My first attention was drawn to this place when working on a
group work in my part 2 in the university, and a lot of amazing things we can
learn from this place.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory found in the Maghreb
region of northern Africa. A low, flat desert bounded by the Atlantic to the
west, Algeria to the east, Morocco to the north and Mauritania to the south. It
occupies a total area of 102,703 square miles, and has a population of nearly
600,000. Its largest city is EL Aaiun, its monetary unit is Tala, and languages
spoken are: standard Arabic, Hassaniya, Arabic and Moroccan Arabic. It has 6
airports, sea-ports and harbours. Business goes on as usual such that as at
2007, it was estimated to have a GDP of $906.5 million. You may agree with me
that such is a characteristic of a state. However Western Sahara is not
considered a State. Why?
Note that for the sake of this write up, ‘state’
refers to an organized community living under a single political structure and
government, sovereign or constituent.
Decades after the Green March, the dispute file of the Western
Sahara remains open at the U.N. Different lingering disputes over the years continue
to represent one of the main, if not the main threat to the stability of the
north African region, causing serious rift in the diplomatic relations between
morocco, Algeria and spain. For over 14 years, the united nations have tried to
put an end to these disputes by proffering lasting solutions. But their efforts
have proved abortive over the years. It can be said without mincing words that
the political future of the area is inherently dependent on the resolution of
this low-intensity but persistent dispute.
In 1976, spain withdrew leaving the forces of Rabat and
Nouakchott in Morocco to deal with the newly established resistance of the Saharawi
nationalist movement, led by Frente Polisario, which was known as the polisario
front. Then these men were few in number, but badly armed. Then later in that
year, the polisarios proclaimed the birth of the Saharawi Arab Democratic
Because sovereignty, according to “Understanding Politics”
by Chris Ojukwu, relates to the “attributes
of supreme authority of a state over the territory and people under its
jurisdiction, and exercising absolute and unrestricted power that it stands
above all others in a society”, and the government of the SADR have an unresolved
dispute over sovereignty, it cannot be called a state. After Spain left in
1976, Morocco proceeded to occupy two-third of the territory and eventually
laid claim to the rest in 1979 after the withdrawal of Mauritania. As expected
there was war and conflict that resulted in the loss of lives and properties.
1991 saw a cease-fire and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation. The
UN tried to resolve the issue through diplomatic means by offering the people
of Western Sahara a choice between independence and an integration into
Morocco, with the former being what the polisario wants. Despite this, morocco
still maintains a heavy security presence in the territory.
About 80% of the western Sahara territory is under the
Moroccan government, leaving about 20% under the control of SADR, and this
relatively small land area is called free zone. This free zone has a relatively
small population of about 30,000. The Moroccan government built a 2,700 km long
defensive sand berm around 1980 to 1987 and running the length of the
territory, and separates the opposition.
So if the SADR cannot control a large percentage
of its territory, it is not fit to be called a state!
The UN does not recognize it as a sovereign
state and as such listed it on the UN list of non-self-governing territories.
The Moroccan government controls the economy and is a key
source of employment, infrastructural development and social spending. As expected,
exploitation of natural resources like crude oil, remains a contentious issue
due to the unresolved legal status of the region.
On the communication aspect too, the SADR has a sparse and
limited telephone system, with its country code (-212) tied into Morocco’s system
by microwave radio relay technology, tropospheric scatter, and satellite.
The long conflict has resulted in severe human rights violation
that has majorly results in the displacement of tens of thousands of Saharawi civilians
from their so called country. Due to the measure of support the Polisarios have
from the Algerian government, thousands of Moroccans were expelled from Algeria
by the Algerian government. During and after the conflict, both parties accuse
each other of human rights violation and abuse.
A typical example is when youth were kidnapped in refugee
camps and sent to Castro’s island of youth, where they are inundated with
anti-western teachings. This was done primarily to Armstrong their families and
coerce their loyalty to the Polisarios cause.
Despite the effort of the SADR to demonstrate that it is a
state like any other, with institutions, flag, diplomats, etc., the action of
the Morocco government makes it practically impossible.
The future of the conflict is uncertain. Morocco has failed
in its attempt to convince the international community that the only solution
is to recognize the current status quo. The status quo, as the Polisario has
managed to show, is that of dispute, conflict and contending projects. It is,
in other words, that of an unfinished decolonization process.