Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Autonomy Plan- For the Win

 By Garret Khoury

It’s a question that hounds people around the world: how do you reconcile the legitimate territorial rights of a sovereign nation to the equally legitimate aspirations of a local populace to self-determination? At first glance, these ideas may seem very much mutually exclusive. However, King Muhammad VI of Morocco may just have created a solution that satisfies both principles.

The area of conflict is the Western Sahara, which has lived essentially in limbo since the departure of its Spanish colonial overlord in 1975. Authority passed to joint rule by Morocco and Mauritania. Violence soon broke out though, and in the late 1970’s the Mauritanian government threw in the towel and gave up any claims in favor of the POLISARIO rebels. Morocco stayed though, backed by internationally recognized land claims that went back, depending on who was asked, at least decades.

On the other hand, there are of course people who live in the Western Sahara. These people, by any and all standards, deserve proper government and basic civil liberties. The UN recognizes this fact, but more importantly the Moroccan government recognizes this. This led King Muhammad VI, after the failure of numerous rounds of talks with the POLISARIO front, to take the initiative and create his own autonomy plan. It is a plan that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called, “serious, realistic and credible, a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity.”

The autonomy plan is effective in reconciling the two outlying causes of the conflict over the Western Sahara. It recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, while allowing for serious local governance by the people of the region. It is a credible plan, and, as constitutional law professor Benoit Pelletier of Ottawa University said, “in conformity with international norms in force.”

Such an approach, as balanced as it is, is simply in line with the reforms and progress King Muhammad VI has made since his ascension to the throne 12 years ago.

The American Task Force on Western Sahara sees this as a truly viable solution to the conflict, which is why ATFWS so heartily supports it. The autonomy plan is a reasonable way to end one conflict on a conflict-plagued continent.

What do you think? Is it a framework for peace or a farce? Join the debate!

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