The Saharawi Movement for Peace (MSP) has culminated this Friday the 'I International Conference for Peace and Security' with the publication of the Manifesto of the Canary Islands, a document that includes its demands and proposals to unblock the dispute that has blocked stability in Western Sahara for more than four decades.
The platform, headed by the first secretary general, Hach Ahmed Baricalla, and backed among others by Saharawi tribal chiefs, has set out in the political document its vision for resolving the dispute through dialogue. The objective is ultimately to broaden the spectrum of representation of the Sahrawi people, whose historical demands have been capitalised on by the Polisario Front.
The MSP claims to have sent the manifesto to the United Nations and other international bodies involved in the conflict, as well as to the Polisario Front and Morocco, the main actors. Through this roadmap, the movement seeks to win self-government for the Saharawi people.
Read the full document:
Canary Islands Manifesto
Dear friends and brothers,
During these two days, we have gathered here to talk about our beloved Sahara, not because of the long and difficult road travelled until today, but because of the exciting future that appears before our eyes, undoubtedly full of well-being and prosperity. A future of all and for all Sahrawis. A future that will come sooner rather than later, provided we do not turn our backs on the winds of change that are now emerging on this issue.
A future that, in short, will serve to leave behind the dark days full of suffering and sorrow that overshadowed our horizon, in that permanent journey to nowhere on which we were one day embarked by those people who put their personal interest before the general interest of the Saharawis, perpetuating this conflict to the limits of exhaustion.
Today is a historic day. It is a special day. We have gathered here, in beautiful Gran Canaria, on the opposite shore, members of the Saharawi traditional authority, renowned politicians and academics and, in short, those of us who are on the side of the solution and not of the problem. In short, we are facing a wave of reasons to believe and a wave of reasons to change.
Indeed, we have the possibility of contributing to this change. But to do so, we believe it is necessary and essential to promote the necessary mechanisms through which this dispute can be brought closer to a speedier resolution. These are:
1st Reinforce confidence in the role of the UN as the backbone of a compromise solution. In this regard, we believe it is essential in the short term to increase the spaces for dialogue with the participation of new leaders, such as the Sahrawi notables or the Sahrawi Peace Movement itself, in order to intensify efforts in the search for an agreement on this issue. We must also support the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and ask him to redouble the UN's efforts to make constructive progress in resolving this interminable political process and to avoid a return to the traditional stalemate. Finally, we urge you to be more willing to enforce the ceasefire in order to avoid further casualties.
2. To applaud and welcome as a very positive development the Spanish Government's new stance on this issue, recognising the Autonomy proposal for the region as the most serious, credible and feasible. In this sense, Spain's departure from its traditional 'negative neutrality' reinforces this proposal and favours its role as the main intermediary in a Spain-EU dynamic, with a view to greater involvement of the latter in order to achieve progress more quickly in resolving this issue. We hope that the Spanish government will not give in to pressure from those who want to perpetuate this situation and will stand firm. In this regard, we also call on the Spanish opposition parties to adopt a more constructive and less selfish stance on this issue, above personal score-settling and electoral calculations, especially when dealing with an issue as sensitive as the one at hand.
3º To value and reinforce the role of the traditional Saharawi authority, represented by its notables or shiujs, whose tribal authority has been questioned by another that claims to perpetually arrogate to itself the representativeness of the Saharawi population as an 'eternal title', without any democratic process that periodically legitimises it. We also believe that the participation of this traditional Saharawi authority in the peace process within the framework of the United Nations is essential, thereby opening up the process to the participation of new actors.
4º To warn of the negative effects of the persistence of this situation over the years. Undoubtedly, the permanent tension in the region is harmful on both sides of the Atlantic-Mediterranean axis. Putting an end to this situation as soon as possible is absolutely necessary, as it would help to reduce this tension and stabilise the region in today's world, which is full of upheavals and war scenarios. The Canary Islands would also benefit from this stability, especially in terms of cultural and economic exchange with our neighbours and brothers.
5º Finally, and in a very special way, we must remember all those families that have been torn apart for decades by the intransigence of a few. It is therefore essential to find a solution that will allow immediate family reunification, which will lead to a dignified life, social progression and, in short, to be able to enjoy the resources offered by your own country, leaving behind the hardships of exile in the desert. We understand that the proposal for autonomy is the starting point that inaugurates a new era in which there is room for everyone, and in which everyone can prosper in peace and harmony.
These are the foundations on which we believe change must be built. And we are here today to kick-start that change. A change that aims to build a better Sahara, designed by and for the people. The time has come to reaffirm our commitment to this.
Ours is a story of struggle against adversity, a story of overcoming adversity. It is a story of collective effort in which the work of all must serve to build a better future, a story that must be far removed from toxic and inquisitorial leaders, whose failure as leaders has been demonstrated by the facts. It is the story of a people, the people of the desert, who have reason to believe that there is still time.
They have time to end this disgrace, before this disgrace ends them.
Thank you very much.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 23 September 2022