Following Côte d’Ivoire in June and Comoros in Dec, Gambia, Guinea, Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe opened consulates to Morocco in Dakhla and Laayoune in Western Sahara in Jan, thereby recognising Morocco’s claims over territory. Polisario Front independence movement, ruling party of self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), condemned moves and asked African Union (AU) to intervene. Morocco’s parliament adopted two laws integrating waters off coast of Western Sahara into its maritime space 22 Jan; Polisario rejected move as lacking legal effect. SADR representative to AU, Lamin Baali and AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smaïl Chergui met in Addis Ababa 26 Jan, discussed “respect of international legality” in disputed territory.
The Western Sahara conflict is both one of the world’s oldest and one of its most neglected.
The combination of Morocco’s recent proposal of a “Sahara autonomous region”, the Polisario Front’s counter-proposal of independence with guarantees for Moroccan interests and the UN Security Council’s 30 April resolution calling for direct negotiations between the parties – due to begin on 18 June – has been hailed as a promising breakthrough in the protracted Western Sahara dispute.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.
Originally published in Al Hayat
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe