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Morocco’s Position

Morocco has always been the “spoiler” in the peace process as it changes opinion few days after negotiations seemed to improve. Its deliberate strategy to obstruct the peace operation and its unwillingness to corporate with any resolution process remain the same with the new emerging government in January 2012 .Such intransigence is backed by two major powers in the Security Council: the USA and France. This explains the politics of no sanctions against Morocco for breaching the UN Charter and International law, concerning exploiting a territory that falls under “non-self-governing territories” in the UN charter . Western Support to Moroccan policies towards the Western Sahara, is obvious in their abandonment of the referendum of self-determination, although this was formally endorsed by the UN Security Council. Besides, the new intervention policy for the sake of human rights that was adopted after the cold war in different states such as: Iraq, Kosovo and Libya, does not seem to cover the case of the Western Sahara although different reports from Amnesty International unveil the regular human rights abuses . MINURSO has proven to serve the interests of politico-military elites and responds to Western policies of stabilising, rather than democratising, the Arab Maghreb. According to the US state department , “MINURSO has proven to be an effective safety net for the stability of the current political regimes in North Africa”.

Accordingly, MINURSO has only been a conflict stabiliser because contention and power politics hindered its transformative role. The plan managed to sustain the uneven balance between Morocco and Polisario and made the conflict more complicated, especially as it became more internationalised. Ban Ki-Moon revealed lately that MINURSO is facing serious difficulties in fulfilling its mission .France’s support to Morocco is partially related to its tense relations with Algeria due to the war of independence (1954-1962). On the other hand, Morocco’s geo-strategic position at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea helped the USA in its war against communism and terror. The USA’s intelligence is supporting the kingdom in its fight against radical salafism and protecting the throne from collapsing. Many have argued that the democratisation agenda in the Middle East and especially the Arab Maghreb is only concerned with war on terror and fight against terrorism. Promotion of stability and containment has, therefore, characterised western policies towards North Africa, although the region is highly instable because of Islamic fundamentalism .In this concept, peacekeeping is promoting western democratic values and serving the interest of politics and security.

Polisario’s Position

The Polisario, on the other hand, mainly enjoys support from Algeria, Libya under Al Gaddafi, some European Parliaments, Cuba and Venezuela. Unlike the case of the Western Sahara, the US and France recognised “Kosovo” and its right for self-determination. Both Russia and China remain neutral in the conflict in order to prevent internal confrontation regarding the cases of: Chechnya and Tibetan . Although ceasefire helped the Polisario to further explore itself and the Sahrawi identity, it was a huge mistake; it only prolonged the conflict by giving parties time to recuperate and re-arm . Yet, the current deadlock will urge the resumption of hostilities in order to achieve self-determination. Luttwack argues that war can have the virtue to resolve the conflict and lead to peace, thus give war a chance. Indeed, both the Polisario and Sahrawis are rational to war. Nevertheless, some analysts warn that the Western Saharan conflict will be “Palestinised” if the Polisario breaks the ceasefire to fight for self-determination .In other words, the Polisario will be categorised as a terrorist organisation and: “all the state department has to do is to declare Polisario and SADR as terrorist organisations, their international assets will be frozen and their leaders will be arrested and trialled” . Morocco has been criticised of pushing for such scenario. In 2004, the Moroccan press tried to propagate the presence of radical salafism in Tindouf camps in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the US to target Polisario members as an enemy of the War on terror Human Rights Watch . If this was a deterrence strategy to frighten Polisario members, their supporters stress on keeping the diplomatic channel active. In this regard, SADR is taking advantage of the recent changes in North Africa, this time calling for the new Tunisian president, Moncif Marzouki, to mediate with Morocco on possible compromises . On the 36th anniversary of the SADR proclamation, Sahrawi president Mohammed Abdul-Aziz revealed last February that Sahrawi government is aiming for diplomacyand recognition to legitimise their cause, noting that 58 states recognise Western Saharan sovereignty to date .

African Union (AU) , NGOs and the Media:

The African union (AU), formerly the organisation of African Unity, has been reviewing the situation in the Western Sahara since 1963. Morocco is still boycotting the organisation since 1984, when the union accepted the membership of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic .The African Union’s role is limited to pushing the Polisario Front towards negotiations, with Algeria’s and Tunisia’s mediation between the two parties. The union has, to a certain extent, withdrawn from the conflict because Morocco refused its interference and the UN constrained its role (i.e. The African Union cannot impose sanctions on Morocco or enforce peace).

Non-Governmental organisations and activists working on ground are mainly concerned with human rights’ abuses, which MINURSO overlooked. The 2009 hunger strike by the Sahrawi activist “Aminatou Haida” who was expulsed to the Canary Islands for indicating on the entry form that her nationality was Sahrawi illustrates how the international community can help solve the conflict. Various NGO’s called for her release, yet the Moroccan authorities ignored until key powers intervened . Satyagraha (Ghandi’s form of non-violent resistance) could, therefore, be the best form to exert pressure and demand basic rights.

During the year 2012, various peaceful sit-ins have taken place in the occupied Western Sahara to claim for basic human rights which were neglected by MINURSO. Six Sahrawi students were detained in Jail since April last year without trial for participating in peaceful demonstrations. Several protests defended victims of enforced disappearance, political detention and refugees and called for the elimination of relative depravation with their Moroccan counterparts and self-determination . Voices from Europe called for urgent action to promote the rights of Saharan refugees and expand MINURSO to protect human rights such as: the European Coordinating Conference of Support to the Sahrawi People’s (EUCOCO) recent 37th conference and the British Common council.

Others are concerned with the exploitation of the Saharan natural resources. “Spain’s Mercadona is one of the worst companies 2012 in the world for involvement in looting Saharan Wealth” agreed Greenpeace .According to the Western Sahara Resource Watch, massive growth in Morocco’s agriculture industry and its trade to the EU in 2012 is based on plundering Sahara’s lands . The European parliament has recently rejected the extension of EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement which illegally includes Saharan Waters .However, their role is very limited as the flow to the Western Sahara is very constrained and the media remains deliberately absent.