Posts Tagged ‘Polisario’

Westsahara/Marokko: Informelle Gespräche

Donnerstag, Juli 14th, 2011

“Next round of UN-backed talks on Western Sahara slated for next week

14 July 2011 – United Nations-backed informal talks between the parties to the Western Sahara dispute, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, will be held next week in New York, the world body announced today.

The talks, scheduled for 19 to 21 July, are taking place at the invitation of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, and will also include representatives of the two neighbouring States, Algeria and Mauritania.

The UN has been involved in efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.

Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

“During the upcoming talks, the parties will, as previously agreed, further deepen their discussion of their respective proposals on a settlement, including the issue of the electoral corps and mechanisms for self-determination,” according to the announcement issued by the UN.

They will also further discuss the new ideas put forward by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a report issued earlier this year, and have the opportunity to review the status of confidence-building measures, continue their discussion on de-mining and engage in a preliminary examination of the topic of natural resources.

The last round of informal talks was held at the beginning of June, also in New York.”


(Quelle: UN News Centre.)

Marokko: Neue Verfassung – alles wird gut?

Mittwoch, Juli 6th, 2011

“Weighing Morocco’s New Constitution

By Paul Silverstein

2011 has been a year of unprecedented political tumult in Morocco. As neighboring North African regimes collapsed under the weight of popular pressure, demonstrators have convened in Moroccan cities as well, naming their uprising after the day of their largest initial gathering, February 20, and calling for greater democracy.

Theirs has been a “quiet revolution,” according to Nadia Yassine, spokeswoman for the banned Islamist Justice and Charity movement, [1] for King Mohamed VI has seemed to hasten to meet citizens’ demands. The international media hails the king as a broadly popular visionary engaging in proactive political reform to avoid the fate of Egyptian and Tunisian dictators. In the eyes of the Moroccan government and mainstream political parties, the country has seen a “Copernican revolution” [2] led by a wise potentate, a “watershed event in the process of completing the construction of a state based on the rule of law and democratic institutions.” The king used the latter phrase in his June 17 presentation of a radically revised constitution that was subsequently overwhelmingly approved in a July 1 referendum. If, as per ancient Ptolemaic astronomy, the sun of Morocco’s people has long revolved around an earthly monarch, Morocco’s rulers would like everyone to believe that henceforth the country’s political order will be heliocentric.

But for the February 20 movement, the revolution is still to come. The protesters regard the new constitution as a half-measure, heavy on inclusive rhetoric and light on actual reform. The events of spring and early summer have not quieted them, but galvanized them to push for more. The February 20 movement draws heavily upon a youthful population that had long given up on the political process and unifies a diverse opposition whose interests rarely align. The rebirth of politics in the shape of this movement calls into question the monarchy’s long-standing ability to manage the country through patronage and the king’s symbolic position as “commander of the faithful.” And it may fundamentally challenge what is in fact at the heart of the constitutional reform: a thinly veiled effort to make Morocco transparent for global investment, welcoming to the wealthy diaspora and secure for international tourism.

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King

Moroccan political life was stillborn upon the country’s independence from French colonial rule in 1956. King Mohamed V, grandfather of the current king and inheritor of the Alawite dynasty, emerged as the totem of national unity for a largely rural, illiterate and impoverished population divided by race, ethnicity and language. An urban elite based in Fez occupied the political vacuum, principally through the Istiqlal party, which proceeded to extend its administration across the countryside. The first three articles of the original 1962 constitution, promulgated by Hassan II (who had succeeded his father the previous year), declared Morocco to be a “constitutional, democratic and social” state, located sovereignty in the “nation” and assured a multi-party system. In reality, the formal opposition was nominal and actual politics occurred within what is called the makhzen, the complex (and sometimes fraught) power sharing arrangement among the monarchy, Istiqlal, the military and what remained of the rural notables empowered under colonialism. The political history of Morocco up to the 1990s consisted of Hassan II consolidating power in the palace, coopting those challengers who could be bought with civil service positions or financial rewards and crushing those who could not. Moroccans knew his reign as the “years of lead.”

King Mohamed VI took the throne in 1999 with a promise to “turn the page” on the worst abuses of the past, but there are few signs of him ceding power to elected officials or seeking to enshrine civil liberties and rule of law. For all the political prisoners released over the years since his accession, activists and journalists are still regularly arrested and convicted of “threatening state security” or stepping over one or another “red line.” The chief “red lines” forbid questioning the integrity of the monarchy, Islam or the “national territory,” a reference to Morocco’s claim upon Western Sahara. In October 2010, the Ministry of Communications banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting in Morocco for its “irresponsible journalism” on the question of Western Sahara, only reinstating the channel’s license after the July 1 referendum. As late as April 26, Rachid Nini, populist editor of the al-Masa’ daily newspaper, was arrested and then sentenced to a year in prison for writing of the existence of a secret military base where detainees were tortured.

