By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- On August 18, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told Inner City Press that the Western Sahara incursion complained off near Mauritania was only by civilian vehicles. Now a memo of UN Peacekeeping -- whose boss Herve Ladsous remains on vacation -- to the Security Council admits that these “civilians” were accompanied and supported by armed security personnel of the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie.
At noon on August 30, Inner City Press has UN lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who has canceled the noon briefing, this and awaits answer, on
"UN Deputy Spokesperson's August 18 answer (to Inner City Press' question), saying that only civilian vehicles were observed, the basis for that statement and any update, including but not limited to confirming a DPKO finding that Morocco sent in armed security personnel and equipment."
At 6:18 pm, and published before 6:40 pm, Dujarric provided this answer:
"MINURSO and the Secretariat have been strongly engaging with both parties and key Member States at senior level, calling for restraint and urging all stakeholders to ensure that no action is taken that could lead to the resumption of hostilities. The Secretary-General has also stressed the importance for both parties to adhere to their obligations as per the Military Agreement No.1, and the need to respect the letter and the spirit of the ceasefire agreement of 1991, most recently in his statement of 28 August 2016.
Has the MINURSO mission witnessed any military movement on the Moroccan side or the Polisario’s?
MINURSO has deployed additional capability to the area which confirmed on 28 August that approximately 32 armed Frente Polisario military personnel were present in the area of Guerguerat, south of the berm, inside the Buffer Strip, located in between the Moroccan and Mauritanian border posts.MINURSO also confirmed the presence of approximately ten Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie personnel in the area.
What are the measures the UN mission to the region has taken so far to avoid any further deterioration of the situation?
In response to this situation, MINURSO has significantly reinforced its monitoring activities in the area through deployment of increased ground and aerial patrols and is conducting extensive liaison with the parties in an effort to de-escalate the situation locally. MINURSO will convene a Violation Working Group in the immediate future in order to review the potential violations by both sides."
Inner City Press' (first) follow up question is, When did the UN become aware of the Moroccan Gendearmes, after telling Inner City Press is was only civilians?
On August 15, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq about reported Moroccan troop movements in Western Sahara and got no answer. On August 16 Haq returned to say that the UN Mission MINURSO is "liaising" with both sides. But on August 17 when Inner City Press asked what the results of this liaising have been, Haq said only that the liaising continues, then walked off. Vine here.
On August 18, Inner City Press asked again, and Haq said only civilian vehicles, Vine here, UN Transcript here and below.
Ten days later this response was criticized in an August 28 letter to MINURSO from the Frente Polisario, stating that “MINURSO delayed attempts to deal with these developments, and the unfortunate first report of MINURSO regarding those developments, reflected in the statement of the UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq on August 18th, did nothing but encouraging Morocco to go ahead further.” See letter Inner City Press is publishing here.
Was Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Haq's August 18 statement the result of MINURSO remaining under-staffer and less than full functional, or something more nefarious?
Belatedly and while on a junket, Ban Ki-moon issued one on Gabon and this statement - and after Inner City Press was told that the Polisario's military is 200 meters from the Moroccan Army - a showdown enabled by Ban's spokesman's misdirection and failure to even follow through and ask about the letter he'd three times been asked about, Vine here.
After the UN Security Council meeting on the topic on August 26 -- the Press was for most of the meeting locked out of the stakeout, attributable to Spain's Cristina Gallach as noted here -- Inner City Press asked the Deputy Permanent Representative of Malaysia, the Security Council president for August, what had happened in the meeting.
She answered away from the UNTV microphone that the Security Council has requested more information. Inner City Press asked, information on what? She mentioned al Guergarat. Periscope video here.
The Frente Polisario said it delivered a letter to Ban Ki-moon, asking among other things for monitors, but on August 24 when Inner City Press asked, Ban's spokesman said he had nothing on it:
Inner City Press: has the Secretary-General received a letter from the Polisario Front asking to establish monitoring bases in this al Guerguerat…?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware.
