New Delhi - In worrying signs, tensions have been rising between the North African nations of morocco and Mauritania. Reports have emerged that Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz has ordered his military to be in a state of alert and deploy short- and medium-range missiles at the border with Morocco. This comes after Morocco’s decision earlier this week to send a contingent of its Gendarmerie to southern Morocco in the buffer zone with Mauritania to end activities related to smuggling and illegal trade.
New Delhi – In worrying signs, tensions have been rising between the North African nations of morocco and Mauritania. Reports have emerged that Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz has ordered his military to be in a state of alert and deploy short- and medium-range missiles at the border with Morocco. This comes after Morocco’s decision earlier this week to send a contingent of its Gendarmerie to southern Morocco in the buffer zone with Mauritania to end activities related to smuggling and illegal trade.
But tensions between the two countries have been steadily rising in recent years. Bilateral diplomatic ties have been cold to say the least – Mauritania currently doesn’t even have an ambassador in Morocco. Plus, Mauritania’s support for the Polisario separatist movement is well known by now. It will be recalled that the Polisario has been fighting for an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the Moroccan Sahara. The status of the latter is a leftover question from the colonial period in Morocco. The region at one point was claimed by both Morocco and Mauritania. However, in 1979 Mauritania relinquished its claims, enhancing Morocco’s sovereign right over the area. Besides, there is established historical evidence to show that the Moroccan Sahara long had ties of allegiance, tribute and loyalty to the Moroccan kings.
Nonetheless, Mauritania under President Abdelaziz has been disregarding these facts on the ground. This was exemplified by the Mauritanian army raising its national flag over the Moroccan Sahara town of Lagouira last December. Lagouira is claimed by Morocco even though it doesn’t exercise direct effective control over it. There was a tacit understanding between Rabat and Nouakchott over the unsettled status of Lagouira which the latter broke by raising its flag there. There are now fears that Mauritania might hand over the town to the Polisario.
The reason that all of this is bad news is because the last thing that North Africa needs right now is another point of conflict. Since the 2011 Arab Spring wave the region has witnessed turmoil and upheavals. This allowed myriad extremist forces to make serious inroads – the situation in Libya is a case in point. If conflict were to erupt between Morocco and Mauritania it would plunge the region into further chaos. And as events over the last few years have shown, such chaos can’t be contained in a particular area. Transnational extremist groups will certainly take advantage of the situation and prove to be a headache for the international community as a whole.
Plus, it needs to be recognised that Morocco has been investing great resources for the stability and shared prosperity of North Africa. It is championing South-South cooperation for mutually beneficial economic partnerships between African nations. It is collaborating with international partners to boost regional security. It is championing moderate Islam to counter the scourge of Islamic radicalism. And it is responding to present international challenges such as global warming by promoting sustainable, green development and hosting the next UN summit on climate change – COP 22 – in November to implement the historic Paris Accord.
Against this backdrop, for Mauritania to raise tensions with Morocco is highly counterproductive and threatens the stability of the region. Nouakchott must reconsider its actions, re-establish full diplomatic ties with Rabat, and jointly work for the common prosperity of the region.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy