Monday 12 April 2021
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Analysing and contextualising the nation question of Western Sahara

The nation question of Western Sahara concerning the right to self-determination and independence has been on the agenda of the United Nations and other multilateral organisations over many years.
The purpose of this article is to analyse why this question remains unresolved, and to contextualise the position of the Government of the Republic of Namibia on the matter.
The President of the Republic and the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation have unequivocally stated the position.
We should therefore, explain and understand this position against the backdrop of UN General Assembly and Security Council, and OAU and AU resolutions in attempting to peacefully resolve the question of Western Sahara. The UN General Assembly for example, has adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara in 1965, and the decolonisation question of Western Sahara has been on the UN list of Non-Self Governing Territories since 1963.
The substance of the first resolution was asking Spain to decolonise the territory.
Another General Assembly resolution followed requesting Spain to hold a referendum on self-determination. Subsequently, Spain relinquished the administrative control of Western Sahara to a joint administration by Morocco and Mauritania. Western Sahara today is partially controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially by Morocco.
Against this background, the UN Secretary-General continues to present reports to both the General Assembly and the Security Council on the matter.
The UN Security Council addresses the question of Western Sahara as matter of international peace and security.
The question that arises is why the question remains unresolved, if it is true that it is a matter of international peace and security.
Why is there is no urgency in resolving the conflict compared to other conflict situations?  I pose these questions taking into account that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the preamble states that: ‘’Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
The unresolved question of Western Sahara suggests double standards, hypocrisy, and inconsistent behaviour of states, especially the global powers, in dealing with matters of international peace and security.
The failure to guarantee alienable fundamental right to self-determination and independence conveys the message that rights are not universal, and that human rights of some are more important.
It further shows that for global powers, narrow economic and geo-political interests supersede the dictates of International Law, human security and people’s fundamental human rights to self-determination.
In addition to the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the International Court of Justice has ruled on Western Sahara in 1975.
The ruling uphold the right to self-determination through a referendum as the viable option to resolve the conflict. Upon the ruling, Morocco dismissed it, and militarily entered and occupied Western Sahara.
The hypocrisy is not only among global players, but also among the African States.
This assertion is in view that Morocco was admitted to the African Union on 30 January 2016 by a vote of 39 out of the then 54 AU Member States. Only 15 Member States voted against admission or abstained.
The position of Namibia is therefore, a principled position informed by the anti-resistance and national struggles against colonialism and the fight for the right to self-determination.
It would be inconceivable for peoples who have fought against colonialism, racism, apartheid and sexism to reinstate these ideologies upon the attainment of their freedom, independence and restoration of human dignity.
The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, and by implication, the establishment of the Namibian State, is based on the principles of respect for human dignity, democracy, the rule of law and justice for all.
The Constitution, as matter of principles of State Policy, further obliges the Namibian State in its international relations to promote international co-operation, peace and security, and to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
The President and Minister of International Relations in the case of Western Sahara have been consistent with the constitutional values, principles and obligations.

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