By: Hach Ahmed
[translation of the original: La ONU, Kosovo y el Sahara]
The unilateral proclamation of independence of this ex- Serbian province, and its comparison with the case of Western Sahara, offers a new opportunity to put in evidence that international legality, that concept that is invoked ostentatiously and is nowadays a trend, is interpreted according to the convenience of the great powers. What matters most, after all, is what better suits their interests.
Without making any value judgments on the legitimacy, legality or authenticity of this proclamation, a series of facts and conclusions call our attention when we make the inevitable comparison of these two cases.
Kosovo, in Serbian language, or Kosova, in Albanian, is a small enclave of little more than ten thousand square kilometres. It is inhabited by a mosaic of ethnic groups and dialects, Albanians constitute the majority; Goranis (Slavic turned to Islam from the Ottoman domination); Aromanians (of disputed origin, either descendants of Latinised Greek tribes after the Roman domination or heirs of rewarded Roman legionaries with land in Greece) and Turks who constitute a minority. The presence of an Albanian majority is the result of recent migrations. This province has been historically considered the cradle of the Serbian State.
Western Sahara is a much bigger territory; it has an area of 266,000 square kilometres. Its population has lived on this land since ancestral times. It is ethnically homogenous, they speak the same common language; share customs, idiosyncrasy, in sum they share the same culture.
The Kosovars, since the XII century, have been the inhabitants of a Serbian province. Saharawis however, were never part of neighbouring States. They were never part of the what was consolidated as the Kingdom of Morocco, before being annexed by the use of force in 1975. They were also not part of the Algerian Republic nor of the Mauritanian Entity that developed into the Republic of Mauritania. All of the above stated in a clear and conclusive sentence in the International Court of Justice of The Hague, that implies the need to comply, according to the norms of the UN, with the right to self-determination of the Saharawi population.
The ex- Serbian province of Kosovo, jumped to the arena of the international current events in 1999, when the Serbian regime of Slovodan Milosevic repressed tens of thousands of civilians, at a time when Yugoslavia was falling to pieces, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This justified the intervention of NATO, the most powerful military machinery of all times, in favour of the separatists Albanian kosovares, organized in a well-known guerrilla by the abbreviations KLA, whose aspiration was the union with Albania.
From the point of view of international legality, the differences are still much more significant. International rights clearly favour Saharawi self-determination and independence. The Sahara was declared a non Self-governing- Territory, making it applicable for the decolonisation according to the doctrine of United Nations, universally accepted. This status has at no moment been given to Kosovo in the last 32 years. The UN and their organisms have approved an average of three resolutions per year confirming the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people. Surprisingly, in Western Sahara’s case, the resolutions of the UN have not been actually accompanied with “binding character“; these were not applied with the severity and fervour that one would expect from democratic powers. Yet they have been applied in this manner on resolutions that were never adopted over Kosovo.
Unlike Kosovars, Saharawis proclaimed their independence in the middle of an unexpected and atrocious war, without planning, far from the luxurious offices and halls, without the aid, nor shelter from bombings of allied forces. Although they did count on a hymn and flag that was not improvised last minute by a protective power. The Saharawi state has been recognized by nearly eighty countries and is a member of the African Union, a continental organization that groups more countries than the EU and NATO together. Nevertheless, the allies and friends of the Saharawi people have neither the military power, nor the political influence that Kosovar's guerilla's godfathers had in the international board.
During the war, saharawis have fought alone, with limited resources, in the middle of an implacable desert, in conditions that the impeccable “Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) most likely would not have been able to survive. In extreme conditions, without the intervention of international forces, the Bedouins Saharawis have resisted with fortitude and tenacity. They stood up to an invading army that, by its size and warlike arsenal certainly resembled Tito’s powerful army of Yugoslavia. In an obviously asymmetric fight, they managed to put in check the invading army, capturing nearly three thousand soldiers and Moroccan officials and to finally force Morocco to barricade itself behind an artificial wall.
Saharawis have suffered and continue undergoing an unspeakable ordeal under the indifferent attitude of the international community and the blue helmets of the UN or Mission of United Nations for the Referendum of the Western Sahara (MINURSO), whose own name, after 17 years of ineffectiveness, sounds rather ironic. The Sahara did not have the "privilege" of counting on the protection of the European Union, the United States and NATO. Its unique ally, supposedly "influent”, Spain, the administrator power, added itself to the conspiracy. It sold them to the best bidder. Soon they were bombed with Napalm, persecuted, kidnapped and now live divided by a wall on 2500 kilometres constructed with the complicity of silence, when not the support, of many of those "exemplary" democracies that, in the heat of 21st century, do not doubt in endorsing policy, military power and financial help to the independence of a Serbian canton avoiding if it adheres or not to international legality.
After the cease of the bombings of NATO on Serbia, the Organization of the United Nations established a peace force under the name of “Mission of United Nations for Kosovo” (UNMIK). More than sixteen thousand troops equipped with armour vehicles and modern armament was deployed in a space as large as the Canary islands or the island of Corsica. Although Kosovo remained de iure like a Serbian independent province, United Nations immediately assumed the administration of the territory, without leaving room for the Government of Belgrade. The Security Council, by means of resolution 1244, of 10 of June of 1999, authorized the assumption of all the own competencies of a protectorate (the security, justice and external affairs). The police of Kosovo, conformed mainly by Albanian-kosovares was even created and the control of the airspace was passed on to Kosovo FORCE (NATO).
On the contrary, in Western Sahara, a country whose extension is almost 30 times greater than Kosovo, only 200 MINURSO troops were deployed. They arrived almost two decades ago, disarmed, and confused, like simple tourists, with no international mandate to protect the human rights of the population and without capacity to intervene against political or police rulings of the occupant power.
According to international organizations such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International and in United Nations’ own reports on human rights, Saharawi political prisoners have been tortured and interrogated in centres that are no more than 800 meters away from the hotel where UN’s “tourists” stay. These say not to be able to intervene because that competence is not contemplated in the allotted mission. Thus, due to the lack of interest of the powerful ones and by "powerful" interests that unite them to Morocco, the attacking part in the Sahara, the UN has become the sad and impotent witness of an illegal occupation, based on brute force.
In Kosovo an unforeseen independence has been imposed by international legality. In the Sahara, these powers oppose the self-determination recommended a thousand times by the same legality. It is obvious then, that the handling of both cases by the great powers and the UN itself, prove once more that the international organism does not act based on the postulates and norms that it announces, but rather according to what the interests of the influential powers dictate.
Congratulations to the Kosovar nation, on their luck and powerful allies that the Saharawi people did not have.
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