Surging Tensions in Western Sahara As Confrontations Escalate


For many years, tensions between Morocco and Polisario have been escalating. There seems to be no hope for a peaceful resolution, especially as territories in western Sahara demand their freedom.

Struggle For Freedom Amid Tensions

In 1975, when Spain, a former colonizer of North Africa, abandoned its colonies, Morocco replaced it to control the western Sahara. As a result, it invoked cultural, ancestral, and political ties in the region. The Polisario, which is an influential anti colonization organization, refuted.

Morocco’s claim. This organization had fought for independence in Western Sahara since the time of Spain’s colonization.

In 1976, Polisario announced the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, also known as Sahara Arab Democratic Republic to represent its independence project. Although internationally SADR is not a recognized state, it has a relentless determination. Years of surging conflicts between Morocco and Polisario have resulted in heated confrontations. The latter resulted in Morocco controlling up to 80% of Western Sahara. It was not until the UN intervened that the need for independence became an international affair.

Amid the conflict, the majority of the Sahrawis migrated to the neighboring countries seeking safety. They were forced to settle as refugees in Algeria. They were living in camps funded by Polisario and the UN. To date, close to 125000 refugees still live there. However, those living in the parts of Algiers ruled by Rabat undergo a lot of repressions. The Rabat prohibits any campaigns endorsing Western Sahara independence.

On a mission to intervene in the western Sahara tensions, the UN-imposed a truce through formulating a Mission for the Referendum in 1991. Despite the rivals holding a truce, there was no referendum.

Peacemaking Mission

On 30th October 2020, the United Nations renewed its obligation of promoting peace in Western Sahara for a year. For this resolution to be effective, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario Front needed to meet up and consult.

However, Polisario, which had agreed to a truce years ago, threatened to start a war. The Polisario told the United Nations that it would continue advocating for the liberation of their country. They would continue with the struggle for independence. There is a possibility that Polisario and Morocco may engage in a bloody battle.

Former army colonel of Mauritania, El Boukhary Mohamed Mouemel stated that although Mauritania

had not taken sides, it wasn’t going to start.

“I do not personally think that it will have military complications or military aggravation to the point of triggering an armed conflict or something neither of the parties finds it’s interesting,” Mouemel says.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Morocco states there are over 15 foreign missions in Western Sahara. The United Arab Emirates is the most recent. Such analysis is a positive achievement for Morocco. Mainly since Morocco governs about 80% of Western Sahara.

Resolving the conflict “lies in the interest of all”, stated Mr. Köhler, the personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, where decades of conflict over disputed ownership have been contained since 1991, by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).



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