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As W. Sahara Loses on Rights, Letter Not Circulated, Somaliland Cited

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- Who can have a letter circulated by the Security Council president to the other 14 members? Until now, on the question of Western Sahara the Frente POLISARIO has had its letters circulated. But not this time.

  Inner City Press inquired why not.

   The first answer, given exclusively, was that it was a matter of fairness and consistency, since the Rwandan presidency of the Security Council for April had also declined to circulate a letter submitted by Somaliland on April 1.

  But with all due respect for Somaliland -- and we do have respect -- POLISARIO is a formal party to a situation on the Security Council's agenda, a referendum which was supposed to have been held long ago in Western Sahara.

  Better said, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), of which the Polisario is the governing party, is a founding member of the African Union and has full diplomatic relations with most AU members. POLISARIO is also a recognized party to the dispute in Western Sahara and is named in Security Council resolutions.

  Further inquiry finds, as we also exclusively reported earlier this week, that Rwanda's negative experience with “non state actors” like Human Rights Watch has put them in the camp of those who believe only the letters of states should be circulated.

  Rwanda's aversion to Human Rights Watch is understandable -- as if some kind of fad, HRW and its director Ken Roth have gone entirely one-sided on the conflicts in the Great Lakes region. But again, POLISARIO is not Human Rights Watch.

  It is pointed out that POLISARIO did meet with Council President Gasana, as did for example Algeria, pushing the African Union line.

  This non-circulation is a quirk, as we see it, of Rwanda's recent history and outlook. We've already opined, if Human Rights Watch actually wanted to help the people of Western Sahara try to get a right monitoring component in MINURSO, HRW would have stayed out of it - they burned their bridges with Rwanda long ago.

  But we believe Polisario's letter should have been circulated, and so we put it online, here. And we also believe that the US should explain why it backed off pushing for a human rights monitoring component of MINURSO.

  Inner City Press on Wednesday was told, in transparency, that on Thursday morning there will be three adoptions -- Mali, with its foreign minister present, Western Sahara then Cote d'Ivoire sanctions -- then a thirty minute gap to allow statements at the stakeout. Will the US answer there?

To the end some thought Western Sahara wouldn't be on the agenda Thursday morning. But there was very little discussion, Inner City Press is told, after the MINURSO draft was finally circulate to the 15 members.

In the past, South Africa, Uganda, Costa Rica, pushed to the end for a human rights component. Rwanda's position, given its history and recent experience with non state actors like Human Rights Watch, might be understandable. But combined with Togo's position, the African Union view is hardly represented, at least on this issue, in the Security Council.

Likewise, Inner City Press on Wednesday asked two African speakers on the Middle East why the African Union wasn't speaking in its name. Both said that it should be. We'll see. Watch this site.

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