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House Legislation

McKinney Statement on Western Sahara

September 15, 2000

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for convening this hearing on Western Sahara .

As we would all agree, this is a very important moment in the referendum process to complete the struggle for independence for the Sahrawi people.

I regret the recent breakdown of talks in Geneva on the future of the Western Sahara and the decision taken by the Moroccan delegation to walk out. It is obvious to all observers that Morocco apparently fears the outcome of this referendum. But unfortunately, nothing changes for the people of Western Sahara. While diplomats squabble and are unable to resolve this issue, the Western Sahara people continue to live under colonial rule.

Twenty-five years ago, in October 1975, the International Court of Justice denied to Morocco all territorial claims on Western Sahara and reaffirmed the right of the Western Sahara people to self-determination. Because the United States has done nothing to affirmatively adhere to this international ruling and to push for a final resolution of this issue in accordance with what is fair, I am saddened that my country stands on the wrong side of justice.

This is not a new or unique position for my country. Because it did the same thing for twenty-five years in East Timor as it allowed its handpicked dictator of Indonesia to run over the rights of the East Timorese people.

Justice delayed is justice denied. And the Sahrawi people will not stand idly by and allow this injustice to persist. Just as the East Timorese have won their country back, so too will the people of the Sahrawi Republic. Time is on their side.

And we don't make friends around the world by being on the wrong side of justice and human rights.

In November, the people of this country will decide who will lead it for the next four years. The people of Western Sahara should be given the same opportunity. It is wrong for the international community to choose the Sahrawi leaders.

The policy of our country should support the free expression of a people deciding on their future.

Otherwise, the tide will surely turn against us.

Mr. Chairman, the current state of affairs is not sustainable and will surely deteriorate into something no one really wants. It will be the fault of those who did nothing when the call for freedom went out. History will not judge us well: those who choose to do nothing as the day of reckoning on the Sahrawi Republic draws near.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for calling this important hearing and for allowing this testimony.

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