Police routinely crack down with violence on technically illegal demonstrations by Islamists, Berberists, human rights activists or those without food, jobs or housing. Morocco has been an active participant in the US-led war on terror, dismantling Islamist associations and accepting “rendered” suspects for interrogation and possibly torture, though it was an early signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture. The kingdom has also been a proxy defender of Fortress Europe, deporting African transmigrants by the thousands, though it endorsed the UN Convention in Relation to the Status of Refugees.

As the public sector has been progressively sold off to private interests, more and more of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of the royal family and other elites, with the king’s personal holdings estimated at $2.5 billion. In the latest Democracy Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Morocco placed number 116 of 167 countries judged for the fairness of the electoral process, civil liberties, government functioning, political participation and political culture. Indeed, Moroccans regularly accuse parliamentary deputies and senior civil servants of being makhzenisés, men and women who act in the interest of the state, or themselves, rather than the populace they are supposed to represent and serve. It came as scant surprise that the 2007 legislative elections garnered the participation of only 37 percent of eligible voters.

The greatly amended constitution approved on July 1 takes only modest steps to open the political system. The representation of opposition parties in government commissions and their access to public financing for electoral campaigns is specified and expanded (Articles 10 and 11), as is the right of civil associations and NGOs (Article 12) and even of private citizens to bring forward bills (Article 14) and petitions (Article 15). But, as critics rightly point out, the king’s executive powers remain unchecked. The king will continue to name the prime minister and approve the cabinet over which he presides (Articles 47 and 48); command the military (Article 53); chair the various high councils on religion, security and the judiciary (Articles 41, 54, 56); name ambassadors (Article 55); approve the nomination of judges (Article 57); pronounce all enacted laws (Article 50); and “at His initiative” dismiss ministers and dissolve the parliament (Articles 47 and 51). The derided Article 19 of the previous constitutions, which spelled out the king’s spiritual and temporal authorities and derived the latter from the former, is now split into two separate articles (41 and 42). One recognizes the king as the “commander of the faithful” who “ensures respect for Islam” and guarantees “the free exercise of religion,” while the other names him as Morocco’s “chief of state, supreme representative, symbol of the unity of the nation, guarantor of the durability and continuity of the state.” The two types of authority are thus delinked, but the king’s person remains inviolable (Article 46) and those who call his rule into question are thus subject to prosecution. The new constitution hardly unseats Ptolemy, let alone enthrones Copernicus, and indeed prescribes punishment for those who would espouse Copernican belief.

Moreover, critics have challenged the very process of constitutional reform and referendum as opaque and insincere. From its first mass demonstrations, the February 20 movement had called for constitutional reform by a democratically elected assembly. The king responded on March 9 by appointing a Consultative Commission for the Revision of the Constitution chaired by the constitutional law professor Abdellatif Mennouni and consisting of 19 other members handpicked by the king and his advisers. Over its three months of deliberations, the Mennouni commission met with a number of political parties, trade unions and NGOs. It invited representatives of the February 20 movement and other protest groups, who declined because the process was not public. The king further revised the draft constitution and then submitted it to the country for approval only two weeks before the referendum. While proportionate airtime was promised to all parties, critics accuse the campaign process of strongly privileging the “yes” vote. They charge the king with violating his non-partisan status by delivering a speech for the constitution’s approval and citing a passage from the Qur’an enjoining the public to follow his “way.” The Ministry of Religious Affairs apparently instructed imams to urge a “yes” vote during their Friday sermons. All political parties — including the opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party, which had initial concerns about the role of Islam in the new charter — signed on to the reforms and encouraged their constituents to do the same, with the exception of four minor far left parties who collectively hold only 22 of the 325 seats in the Chamber of Representatives (the part of Parliament that is directly elected). On several occasions, the February 20 movement rallied over 100,000 people across the country in a call to boycott the referendum, but these demonstrations were harried by police and confronted with violent counter-rallies by supporters of the referendum who branded the protesters as anti-monarchists. Protesters said the “monarchists” were akin to Egypt’s baltagiyya, “thugs” organized and paid by the Ministry of Interior.

The dissenters similarly contest the referendum results. They documented incidents of voters being bussed to polling stations by local officials, stations not carrying “no” vote slips and electoral officials not verifying identification or requiring voter signatures. Moroccan residents abroad, whose votes were strongly solicited by the government, reportedly had even looser identification requirements and in some cases voted in mosques under the watchful eyes of the consular officials on whom they rely for administrative services. Protesters do not dispute the 98.5 percent approval result, blaming it on a poor, under-educated and intimidated electorate blindly following their political and religious leaders. But they do question the 72.65 percent turnout claimed by the interior minister, as earlier Ministry statements, media polls and anecdotal reports had put the figure at no more than 50 or 60 percent. Only 13 million of a potential electorate of at least 22 million, they further note, had registered to vote in the first place. Even at 72.65 percent, the turnout would be lower than in any previous constitutional referendum, with the exception of a minor change to the financial regulatory mechanism that occurred in 1995. Whether this plebiscite provides the monarch with a popular mandate remains to be seen.

