UN: Bahiya Ghella Points Up Moroccan Sahara’s Social, Economic Momentum

13 June 2024
UN: Bahiya Ghella Points Up Moroccan Sahara’s Social, Economic Momentum


The elected member from the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region, Ghalla Bahiya, highlighted in New York the momentum that the southern provinces of Morocco are experiencing economically and socially, thanks to the new development model launched by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 2015.

Speaking at the annual session of the United Nations C-24 committee, which is taking place from June 11 to 21, Bahiya emphasized that this innovative development model is part of the Kingdom’s firm commitment to ensuring that all citizens enjoy the fullness of their rights and freedoms and to developing a cohesive society where everyone benefits from security, freedom, equal opportunities, respect for their dignity, and social justice.

Within the framework of this model, which takes into account the region’s specificities and the aspirations of local populations, major investment projects have been launched, focusing on infrastructure (roads, ports, and airports), healthcare, education, industry, agriculture, renewable energies, tourism, mining, fishing, and social sectors.

The elected official from the Moroccan Sahara also indicated that the new development model for the southern provinces, with a budget of nearly $10 billion, has achieved over 80% of its socio-economic and structural projects, adding that this initiative aims to create more than 120,000 jobs and double the local GDP.

She further stated that the two regions of the southern provinces achieved a growth rate over 50% higher than the national average, namely 10.9% for the Laayoune region and 10.5% for the Dakhla region. Moreover, the elected representative of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region indicated that the Moroccan Sahara is now known for its unprecedented economic and social empowerment and as a regional economic hub.

In this context, she noted that three Royal initiatives, namely the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline, the Atlantic Africa Initiative, and the Initiative to Enable Access to the Atlantic for Sahel Countries, will make the Moroccan Sahara a platform for security, stability, and co-development in Africa, the Atlantic, and beyond.

Recalling the Royal speech on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Green March, in which His Majesty King Mohammed VI emphasized an ambitious geopolitical vision for Morocco, focused on transforming the Atlantic facade, the speaker affirmed that the goal outlined by the Sovereign is to make this region a focal point for communion, economic integration, and a focal point on the African and international stages.

She continued that His Majesty the King expressed His determination to carry out major projects in the southern provinces, focusing on the development of services and infrastructure dedicated to human and economic progress.

Regarding the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region, Bahiya pointed out that this region has benefited from numerous infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the Tiznit-Laâyoune-Dakhla expressway spanning 1,055 km, as well as the Dakhla Atlantic Port, in addition to the extension of the electrical grid.

She noted that thanks to a visionary Royal vision, the Dakhla Atlantic Port project, which mobilizes an investment of around 10 billion dirhams, aims to stimulate the economic, social, and industrial development of the southern provinces, especially the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region.

“This project aims to transform the region into a major industrial hub, promoting the development of a robust naval industry and positioning it as a strategic crossroads, while offering privileged access to the African continent,” she continued.

Bahiya noted that this new port is intended to accommodate future fishery product flows, particularly the exploitation of small pelagic stocks in zone C (Boujdour-Lagouira), and will serve as a logistical and economic lever to structure the economic and social development of southern Morocco.

She also emphasized that several institutions are being developed to strengthen local capacities, citing projects such as the transformation of the regional hospital into a university hospital center, the creation of a “city of trades and skills,” and the opening of a medical faculty.

On the cultural front, the speaker observed that Morocco has launched a series of initiatives to preserve, integrate, and promote Hassani culture, in line with the Constitution, noting that many public libraries have been opened and several cultural and musical festivals are organized in different cities of the Moroccan Sahara such as Dakhla, Laayoune, and Tan-Tan.

A cultural club, a media library, a museum (Dakhla), a Hassani music institute, and a center for the preservation of Hassani culture have also been established, she said, adding that this Center has managed to gather more than 400 Hassani poetry manuscripts.

As for the conditions of women in the Moroccan Sahara, Bahiya noted that women play a leading role in society and enjoy a high political participation level, as is the case in other regions of the Kingdom.

In the southern provinces, women hold elected office at local, provincial and national levels and participate in the management of local affairs through regional and local councils elected as part of the advanced regionalization adopted by the Kingdom, she noted, citing projects that have improved the living conditions of vulnerable groups and created income-generating activities in the region.

She also pointed out that other social projects helped introduce thousands of women into the job market, adding that women in the Moroccan Sahara are present in  parliament, regional councils and municipal councils, and enjoy the same rights and freedoms as their fellow citizens in other regions of the Kingdom.

Referring to the legislative, regional and local elections that took place in Morocco, including its Sahara, in September 2021, Bahiya said that these milestones demonstrated the dedication and attachment of the people of the Sahara to their Moroccan identity.

She recalled that this triple ballot, which saw massive participation by the populations of the southern provinces, took place in a climate of serenity throughout the national territory, pointing out that the turnout in the Moroccan Sahara region reached 66.94% for Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra and 58.30% for Dakhla Oued Eddahab, the highest at national level.

For Ghalla Bahiya, the turnout in the Kingdom’s southern provinces confirms the unwavering commitment of the people of the Sahara to the Royal project of building a modern, democratic society, adding that this population is fully integrated into the management of local and public affairs through the election of its representatives to local councils, regional councils and the national parliament.

She also condemned the “desperate conditions” in which women sequestered in the Tindouf camps in south-west Algeria live, where they are subjected to various forms of abuse and torture, including rape.

“Women and children’s rights are violated in the Tindouf camps without any action taken by the host country, who still refuses to allow the UNHCR to fulfill its humanitarian mandate to protect the population of these camps, including women and children,” she denounced, insisting that this situation makes it imperative to take a census of these populations.

In this context, it condemned the role of the “polisario” separatist group and the host country, Algeria, in the serious and systematic violations of human rights in these camps, as evidenced by the various reports of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which highlight the large-scale harassment, arrests and ill-treatment of bloggers, doctors and nurses in the Tindouf camps by separatist militias.

Bahiya also spoke out against the precarious living conditions in which the sequestered people in these camps live, due to the detour of humanitarian aid by the “polisario”, as confirmed by the World Food Program (WFP) and the European Union Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

In its 2023 report, the WFP noted major dysfunctions in the management of aid in the Tindouf camps, notably the sale of WFP products on the markets of neighboring countries, she recalled.

“The status quo has an obvious cost for our brothers and sisters in the Tindouf camps, and creates uncertainty about their future”, she lamented.

To this end, she urged the international community to get the armed separatist group and the host country, Algeria, to put an end to these violations, to stop using children as soldiers, and to allow the registration and census of the populations sequestered in the Tindouf camps.

Ghalla Bahiya also pointed out that to put an end to the suffering of these populations sequestered in the Tindouf camps, Morocco proposed the Autonomy Plan in 2007, within the framework of the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“The Moroccan Autonomy Plan is now supported by more than 107 countries around the world, at a time when some 30 states and regional organizations have opened consulates general in the cities of Laâyoune and Dakhla,” she said, adding that the autonomy plan is a widely recognized political solution and is in line with Morocco’s advanced regionalization process.

She recalled that the Autonomy Plan, described as serious and credible in the 20 UN Security Council resolutions since 2007, legitimately aims to achieve a definitive political solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara.

This initiative rests on two pillars: the establishment of local and representative institutions enabling the population of the Moroccan Sahara to enjoy their political, social and cultural rights, and the preservation of Morocco’s historic sovereignty over this region, in accordance with international law, explained the elected representative of the Moroccan Sahara.

She concluded that implementation of the autonomy plan would further accelerate socio-economic development and guarantee lasting peace and stability in the region.

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