[JURIST] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] on Saturday called on [press release] the parties involved in the Western Sahara conflict to end the “unacceptable” plight of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. After meeting [UN news report] with refugees and representatives at Smara Camp, and later pro-independence group Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front) [advocacy website, in Spanish] Secretary General Mohamed Abdelaziz, Ban stated that the parties have not made any real progress in negotiating towards a fair and lasting political situation. He stated:
What really moved and, even, saddened me was the anger. Many people expressed their anger -people who for more than forty years have lived in the harshest conditions and who feel their plight and their cause have been forgotten by the world… My first objective in visiting the region is to make my own assessment and contribution to the search for a settlement… My second objective was to visit the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. I will visit the team site in Bir Lahlou, as well as personnel performing vital demining activities
Ban is also slated to visit the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) [official website] in Laayoune, Western Sahara.
Morocco has occupied the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, native home to the Sahrawi, since 1975. Polisario has encouraged the expansion of the presence of MINURSO in the region, especially for human rights monitoring, but Morocco has opposed any such plans as infringements on its sovereignty [JURIST report]. Only 45 UN member states currently recognize the autonomy of the Western Sahara state, known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), even in a limited capacity. SADR is not recognized by the UN, although it has approved more than 100 resolutions supporting the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people. In 1991 the UN Security Council established [SC resolution, PDF] MINURSO in accordance with the Secretary General’s plan for the implementation of the settlement [report, PDF] between Morocco and Polisario. In April the Security Council extended MINURSO’s mission [UN News Centre report] through April 30, 2015, as no referendum on the independence of SADR has yet been held.