A Plural Polity

But it would be a mistake to dismiss the referendum as yet another rubber stamp on the monarchy’s writ. If not revolutionary, the constitutional revisions are certainly radical. In the previous ten referendums, all under the reign of Hassan II, the revisions had been superficial: vacillating between a bicameral and unicameral parliament, slightly expanding the role of the prime minister, including some minimal language on human rights and citizenship, adding a budgetary audit court and reducing the king’s age of majority to 16 (which has since been returned to 18). These changes were all initiated from the top, and none responded to widespread popular protest. The current constitution, by contrast, has expanded from 108 to 180 articles, and very few of the older articles have remained unchanged.

In many cases, the new articles respond directly to demands from civic associations and overall the constitution’s rhetoric appears lifted directly from the slogans and communiqués of the protesters. The seven-paragraph, nine-bullet point preamble defines Morocco as a “modern” state of “democratic rights” founded on the “principles of participation, pluralism and good governance.” It summons forth an “interdependent (solidaire) society where all enjoy security, liberty, equality of opportunity, respect, dignity and social justice.” Note that such language of modern, democratic rights precedes the stipulation that the Kingdom of Morocco is an “Islamic sovereign state” — the first line of all previous constitutions. Further, the 2011 document contains a new, 22-article section entitled “Liberties and Fundamental Rights” in which freedoms of information (Article 27) and of the press (Article 28) are added, as are the rights to housing, health care, welfare, water, a clean environment and durable development (Article 31), and the rights of women, children and the disabled (Articles 32, 34). Such protections appear alongside prohibitions of sexism (Article 21), torture (Article 22), racism (Article 23) and corruption (Article 36). These “liberties and fundamental rights” remain sacrosanct even if the king declares a state of emergency (Article 59) and cannot be retracted by future constitutional revision (Article 175). While the fully independent judiciary demanded by demonstrators is declared if not precisely guaranteed (insofar as the king continues to control the appointment of judges), the new constitution adds 17 new articles to the relevant section that safeguard the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus and the rights to fair, public and speedy trial, due process, state-provided counsel and appeal. These clauses similarly put explicit checks on judges’ partiality, excess or the outside influence on the judicial process. Finally, a new, 18-article section on “good governance” offers further guarantees against the corruption or non-compliance of civil servants; establishes a National Council on Human Rights; [3] and provides for a national ombudsman to represent the complaints of citizens regarding the public administration. While some of these provisions invoke laws yet to be written, they are undeniably substantial and perfectly consonant with the February 20 movement and its various allies’ call for an accessible, democratic regime of dignity, respect and social justice.

The provisions targeting Moroccan youth are particularly striking. Of Morocco’s 33 million citizens, 65 percent are estimated to be under 30 years of age. Young men and women are marrying later and later as difficulties in procuring steady employment and housing increase. If national unemployment figures hover around 10 percent, they reach as high as 26 percent for youth in the 25-34 age range, and close to double that in urban areas. Ironically, the more educated Moroccans are, the more likely they are to be jobless. Over the last decade, unemployed university graduates (les diplomés chômeurs) have staged weekly demonstrations in front of Parliament calling for an open job market that does not simply benefit those with family connections. The graduates’ organizational structure, non-violent tactics and militant experience laid the groundwork for the February 20 movement. The latter — whose membership and leadership consists primarily of young men and women — demands state reinvestment in the public sector, specifically the “integration of unemployed university graduates into the civil service by transparent and fair competition.” The new constitution seeks to address these demands by envisioning the creation of a Consultative Council on Youth and Associative Action that would boost the participation of young men and women in the economic, cultural and political life of the country (Article 33). While stopping well short of expanding public-sector employment, it does prescribe state investment in the arts, scientific research and sports (Article 26) that would ostensibly encourage younger talent to remain in the country rather than seeking professional opportunities abroad.

As important, the new constitution redefines Morocco as a culturally and linguistically plural state. The February 20 movement had joined the variegated Berber (Amazigh) movement that for the last three decades had been calling for the recognition of the Berber language (Tamazight) as an official language of Morocco on par with Arabic. Mass demonstrations for change that have occurred since February have consistently included militants carrying Amazigh flags and banners written in Tamazight. Previous constitutions had inscribed the official status of Arabic in the first line of the preamble. No such mention of language is made in the new preamble. Article 5 specifies that “Arabic remains the official language of the state,” yet further stipulates that Tamazight “constitutes an official language of the state, as the common heritage of all Moroccans without exception.” Some Amazigh activists continue to worry that the distinction between the definite and indefinite articles will perpetuate Tamazight’s secondary status. And they remain skeptical over the effectiveness of the future law that will regulate the Berber tongue’s introduction into the education and media systems. But the change does put Morocco ahead of its North African neighbors in respect for indigenous rights.

Moreover, the 2011 constitution does not delimit Morocco’s diversity to an Arab-Berber divide, but rather portrays the country as a veritable cultural and geographic crossroads. Just as Amazigh culture is declared to be the patrimony of all citizens, so too is its broader ethno-cultural diversity declared to constitute its “national identity, one and indivisible.” The preamble specifies a “convergence” of Arabo-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan “components” that is “nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean influences.” If the first two lines of the previous preamble drew from the language of decolonization and Third World solidarity to specify Morocco’s place in a “great Arab Maghrib” and “African unity,” the new introductory stanza invokes a broader globalism that juxtaposes a future North African union alongside an Arabo-Islamic umma, African solidarity and Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Arguably, these gestures are purely rhetorical, but the contrast with prior official identity statements is remarkable.

