Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jacob Mundy on Morocco's autonomy plan

Jacob Mundy, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Exeter, spends most of his time proving that people without blogs can still write about the Western Sahara. Not content with already writing two dynamite articles and collaborating with Stephen Zunes on a book, Mundy's struck again. This time, he's written an essay against Morocco's autonomy proposal for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Like many people interested in the Western Sahara, I had a negative gut reaction to Morocco's autonomy plan when I first heard about it. My feeling didn't change once I read the English version. Still, I didn't really have articulated reasons for not liking it, besides that Western Sahara has never been Morocco's

That's where Mundy's article comes in. He points out several flaws with autonomy:
  • It'll require commitments from Morocco, the UN Security Council, and Polisario. I can't imagine Morocco and Polisario changing their minds and cooperating soon, or the UNSC actually starting to invest serious resources into resolution.
  • If Polisario accepts autonomy, it could lose all its position as the legitimate representative of Sahrawis. Mundy points out that lately, Sahrawi nationalism has been growing. Only a self-determination scheme that pleases Sahrawis will end unrest in the territory. If last month's crackdown was any indication, Sahrawis don't see autonomy as a legitimate option.
  • Autonomy would be just as complicated to implement as a referendum was, if not more. Since that's the case, why should it be chosen as the "easier" option?
Check out Western Sahara Info's post about the article. It's good stuff, but it gets even better when Student in the US (of Sahara Views) and Mohammed Brahim (of Western Sahara Echo) go at it in the comments:
Student: These analysts forget a MAJOR aspect of the conflict : people. Did you go to Laayoune and talk with people in the street and they told you that they want Polisario to govern them ? Did you go to the refugee camps to talk to people and they told you that they live in a prison and that Morocco is their salvation ? if you didn't do so, it's better to keep quiet.

Mohammed: When i read your article, all i could do was simply to laugh so hard because you set a trap and you fell into it.
Snap! Mohammed went on to say that most Sahrawis agree with Jacob Mundy. He also points out that Jacob Mundy has been all over Western Sahara and Tindouf. What a cosmopolitan!


  1. Anonymous11:14 PM

    Since when Polisario is the legitimate representative of the Sahrawis ?

  2. Excellent question! I would say it has been since 1975, or maybe a few years before, when Polisario was chosen over PUNS.

    You're right to point out, though, that not all Sahrawis agree with Polisario, support it, or even want independence (shudder). Still, the international community and the UN treat Polisario as the legitimate representative of Sahrawis.

  3. I hope Jacob Mundy writes more articles so I can start incorporating cover art of CDs from the band Mundy.

  4. Anonymous6:28 AM

    "Since 1975, or maybe few years before". Do u mean that, in 1975, Sahrawis voted unanimously for Polisario as their legitimate representative? Do you recall the exact results of the vote ? and was it a vote forever ?

  5. Anonymous - Polisario is, like it or not, the legal representative of the people of Western Sahara according to the UN, and according to Morocco. This was the basis of the 1991 Settlement Plan. Morocco may feel otherwise now, but the plan was signed. This is the reason Polisario and Morocco's government are still involved with the UN Security Council: they are the formal and recognized representatives of the two sides of the conflict.

    As for 1975, the UN visiting mission that toured the area (and surrounding countries, incl. Morocco) found what they called an "overwhelming consensus" in favor of Polisario and independence, and opposing integration with either Morocco or Mauritania. During their entire tour of the territory, they couldn't find a single Sahrawi who wanted integration with Morocco. Not a vote, but a good indication of how feelings ran at the time.

    It's a 100-page report, still very interesting, even if it's hard to come by. You should be able to get a copy at a UN documents' library, if you're around one, but unfortunately, it is not available online.

    (Of course, things could have changed a lot since then, so it wouldn't hurt to do a new poll of Sahrawis' opinions. But I think we both know why that's not happening.)

  6. Anonymous10:18 AM

    I don't believe what I am reading: the same people who are calling for a referendum to give the Sahrawis the right to express what they want, the same people considers Polisario as the sole representative of the Sahrawis, based on what ?, a UN mission that went to the Western Sahara in 1975 and who found that there is an "overwhelming consensus" about Polisario.
    An "overwhelming consensus" guessed by a UN mission but not based on a vote, a referundum, or any form of democratic consensus is simply not enough and invalid.
    Not all sahrawis agree on Polisario leaders, mainly the King Mohamed Abdelaziz, or their policies. Many of them even dislike the Front.
    P.S: King refers to Abdelaziz long democratic mandates at the top of Polisario since the 70's.

  7. Some info on the UN mission can be found here:

  8. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Larbi, thanks for the link. Here is what the WSAHARA.NET website says : "The Mission believes, in the light of what it witnessed in the Territory, especially the mass demonstrations of support for one movement, the Frente Polisario...". Is that what Alle refered to as the sound reason why Polisario is designated as the sole representative of the Sahrawis ? "belief" is very shaky basis for such designation. No wonder why Polisario objects whenever there is a Sahrawi voice with a different opinion speaks.

