Polisario leader Brahim Ghali formally ends the group’s commitment to the 1991 ceasefire agreement
Rabat – Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, has officially declared the 1991 ceasefire with Morocco to be over. The Polisario announced it will no longer be committed to the nearly 30-year-old agreement the two parties concluded under the supervision of the UN. Ghali’s decree will “mandate” Polisario militias to prepare for a “state of war,” according to the Polisario’s press release.
Ghali’s announcement formalizes Polisario’s position after the group declared on Friday that Morocco had “begun the battle and ignited the war.” The Polisario statement claimed Morocco was the first party to break the ceasefire after it intervened to lift Polisario’s blockade at the Guerguerat border crossing.
The one-day Moroccan operation, which caused no injuries or casualties, appears to have been sufficient for Ghali to single-handedly declare the ceasefire null and void. Ghali’s statement made no mention of Moroccan “brutality” or violence against civilians, casting doubt on earlier statements from Polisario. A number of non-Moroccan sources have discredited Polisario’s claims of Moroccan “violence and attacks against civilians.”
Meanwhile, calm has returned to the Guerguerat border crossing, allowing vital trade with Mauritania to continue. After three weeks of Polisario’s blockade, civilian trucks carrying fruit and vegetables to Mauritania can once again make their journey in peace.
Despite Polisario’s claims of a dramatic Moroccan attack, Morocco’s lifting of the Guerguerat blockade was anything but. For weeks Morocco worked with the UN, the legitimate mediator of the Western Sahara question.
Rabat sought a diplomatic solution to the Guerguerat crisis, urging the organization to reason Polisario into reopening the crossing point. Moroccan traders that provide fresh produce to Mauritania had resorted to using costly sea shipping containers as cross-border trade had ground to a halt.
While Morocco waited for a diplomatic solution, local UN peacekeepers repeatedly called on Polisario members to end their blockade and leave the area. For weeks, however, constant UN warnings and appeals fell on deaf ears.
Ahead of Friday’s operation, Morocco’s king Mohammed VI, the UN, and Morocco’s armed forces all indicated that the rising tensions created by the blockade could lead to an eventual response from Morocco.
On Thursday, Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR) announced it would mobilize a contingent to address the blockade, as Morocco World News reported.
The following morning Moroccan troops were joined by UN peacekeepers who monitored the operation. Moroccan forces were met with some small arms fire from Polisario to which they responded. As the Polisario forces retreated from their makeshift encampment, the entire operation lasted an hour and did not cause any deaths or injuries.
Despite the relatively harmless operation at the border, Polisario officials spoke of Morocco’s “brutal” and “barbaric” operation. Before retreating, Polisario forces burned their encampment, a common feature of a tactical military retreat. Yet the Polisario used images of the burning tents as purported evidence of Moroccan aggression.
Spanish outlet Lavanguardia, which normally supports Polsiario’s claims, suggested that both the group’s blockade and its dramatization of Morocco’s response were part of a broader PR move. According to the Spanish newspaper, the whole incident was aimed at reinvigorating Polisario’s floundering cause.
Polisario is rapidly losing ground on the diplomatic level, with most nations now backing Morocco’s pragmatic autonomy proposal.
As such, the group needed to capture global attention, in hopes of attracting sympathy for its cause, Lavanguardia analyzed. What the organization needed was a public clash, a direct violent confrontation with Morocco to gain attention and change the diplomatic trend.
For now, however, the restraint shown by the men and women of Morocco’s armed forces during the Guerguerat operation appears to have undermined Polisario’s intended “media moment.” What’s more, the presence of UN peacekeepers during the operation and the absence of violence meant the group had to instead resort to fake news and propaganda to generate the outrage they need to win global sympathy.