Finally, if previous constitutional revisions centralized power in the hands of the Rabat political elite, limiting rural administrators to simply enforcing “the law,” the new charter allows for significantly more territorial pluralism. The first article defining Morocco as a “constitutional, democratic, parliamentary and social monarchy” also describes its territorial organization as “decentralized, based on an advanced regionalization.” Over the last five years, nascent autonomy movements have sprung up in the far northern and southern, largely Berber-speaking peripheries — areas that felt themselves to be economically underdeveloped and marginalized by the central government. The peripheries have demanded more administrative self-determination and greater freedom to define their own development initiatives. [4] The 2011 constitution addresses these demands with seven new articles proposing state efforts to foster local citizenship and human development across the regions (Articles 136, 139). It outlines a limited degree of local financial independence while assuring an “equitable allocation of resources, in order to reduce disparities between regions” (Articles 141 and 142).

The practical details of the decentralization program — like so many of the constitution’s reforms — await a set of laws yet to be written. For this reason, even sympathetic activists remain skeptical and have taken a wait-and-see approach, while more pugnacious groups like the February 20 movement oppose the reforms as insufficient and ultimately undemocratic. Even since the referendum, these groups have continued their call for new protests and continued mobilization for the civil liberties, social justice and dignity they read about in the new constitution but see little evidence of in everyday life. They draw attention to the hundreds of political prisoners (Sahrawis, Islamists, Berberists) still incarcerated, the dozens of human rights and union activists arrested in June and the ongoing censorship of the press. As the name of the independent media website organized by February 20 activists,, proclaims: “No concessions.” “We will not be undone.”

Global Stakes

And yet, to evaluate the new constitution on the sole grounds of its ability to contain domestic dissent would be shortsighted. Certainly the timing of the reforms was a defensive move by the king to defuse a burgeoning mass opposition in the wake of the examples of revolt in Tunisia and Egypt. And a number of the revisions did directly address particular grievances by militant social movements. But the Moroccan public was arguably but one of several audiences for whom the new constitution was written. In many places, the document reads less as a model for government than as a mission statement crafted for the international diplomatic and business community. The preamble’s definition of Morocco as a modern, democratic state two paragraphs before its description as an “Islamic sovereign state” plays to a global discourse premised on “clash of civilizations” rhetoric. The new section on “Liberties and Fundamental Rights” is modeled on similar bills of rights in the US and French constitutions. Assurances of transparency, good governance and civil liberties are vital for the procurement of development monies from international agencies that increasingly have democratization riders attached.

Development euros are not the only ones at stake. Morocco depends on foreign investment (particularly from Europe and the Gulf) both to keep state enterprises — privatized since the late 1980s — afloat and to provide the infrastructure for its largest revenue source: tourism. Many of these monies have dried up amidst regional unrest, with the Abu Dhabi-financed Bou Regreg tourist complex standing half-finished, for instance. Attracting the funds back is of the highest priority. Assuring the country’s “tranquility, unity, stability” — to quote the closing lines of the king’s June 17 speech — counters the anxieties of both tourists themselves and the investors who make their stay luxurious. Moreover, among the civil liberties ensured in the new constitution are property rights, free competition and free enterprise (Article 35). Together with new legislation against corruption and proposed contract transparency laws, the revised charter makes for good neoliberal marketing strategy. Small wonder, then, that the protesters’ demands for expansion of the public sector have largely gone unheeded.

Second to tourism in Morocco’s revenue sources are remittances from emigrants. For years, the state has expanded its efforts to suture the connection between the diaspora and the homeland, welcoming Moroccans home on holiday and channeling their remittance monies through national banks and into domestic enterprises. In 2007, the state created a Ministry of the Moroccan Community Abroad to strengthen these ties, reaching out particularly to emigrant investors. With the Mohamed V Foundation for Solidarity, it has expanded the infrastructure for holiday visits, establishing welcome stations at ferry and airport terminals, as well as overseas in southern Europe, under the moniker of Operation Marhaba 2011. The new constitution similarly seeks to ensure emigrants’ political rights in both Morocco and their countries of residence, guaranteeing their rights to elect and be elected to public office and promising to “reinforce their contribution to the development of their homeland (patrie)” (Articles 16-18). It further inscribes into law the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad, consisting largely of politicians, social activists and intellectuals elected by Moroccans overseas to represent their interests in Morocco and advise the Ministry on its various programs (Article 163). Such institutions explicitly aim to shore up cultural, economic and political bridges across the Mediterranean, and thus bolster Morocco’s role as a modern player in a world of global competition.

