News / Africa

UN Extends Western Sahara Peacekeeping Mission

Margaret Besheer
The U.N. Security Council has extended the mandate of the peacekeeping operation in the disputed Western Sahara, but once again it has failed to include a clause calling for human-rights monitoring of the situation there - bringing renewed criticism from rights groups.

Normally the extension of a U.N. mission’s mandate passes without much notice. But on Thursday, the council’s decision to extend its mission in Western Sahara for another year received a lot of attention from human rights groups.

The United States, which took the lead in drafting the resolution, at first included a demand for human rights observers to be part of the mission, but then dropped that point before it came to a vote. Human rights advocates blame pressure from council members Morocco and France for the decision, but French Ambassador Gérard Araud insisted his country did not block it.

“France has not taken any part in the negotiations which has been conducted," he said. "We have a result, and we consider it a good result. There has been a steady improvement of human rights in Western Sahara thanks to the decisions taken by Morocco. There is room for improvement, but we do think we can follow up through our dialogue with Morocco.”

Tom O’Bryan, advocacy coordinator of the Western Sahara Action Forum, an international coalition of organizations that advocates for human rights in the region, criticized the Security Council's action. Speaking by telephone from London, O'Bryan said that leaving monitors out of the Western Sahara mission, which is known as MINURSO, is a “travesty of justice” for the people of that area.

“MINURSO is the only contemporary peacekeeping operation in the world which does not have the mandate to monitor human-rights violations, despite the clear, systematic violations of the rights of the people of Western Sahara,” he said.

The U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, Philippe Bolopion, said there are still very serious concerns about the human rights of the Sahrawi people - Arabic speakers who live in several surrounding countries as well as in Western Sahara.  

“In Western Sahara, people are not free to assemble, [or] to speak their mind about the future of the territory," Bolopion said. "That is why we believe that a few U.N. monitors would go a long way to defuse the situation there.”

Both men commended the U.S. effort to get monitors included in the mission, but regretted that it was unsuccessful.

Morocco, one of the parties to the Western Sahara dispute, has long opposed the presence of such monitors. The Polisario Front independence movement says rights monitors are needed because Morocco regularly violates the rights of Sahrawis who live in Moroccan-controlled areas.

HRW’s Bolopion questioned why, if Morocco claims it has made improvements in human-rights protections for the Sahrawi people, it remains opposed to monitors.

“One has to wonder what Morocco has to hide, and why they react so strongly every time the idea of deploying a couple of U.N. observers in Western Sahara comes up," he added. "They are claiming they have made great progress over last couple years in the territory. if that is true they should have nothing to fear from deployment of a few U.N. monitors.”

The U.N. has about 200 military observers, troops and police officers in the Western Sahara. They were first deployed there in 1991 to oversee a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. That referendum has yet to take place.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More