domingo, 26 de abril de 2009

U.S. Senators ask President Obama to support Saharawis’ right to a referendum on self-determination

In a letter to President Obama, Senators Jeff Bingaman [D-NM] and Tom Udall [D-NM] asked the US President and his Administration engage in the Western Saharan conflict and push for a referendum that allows the Saharawis to realize their right to self-determination.

In their letter, dated April 22, the Senators spoke of the inability of the United Nation’s Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to realize its principle mission: the organization of a free and transparent referendum that will allow the Saharawis to determine their own future.

"The people in the Western Sahara are entitled to a referendum to determine how that land will be governed," stated the Senators. "This right of self-determination is recognized in U.N. charter."

The letter from Senators Bingaman and Udall is the latest to come out of the United States Congress, in which both Senators and Representatives are urging the President and his Administration to take a position on the issue in advance of the resolution that will be published next week by the UN Security Council regarding MINURSO’s mandate.

April 22, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to ask that your administration work to resolve the territorial dispute in the Western Sahara. A decade and a half of war beset this region after Spain ended its colonial administration of the area in 1975. On one side, Morocco claims the Western Sahara is part of its kingdom; on the other, the Sahrawi people and their political leadership, the Polisario, claim sovereignty over their native homeland. Despite a ceasefire that began in 1991, the land dispute was never resolved. The result has been decades of tension and uncertainty, thousands of deaths from violence and poverty, and a humanitarian crisis that goes on to this day. Right now, over 100,000 people live in the refugee camps near the border in Tindouf, Algeria and their fate is inextricably linked to the resolution of the land dispute.

The United Nations has been involved in this dispute for over forty years. Since 1991, it has tried to implement the U.N. Settlement Plan, whose centerpiece would be a referendum to decide the disposition of the Western Sahara. Meaningful progress has been thwarted, however, by the political maneuvering of one or both sides. Their political objections have been couched as technical objections over such issues as voter registration lists. Much energy has been expended on resolving the technical problems rather than addressing the underlying disagreements from which they stem.

After nearly eighteen years of work, over half a billion dollars of funding, and the involvement of skilled envoys of several U.N. Secretaries General, the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) has yet to accomplish its namesake objective. The people in the Western Sahara are entitled to a referendum to determine how that land will be governed. This right of self-determination is recognized is U.N. charter. Moreover, at one time or another, both Morocco and the Polisario have agreed to a referendum.

It is important for the U.N. Security council to be united and push together for a political solution that enables a referendum to occur. Your leadership, and the leadership of Ambassadors Clinton and Rice, is vital to resolving this territorial dispute and ending the humanitarian crisis in the refugee camps. We urge your administration to engage on this issue and work diligently towards a solution.


Jeff Bingaman
United States Senator

Tom Udall
United States Senator

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