STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE FRANK RUDDY, U.S. AMBASSADOR (ret.), FORMER DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE U.N. PEACEKEEPING MISSION FOR WESTERN SAHARA (MINURSO)
BEFORE THE WESTERN SAHARA BRIEFING AT THE US CONGRESS ON MAY 9, 2007:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The secret of illusionists is to concentrate the audience’s attention on the left hand while the right hand creates the deception.
Morocco has shown itself to be a first class illusionist. On the one hand, it is drawing the attention of the U.N. and various foreign offices to its proposal of autonomy for Western Sahara as a long-awaited solution to the stalemate in North Africa while at the same time it conceals the essential cause of the stalemate: Morocco’s illegal invasion and occupation of Western Sahara.
Facts are stubborn things, and despite Morocco’s ignoring them, they won’t go away. In 1975, in response to a request by Morocco for an advisory opinion by the World Court, that Court stated that the record did “not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco….” The World Court also upheld the validity of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) on the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of Western Sahara. Thereupon Morocco invaded Western Sahara and has occupied that country ever since. It was what the British journal The Economist called an Anschluss. Despite 59 Security Council resolutions since 1975 reaffirming the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and the U.N.’s 4th Committee’s treating Western Sahara as a Moroccan colony, Morocco continues to put itself above the law and remains firmly in place, and in charge, in Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony.
A referendum on whether Western Sahara would be integrated with Morocco or remain independent was scheduled for 1991 but was pushed back until 1994. I ran that referendum which was sabotaged by Morocco when it became clear that the Saharawis, the indigenous people of Western Sahara, would opt for independence. I documented Morocco’s dirty tricks, which Morocco carried out with the U.N.’s complicity, in my testimony before a Congressional committee in this building in 1995.
The Moroccans now say their proposal will be submitted to a referendum, but a referendum to be voted on by whom? By the Moroccan people? Were such the case, Morocco and not the Saharawis would be exercising the right to self-determination. Or will it be a referendum to be voted on by the Saharawis themselves? And if the Saharawis vote no, will that mean independence for the Saharawis? If the Moroccans were honest in proposing a referendum, they would let the people of Western Sahara choose an autonomy plan where all options were on the table. The only real solution for Western Sahara is one that the people of Western Sahara can endorse. Otherwise it’s just back to square one.
The history of this conflict is not encouraging. Morocco has behaved unconscionably since its invasion of Western Sahara until the present day. It has had tremendous internal political motives for doing so. It has come up with various approaches, some brutal, some ingenious, for trying to make Western Sahara Moroccan. The proposal we are discussing today is just the latest. Sadly our own government has not confronted Morocco’s lawless behavior, and despite our country’s fine words about the rights of peoples everywhere to self-determination, we are willing to jettison the rights of one small nation to determine their own future for a bowl of pottage in the form of appeasing one ally, specifically Morocco’s, territorial expansionism.
In the time allotted to me today, I have had to omit many things. With the Chairman’s permission, I request that I be allowed to submit seven attachments with my statement.
I thank the Chairman and the other distinguished members for inviting my comments.