The People of the Western Sahara Have a Right to Self-Determination

Article excerpt

It was great to see your Nov. 6 article on the Western Sahara ("Western Sahara leader touts role of U.N. envoy"). Too little attention is being paid to this conflict - the longest and most protracted struggle in U.N. history. However, there are a few things that I believe are important to your readers that were not made clear in the article.

First, the Sahrawis have been victims of a terrible injustice. Spain first promised them a referendum on their independence in 1974. But Morocco, claiming the territory as its own, objected to including in the referendum the right for the Sahrawis to vote for their independence. When the International Court of Justice ruled that Morocco had no claim on the territory and supported the Sahrawis' right to self-determination, Morocco invaded.

The Sahrawis fled across the Sahara desert and took refuge in Algeria. Their trek was imperiled not only by the harsh desert conditions, but also by the napalm dropped on their elderly and women and children by the Moroccan air force. Trusting first in Spain and then in the United Nations, the Sahrawis have waited 23 years for their right to vote on their independence.

Second, the Sahrawis are a democratic people who founded the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a democratic nation that is a member of the Organization of African Union and recognized by more than 74 countries. There is no doubt how the Sahrawis will vote on the issue of whether to be incorporated into Morocco - a despotic regime ruled by one of Africa's last kings - or to become a free and independent democracy. …