Located on the northwest coast of Africa and bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, Western Sahara – with just 500,000 people – has been the subject of a 47-year territorial dispute between the Polisario Front and Morocco. From Algeria, the exiled Polisario Front declared the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic within the 252,000 square kilometers of Western Saharan territory in 1976. Their ensuing war with Morocco was interrupted in 1991, when Rabat agreed to a cease-fire brokered by the United Nations. Tensions, however, have remained as the parties never agreed on a political solution.
The simmering conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over the disputed territory of Western Sahara has recently taken an ominous turn after decades of stalemate.
The Polisario Front‘s representative in Europe and to the European Union, Oubi Bouchraya Bachir, resigned on Thursday from all his organic posts because of “deep disagreements” with the leader of the political-military organisation, Brahim Ghali.
“After a firm request months ago, today I submitted my resignation in writing to the Polisario Secretary from my post as Europe and EU officer. I thanked him for his confidence, but deep disagreements with him on vision and methods forced me to take this difficult decision”, the Sahrawi diplomat explained on Twitter.
This is a significant episode which might scrip the end of the Polisario Movement altogether. You see, it signifies the inherent authoritarianism that resides in the movement. The Polisario Front the self-proclaimed “leader” of Sahrawis fighting for independence for the Western Sahara, is in reality a one-party dictatorship that does not represent the Sahrawi people and does not promote their best interests in pursuing a peaceful solution to the Western Sahara conflict. The Polisario has been controlled by the same authoritarian leader, Mohammed Abdelaziz, for more than 30 years and allows no real democratic process.
The Polisario routinely violates the human rights of tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees who have remained trapped in desperate conditions in camps near Tindouf, Algeria for more than three decades. In the camps, there is no freedom of speech, association, or movement; no independent civil society; and no independent judiciary or political parties.
Disagreements would surely have fostered under such a mechanism. But the infighting today has reached to such an extent that the movement is almost on the verge of collapse.
This would only further help an already emboldening Morocco. In recent years, a growing number of countries have begun to endorse Morocco’s claim to the area. In accordance with the normalisation deal between the two nations signed during the Trump administration, Israel has continued to deepen its ties with Morocco. In a rare display of unanimity, all of the Gulf governments voiced their solidarity with and support for Morocco’s stance. Recently, Spain endorsed Morocco’s plan for governing western Sahara.
Morocco would use this reality of Polisario malfeasance, in the camps and outside them, as well as the growing weakness of the movement to negotiate a solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara, which would undoubtedly favour Rabat.
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