Wednesday, October 08, 2008

NEW YORK/SADC-UN debate on Western Sahara 2008

The fifteen Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries affirmed Monday evening before the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee that “self-determination is the only answer for the situation in Western Sahara".

"For us, the Member States of SADC, the struggle for the people of Western Sahara is a struggle for self-determination and is based on the principles of decolonisation, promotion of human rights, international legality and the stability and security of the African continent", Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa declared on behalf of SADC.

"It is a struggle that we are familiar with in our sub-region", he added.

Here is the complete text of the intervention by Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa, on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples at the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee (Fourth Committee)
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06 October 2008

Mr. Chairman,

Allow us to begin by congratulating you on your election as Chairman of the Fourth Committee. We also wish to express our appreciation to your predecessor, the Ambassador of Sudan, for his work during the 62nd session.

I have the pleasure to address the Committee on behalf of the fifteen Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, namely Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We also align ourselves with the statement to be delivered later by the Permanent Representative of Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Mr. Chairman,

For us, the Member States of SADC, the struggle for the people of Western Sahara is a struggle for self-determination and is based on the principles of decolonisation, promotion of human rights, international legality and the stability and security of the African continent. It is a struggle that we are familiar with in our sub-region.

For this reason, it is important to recall that Western Sahara remains the last remaining colony on the African continent and it has been on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since 1963 when it was under Spanish colonial rule. The General Assembly has since consistently recognised the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and independence, and called for the exercise of that right in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Therefore the continuous colonial occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco constitutes a challenge to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the authority and credibility of this body and it is for this reason that SADC cannot remain silent on this matter.

In fact, up to this day it is worth remembering that neither the United Nations nor any regional or international organisation, nor any other country in the world, has recognised Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara. The Moroccan territorial claims to Western Sahara have been rejected by the advisory opinions of both the International Court of Justice on 16 October 1975 and the Legal Department of the United Nations on 29 January 2002. The International Court of Justice stated that there were no links of territorial sovereignty between Morocco and the Western Sahara prior to the Spanish colonization of the Territory. The General Assembly resolution 34/37 (1979), among others, describes Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara as “a continued occupation”.

Mr. Chairman,

The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is a founding member of the African Union and was also a member of the Organisation of African Unity. At the same time, the Kingdom of Morocco is also a friendly African country. SADC has always carried the hope that these two African nations would find a way to resolve their differences which remain a challenge for our continent.

It is for this reason that SADC commends both parties, Frente Polisario representing the people of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco for their participation in direct negotiations during the Manhasset process based on the two plans that they submitted to the Secretary-General. We would like to believe that the participation of both parties, in negotiations and in compliance with Security Council resolution 1754 (2006) indicates a willingness to negotiate without preconditions and in good faith. The aim is to try and achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

In SADC, we believe that self-determination is the only answer for the situation in Western Sahara.

And, for the negotiations on self-determination between Western Sahara and Morocco to be successful, there should be no attempt to distort the intention of the Security Council in resolution 1754 or the language of the resolution by claiming that the Council preferred one plan over the other. Despite claims by the Moroccan delegation, South Africa can confirm as a member of the Security Council who was part of the negotiations on the text of resolution 1754, that the text of the resolution is clear that the Council “takes note” of both the Saharawi proposal and the Moroccan proposal. The Council called on the parties to enter into negotiations based on both these proposals. Any attempt to place one proposal over the other would undermine the negotiations process and would be counter-productive to the spirit of future negotiations based on the two proposals.

The problem thus far has been that Morocco has tried to impose an autonomy proposal on the people of Western Sahara thereby denying them their right under the United Nations Charter to exercise the right of self-determination. In other words, the Moroccan proposal is seeking to deny the people of Western Sahara the right to choose in a referendum their destiny, whether it be independence, integration or even autonomy.

Mr. Chairman,

SADC is also very concerned about the alarming reports of human rights violations and even atrocities perpetrated against the Saharawi people. The Secretary-General has often referred to a report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation in Western Sahara that documents the violations on human rights. We would hope that the Secretary-General will soon publish the findings and recommendations of the OHCHR because we are of the strong view that the human rights violations stem from the non-realisation of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

We find it odd that in addressing the issue of Western Sahara, some Member States including the so-called Group of Friends on the issue of Western Sahara, have continued to refuse to include any mention of human rights in UN resolutions, despite the fact that the Secretary-General has continued to report on the human rights situation in Western Sahara. Additionally both parties, Frente Polisario and Morocco, have raised human rights concerns in letters to the Secretary-General. The refusal to deal with human rights abuses in Western Sahara creates a double standard and a clear impression that the United Nations simply does not care about the human rights of the people of Western Sahara.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, SADC once again supports the adoption of a resolution on Western Sahara by this Committee that reiterates the principles of self-determination and decolonisation.

That is the least the people of Western Sahara expect from us.

I thank you.”



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