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UN Security Council

27. April 2011

Explanation of Vote by Ambassador B Sangqu on the Situation in Western Sahara

The following is the Explanation of Vote by Ambassador B Sangqu on the Situation in Western Sahara on April 27th, 2011 at the Security Council of the United Nations.  

Mr President,

On this day, 27 April, seventeen years ago, South Africans loudly proclaimed from their rooftops, in the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST.  This was in celebration of the fulfillment of our right to self-determination and freedom.  Nelson Mandela stated that our freedom will be incomplete without the freedom and self-determination of others.  The people of Western Sahara continue to be denied this inalienable right.

Twenty years ago, this Council mandated the creation of a UN Operation to oversee the Referendum in Western Sahara.  While MINURSO has successfully maintained the ceasefire, its core mandate of overseeing the referendum, which would lead to the realization of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, has not been realized.

We welcome the fact that the parties have made some progress during their negotiations especially on confidence building measures. However, we regret the fact that the parties have not moved on the core issues that would allow the people of Western Sahara freely to determine their future and destiny whether it is full independence or autonomy from Morocco.  It is noteworthy that this Council through the Resolution before us encourages, "the parties to demonstrate further political will towards a solution including by expanding upon their discussion of each other's proposals".  We would hope that a meaningful engagement in this manner would assist in finding a mutually acceptable solution which will provide for the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

My delegation further welcomes the parties stated commitment to hold the seventh round of informal talks in May 2011 to examine the April 2007 proposals.   We urge them to focus on the core issues in order to bring finality to this intractable dispute.

Mr President,

The adoption of this resolution comes at a critical time in history when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are demanding full promotion and protection of their political, socio-economic and human rights.

Our discussion on the situation in the Western Sahara also comes at a time when the Security Council, acted swiftly in fulfilling its mandate to maintain international peace and security in Libya and Ivory Coast, as well as ensuring that the voices of the people in these countries are heard. As a responsible member of this Council we supported these actions.

Uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are an indication that, the status quo, where human rights of people are denied can no longer be sustained.

In keeping with the Council's actions in the last few months, we have to ensure that the rights of the people of Western Sahara are not ignored and are protected.  Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent.

It is a travesty that MINURSO is one of the few UN mandates, and the only one in Africa, that does not have a human rights mandate and this double standard creates an impression that the Security Council does not care about the human rights of the people of Western Sahara.  Sadly, the continued inertia of the Council on this matter has the potential to erode the credibility of this important body.

South Africa maintains that MINURSO should have a human rights monitoring mandate, especially in light of recent reports of human rights incidents in Western Sahara, including the events in Laayoune late last year.

The resolution before us stresses "the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights, bearing in mind their relevant obligations under international law".

We had hoped that this Council would have created a mechanism to protect the human rights of the Saharawi people as it does in other situations. We believe that an international, credible, legal and permanent mechanism is necessary.

We note the establishment of a National Council on Human Rights in Morocco and the proposed component regarding the Territory of Western Sahara, and the commitment of Morocco to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council.  However, we believe that this should be done without prejudice to the legal status of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory under Chapter XI (11) of the Charter of the United Nations.

In conclusion, Mr President, we draw attention to the fact that Western Sahara remains the last colony on the African continent and listed as a non-self governing territory by the United Nations.  South Africa will continue to support efforts to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  It is for this reason that my delegation will vote in favour of the resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara.

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