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On W. Sahara, Debate of Who's AU, As HRW's Bungles Help Morocco

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 22 -- The politics of this year's renewal of the Western Sahara UN mission MINURSO is complicated by an unexpected factor: Rwanda's understandable mistrust of Human Rights Watch and what it has come to stand for.

  Rwanda is not only this month's Security Council president, but is also the African Union member on the Security Council which would be expected to advocate for the position of the Frente POLISARIO.

  In recent years this advocacy was done by Uganda then South Africa, while Francophone African members like Gabon and now Togo do not take that line.

  But Rwanda, which openly questioned the credibility of Human Rights Watch during its campaign for the Security Council last year, with foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo memorably saying HRW holds fundraising dinners and uses exotic African names but has neither knowledge nor respect, is adverse to HRW and its positions.

  So who, really, did Human Rights Watch serve with its open letter urging the Council “to extend the mandate to incorporate human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.”

  In fact, this served Morocco. Now the natural advocate for AU positions is against “non state actor” HRW's call to extend the mandate.

 Ever Afro-centric, Rwanda wants there to be the promised referendum in Western Sahara. But to impose outside, HRW-style human rights “B.S.” on another African country, at HRW's request? They say no.

  So Morocco, in a sense, is lucky. Their position is that the African Union letter is “really just Zuma, that is, South Africa.” They point out that the AU under Jean Ping never wrote such a letter. But wasn't that... just Ping, and the Francophonie?

  Morocco will come off the Council at the end of 2013, which should increase the odds of a human rights mandate being added to MINURSO. But Morocco points out that Nigeria would probably be coming on, and “doesn't share the view of South Africa” on Western Sahara.

 On HRW, it's worth noting that their Ken Roth has repeatedly refused to provide even a summary of the issues he raised to Ban Ki-moon (one assumes HRW shares this with donors, at least big donors). HRW won't even send out its statements even-handedly.

  Meanwhile, we have added the full text of POLISARIO's letter to Rwandan Ambassador Gasana, as Security Council President, to our story from earlier today, here.

  There more and more talk about the US gambit, who was behind it and how it will play out. Watch this site.

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