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. (May 2013)
Kingdom of Morocco
Royal Advosiry Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS)
- Khalihenna Ould Errachid, (Chairman)
- Maouelainin Ben Khalihanna, (Secretary General)
The Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (Arabic: المجلس الملكي الاستشاري للشؤون الصحراوية) (CORCAS, from the French abbreviation of Conseil royal consultatif pour les affaires sahariennes) is an advisory committee to the Moroccan government on the Western Sahara. It was devised by King of Morocco, Hassan II in the 1970s , but allowed to lapse. It was re-established by his son, Mohammed VI in early 2006, after a new autonomy plan was devised to replace the United Nations' Baker Plan. The autonomy plan is opposed by the Polisario Front, which demands that the United Nations resolutions calling for a referendum be implemented.
The CORCAS is intended as a consultative body for proposals related to what Morocco calls its Southern Provinces, but also to defend the kingdom's annexation of Western Sahara in the media and abroad. The Council is also intended to facilitate dialogue with the Sahrawi in the refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria.
The 141 members of CORCAS are Moroccan and Sahrawi political and traditional (tribal) notables (sheikhs), representatives for women and youth groups and civic society officials. The members are appointed by the Moroccan government and support the Moroccan claims on Western Sahara. Of these members 14 (10%) are women . Notably, the father of the late Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz is a member of the CORCAS.
Its chairman, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, is a former leader of the Partido de Unión Nacional Saharaui (PUNS), a now-defunct political party operated by the Spanish colonial government to rally support for its rule in the Spanish Sahara in the 1970s. After the departure of the Spanish in 1975, which caused the dissolution of the PUNS, Khalihenna Ould Errachid became a defender of Morocco's annexation of the former colony, and a figurehead for the Moroccan government's rule in the Western Sahara.
There are nine vice-presidents: Khaddad El Moussaoui, Hassan Derham, Abdelaziz Abba, Omar Bouida, Ali Salem Chegaf, Othmane Ila, Hassana Cherif, Breika Zerouali and Kaltoum Khayate.
CORCAS set up five commissions, envisaged by its statutes,
- the commission for social affairs, human development and the environment;
- the commission for external affairs and cooperation;
- the commission for the defense of human rights, public freedoms and the populations of the camps;
- the commission for economic affairs, education and training;
- and the commission for the promotion of the Hassani culture, information and communication.
The mandate of the Council expired on March 25, 2010, never renewed.
The CORCAS leadership travels extensively and is regularly featured in the Moroccan press. Its chairman, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, regularly attends meetings in foreign forums, such as the UN, where the Sahara question is discussed. Among others, the CORCAS President has met with the President of the People's Republic of China, the former French foreign minister , and various other international officials .
The chairman of CORCAS and the Secretary General, Dr Maouelainin Maoulainin, are the spokesman of the Moroccan delegation in Manhasset talks under the supervision of the personal envoy of the Secretary General of the UN.
In 2008, the head of CORCAS and former leader of the PUNS Khalihenna Ould Errachid declared:
- "Some Moroccan army officers have made what might be called war crimes against prisoners outside the scope of the war.... Many civilians were launched into space from helicopters or buried alive simply for being Sahrawis."
In an interview with the independent Moroccan weekly magazine Le Journal Hebdomadaire, CORCAS member El Houcine Baïda and alleged former victim of human rights abuses by the Polisario, and head of the Association of Sahrawi Victims of Repression in the Tindouf Camps, as chairman of the Human Rights Commission within CORCAS, complained about the lack of tackling human rights issues, and about the way CORCAS President Khalihenna Ould Errachid runs the Council. In his opinion, the country's actions in the Western Sahara were alienating Sahrawis, and thus could push more youth towards what he defined as "separatism". He further claimed that most of the organization's members were allowed no knowledge of the government's autonomy plan - that they were supposedly responsible for drafting - and that CORCAS chairman Khalihenna Ould Errachid runs the council's affairs despotically, like "a new Franco".