Guterres appoints Bangladeshi Fajrul Ahsan as new MINURSO Force Commander

Archive – UN Secretary General António Guterres – UN BUREAU / XINHUA NEWS / CONTACTOPHOTO

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the appointment of Bangladeshi Fajrul Ahsan as Force Commander of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), at a time of tensions following the end of the ceasefire in 2020.

Ahsan replaces Pakistan’s Zia ur Rehman, who completed his term in March 2022. Guterres has thanked ur Rehman for his »exemplary service and leadership in MINURSO,» according to a statement from the international body.

The UN has noted that Ahsan has more than 34 years of experience in military leadership positions at the national and international level, having previously served in UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The UN Security Council approved in October 2022 the extension of MINURSO’s mandate until October 31, 2023, amid the absence of contacts to move towards peace due to Morocco’s insistence on its autonomy plan, rejected by the Polisario Front.

The former Spanish colony was occupied despite the resistance of the Polisario Front, with whom it was at war until 1991, when both parties signed a cease-fire with a view to holding a referendum on self-determination, but differences over the elaboration of the census and the inclusion or not of the Moroccan settlers have so far prevented its convocation.

On November 14, 2020, the Polisario Front declared the cease-fire with Morocco broken in response to a Moroccan military action against Saharawi activists in Guerguerat, in the agreed zone of détente, which was for the Saharawis a violation of the terms of the cease-fire.