Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Green March

Both the Houston Agreement and the later Baker II plan to hold a referendum in Western Sahara were derailed primarily by the issue of voter eligibility. Should only people living in the territory be allowed to vote, or could registration extend to Saharawis in camps or abroad? Bigger than that issue, though, was whether Moroccan living in Western Sahara should be allowed to vote.

It seems fair to let them vote, considering that for the most part they're as disconnected from the political situation as the average Saharawi. Besides, by now inter-marriage has blurred the differences between Moroccans and Saharawis. In another colonial situation, it wouldn't be a problem to let the colonists vote, as they'd be vastly outnumbered by the native population. In the Western Sahara, though, there has always been a large contingent of Moroccans, because of the Green March.

When it was clear that Western Sahara was going to be independent, and the International Court of Justice issued its ruling, Morocco gathered 300,000 civilians on the border, luring many with higher wages than they received in Morocco. Before independence was granted, they marched across the border, ignoring both the International Court of Justice ruling and the international community at large.

The 300,000 Moroccans eventually withdrew, having pressured Spain into the Tripartite Agreement, which divided Western Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco without giving the Saharawis a position in the negotiation. Still, many of the marchers returned later for the higher wages, further muddling the issue of who the Western Sahara belongs to.

As Western Sahara Online points out, the Green March was a violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which specifically prohibits an occupier from moving civilians into the occupied territory.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Will,

    The Baker II plan was actually derailed because Morocco rejected. Morocco rejected it because it called their "sovereignty" into question by a referendum on independence. There was never an effort to implement it as with the Houston agreement. The Houston agreements, which modified/clarified the 1991 Settlement Plan, was officially undermined by questions of voter legitimacy.

    The key compromise of the 2003 Baker plan (#2) was that it allowed Moroccan citizens/settlers to vote. The 1991 Settlement Plan/Houston accords said only native Western Saharans could vote. It has always been assumed that Sahrawis in the camps would vote (they constituted 40% of the 1999 voter list; Sahrawis in Western Sahara were 50% of the list; the rest were in Morocco and Mauritania).

    What evidence do you have for the intermarage of Sahrawis and Moroccans?

    Regarding the Green March, it was motivated by a kind of nationalist crusade. The promises of higher wages came later. Only a few actually even cross the Morocco-Spanish Sahara frontier between November 6-9, 1975. It was all pre-arranged between Morocco and Spain by October 29.