omar (Polisario Representative to the UN): The Moroccan state-owned news agency, MAP, published an article on 14 April 2020 entitled “Moroccan Embassy in South Africa Deconstructs Pretoria Allegations about Morocco’s Territorial Integrity”.The article claims that “The Moroccan embassy in South Africa… deconstru[ed] point by point the fanciful fabrications contained in a statement issued on Monday by DIRCO [South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation] in response to an article published by the Moroccan News Agency (MAP)”.
Let us see now how the main claims (highlighted in bold) contained in the statement of the Moroccan embassy are deconstructed point by point.
“On the legal level, the embassy recalled that nearly 70 Security Council resolutions and no less than 120 reports of the various UN Secretaries General on the issue do not include any reference to Moroccan Sahara as an “occupied territory” or Morocco as an “occupying force”, noting that DIRCO’s allegations on this point clearly represent a political and ideologicalopinion devoid of any legal basis”.
Unpacking the claim above would entail a detailed examination of all the “nearly” and “no less than” UN resolutions and reports, referred to in the Moroccan statement, but space constraints do not permit it. However, it is an undisputable fact that Western Sahara has been on the agenda of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and consequently on the agendas of both the UNGA Fourth Committee and the UNGA Special Committee on Decolonisation (C-24), since 1963 as a Non-Self-Governing Territory to which the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples (UNGA resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960) is applicable as expressly established in all UNGA resolutions on the matter. Based on this fact, let us now see some of the UN literature on the subject.
In response to the so-called “green march” by which Morocco began its expansionist offensive on Western Sahara, on 6 November 1975, the UN Security Council(UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 380 (1975) in which the UNSC, in operative paragraphs, “1. Deplores the holding of the march;2. Calls upon Morocco immediately to withdraw from the Territory of Western Sahara all the participants in the march” (italics in the original). Why did the UNSC call on Morocco immediately to withdraw its march from the Territory of Western Sahara, and would the UNSC have acted in this way had it recognised Morocco’s claims over the Territory? The answer is simple. The UNSC called on Morocco to withdraw all the participants in the march from Western Sahara because the Moroccan marchers “have violated the boundary of Western Sahara and illegally entered foreign territory” as pointed out by the Spanish Representative during the UNSC session. The illegal act carried out by Morocco involved “the possibility of a military conflict threatening peace and security” as underscored by the then President of the UNSC(USSR). In response, the UNSC therefore had to exercise its powers with respect to maintaining international peace and security in line with the UN Charter that prohibits the threat or use of force against any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
In operative paragraph 5 of its resolution 34/37 of 21 November 1979, the UNGA “deeply deplores the aggravation of the situation resulting from the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and the extension of that occupation to the territory recently evacuated by Mauritania”. In operative paragraph 6 of the same resolution, the UNGA further “urges Morocco to join in the peace process and to terminate its occupation of the Territory of Western Sahara” (emphasis added). In operative paragraph 3 of its resolution 35/19 of 11 November 1980, the UNGA “again declares that it is deeply concerned at the aggravation of the situation deriving from the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and from the extension of that occupation to the part of Western Sahara which was the subject of the peace agreement concluded on 10 August 1979 between Mauritania and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saquia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro”. In operative paragraph 9 of the same resolution, the UNGA further “reiterates the appeal contained in its resolution 34/37 whereby it urged Morocco to join in the peace process and to terminate the occupation of the Territory of Western Sahara” (emphasis added). The paragraphs, cited above, are self-explanatory and need no further comment.
In the context of the world of today, it is pertinent to point out that the recognised legal status of all States in the international system falls under one or more of the following conditions: (a) they are internationally recognised as sovereign over their own territories, (b) recognised by the UNGA as administering powers of Non-Self-Governing Territories, or (c) recognised by the UNSC and the UNGA as occupying powers of other Countries or Territories. The UN Trusteeship Council suspended its operation on 1 November 1994, after it had fulfilled its mission, and today there are no Trust Territories administered by other States under the Trusteeship System. There are other territorial arrangements and regimes, but they are irrelevant to the case at hand.
In the case of Morocco, in terms of condition (a), the UN and the international community do not recognise Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara, i.e., Morocco is not sovereign over Western Sahara; as for condition (b), the UNGA does not recognise Morocco as administering power of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara; and regarding condition (c), as shown above, the UNGA has described Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara as an act of occupation, and called on Morocco to terminate its occupation of the Territory. As the adage goes, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. In view of the facts outlined above, Morocco cannot be anything but an occupying power in Western Sahara despite the efforts of the Moroccan regime and its apologists to convince the international community otherwise. Therefore, when South Africa and many countries, organisations and individuals around the world describe Western Sahara as “the last colony in Africa”, they are simply stating an established fact.
“The International Court of Justice (ICJ), quoted in DIRCO’s approximations, had stressed in an advisory opinion issued on 16 October 1975, that the Moroccan Sahara region was not atthe time of the Spanish colonization in 1884 a “terra nullius”, and that ties of allegiance existed between the King of Morocco and the tribes of the region”.