Inner City Press exclusively reported on August 26 that Western Sahara would be discussed in the Security Council, on August 26 after Colombia. At the August 25 noon briefing, Ban's Dujarric STILL said he had nothing on the Polisario letter and request:
Inner City Press: And the Western Sahara letter, did you… can you…
Spokesman Dujarric: No, still no.
On August 26, Dujarric said he hadn't even asked upstairs about it, and supended briefings for a week.
This is typical of today's Secretariat. We'll have more on this.
Inner City Press: On Western Sahara, you'd said two days ago that [inaudible]… whatever, the Mission was liaising with the two sides about this reported incursion. What's the result of that liaising?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, the Mission acronym you're looking for is MINURSO. All the Mission acronyms are starting to blur into one, I know. Okay. On this, on 16 and 17 August, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, deployed ground and air capabilities to investigate allegations of violations in the southwestern part of Western Sahara near Mauritania. MINURSO has not observed military presence or equipment in the buffer strip. The Mission observed what were assessed as civilian vehicles moving across the berm but was not able to determine additional information. MINURSO continues its liaison with both parties in order to ascertain the facts with regards to the alleged incident. MINURSO has been in touch with the Polisario [Front] to share the preliminary findings of its investigation.
Now from the in-box, in Spanish (see also this, regarding Spain's highest official at the UN)
"En el contexto de la crisis diplomática que enfrenta a Marruecos con Naciones Unidas, a raíz de la expulsión del componente político-civil de la Misión de Naciones Unidas para el Referéndum del Sáhara Occidental (MINURSO), y habiendo ordenado el Consejo de Seguridad en su resolución de 28 de abril de 2016 el retorno al pleno funcionamiento de la citada Misión, sin que hasta la fecha se haya cumplido este mandato, Marruecos llevó a cabo una nueva violación del Acuerdo de Alto el Fuego firmado con el Frente Polisario y que está en vigor desde el 6 de septiembre de 1991.
Durante los últimos años, asistimos atónitos a una, cada vez mayor, dejadez de funciones por parte de la ONU y su Consejo de Seguridad, en lo que, a la resolución del Conflicto del Sahara Occidental se refiere; y es que, Marruecos viene año tras año retando y haciendo efectivas sus amenazas de menoscabo de la paz y seguridad internacionales, mediante actos y manifestaciones de sus Altos Cargos, desafiando a la Comunidad Internacional y al propio Consejo de Seguridad, ante quienes se siente impune. La política anexionista de Marruecos, además de las constantes provocaciones y amenazas a la paz internacionales, está centrándose cada vez más en el traslado masivo de colonos al territorio, ejerciendo una presión y conflictos con la población autóctona que se está traduciendo en un aumento de la delincuencia y los asesinatos, amparados por las fuerzas de ocupación marroquíes sobre la población saharaui.
La expulsión del personal político-civil de la MINURSO el pasado mes de marzo acompañada de la tibia reacción del Consejo de Seguridad, los continuos saqueo y expolio de recursos naturales del pueblo saharaui, la intransigencia en la búsqueda de una solución dialogada de conformidad con el Derecho Internacional, las sistemáticas violaciones de los Derechos Humanos, la persecución y asesinatos selectivos que sufren ciudadanos saharauis en las zonas ocupadas, así como el estado de apartheid creado por Marruecos en las zonas que ocupa ilegalmente desde 1975, están generando un clima de crispación y tensión de consecuencias inimaginables.
A todo lo expuesto se suma la flagrante violación del Acuerdo Militar Nº 1 del Acuerdo de Alto el fuego de 1991, que establecía la prohibición de movilización de tropas y el traspaso de estas al otro lado del Muro. El pasado 11 de agosto en la región de Bir Ganduz, un convoy de las Fuerzas Armadas Reales de Marruecos fue movilizado de su puesto cruzando al otro lado del Muro por el paso de Gargarat, una zona bajo control de la MINURSO; este hecho es una muestra más, del ánimo de provocación del Reino de Marruecos, que ante los silencios y la permisividad de la Comunidad Internacional, se siente impune para violar los pactos y acuerdos que rigen su relación con el Frente Polisario.