Such neoliberal globalization requires the heavy hand of the state not only to deepen the channels through which people and money flow, but also to secure such ties from internal and external threats. The Moroccan state has worked hard to shed its reputation as a breeding ground for terrorists, especially in light of the April 28 bombing of the Argana tourist café in Marrakesh. Moroccan security forces have deployed to break up Islamist networks, in certain cases the very same ones they helped to foster in previous decades to combat indigenous Marxist revolutionary movements. The new constitution establishes a High Security Council, presided over by the king, with the charge of devising strategies for “internal and external security” and managing crises. In the preamble, security is placed at the head of the list of basic rights that otherwise include liberty, equality, respect, dignity and social justice. The order is by no means arbitrary.

References to internal and external security imply more than a domestic terrorist threat. In the constitution, security is consistently paired with “national unity” and “territorial integrity.” The implied challenges to these fundamental criteria are potentially varied, but the most germane reference is to the disputed status of Western Sahara — what the king, in his June 17 speech, referred to as “our beloved Saharan provinces.” Since Morocco asserted dominion over the former Spanish colony in 1975, it has devoted substantial resources to integrating the territory into the national fold. Moroccan soldiers continue to man the separation barrier between the Moroccan- and POLISARIO-controlled regions alongside UN peacekeepers in place since 1991. The western port cities of Dakhla and Laayoune have received heavy state funding for urban development, and residents benefit from educational stipends, housing subsidies and retirement pensions that exceed those of other Moroccan citizens and sometimes incur resentment. The preamble’s discussion of “Saharan” culture as a component of Morocco’s “unity,” and Sahara’s later mention as an “integral part of the Moroccan unified cultural identity” (Article 5), expand such efforts at socio-economic integration to the realms of language, culture and politics. Indeed, the king urged his subjects to approve the new constitution because it would “provide a strong impetus for the final settlement of the just cause of the Moroccan Sahara.” The constitutional referendum thus leaves little room for any future referendum on Saharan independence, as envisioned by UN resolutions.

A Rebirth of Politics?

The new Morocco projected by the constitutional reforms is thus a strong, “modern” monarchy of diverse subject-citizens free and equipped to compete in the global marketplace. Domestic contestation would be defanged by mechanisms of “good governance” that would manage dissent and provide equity of opportunity, if not equality of outcome. Freedoms and civil liberties would be guaranteed to the extent that they do not challenge the “territorial integrity” or “national unity” of the country or dispute the centrality of the king or Islam. Increased security and the rule of law would ensure a safe environment where such free citizens could equally enjoy their fundamental rights to live and labor. It is a neoliberal utopian space where politics is either illegitimate or simply unnecessary. Utility maximizes for the wealth of the nation and its individual subjects.

But such a new Morocco does not simply come into being because 98.5 percent of a possible majority of the electorate votes “yes” to an eloquent governing document promulgated by the “commander of the faithful.” Almost half of the country remains rural and illiterate, unable to make heads or tails of the constitution’s legalese and decidedly unconcerned with the machinations of urban politicians whom they presume are only concerned with their pocketbooks. Young men and women continue to flee the country by any means necessary, risking their lives as hidden passengers in overcrowded fishing vessels in search of Eldorado. And those who remain are anything but the quiescent, neoliberal subjects of Michel Foucault or Gilles Deleuze’s nightmares of a “society of control.” [5]

Indeed, the constitutional referendum seems to have only enlivened the political contention that has simmered in Morocco for many decades. If previously relegated to university campuses where it was taken as a passing stage of adolescence, or marginalized in semi-clandestine Islamist or Berberist networks infinitely factionalized and in a constant dance of cooptation by the makhzen, politics has now literally returned to the streets. The February 20 movement built upon the networks previously associated with the human rights, trade union, diplomés chômeurs and Amazigh circles, conjoining them into a single umbrella movement that transcended (or at least momentarily sidelined) extant ideological differences. It actively shared experiences with and learned tactics from other international youth associated with a history of protests in Serbia, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. It used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, GIS software and a wealth of online news sources to connect militants across the country, turning every activist into an independent journalist recording and reporting on her local experiences. On a repeated basis since February, the movement succeeded in mobilizing over 100,000 demonstrators across Morocco. While the protests did not concentrate in a single space like Cairo’s Tahrir Square, their strength arguably derived from their geographical spread to provincial towns in the countryside and the peripheral working-class neighborhoods of Rabat and Casablanca. Few could claim that the unrest was simply happening elsewhere.

How representative the February 20 movement is of Morocco remains to be seen. And how it ultimately interfaces with the Islamist activists, whose critique of the constitution’s projected new global Morocco follows a different logic, cannot be predicted. There is some indication that the discourse of both groups is hardening as their frustration with the reform process deepens, that they may indeed become the anti-monarchists that the counter-protesters accuse them of being. If the protesters were to make this leap, they would surely lose the tacit support of the majority of Moroccans, for whom the king remains a shining star of religious faith and national tradition, a legacy of the country’s authoritarian political culture that the makhzen stands ready to exploit, its Copernican pretensions notwithstanding. In the short term, however, the re-politicized youth, in all of their ideological diversity, can continue to hope for a “new social pact,” as one anonymous author on the website notes. Until then, “No concessions.”


[1] Reuters, April 24, 2011.

