Ceasefire Monitoring Overview
A key task of MINURSO is the monitoring of the cease-fire in Western Sahara, observed by the parties since 6 September 1991. This task is carried out by 203 United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs), part of MINURSO’s military component, under the command of a Force Commander and under the overall authority of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara and Head of MINURSO.
Specific rules for the cease-fire were established in 1997 with the agreement between MINURSO and each of the two parties on “Military Agreement No 1” signed between the Frente Polisario Military Forces and MINURSO on 24 December 1997 and between the Royal Moroccan Army and MINURSO on 22 January 1998. (1)
“Military Agreement No 1”, regulates the activities related to the monitoring of the ceasefire. It divides Western Sahara into five areas, including a five-kilometers-wide buffer strip east of the berm, two restricted areas (25 kilometers west and 30 kilometers west of the berm) and two areas of limited restriction that encompass the remainder of Western Sahara. Various restrictions on military activities and personnel of the parties apply in these areas. (2)
There are also two other agreements, mainly on de-mining activities. These are “Military Agreement No 3” between MINURSO and Royal Moroccan Army, signed on 12 March 1999, and “Military Agreement No 2” between MINURSO and Frente Polisario Military Forces, signed on 5 April 1999. (3)
The UNMOs are all commissioned officers (rank of Captain and above), are unarmed and grouped into multinational teams with the mandate to visit military units and conduct patrols at any time. To this end, daily patrols are carried by MINURSO on both sides of the berm to confirm the status of the parties’ forces throughout the Territory, verify violations, demonstrate United Nations presence, and monitor military exercises conducted by the parties and the destruction of mines and unexploded ordnance. (4)
The UNMOs are of various nationalities with the largest contingents from Egypt, Russia, France, Honduras and Malaysia.
The structure of the Force
MINURSO’ Headquarters is located in Laayoune. In addition, MINURSO has two Liaison Offices in Tindouf (Algeria) and Dakhla (west of the berm). The UNMOs are deployed in groups of on average of 20 officers in nine Team Sites. Four of them are located east of the berm (Smara, Mahbas, Oum Dreyga, Awsard) and five Team Sites are located west of the berm (Bir Lahlou, Tifariti, Mehaires, Mijek, Awsard).
The Team Sites in Smara and Awsard additionally provide logistical and support services to the Team Sites in the North and South of the Area of Responsibility and host additional civilian personnel. They are also bases for MINURSO’s helicopters.
The Area of Responsibility for the various Team Sites vary, from 12,000 (Mehaires) to 47,000 sq km (Awsard).
In addition to the UNMOs, the Mission includes other uniformed personnel: 20 medical staff (all ranks) and 7 Warrant officers/Non-commissioned officers for Headquarters works duties.
MINURSO also has 6 UN Police officers who support the UNHCR-led Confidence Building Measures programme.
The uniformed personnel are supported by 97 international civilian personnel, 157 locally-recruited civilian personnel and 19 UN Volunteers. There are also external contractors operating in logistics and other support service. Further, the parties provide some logistic support (personnel and services) to the Team Sites and are responsible for their external protection. The parties, as well as neighbuoring countries, also provide some services at no cost for MINURSO.
Summary of activities - 2011
In 2011, MINURSO conducted 8,522 Ground Patrols; 3,348 visits to Headquarters, and 18,639 visits to subunits of the parties. Those patrols covered more than 1,3 million of kilometers and lasted for more than 40 thousands hours.
The Mission also conducted 185 Night Patrols and 167 Night Observations Post. Further, MINURSO’s Military Observers had 218 meetings with the military authorities of the parties. They monitored the destruction of 7,110 of them as well as 3,511 other unexploded ordnances.
During the same year, 619 helicopters reconnaissance flights were carried out by MINURSO which covered 150 thousands kilometers and lasted for 1,500 flight hours.
(1) S/1998/35, para 18
(2) S/2007/619, para 19
(3) S/1999/307, para 13, S/1999/483, para 11
(4) S/2004/ 827, para 35