Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WESTERN SAHARA: AFRICA’S LAST COLONY
Frank Ruddy
U.S. Ambassador (ret.)
*Former Deputy Chairman
U.N. Peacekeeping Mission (MINURSO)
For Western Sahara
World Affairs Council
Alaska
Juneau October 31, 2007
Anchorage November 2, 2007
Members of the World Affairs Council, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful to have been invited here to speak about Western Sahara. To prepare for my visit here, I saw the movie Into The Wild. I was expecting my accommodations here to be a used school bus. I was pleasantly surprised by a delightful hotel room. I do remain quite wary of any herbs in my salad.
By definition, your Council has a healthy curiosity about what is happening all over the world. My predecessors at this podium have been the presidents of Mongolia and Iceland. I am so glad your attention is now focused on North Africa, Morocco and how the United Nations performed and is performing in resolving Morocco’s invasion and retention of what is the world’s last colony: Western Sahara. I am going to speak briefly about the history of the conflict over Western Sahara, my role in the initial and failed referendum and then the prospects here and now, in 2007, for resolving the conflict. I intend to leave plenty of time for your questions. The audience’s questions are always the most interesting part of any presentation.
THE PLACE:
Western Sahara is country about the size of Colorado, just below Morocco, located just where the name says it should be, on the western edge of the Sahara. I am going to start in the middle of things as they say good stories should, with the 1995 congressional hearing into how the U.N. spends the money we Americans appropriate for it. That led to the U.N.’s handling of the referendum scheduled for Western Sahara. Finally, I will move to 2007 and what’s happening now to resolve the issue.
In January 1995 I was a witness in that congressional hearing looking into U.N. spending of U.S. taxpayer money. Chuck Lichenstein, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and deputy to Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Despite, or perhaps because of his proximity to the institution, he was not a great fan of the U.N. You may recall his well-publicized remarks in 1983. Chuck said: “If, in the judicious determination of the members of the United Nations they feel they are not welcome and treated with the hostly consideration that is their due, the United States strongly encourages member states to seriously consider removing themselves and this organization from the soil of the United States. We will put no impediment in your way, and we will be at the dockside bidding you a farewell as you set off into the sunset.”
It was Chuck who viewed the U.N.’s actions in Western Sahara as so outrageous, even by U.N. standards, that he gave up his place so that I could address the congressional committee that day.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND:
Western Sahara used to be a Spanish colony called Spanish Sahara. Under U.N. pressure to decolonize, Spain agreed to withdraw from Spanish Sahara but not before it organized a referendum to allow the inhabitants to vote on their own, decolonized, future. But even before Spain withdrew, Morocco had appeared before the World Court in The Hague and claimed sovereignty over Spanish Sahara. The World Court rejected Morocco’s position and in its opinion made two very important points: First, that Morocco had no claim to sovereignty over Spanish, now Western, Sahara, and secondly, that the referendum organized by Spain should go forward. The day after that decision was announced, Morocco invaded Western Sahara in what was called “the Green March.” Morocco has occupied Western Sahara ever since, leading to what has become the longest, most protracted conflict in the history of the United Nations.....
read more on: http://arso.org/RuddyAlaskaspeech2007.htm

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