[AFRI-Discuss] [At-Large] Question

Aziz Hilali hilaliaziz at yahoo.fr
Wed Feb 28 10:06:14 EST 2007

  Dear all,
  We received a forwarded message written by Vittorio Bertola and forwarded by Nick Ashton Hart on 09- 02 – 2007, in which we learn that the author of this mail would like to see us give our support to a recently formulated application to attribute the .eh ccTLD to Western Sahara . 
  Being one of the parties concerned by the problem of the Western Sahara, the Moroccan Chapter would like to invite you all to adopt a less politically biased view of the matter and to consider the application for what it is worth in fairly neutral terms and in line with ICANN’s set norms and regulations (ISO 3166-1). In fact, because of its complex political overtones, the Western Sahara dispute is being scrutinised by the relevant political bodies, including the Security Council, whose latest resolution calls on the parties concerned to overcome the current impasse and to find a lasting and final political solution to the dispute.  
  Our move has been prompted by the misrepresentative account of both the historical dimension of the problem as well as some of the factual information reported in this message. Thus, we think that, out of sheer objectivity, it is our duty to present you with the other side’s view of the problem.
  First of all, let us note that if indeed the problem was as simple as it was represented in the message; i.e., that Morocco simply decided to ‘militarily occupy’ a formerly colonised territory that had not been part of the Moroccan Kingdom, then one might ask what it is that could have prevented Algeria or Mauritania, for that matter, from doing the same? On the other hand, does it make sense that the international community should have spent all these years (over 30 years) and so much international money on UN missions to try to find a solution to the problem that would not ‘upset’ Morocco . Surely, the problem is much more complex than the message is trying to make us believe. 
  Instead of giving a lengthy account of what the problem has been and is about, we will simply react to some of the misrepresentations that have been conveyed in this message. 

  The author of the message wrote : 
  < [To recap: Western Sahara is (apart from a few island territories such as the Cayman Islands etc.) the only remaining colony in the world.>
  To claim that the Western Sahara is one of the last colonies in the world, just like the Cayman islands, is an utter fallacy; for the Western Sahara issue represents a case of a regional dispute opposing the Kingdom of Morocco to Algeria through a proxy entity called the ‘Polisario’, and in which dispute Morocco is attempting to recover its territorial integrity through peaceful means and on the basis of international legality. Indeed, the entity pretending to represent the Sahrawi population is not recognised by the United Nations, the guardian of international legality.
  <It used to be a Spanish colony until 1975, when the ongoing rebellion of the Polisario Front - the fighting organization of the local Sahrawi people - prompted Spain to abandon it.>
  This is completely untrue: On 14 of November 1975, Spain signed a retrocession treaty with Morocco and Mauritania in virtue of which it transferred its administrative powers of the Sahara to an administration made up of the above-cited countries. The treaty itself came as the result of the peaceful Green March that 350 000 Moroccans undertook to reunite with their fellow countrymen in the Western Sahara, one of Morocco ’s southern provinces. Prior to the March, the Moroccan government had resorted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for arbitration to give its consultative opinion on the status of the Western Sahara BEFORE it became a Spanish colony. The answer was clear: a) This territory was not terra nullius, b) the tribes living on it were bound to the Kingdom of Morocco by the bond of allegiance to the Alaouite throne (the current ruling dynasty). Indeed, the ceremony of the swearing of allegiance to the Sovereign was and still is held every year to
 renew this bond. In it, representatives of all the components of the Moroccan people do take part. 
  < Of course, all of the above is subject to different interpretation depending to whom you talk to.]>
  We think that this statement of caution is certainly most appropriate given the rather complex nature of the problem and that the author of the message is aware of the fact that some facts may have been misrepresented.
  Indeed, the historical dimension of the problem has been totally misrepresented in the text of this message, which does no more than faithfully reproduce the political propaganda on the basis of which Algeria and its proxy representative the Polisario Front have based their alleged claims. 
  To appreciate the historical dimension of the problem, it may be worth our while to have an idea on the process of decolonisation as it happened over time in Morocco . 
  First, it is worth reiterating the fact that Morocco 's status with respect to the Sahara is not that of a foreign State or an ‘occupying power’. Those who promote such allegations ignore the reality of the Sahara issue and the meaning of the term "occupying power" as established in international law.
  At the outset, it should be pointed out that the allegation that “the Western Sahara is a colony” is erroneous, far-fetched and part of a propaganda scheme that the Polisario Front and Algeria have been trying to promote so actively to mislead the international community.
  Second, it is worth mentioning that it was Morocco which introduced the Question of the Sahara and Sidi Ifni as a decolonization issue to the Fourth Committee (Decolonization and Political Questions) of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1965, thereby requesting the international organization to take measures to ask Spain to decolonize the territory it had been occupying since 1884.
  Moreover, and for the record, it is worth bringing to the fore that Morocco started to recover its territorial integrity gradually and through negotiated international agreements. In 1956, France and Spain retroceded the central and northern zones to Morocco ; the zone of Tangier also became under Moroccan sovereignty. 
  Morocco’s resolute policy of peacefully settling disputes gave birth to:
   the 1958 Agreement by virtue of which the city of Tarfaya was retroceded to Morocco ,   
   the 1969 Agreement that marked the return of Sidi Ifni to the motherland,   
   the 1975 Madrid Agreement which put an end to Spanish presence in the Sahara ,   
   the final reintegration of all the Saharan provinces into Morocco as of 1979.
  <Specifically, I would be concerned if ICANN, in front of a technically valid application, refused to approve it for fear of an upset reaction by some governments (starting from Morocco). I think that governments - especially the ones of the neighbouring countries - are not the only or even the main stakeholder in the matter.> 
  To this we have to say that a ccTLD represents a territorial cyberspace that is in virtual terms, the ‘equivalent’ of a territorial physical space. Both spaces represent the locus of the collective interests of groups of people united by their belonging to the same Nation State (because the issue is one of sovereignty after all). Otherwise, we should expect countries such as Belgium to have 2 ccTLDs ( one for the Flemish and one for the Wallons), Switzerland 3, Algeria 4 or 5, Morocco 4 or 5, etc. 
  <I also assume that we, as the At Large, are the constituency that has the duty to represent the interests of the local users of the Internet in Western Sahara, or, "the people" if you like, and this is why I'm not too keen on letting this request be let down too easily (even if, of course, I still have to see whether the request is appropriate and meets the requirements)>. 
  Clearly, if we were to accept Vittorio Bertola’s argument above, then we should be encouraging regional entities all over the world to apply for a ccTLD of their own. Clearly, to maintain its credibility as the corporation responsible for the global coordination of the Internet, ICANN would want to have a neutral stand on similar cases until the international community gives its final verdict on the issue at hand. 
  <Of course, any direct contact with groups and Internet users in Western Sahara would be useful. Also, I would of course take any collective views on the matter, if different from the above.>
  This is an honest and fair invitation, in terms of which we invite the interested reader to find out more about the dispute from the Moroccan side in the attached document as well as in the following websites: 
  A historical perspective on the problem: the main facts: http://www.saharamarocain.net/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=8
  The legal basis for the Moroccan claim over the Sahara :
  The Sahara : Risk of ‘ grey zones’: http://www.saharamarocain.net/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=40
  Abdelaziz Hilali
  President of Isoc Morocco

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