El Secretario General del Frente Polisario hizo llegar una protesta formal, por estos hechos al Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas y al Consejo de Seguridad confiando en que se tomen las medidas oportunas, a la mayor brevedad, para reducir el aumento de la tensión que vive la región, así como, evitar que esta parte, utilizando su legítimo derecho a la defensa reanude la lucha armada, para salvaguarda de los intereses del Pueblo del Sahara Occidental."
On August 15, with US-based multi-national McDonald's blithely set to open a branch in El Ayun, it was reported that Moroccan forces have entered the zone of Guerguerat a/k/a “Kandahar,” Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira crossing in the south of Western Sahara strip, north of the peninsula of La Guera and in the border with Mauritania.
Inner City Press asked the UN about it on August 15, without answer.Vine here: on August 16, UN spokesman Farhan Haq returned with this:
"the UN Mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, has seen reports of alleged violations in the southwestern part of Western Sahara near Mauritania. The Mission is liaising with both parties in order to ascertain the facts and will deploy its capabilities, if it is so required, as per its mandate."
So what about the "full functionality" the UN Secretariat and Ladsous claim is there goal? Inner City Press is told the UN is claiming that the non-return of some to Western Sahara is due to the staff's incompetence, not Ban Ki-moon backing down to Morocco in order to try to put out another fire as he prepares to try to run for South Korean president. We'll have more on this.
The POLISARIO Front has written, including to envoy Christopher Ross, USg Jeff Feltman and Herve Ladsous (good luck with the last):
"For your information
Morocco military forces have committed , starting on August 11, a serious and dangerous violation of the cease fire in the region known by Elgargarat, in the extreme southwest of Western Sahara borders with Mauritania. Armored tanks with air force protection crossed the military berm in the direction of Elgargarat, located at few kms from Western Sahara borders with Mauritania and destroyed or siezed material and cars belonging to Saharawi civilians. Credible reports indicate that the final objective is the extension in the coming weeks of the military berm so as to connect it to the Mauritanian borders, which will require a lot of of construction equipment and a heavy engagement of military forces.
The Frente Polisario forces will be forced, in that scenario, to take the appropriate measures since it will be considered a clear violation of the cease fire.
The F. Polisario Secretary General has sent an urgent letter to the UNSG and Minurso high representatives have ben informed on these dangerous developments.
After the expulsion of Minurso Personnel by Morocco and its obstruction to Ambassador Ross planned visit to the region , the F. Polisario believes that this new degree of provocation to the peace process constitutes a direct challenge to the UNSC which must take the necessary measures to avoid the worst.
With my highest considerations
The area is ostensibly under the control of the UN mission MINURSO, compromised by Ban Ki-moon -- who remains silent, as he is on attacks on Yemen. On August 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, Beyond the Vine here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in Western Sahara, just if you have anything on this. There are reports of… of troop movement by Moroccan troops in an area in which supposedly MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] is in control. I wanted to know if you have anything on that, and also if you have any answer now to the letter that was written by the staff unions about the failure to return staff to MINURSO and their impression that they're being politically traded away.
Deputy Spokesman: The process of returning staff to MINURSO continues to be under way. Like we said at the time when the first 25 were going back that that was intended to be the start of a process of returns. So, that is continuing. And we're working in this in as thoroughgoing a manner as possible.
So, no answer on the troop movements, asked about at the noon briefing.
MINURSO staff through their unions have complained to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, as well as Atul Khare, about political pressure being applied to them by the UN, about bias, discrimination and lack of due process. This has become a hallmark of the UN of Ban Ki-moon and his officials like Spain's Cristina Gallach, here.
The letter, which Inner City Press exclusively published here, says Ban's UN has been making “political concessions” and violating applicable rules. It cites a message from the Mission never followed through on, and calls for the Security Council to belatedly be informed how few staff have been returned.
