Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tim Kustusch Advocating for the Western Sahara

Timothy Kustusch to the Fourth Committee: Saharawis are ready for statehood



American student, Mr. Timothy Kustush, affirmed in his petition before the UN Foruth Committee for decolonisation that the Saharawi people “are ready for statehood”.

Here is his intervention before the Committee:

6 October 2009

Special Political and Decolonization Committee

Re: Western Sahara

Honorable Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I thank you for accepting my petition to speak before this committee on what is for hundreds of thousands of people the most pressing matter of international law of our time. My name is Tim Kustusch, and I would like to speak to you about my latest trip to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, during which I travelled to Tindouf without any program, project, or organization. Within my first few days in the camps, I was invited to work as a volunteer reporter with the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union, a Saharawi NGO that runs an online news site.*

Working in the camps for two and a half months as a journalist and photographer allowed me to see and experience many things that few foreigners are able to witness. I was able to speak with ministers, parliamentarians, generals, and President Mohammed Abdelaziz to learn about their country-in-exile from the inside. And what I learned is this: the Saharawis are, in fact, well-prepared to become a valuable neighbor to Morocco and a constructive member of the international community of states.

First, the Saharawis have constructed an impressive infrastructure that defies the traditional Western notion of refugee camps. They have built markets, hospitals, gas stations, Internet cafes, courthouses, conference halls, and barber shops. They have set up a national radio station and a national TV station that broadcast throughout the camps. The SADR has all the trappings of a modern state, ready to be replicated when the Saharawis return home.

Secondly, the Saharawis have established many of the social and civil services found in well-developed countries. They manufacture their own medicines, care for their own war victims, administer their own vaccines, and dispose of their own garbage. Further, in the first days following their expulsion from the Western Sahara, the Polisario Front set up a system of compulsory primary education for both boys and girls, which today even includes schools for the disabled. All of these services would be enhanced within the borders of a true Saharawi state.

Thirdly, the Saharawis have effectively secured their own camps through the efforts of the Saharawi People’s Liberation Army and the highly-professional Saharawi National Police. To combat the potential infiltration of terrorists experienced by Morocco, Mali, and other countries in the region, both the Saharawi army and police undergo intense human rights and anti-terrorism training. The Saharawis have protected their own camps, and they can protect their own country.

Finally, the Polisario Front has crafted a government-in-exile that is more democratic, efficient, and organized than many governments that are recognized by the UN. While monarchies predominate in North Africa, the Saharawis have been dedicated to the principles of democracy since the beginning of their movement The SADR is governed by a popularly-elected National Parliament, an executive branch with 20 fully-functioning ministries, and a judicial branch headed by a supreme court. Admittedly, the SADR’s democracy is still not perfect, but as the Polisario leaders were fond of telling me, “Look, we’re still in a state of war. When we have peace and we have our land back, our democracy will be perfected.”

The point of this account is simple: over the past 35 years the Saharawis have undertaken painstaking preparations to demonstrate to Morocco, to the UN, and to the world that they are ready for statehood. They are prepared and willing to join the rest of the Maghreb states in collective security and economic agreements. When the UN decides to enforce and when Morocco agrees to acknowledge the principles of decolonization clearly stated in this organization’s Charter, the Saharawis are ready.

Attached to this petition I have included a diagram in which I depict the structure of the Polisario Front and the SADR, and I would be happy to provide a more extensive report that I am working on if such a document would be useful to this committee. Thank you very much for your time and attention.


Tim Kustusch
MA Candidate/Research Assistant
American University
School of International Service

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