  9. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Here is some facts may Moroccans don’t hear about:

    1)Polisario is recognize by all international organization ( UN, African Union, Non-A O. ) as representative of Saharawi people (SADR – proclaimed by Polisario – recognize by about 70 countries ). In the same time NO COUNTRY IN THE WORLD recognize the moroccan sovereignty on Western Sahara

    ( of course not all Saharawis are agree with Polisario this is natural. but the majority of them have the same goal as Polisario have. Mean Free and independent Western Sahara )

    2) Polisario was not created against Moroccan Regime ( as many think.. ) but It is created by young Saharawis in the earlier 70s. exactly in May 1973. to fight the Spanish colony.
    Look. 3 yrs before the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara!!!

    ( why Morroco start thinking on Western Sahara only after more than 20 years of his “ independence” when Saharawis organized their movement ?)

    3) What called “ Green March” by Moroccans and “ black March” by Saharawis Never ended in Western Sahara. It stopped in the frontier at Tarfaya geographically situated in Morocco ( Moroccans thought that Green March reach Western Sahara - it is wrong)

    ( some may ask why Mekhzen organized this March against poor saharawis not to “liberate” Ceuta and Mellila . Cities in the heart of Morocco “occupied “ by Spain ?)

    4) 1976. The King of Morroco Hassan II used that Franco of Spain is ill in his bed for his last days in his life… and send his armed troupes to Western Sahara. His army plans bombarded Saharwis by Napalm and phosphors in Gelta Zemmour, Um Draiga and many other cities

    5) 1974. Morocco sign Madrid Agreement which divided Western Sahara between Morocco , Mauritania and the riches with Spain

    ( so if Western Sahara is really Moroccan as Morocco claim. Why they agreed to divide it with Mauritania. FYI. Mauritania now is recognizing SADR of Polisario)

    6) According to UN high Tribune ( 1975 ). There is no ties between Morocco and Western Sahara.
    ( so How they can propose Autonomy to them. France trying to force the morrocan plan. They ( French) know very well that Morocco don’t have free, independent and democratic institutions allowing him to give the Autonomy to Saharawis. Morocco is not Switzerland or even Spain )

    7) Now. Morocco is illegally exploited the Western Sahara resources ( rich fishery, phosphate, oil, …ect ) giving nothing to Saharawis who are treated in their own land as second citizens

    ( so no guarantees that Morocco will give Saharawis more Authority on their land when he will governed it…… hhhah.. it is too late for Saharawis )

    Saharawis give a high price and sacrifices to agree on the Moroccan proposal. They will continue their struggle with or without Polisario


  10. Anonymous12:32 PM

    I agree with some points in Desertman comments. But still the main question of Polisario legitimacy isn't answered. Polisario has the long hand in the camps, yes. But can't say the same in the Moroccan side of the Western Sahara.
    I disagree with desertman that Sahrawis are considered as "second hand citizens". Elected representatives from the Sahrawi counties are all sahrawis from renown Sahrawi families and tribes. Local municipal board members are also Sahrawis. The Sahrawi counties even receive a strong subsidy from the state, something that other regions don't have. Therefore, I don't think the statement that sahrawis are treated as second hand ciizens is accurate.

  11. Anonymous1:41 PM

    let me give you a small example:
    of 30 years + of occupation, there has never been a Sahrawi "Wali" (governor) in El Aaiun. it has always been a Moroccan from the north.

  12. Anonymous4:47 PM

    Hi all,
    Desertman's feelings are the exact same despair gaining the polisario leadership (is there a leadership there???). I love it when he presents the facts we never heard of in Morocco. I just discovered I'm living on another planet with no radio-tv reception. But of course Desertman has the universal truth.
    "The King of Morroco Hassan II used that Franco of Spain is ill in his bed for his last days in his life…" dixit Desertman. He forgot to say that Morocco 'used' that the Spanish soldiers were playing cards, that it was snowing in the North Pole and that the neighbor's cat was having a headache. Come on Desertman, be serious. Morocco never invaded nothing. We just took back what belongs to us.
    El Tiburon

  13. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Desertman, what about representatives at the parliament ? local municipalities ? Just recently, three sahrawis with the rank of governors joined the Ministry of Interior. Laayoun has even its own TV run by Sahrawi journalists.

  14. Anonymous -- to be sarcastic, you need to grasp the subject first. I was just answering your question. Polisario is the recognized representative of the "people of Western Sahara" (who are Sahrawis, but not all Sahrawis).

    The 1975 mission does not make Polisario representative of anything, but it gives an indication of what level of Western Saharan Sahrawi support they commanded at the time -- i.e, how functionally representative they were (then), even if it was not formal. I didn't mean, and I didn't write, that THAT should make them formal representatives of the people.

    As for who SHOULD be considered the representative of the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara in the future, I think neither Polisario nor Morocco has the right to force themselves upon a civilian population. Both should be subjected to the same democratic scrutiny through a free & fair referendum of the people concerned, i.e. the people of Western Sahara, with no participation of Moroccans, Mauritanians, Algerians or others, be they of Sahrawi origin or not.

