45 Scholars from ten countries call on Biden to cancel Trump’s position on Western Sahara (Text of the letter)

Washington, D.C. (USA) 22 January 2021 (SPS)- 45 Academics from 10 countries addressed an open letter to the US President, Joe Biden, last Wednesday, calling for US withdrawal of Trump’s recognition of the Moroccan illegal occupation of Western Sahara, as he proclaimed last November 10, 2020.

Following is the text of the letter as received by SPS, with the names and positions of its signatories:


20 January 2021

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden,

We are writing to express our strong objections to President Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of Western Sahara, and to call on you to rescind the declaration as soon as possible upon coming to office.

As you are fully aware, Western Sahara is recognized as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the Court of Justice of the European Union and a broad consensus of international legal scholars. As a result, the people of that nation have the right of self-determination and to independence should they decide to do so through a free and fair referendum as stipulated in United Nations resolutions. The United States has no right to determine their fate simply by declaring that they are part of another country.

Western Sahara, formally known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, has been recognized by scores of countries and is a full, founding member state of the African Union, the charter of which prohibits unilateral changes in colonial borders. Trump’s proclamation, therefore, has put the United States on record endorsing the takeover of one legally-recognized African state by another. If allowed to stand, it could seriously damage the U.S. reputation on the continent and even encourage other countries to believe they could also get away with territorial expansion.

When Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990, the international community united in opposition to this flagrant violation of the UN Charter. While there were disagreements as to whether war was the best means to reverse the Iraqi takeover, the United States led the international community in its determination that such aggression must not stand. Trump’s decision sends a very bad signal that the United States now sees such illegal irredentism as legitimate.

You have spoken of the need for the United States to lead by the power of our example. This requires upholding the United Nations Charter and related international legal principles recognizing the right of self-determination and the inadmissibility of expanding territories by force. Furthermore, as former Secretary of State James A. Baker reminded us, “the United States was founded first and foremost on the principle of self-determination.” Thus, reneging on that principle regarding the people of Western Sahara is not only regrettable but immoral and dangerous.

Both Baker and former National Security Advisor John Bolton have already called for the US to rescind its recognition of Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara.

Republican Senator James Inhofe and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy are among the bipartisan supporters of self-determination in Western Sahara. During your tenure as Vice President, the Obama administration sought to introduce human rights monitoring to the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) before succumbing to pressure from Morocco’s allies to drop this initiative.

We therefore call on you to rescind US recognition of Morocco’s annexation, to insist upon a human rights mandate for MINURSO, to cancel plans to open a US consulate in Dakhla, Western Sahara, and to support self-determination in Western Sahara.

Yours sincerely,


Stephen Zunes

Professor of Politics

University of San Francisco, USA

Alice Wilson

Senior Lecturer

University of Sussex, UK

Jacob Mundy

Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies

Colgate University, USA

R. Joseph Huddleston

Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations

Seton Hall University, USA

Yahia Zoubir

Professor of International Relations and International Management

KEDGE Business School, France

Vivian Solana

Assistant Professor

Carleton University, Canada

Meriem Naili

PhD Candidate

University of Exeter, UK

Mark Drury

Lecturer in Anthropology

Princeton University, USA

Joanna Allan

Northumbria University, UK

Sébastien Boulay

Assistant Professor in Anthropology

University of Paris France

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

Professor of Migration and Refugee Studies

University College London, UK

Juan Soroeta

Professor of International Law

University of the Basque Country, Spain

Isaías Barreñada

Professor of International Relations

Madrid Complutense University, Spain

Ben Hounet Yazid

Senior Research Fellow

French National Center for Scientific Research

Francesco Correale


University of Tours, France

Moisés Ponce de León

University of Rennes 2, France

Carles Serra

University of Girona, Spain

Souadou Lagdaf

University of Catania, Italy

Eduardo Ruiz Vieytez

Professor in Constitutional Law

University of Deusto, Spain

Maria Lopez Belloso

Postdoctoral Researcher

University of Deusto, Spain

Joanne Clarke

University of East Anglia, UK

Claude Calame

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France

Bahia Mahmud Awah

Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain

Jaume Guia

University of Girona, Spain

Marc Vicens

University of Girona, Spain

Rita Reis

PhD Candidate

University of Lisbon, Portugal

Concha Moya

Journalist and writer

Julia Gonzalez Ferreras

University of Deusto, Spain

Judit Tavakoli

Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

Wolf-Dieter Seiwert

Center for European and Oriental Culture/ZEOK, Germany

John Comaroff

Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of


Harvard University, USA

Enrique Bengochea Tirado

New University of Lisbon, Portugal

Raquel Ojeda-García

Senior Lecturer in Political Science

University of Granada, Spain

Irene Fernández-Molina

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

University of Exeter, UK

Manfred O. Hinz


University of Bremen and Jacobs University, Germany

Àngel Vàzquez Viu

Maja Zwick

Free University Berlin, Germany

Adolfo Campoy-Cubillo

Associate Professor of Spanish

Oakland University, USA

Victoria Veguilla del Moral

Professor of Political Science

Pablo de Olavide University, Spain

G. Michelle Collins-Sibley

Professor of English, Director of Africana Studies

University of Mount Union, USA

Michael Minch

Professor of Philosophy, Peace and Justice Studies

Utah Valley University, USA

Ferran Soler

Catalonia, Spain

Michael Nagler

Professor Emeritus

UC, Berkeley, USA

Barbara Wien

Senior Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service

American University, USA

Randi Irwin

Casual Academic Lecturer

University of Newcastle, Australia

Anna DeMers

Juan Ignacio Robles Picoón

Professor of Anthropology

Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain

John D. MacDougall

Professor Emeritus, Regional, Economic and Social Development

University of Massachusetts-Lowell, USA

CC: The Honorable Anthony J. Blinken

 Secretary of State

 U.S. Department of State

 2201 C Street, NW

 Washington, D.C. 20520." (SPS)

090/500/60 (SPS)