Sahara: Ban Ki-Moon Turns Moroccans against him

marche-babThe determined reaction of Morocco, with the demonstration staged by more than three million people in Rabat, on Sunday March 13, to protest against Ban Ki-Moon, constituted a strong signal that was felt as far as the corridors of the United Nations Organization, which fears that the partiality of the Secretary General will complicate further the settlement of the Sahara issue.

Ban Ki-moon’s remarks during his visit last week in Algeria were clearly favorable to the Polisario, a fact that shocked Morocco where the Sahara issue is a red line for the Government, political parties, trade unions and lambda Moroccans.

On the eve of the unprecedented Sunday march in Rabat, the two chambers of the Parliament held a special session and the head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane had earlier criticized in the strongest terms the violation by Ban Ki-Moon of the “neutrality” a UN Secretary General should necessarily respect.

This exasperated response of the Parliament and the Government is actually the reflection of the anger of the Moroccan public, which saw in Ban Ki-Moon’s statements an unjustified bias in favor of the Polisario and Algeria, an anger manifested in the Sunday huge demonstration.

The anger is all the more justified as this is the first time that a UN Secretary General utters the word “occupation” since the UN body seized the Sahara dossier. The Security Council itself has never used this term, observing utmost caution in dealing with this issue, deemed very sensitive in Morocco.

Morocco has actually proposed an autonomy plan for the Sahara that the Security Council has repeatedly described as a “credible” basis for a political settlement, but the Polisario Front, at the instigation of Algeria, stubbornly rejects the proposal and claims independence.

Several capitals had indirectly distanced themselves from the attitude of Ban Ki-Moon, including the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Paris.

For Paris, the Sahara issue “is the subject of a UN mediation that France supports within the parameters set by the Security Council.”

Other indicators of the impact of the Moroccan response to Ban Ki-Moon lie in the admission of failure of Christopher Ross. Ban Ki-moon’s Personal representative acknowledged that his plans to resume his mediation were seriously compromised.

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