March 3, 2007


Will Freedom Bloom in the Desert? (FREDERICK VREELAND, 3/03/07, NY Times)

While Morocco exercises control over the greater part of the Western Sahara and has an "open door" policy toward the refugees, the Polisario has made it virtually impossible for those Sahrawis living in the camps in southern Algeria to return. Holding on to the refugees is their strategy for "governing" these people, who exist solely on international assistance. Particularly troubling is the fact that the younger ones have never known life outside these bleak camps.

Enter Mohammed VI. Since assuming the throne seven years ago, the Moroccan king has brought about vital domestic reforms, including elevating and protecting the status of women, as well as establishing an independent commission to face up to Morocco's human rights record. In an effort to advance the Western Sahara issue, the king studied contemporary models of territorial conflict resolution to see which solutions proved viable and durable in similar situations around the world. He created an advisory council to gather the views of both Moroccans and the Sahrawi.

The result? After a year-long national discussion, Morocco is to propose, at the United Nations in April, a plan to establish the Western Sahara as an autonomous region under Moroccan sovereignty. Autonomy would provide effective self-determination for the Sahrawis, allowing for local decision-making and control over economic, social, linguistic and cultural issues. Successful autonomy regions like this exist elsewhere. The Trentino-Alto Adige region in Italy and the autonomous region of Madeira in Portugal are examples, as are Catalonia and the Basque Provinces in Spain. The creation of these quasi-states has unlocked longstanding disputes once thought resolvable only by force.

Mohammed VI is seeking a solution to the Western Sahara dispute based on common ground rather than conflict. His act of leadership is in everyone's interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 3, 2007 10:33 AM

This is a myopic and intellectually dishonest view. Mohammed VI is only interested in legitimizing an illegal military occupation that has created massive human suffering and repression. Meanwhile, the Sahrawis are not being held prisoner, as several third-party NGO's have asserted and they desire nothing short of their right to exercise self-determination for independence. The fact that Mohammed is proposing autonomy over a region that is not rightfully his shows how xenophobic and chauvinistic he is.

Posted by: Justin Anthony Knapp at March 5, 2007 8:23 AM

It is his by legal right. Granting autonomy demonstrates he recognizes rights trump legality.

Posted by: oj at March 5, 2007 8:56 AM