[2] Le Matin, June 18, 2011.

[3] On this topic, see Susan Slyomovics, “100 Days of the 2011 Moroccan Constitution,” Jadaliyya, June 30, 2011.

[4] See Paul Silverstein, “States of Fragmentation in North Africa,” Middle East Report 237 (Winter 2005).

[5] Gilles Deleuze, “Postscriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle,” L’Autre Journal 1 (1990). “


(Quelle: MERIP.)

Westsahara: Der vergessene Krieg

Sonntag, Juni 19th, 2011

“Der Westsahara-Konflikt nimmt kein Ende und die Welt schaut zu

Posted by david on 3/06/11

Seit 35 Jahren wird die Westsahara von Marokko besetzt und für sich beansprucht. Da ein Großteil der ansässigen Bevölkerung die Besatzung nicht akzeptieren will, eskalierte der Konflikt schnell zu einem Krieg. Seit 19 Jahren ist ein Waffenstillstandsabkommen in Kraft, die Lage galt lange als beruhigt. Doch der Schein trügt.

Der marokkanische König Mohammed VI. gilt als wesentlich liberaler als sein rücksichtsloser agierender Vater und Vorgänger Hassan II., der Andersdenkende in unterirdischen Gefängnissen in der Wüste einkerkern ließ. Dennoch ist der Westsahara-Konflikt weit davon entfernt auf diplomatischem Wege gelöst zu werden. Als Marokko das Gebiet 1975 einnahm, rief die sogenannte POLISARIO-Bewegung die unabhängige Republik Westsahara aus und organisiert seitdem den bewaffneten Widerstand gegen die Besatzer. Etwa 100.000 Menschen flohen nach Kriegsausbruch ins benachbarte Algerien. 1991 kam es durch Vermittlungen der UNO zu einem Waffenstillstand, der sich jedoch als extrem brüchig erwiesen hat, denn eingeschlafen ist der Konflikt keineswegs. Immer wieder kommt es zu Auseinandersetzungen zwischen den einheimischen Sahraouis und den marokkanischen Streitkräften. In regelmäßigen Abständen demonstrieren in Marokko und im europäischen Ausland zahlreiche westsaharische Studenten. Erst im November kamen elf Menschen bei der gewaltsamen Räumung eines POLISARIO-Zeltlagers ums Leben und im vergangenen Jahr erregte die westsaharische Menschenrechtsaktivistin Aminatou Haidar mit einem 32-tägigen Hungerstreik weltweite Aufmerksamkeit.

Das von Marokko besetzte Gebiet der Westsahara | Grafik: Wikipedia

Doch nicht nur die extrem repressiv vorgehende marokkanische Staatsmacht ist kritisch zu beäugen, auch die POLISARIO schert sich nicht besonders um Gewaltfreiheit und Selbstbestimmung. Ihr Generalsekretär hat sich zwar vom bewaffneten Kampf distanziert, ist aber trotz offiziell sozialistischer Ausrichtung der POLISARIO seit 34 Jahren an der Macht. Gleichzeitig wurde er bereits kurze Zeit nach Gründung der Republik Westsahara auch ihr Präsident – und ist es bis heute geblieben.

Wie sieht die Zukunft aus?

Wie es mit der Westsahara weitergeht, ist völlig offen. Zumindest auf diplomatischer Ebene herrscht seit Jahren Stillstand. Die marokkanische Seite ist geostrategisch im Vorteil, hält alle Seezugänge und auch die größte Stadt der Region besetzt. Marokko behandelt die Westsahara völlig selbstverständlich als eine seiner Provinzen, ein Referendum über die Unabhängigkeit wurde von den Machthabern in Rabat bis heute erfolgreich verhindert. Auch nahezu alle westlichen Staaten scheuen die Konfrontation mit dem nordafrikanischen Königreich. Zu groß wäre der Verlust von Rohstoffen wie Phosphat und Fischbeständen und dem Wüstenstromprojekt DESERTEC, zu gering die Bedeutung der Wüstenlandschaften im Osten. Solange sich die Marionettenregierung des marokkanischen Königs den westlichen Forderungen nach mehr (Markt-)Liberalität fügt, schaut man bei den sozialen Missständen in der einfachen marokkanischen Bevölkerung gerne weg.

Demonstration gegen die Besatzung der Westsahara im spanischen Bilbao, Mai 2008 | Foto: Saharauiak

Auf Seiten der Westsahara scheint die Ratlosigkeit und Verzweiflung immer mehr zuzunehmen. Aktionen des zivilen Ungehorsams und Demonstrationen für die Unabhängigkeit der Westsahara nehmen zwar in letzter Zeit zu, in der high society der internationalen Politik werden ihre Interessen allerdings ignoriert. Auch wenn der Präsident der Republik Westsahara, Mohamed Abdelaziz, eine diplomatische und friedliche Lösung zu bevorzugen scheint, gibt es auch in den Reihen der POLISARIO Stimmen, die eine Rückkehr zum bewaffneten Kampf fordern. Sollte flächendeckender Widerstand jedoch scheitern, läuft alles auf ein Aussitzen des vergessenen Krieges hinaus.


