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Opinion: Time to return to Morocco

Western Sahara refugees should return to Morocco.

This month, the U.N. Security Council will have an opportunity to do something to resolve this situation when it again considers whether to extend the mandate of the U.N. mission responsible for peacekeeping in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). To the council this may be just an agenda item, but to me and to those of my people still trapped in Tindouf, this is about freedom and the right to a life of dignity.

Extending the MINURSO mandate will only perpetuate the unbearable status quo for my people: degrading conditions for those in the camps and continued suffering for those who love and care about them in Morocco.

The council has before it an alternative option that in my view is the optimal solution: adopt the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco in 2007. The plan is a credible and viable resolution to the impasse. By adopting it the council would end the misery of my people in the camps, give separated families a chance to reunite, and afford Sahrawis the opportunity to lead our lives in our homes under our terms.

I have lived a long life, and I have witnessed change overcome the unchangeable. I have seen the Berlin Wall crumble and the Soviet Union collapse; I have seen Saddam when he went down and Mandela when he went free. If the U.N. and the international community choose to take action, to do the right thing, perhaps I may yet see freedom for my people.

Sheikh Ahmadou Souilem is a former leader of the Polisario who returned to Morocco from the Tindouf refugee camps in July 2009. This opinion piece was distributed by the Beckerman public relations firm on behalf of the Moroccan government.