RENEWAL OF MINURSO’S MANDATE: Western Sahara on Security Council Agenda In October, members of the Security Council, chaired by South Africa, should renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) before it expires on October 31st.

Before that, they will meet in consultations to consider the report of the Secretary-General on MINURSO. Colin Stewart, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO, is expected to make a presentation on the report of the Secretary-General to MINURSO. As a reminder, on April 30, 2019, the Council adopted resolution 2468 renewing the mandate of MINURSO for six months. After the two round tables in which Morocco and the Polisario Front took part, the resignation of the special envoy the former German head of state Horst Köhler, blocked the dynamics of negotiations that he had initiated. As a reminder, a third round table was to follow, but Köhler resigned from his post abruptly on May 22 for “health reasons”. Since then, a search for a substitute is in progress and no announcement has yet been made, because of the prevarications of Morocco who claims, according to his propaganda organs, to reject a special US envoy. The mandate of the personal envoy is based on the ability to build trust between the parties. It must also have the support of the Security Council. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground remains tense.

On 19 July, clashes took place in occupied El Aaiun, between the Moroccan occupation forces and Sahrawi protesters. The Saharawis celebrated the victory of Algerian football and took the opportunity to call for self-determination. The clashes resulted in the death of a Saharawi woman and an unverified number of wounded and arrested. Amnesty International issued a statement calling for investigations, and the Polisario Front called on the President of the Security Council to respond. On 19 September, the Polisario Front sent a letter to the President of the Security Council, expressing his frustration at the delays in the peace process, stressing that the absence of a new personal envoy was a blocking factor. The Council held consultations on this issue in January and April; since May, the absence of a personal emissary has hindered the progress of the file. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to be concerned about restrictions on the political space and the promotion and protection of human rights will remain a prominent issue. Previous attempts to add a human rights component to the mandate of MINURSO have been unsuccessful, but they could be revived during discussions on the renewal of the Mandate. According to diplomatic sources at the UN, the Security Council will have to renew the mandate of MINURSO before it expires at the end of October. The Council could negotiate a technical renewal if it is of the opinion that the process is out of order and wishes to wait for a new personal emissary before adopting a more concrete approach. The members of the Council would like to see real progress in this old file. almost 30 years old. The current absence of a personal envoy creates additional uncertainty and Board members can urge the Secretary-General to appoint a replacement as soon as possible so that the momentum created by Köhler is not erased. Previous meetings have clearly shown that some members, the United States in particular, are looking closely at the future of Minurso. The United States has succeeded in ensuring that mandates are renewed every six months, which is intended to put pressure on the parties to revive the political process. Following the adoption of resolution 2468 on 30 April, the representative of the United States said: “The goal of the Security Council should be to propose a timely and mutually acceptable political solution”.

However, the process is being blocked, it is unclear whether the US will now propose a withdrawal from Minurso. Other members of the Council advocate the maintenance of Minurso. At the meeting on April 30, France spoke of “the essential role played by this peacekeeping operation to ensure respect for the ceasefire and thus contribute to the stability of the region”. France should also continue to press for a possible return to a 12-month mandate, as was the case in 2008-2018. A request blown by Morocco whose strategy comes down to the status quo. Some members of the Security Council remain deeply concerned about what they see as arbitrary restrictions on the rights of Sahrawis to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, as well as the use of force by Moroccans to disperse peaceful demonstrations.