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Natural resources, regional supremacy and security

The Western Sahara, according to Noam Chomsky, is the first Arab territory to witness what has been termed “The Arab Spring”. The camp of Gdeim Izik was established in the occupied capital of Laayoune on the 9th October 2010; consistent peaceful demonstrations were violently interrupted by Moroccan forces in a deliberate absence of local and international Medias.

Morocco is determined to restore the Western Sahara, knowing that key members in the Security Council are supporting its will. Although the International Court of Justice argued that there are no territorial or cultural ties between the two sides, Morocco is not only investing and exploiting the Sahara but also tempting thousands of young Moroccans to settle there in order to create a demographic fact that will be very difficult to erase if the referendum takes place in the future. Annexing the Western Sahara will first guarantee the survival of the Alawite family and the huge reserves of phosphates, iron ore, salt, oil, natural gas deposits; marine fishing reserves and the geo-strategic position for trade between the Sahel and states will direct Morocco towards development. Regional Plans in the Western Sahara since January/2012 include 21 tourist projects to be concluded by 2020. Since ascending to the throne, Mohammed VI aimed to modernise the Moroccan society on one hand and preserve his throne from the other. King of Morocco is the biggest benefactor of EU trade agreements .Nevertheless, Western stakeholders are also benefiting from Saharan natural resources. For example: Spain is given 35% stake in Fosbucraa’s phosphate and enjoys a secured fishing along the Saharan coast while licenses to Total and Kerr McGee are granted to explore possible gas and oil reserves off shore in the Western Sahara .

In addition, restoring the Western Sahara has also a geographical reason. Countries of the Arab Maghreb compete for supremacy in the region especially after the fall of Libya. Annexing the Western Sahara will allow Morocco to at least enhance its territory comparing to the neighbouring Algeria, a key player in the region and in War on Terror. Algeria’s support to Polisario is related to preserving its supremacy in North Africa, puzzling the Moroccan throne and revenging for historical confrontations between both governments (Sand War was the initial reason). The two neighbours are indeed seen to go through a cold war especially after the closure of the land borders and the Saharan issue has further buried the reconstruction of the Arab Maghreb Union, which dispersed since 1989. Algeria publicly announces that Moroccan and Sahrawi populations are different, thus, the Sahrawi population has the right for self-determination. Besides, a free Western Sahara will benefit Algeria’s economy as it will guarantee fishery industry along the Saharan coast and the transportation of iron ore to the main factory of Annaba (Eastern Algeria) will be easier across the boarders, rather than across the Mediterranean Sea .However, Algeria’s support to the Sahara issue has weakened as it is internally subject to cleavage, with two major ethnic groups seeking independence: the Berbers in the North and the Touareg in the southern desert .

In recent years, Western Sahara started to pose concerns on security and regional stability. Following Buzan’s understanding of regional security complex, the Security of the North African region and the possibility of the spill-over of danger is largely interdependent on the securitisation of the Western Sahara .US war on terror has included the Arab Maghreb, who has long suffered Islamic fundamentalism (Algeria’s civil War 1990s). The Sahara is feared to become a place for malicious terrorist cells, especially since the emergence of: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Pan-Sahel initiative (PSI) was, therefore, introduced as a new Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism plan. Since the fall of Al-Gaddafi’s regime, arms and explosives have been smuggled across the region and fears arose as these might be in the possession of terrorist groups .Key members in the Polisario Front are also accused of belonging to criminal organisations: some elements were tracked by the Malian Army for Drug Traffic. In this concept, some members show elements of greed and grievance. by using the Sahrawi cause for particular incentives. Consequently, Washington is discussing the possibility of the closure of Tindouf camps in order to eliminate the latter concerns, especially after the kidnapping of two foreign aid workers from the camps. This step towards closing the conflict of the Western Sahara in a very negative way will urge refugees to return to their territories; they will therefore either accept Moroccan sovereignty or resume hostilities all over again.