In the eyes of Saharawis, France is responsible for Morocco's intransigence

Khatry Beirouk

France's predominant mood about Western Sahara conflict is revealed in some of President Chirac's comments during his last (announced) visit to Morocco:

" (...) France has taken a position which is aggressive towards nobody but is one of support for Morocco's position [on Western Sahara]…and at the next meeting of the Security Council, France will again support Morocco's position..." "I note that Morocco has launched what is at bottom a determined effort to modernize both her society and her economy… and I don't doubt for a single moment that it will succeed and that it is in conformity with our own ideas of development, democracy, tradition."

How can Chirac say this with a straight face? In most cases, countries have the right to support other friend-countries on what they do, and it is generally desirable that such support be in line with international law -- and one would hope -- with reality. But as the UN's despair and frustration in Western Sahara continue, and as the Moroccan people's hopes for a drastic change fade, those statement surely don't hold true.

First, the official French policy towards the SADR has been -and still is- aggressive, despite what Chirac wants us to believe. Second, France is the only major power still hampering the very aim of the UN Peace Plan which is the holding of a free and fair ballot. Third, this new picture of events in Morocco should make it clear to the people of France (barring its President, of course) that virtually none of the principles of democracy are taking root in Morocco. Actually, it is going the other way -- and more French pampering of a Morocco that does not exist is hardly going to help.

The fact is that France is so inextricably bound to every Moroccan act -- of any and every Moroccan policy towards Western Sahara -- that the French government, too, is held innocent or guilty before the eyes of the Saharawis.

Although many of Chirac's countrymen do not realize it, just about every bullet, every bomb, and every explosive - in the hands of Morocco's army- used against the Saharawis has "a gift from France to Morocco" symbolically engraved upon it in the eyes of the Saharawis. Because Morocco is so economically and politically dependent upon France, even other countries in the region and their leaders simply assume that Mohamed VI's policies are at the very least approved by Paris.

Worst of all, if Morocco breaks the basic rules of international law by refusing to accept a referendum, continue to plunder Western Sahara's natural resources, and tortures Saharawi youth pro-independence, it is France that is also doing it. France is held as responsible.

Look at most of the French politicians, apparently they have become so "Makhzenised" by their dependence upon the Moroccan connection that they can do nothing but issue more and more statements praising "Mohamed VI reforms".

The one viewpoint you almost never hear is the purely French one, with no double standards; a simple exposition of the Western Sahara issue that is based only in justice and human rights. Those high concepts dear to France, in spite of the perversion of the principles by some of its leaders. What did happen to France's role as upholder of international legality? After all, wasn't the French foreign minister, Mr. Villepin, [on France's opposition to US military action in Iraq ] who expressed that "France (..) [has] acted in accordance with its convictions and principles to defend international law." ?

2 November 2003