Wie kam es zum Konflikt?

Fast 100 Jahre lang stand das Rio de Oro genannte Gebiet unter spanischer Verwaltung. Nach dem Tod Francos jedoch zog sich die spanische Armee wieder aus der Westsahara zurück. Sogleich stellten Marokko und auch Mauretanien Besitzansprüche an das Gebiet. Während Mauretanien diese schnell aufgab, begann Marokko im November 1975 mit dem sogenannten „Grünen Marsch“. Innerhalb von 15 Tagen nahmen etwa 350.000 Menschen die Westsahara für sich in Anspruch. Ziel der Invasion und der darauffolgenden Besatzung waren und sind die gigantischen Phosphatvorkommen in dem Gebiet. Marokko gilt heute als einer der weltweit größten Phosphatexporteure. Daraufhin bildete sich die Widerstandsbewegung Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro, kurz POLISARIO, die in einem blutigen Krieg vom marokkanischen Militär energisch bekämpft wurde.
Derzeit hält Marokko zwei Drittel des umstrittenen Gebiets im Osten besetzt und behandelt es wie eine zusätzliche Provinz. Dieser Teil des Gebiets ist durch einen fast 3.000 km langen und extrem stark verminten Sandwall vom Rest abgegrenzt. Dieser „Rest“ wird von der Republik Westsahara kontrolliert. Diese ging faktisch aus der POLISARIO hervor und wird heute von 46 Staaten weltweit anerkannt. Aufgrund der marokkanischen Besatzung hat die westsaharische Regierung ihren Sitz in der algerischen Stadt Tindouf. Nicht weit entfernt von Tindouf existiert ein riesiges Flüchtlingslager, in dem hunderttausende vertriebene Bewohner der Westsahara unter teils erbärmlichen Umständen leben.”

Grafik: Wikipedia


(Quelle: Utopia.)

Westsahara: Polisario fordert Ende der ethnischen Säuberungen

Mittwoch, Dezember 8th, 2010

“Polisario Front urges United Nations to intervene.

Western Sahara urges end to Morocco “ethnic cleansing”

The Polisario Front pushing for independence of the Western Sahara urged the United Nations Tuesday to intervene to stop Morocco’s campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the disputed territory.

Polisario Front secretary general Mohamed Abdelaziz also called on the world body, in a message released on Algeria’s APS news agency, to send a team to investigate last month’s clearing by Moroccan forces of a Western Sahara camp.

Morocco says 13 people were killed in the November 8 raid on the Gdeim Izik camp outside the city of Laayoune, most of them security forces. The Polisario Front says dozens were killed, but it has not identified them.
Referring to Morocco’s raid to dismantle the camp, Abdelaziz referred to ‘serious colonialist practices’ similar to ‘a policy of ethnic cleansing against defenseless Sahrawi (Western Sahara) citizens’.

‘We address you emphatically demanding your intervention as soon as possible to save the lives of innocent Sahrawis and to put an end to practices of another age and serious violations of human rights,’ Abdelaziz said.

He called on the U.N. to ‘intervene immediately to end a policy of ethnic cleansing by the Moroccan government.’

Abdelaziz is also president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which administers the disputed former Spanish colony and is recognized by the African Union but not the United Nations.

He urged the U.N. to also enlarge the mandate of its MINURSO mission in the territory to include the monitoring of human rights.

The mission has been in the area since 1991 to monitor a ceasefire between Moroccan forces and Polisario guerrillas, who started fighting after Rabat’s 1975 annexation of the territory when Spain withdrew.

It is made up of 224 troops and 276 civilians.

Abdelaziz said the U.N. should send without delay a team to investigate the Gdeim Izik camp ‘crime’.

Morocco’s parliament voted on November 29 to create an committee to investigate what happen in the raids.

Rabat has pledged to grant Western Sahara widespread autonomy but rules out independence. The Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, wants a referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.”

(Quelle: Al Arabiya.)

Afrika: Mehr Waffen, weniger zivile Hilfe

Dienstag, Juli 13th, 2010

“Africa: No Butter, But Lots of Guns

By Conn Hallinan

The developed world has a message for Africa: ‘Sorry, but we are reneging on our aid pledges made at the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland back in 2005, but we do have something for you—lots and lots of expensive things that go ‘bang’ and kill people.’

And that was indeed the message that came out of the G8-G20 meetings in Canada last month. The promise to add an extra $25 billion to a $50 billion aid package for the continent went a glimmering. Instead, the G8 will cut the $25 billion to $11 billion and the $50 billion to $38 billion. And don’t hold your breath that Africa will get even that much.

The G8 consists of Britain, the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, Japan, France, and Russia, although Moscow is not part of the aid pledge.

Canada’s Muskoka summit hailed ‘significant progress toward the millennium development goals’—the United Nations’ target of reducing poverty by 2015—but when it came time to ante up, everyone but the United Kingdom bailed. The Gleneagles pledge was to direct 0.51 percent of the G8’s gross national income to aid programs by 2010. The UK came up to 0.56 percent, but the U.S. is at 0.2, Italy at 0.16, Canada at 0.3, Germany at 0.35, and France at 0.47. Rumor has it that France and Italy led the charge to water down the 2005 goals.

