More than 30 000 Sarhrawis (elected officials, NGO leaders, women activists, youth…) gathered in a sit in in front of Minurso headquarters in Laayoune (south of Morocco) to reiterate their position “firm and unequivocal” in favor of the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara.
Sahrawi parliamentarians and mayors unanimously hailed Morocco decisive steps towards democracy, which they claimed consistently leads the way development, ensuring its unity based on the recognition of diversity. Better, they hailed the plan presented in 2007 by Morocco, which advocates a broad autonomy within the sovereignty of the Moroccan. According to them, that is the most Morocco can offer and the kingdom has no intention, whatsoever, to waste more time on endless negotiations where the other conflicting party continues to maintain a stubborn position.
Senior representatives of Sahrawi tribes even questioned the role of the Minurso in the present circumstances. For them this four decade conflict should be resolved by Sahrawis within an advanced regionalization that is not a mere technical or administrative management,but rather a resolute option for the renovation and modernization of state structures, and the consolidation of the integrated development. It does not reduce to a simple redistribution of powers between the center and the regions. Similarly, this regionalization is a major turning point in the forms of territorial governance and that, as a prelude to a new dynamic radical institutional reform.
The proposed regionalization for the southern provinces iis a revolution compared to all previous conceptions of decentralization. This is a new architecture that breaks with the past, both in its conception, its goals, expectations, as its objectives. This is one step in a continuing process of democratization of the political and social life.
For the sahrawi shioukhs, Morocco had existed as a sovereign state for centuries. Most of its dynasties originated from the Sahara. The ties with the Sahara, all the way to the Senegal, rose and ebbed with events in history; but, by the time the French and Spaniards started their expansionist designs on the region, most people north of Senegal and the Algerian Sahara paid allegiance to the Moroccan sultan and conducted Friday prayers in his name. These were the markers of sovereignty in pre-colonial Muslim societies, not the precise territorial boundaries that European states had to establish to sort out their own feuds.
So why this sympathy for a Western Sahara that never existed, a vast stretch of desert the size of Colorado with no arable land at all, and whose borders were delineated by a Franco-Spanish team between 1956 and 1958? For some, it may seem the progressive thing to do, and for others, it is part of a strategic ploy to maintain a precarious balance of power in the region.
The solution that Morocco now proposes autonomy within Morocco is not a device to circumvent the UN-sponsored resolution; it is, for all Sahrawis, merely the modern version of the old bay a principle that bonded the Sahrawis with the rest of the country.