14 October 2013

U.N. Secretary General reports on challenges to Western Sahara self-determination


Report of the United Nations Secretary-General

"The Western Sahara conflict has long been a matter of disunity within the international community, but the rise of instability and insecurity in and around the Sahel requires an urgent settlement of this long-standing dispute. The persistence of the conflict is a hindrance to greater integration in the Maghreb, which is needed now more than ever. The time has come for the parties to move towards a solution with the encouragement and support of the international community." -  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


2. Within the Territory, largely peaceful demonstrations by Saharan protesters occurred throughout the reporting period in Laayoune and other major towns. They were usually unannounced, small in scale and swiftly dispersed by Moroccan security forces. At times, the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario) alleged that disproportionate force was used. 

3. In some instances, protesters drew attention to aspects of the exploitation of natural resources of the region that they considered contrary to international law. In others, they raised concerns regarding the issue of the provision of social services.

In Dakhla and Laayoune, fisherfolk and current and former employees of the Boucraa phosphate mines demanded improvements in labour conditions. In October 2012, 11 Saharans, including four women, entered the MINURSO team site in Smara west of the berm demanding increased social assistance. Several hours later, the group was persuaded to leave the compound after the authorities promised to look into its demands. Five members of the same group re-entered the team site during the visit of my Personal Envoy in March 2013, requesting to meet him. Again, they were persuaded to leave. 

4. Other protests took the form of expressions of support for self-determination or of solidarity with Saharans detained after the Gdim Izik events of November 2010 and the Dakhla incidents of September 2011. During one sit-in, protesters sought to force their way into the Laayoune regional office of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, but were dispersed by Moroccan security forces. In February 2013, the trial of the suspects in the Gdim Izik disturbances, and the subsequent verdict, saw increased police deployments in Laayoune, Dakhla and Smara, in addition to street tensions, including pro-Frente Polisario graffiti in some neighbourhoods.