The Polisario Front has spoken of its dismay at the lack of support from the Spanish premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which it described as “minimal”. It also accused him of having “little interest” in the situation in the Western Sahara capital of El Aaiún, after the violent dismantling of the protest camp at Gdeim Izik on November 8.
In statements to Saharan journalists the prime minister of the self proclaimed RASD government, Abdelkader Taleb Omat, considers that Zapatero had ignored in his declaration at the NATO summit in Lisbon the serious situation existing at El Aaiún under Morocco’s control.
Taleb Omat spoke of his surprise that the Spanish government had not demanded an urgent independent international investigation as to why Morocco will not lift its blockade on the free access to the region of Spanish journalists and international observers to the Western Sahara. He added this would save lives and would protect the Saharans from the Moroccan policy to exterminate them.
The RASD premier also deplored the fact that Zapatero did not raise fundamental questions on a referendum for self-determination and the respect for human rights.
Now of course the majority of Gibraltarians will be dismayed at the treatment of the people of the Western Sahara – but you may wonder if there are there any lessons to be learnt. I believe there are three.
Spain’s new minister for foreign affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, held off condemning Morocco’s actions in the Western Sahara. She said it was not clear what was happening there. We still have no idea how many were killed, injured or disappeared. The reason for that is no reporters, Spanish or Euro MPs or observers were allowed in. So she could have started by protesting in the strongest terms over Morocco’s blockage. Lesson one: Trini, who is now the minister overseeing Spain’s relations with Gibraltar, is not the brightest bulb in the Madrid chandelier.
Zapatero and his socialist government have completely failed to defend the Western Sahara’s right to a referendum on self-determination and independence. What is all the more inexplicable is these have been core issues for European socialists and the far left for years. Lesson two: If PSOE can’t support the people of its former colony on self determination and respect for their human rights what hope would Gibraltarians have under a joint sovereignty agreement with a socialist Madrid?
The next one is a surprise. The Western Sahara was abandoned by Spain in the dying days of the Franco regime. Yet it is the centre right Partido Popular that is now calling for the Spanish government to condemn “the serious violation of human rights” on the part of Morocco in the Western Sahara. It also wants Spain to return to its former position of openly supporting the decolonisation process. Lesson three: if the PP is supporting human rights and self-determination in the former colony of the Western Sahara it cannot be allowed to deny the same rights to the former colonial people of Gibraltar.
In his recent address to University of Cádiz law students in Algeciras the chief minister, Peter Caruana, told them he had nearly reached an accord with the PP government in Madrid before it lost the March 2004 general election. The inference was that had the PP won that agreement and not the Tripartite process would now be in place. Also if the PP wins in 2012 – and he is still chief minister – a similar accord could again be on the table.
I found this statement by the chief minister riveting. It is interesting he opted to tell students in Spain because as far as I am aware he has never told the people of Gibraltar about the substance of this accord. What is even more stunning is that having given both London and Madrid a black eye each in the referendum rejecting joint sovereignty in November 2002 within 16 months he was close to a deal with the same Spanish government. There is another lesson here but I will let you work this one out for yourselves.