Given that, why are “vacancies” to be advertised? What deal has Ban Ki-moon, and/or Ladsous, cut with Morocco? For now, the UN is not saying. On August 5 Inner City Press asked, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: In Western Sahara, there's a letter that I've seen from a staff union, UNISUR and another union, basically saying that the staff that are supposed to be returned have received a letter that makes them doubt that they'll actually be returned, and the letter from the staff union to the Secretary-General and Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous talks about political compromises and urges a compliance with UN rules in terms of how the staff are… are treated. Can you confirm receipt of the letter? And what is the response of the Secretariat to the staff union, saying that basically the rights of staff under the rules are being traded away from political convenience?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're… certainly, we are aware of the letter. I don't have any response to share with you at this point. I believe that that will be considered.
We'll have more on this. We'll have more on this.
On Western Sahara, UN Staff Complain To / About Ban Ki-mooon and Ladsous byMatthew Russell Lee on Scribd
On August 2 Inner City Press exclusively published both the letter Morocco had UN staff sign receipt of in March 2016 as they were expelled from Western Sahara, here (note that no reversal letter has been issued), and the list of 84 international staff ousted, as presented by the Government of Morocco, here.
In full disclosure, Inner City Press did attend, invited, Morocco's Throne Day event at the Waldorf on August 1, Periscoping before, during and after. (Spain's highest UN official Cristina Gallach, who evicted Inner City Press, was also in attendance, right to the end.) But the lack of a reversal letter, and the contents of Morocco's list of 84, call for more questions. Watch this site.
On July 26 after the Security Council's closed-door meeting on Western Sahara, Morocco's Ambassador Omar Hilale in speaking to the press referred to a “package” negotiated with Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat. Inner City Press asked Hilale who in the Secretariat negotiated this package, but Hilale would not answer that. Video here.
On July 28, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Ambassador Elbio Rosselli if this "package" had been discussed, and he said no. Video here. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, who denied there is a package (he denies many things.)
Inner City Press understands the next tranches to return are 17 and six and that according to some in Ban's Secretariat, some (secret?) commitments HAVE been made to Morocco, to get Ban out of this jam as he seeks to run for President of South Korea.
On July 27, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if this “package” had been discussed in the Council consultations. No, he said, what was discussed was the return of MINURSO personnel and full functionality. Video here. So who DID negotiate the package Hilale is referring to? And why was it not discussed in the Council when Herve Ladsous spoke?
On July 26 Inner City Press asked the Council's president for July Koro Bessho of Japan if UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous had given any indication when more than 25 of the 83 expelled peacekeepers would return.
Bessho said that with 25, the MINURSO mission has not reached the goal of full functionality.
Moments later Inner City Press asked Morocco's Ambassador Omar Hilale about this quote. He replied that Inner City Press always seeks to cast doubt on Morocco; he said that a “package” has been agreed to with the UN Secretariat that is a two-way street.
So what has Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat agreed to? Hilale wouldn't say. He said he will be giving Inner City Press a copy of a letter showing 28 heads of state inviting Morocco into the African Union. And here it is: we are putting it online here
along with this AU Press Release.
AU: Morocco did not attend or address the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda byMatthew Russell Lee on Scribd
When Inner City Press asked with whom in the Secretariat Morocco had negotiated this package, he called it a vicious question. In fairness,here's Hilale's stakeout via UNTV, and Boukari's via Inner CityPress' Periscope and YouTube.
On July 26, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if 25, or 50, would be enough. Video here. From the UK transcript:
Rycroft: from what I hear, I think it's well on the way to getting back to full functionality. So, we're looking forward, and seeing that this is an issue which is resolving itself.
Inner City Press Q: Now it's 25. Would 50 be enough?
Rycroft: I'm not going to put a number on it. I'm just going to say that I think we are moving well towards full functionality. I think the issues that have bedeviled the UN presence there are behind us.
Then Inner City Press tried to asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre about what POLISARIO's representative Ahmed Boukhari had said on the record on July 25, that France is trying for a UN Security Council statement “congratulating” Morocco for 25 of the 83 it expelled. Inner City Press asked, trying to make it as easy as possible for Delattre to answer, “Vous voulez felicitez el Maroc?” Video here.
Delattre congratulated Inner City Press' French, but did not answer, saying he would come out of the Council later. But when he did, after he read out statements in French about Central African Republic and Inner City Press said, “one question on Western Sahara?” Delattre said no, no more questions. Then answered more. Periscope video here. Watch this site.