  15. Anonymous9:22 AM

    Hi All

    To Anonymous I

    Of course you have right to disagree with me. But of course the real Saharawis from real Saharawi Tribes are treated in WS as “second class citizenships”
    All Key positions in WS are reserved only for Moroccans.
    Only Few rich Families origin of Sahara such as : Joumani family, Rachid family and Dirham have the monopoly for these municipal and in the Morocco Parliament
    Simply because they have money. No body else can rivals with them . just the same in Morocco. Only 5% of population have more than 50% of the country economy in hands the others…

    I will not tell you how the sahsarwis can get passports. Moroccan documents for Saharawis…

    To Anonymous II

    You are right. It is very difficult to treat people who born in Morocco and spent all their life there as Saharawis. They are only Saharawis because they came from Tribes living in Sahara and Morocco is using that /them/

    To El Tiburon

    May my English is not enough good to express my feeling but I know very well Sahara and Saharawis those who are in the Camps and those who under Moroccan occupation. Even by Tribes !!!
    Take it easy. I am not a Polisario Leader .I don’t say that I have monopoly on truth like

    Yes Sir
    “…When Spanish soldiers were playing cards. When it was snowing in the North Pole and that the neighbor's cat was having a headache…” The Hassan II soldiers with their tanks and Army Vehicles are crossing the Western Sahara borders in Jdiria and Haouza in the north of WS same time Moroccan Army plans bombarding Saharwis Gelta Zemour and Um Driaga.
    This called by Saharawis: INVASION or OCCUPATION . it started 30th October 1976
    Invador = Mekhzen . ordinary Moroccans have no thing to do with that

    To Anonymous III

    I replied Above,

    On Laayoune TV. Just days ago. Mr Mohamed Laghdaf Eddah the Director of this station have been fired why because the station “is working for Polisario” in French” Laayoune TV travaille pour Le Polisario “
    Because this Director want to present all views in this station.
    By whom was fired: the Municipality chef. Mr Hamdi ould Rachid ( brother of Khalihenna ould Rachid. ).
    Saharawis can say a lot on this family. They don’t because of the tribes sensitive and traditional respective

    Regards to ALL

  16. Desert man, thanks for the info.

  17. Anonymous9:59 PM

    Hi all,
    to those who defend polisario as the "legitimate"representative of the Sahrawis. This is absolute nonsense. Where does this legitimacy stem from? Mohamed Abdelaziz cannot represent Sahrawis because he is not a Sahrawi. How can he do that while his whole family is in Morocco and does not recognise neither the son nor the movement. Open the gates let the people reunite with their families in their homeland Morocco.
    El Tiburon

  18. he's about as sahrawi as gets, from a rguibi charg el fokra family which has been nomadizing in the territory for ages. it's true that today, after the 1958 and 1975 events, he's got family settled in the territory, in morocco, and in other places, and some of these support the other side, but that's the story for most sahrawis. they've got family in morocco, mauritania, algeria, etc.

    also, i'm not "defending" polisario as the legitimate representative of the sahrawis. i'm explaining why they are regarded by the UN as a party to the conflict, whereas the CORCAS (to take an example) are not. it's not about being right or wrong, it's about the sides to the conflict -- who is right and wrong can only be settled through a fair referendum, where sahrawis get to make their pick with no influence from either polisario or morocco or algeria.

  19. Anonymous9:48 AM

    Hi All

    To EL Tiburon

    Not True that Mr Abdelaziz is Moroccan. He is origin from REAL tribe in Western Sahara called “ RGEIBAT” branch “ Fukra” . their Rgeibat part of Sahara called “ Rgaibat charq” mean Rgeibat of the East. They are mostly living in the East part of Western Sahara at the Algerian and Mauritanian border.
    So they are far from Morocco geographically than even other Saharawis Tribes.

    His Father Like others among them Sheikh Khatri ould Joumani have been rapted by Moroccan Securities in the mid of 70s and sent to Deep of Morocco to give the legitimate to The Moroccan side

    Let Morocco give the Saharwis All Saharawis the Right to decide on their main issue

    Naturally that all Saharwis are not agree with Polisario like All roroccans not agree with Mekhzen…

    All Saharawis may not agree with Polisario but Majority if not all Saharwis are agree to be free and independent in their own country Western Sahara not Morocco.
    Plz. Let them decide on that


    PS. According to Moroccan newspaper (www. Ahdath.info )
    HE Mr Ambassador told very sincere things about King M6 and About Sahara issue “. ..Polisario is the official spokesman of people of Western Sahara and the CORCAS ( Morocco council of Sahara) will not take part in the incoming negotiations …). Check for your self

  20. Anonymous6:22 PM


  21. Anonymous6:28 PM


  22. Anonymous10:28 AM

    To you MAUNDY you said: "only a self-determination scheme that pleases Sahrawis will end unrest in the territory."
    And then you said in the same line:
    "Autonomy would be just as complicated to implement as a referendum was, if not more. Since that's the case, why should it be chosen as the "easier" option?"

    Remarque: Self determination can only be by referendum,with the result can be INTEGRATION, AUTONOMY,or INDEPENDENCE


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