The shortfall, says Oxfam spokesman Mark Fried, is not just a matter of ‘numbers.’ The aid figures ‘represent vital medicines, kids in school, help for women living in poverty and food for the hungry.’

AIDS activists are particularly incensed. ‘I see no point in beating around the bush,’ said AIDS-Free World spokesman Stephen Lewis at a Toronto press conference. He charged that Obama Administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ‘is being flat-lined for at least the next two years.’ Lewis said AIDS groups were treating five million patients, but that another nine million needed to be in programs. ‘There are AIDS projects, run by other NGOs [non-governmental organizations], where new patients cannot be enrolled unless someone dies.’ 

But if the  poor, sick, and hungry are going begging, not so Africa’s militaries.

According to Daniel Volman, director of the African Security Research Project, the White House is following the same policies as the Bush Administration vis-à-vis Africa. ‘Indeed, the Obama Administration is seeking to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further,’ says Volman.

In its 2011 budget, the White House asked for over $80 million in military programs for Africa, while freezing or reducing aid packages aimed at civilians.

The major vehicle for this is the U.S.’s African Command (AFRICOM) founded in 2008. Through the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, AFRICOM is training troops from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad. The supposed target of all this is the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Meghreb (AQIM), but while AQIM is certainly troublesome—it sets off bombs and kidnaps people— it is small, scattered, and doesn’t pose a serious threat to any of the countries involved.

The worry is that the various militaries being trained by AFRICOM could end up being used against internal dissidents. Tuaregs, for instance, are engaged in a long-running, low-level insurgency against the Mali government, which is backing a French plan to mine uranium in the Sahara. Might Morocco use the training to attack the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara? Mauritanians complain that the ‘terrorist’ label has been used to jail political opponents of the government.

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said the U.S. was seeking to bolster Nigeria’s ‘ability to combat violent extremism within its borders.’ That might put AFRICOM in the middle of a civil war between ruling elites in Lagos and their transnational oil company allies, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Delta, which is demanding an end to massive pollution and a fair cut of oil revenues. 

The National Energy Policy Development Groups estimates that by 2015 as much as 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will come from Africa.

So far, AFRICOM’s track record has been one disaster after another. It supported Ethiopia’s intervention in the Somalia civil war, and helped to overthrow the moderate Islamic Courts Union. It is now fighting a desperate rear-guard action against a far more extremist grouping, the al-Shabaab. AFRICOM also helped coordinate a Ugandan Army attack on the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Operation Lightning Thunder— that ended up killing thousands of civilians. 

The U.S. has been careful to keep a low profile in all this. ‘We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked,’ Volman quotes one U.S. AFRICOM officer. ‘We want Africans to go in.’

And presumably get ‘whacked.’

AFRICOM’s Operation Flintlock 2010, which ran from May 3-22, was based in Burkina Faso. Besides the militaries of 10 African nations, it included 600 U.S. Special Forces and elite units from France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Yes, there are other arms pushers out there, and the list reads like an economic who’s who: France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Sweden, and Israel. Some 70 percent of the world’s arms trade is aimed at developing countries.

So, is AFRICOM about fighting terrorism, or oil, gas and uranium? Nicole Lee, the executive director of Trans Africa, the leading African American organization focusing on Africa has no doubts: ‘This [AFRICOM] is nothing short of a sovereignty and resource grab.’

And who actually benefits from this militarization of the continent? As Nigerian journalist Dulue Mbachu warns, ‘Increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty.’”


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Westsahara: UN regt Konsultationen an

Sonntag, Juli 4th, 2010

UN envoy holds consultations on Western Sahara

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross

The United Nations envoy dealing with Western Sahara is holding consultations in the capitals of the nations comprising the so-called Group of Friends, a diplomatic cluster working to help resolve the dispute over the territory.

Christopher Ross, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, started his latest trip on 21 June, and has so far visited London, Paris and Madrid. He is scheduled to visit Washington and Moscow at a later date.

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

The purpose of Mr. Ross’ talks is to consult on the best ways to move the negotiations forward toward a mutually-acceptable settlement, as well as to solicit these nations’ advice and support.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters that Mr. Ross’ meetings so far “have been very useful, reflecting a fresh interest in moving beyond the status quo and finding a solution.”

The members of the Group of Friends that the envoy has met with to date have all expressed their willingness to work with him and the parties to ensure the success of future talks.

There has also been unanimous agreement, Mr. Ross said, on the need to intensify work on confidence-building measures, including the resumption of family visits by air, the early inauguration of family visits by road and other steps proposed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In April, the Security Council extended for another year the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission tasked with organizing a referendum on self-determination on Western Sahara.

Known as MINURSO, the mission was set up in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire reached in September of that year.

The Council’s resolution called on the parties to continue their dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary-General without preconditions to achieve “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

(Quelle: UN News Centre.)