Notable breakthroughs have been made on the Libyan front, thanks to the efforts of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt in addition to European countries and the US.
The recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara could not come at a more favorable time for the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Notable breakthroughs have been made on the Libyan front, thanks to the efforts of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt in addition to European countries and the US.
The G5 Sahel joint force(FC-G5S) is achieving positive results fighting terrorism on the ground through operations SAMA1 and SAMA2.
On the Western Sahara front, the Moroccan Army has intervened, in a non-combatant manner, to free the Guerguerat pass from the Polisario militia’s illegal occupation. The intervention has ensured that goods and persons flow freely after having been blocked for three weeks.
The blockade was enforced by civilians the Polisario (a pro-independence movement) used as human shields. The three-week blockade was depriving West African markets of basic food and medicine, arriving from Europe and North Africa, during a pandemic-induced crisis.
In addition, various countries have agreed to open consulates in the territory, thereby, de facto and de jure, recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory.
Momentum has been created on the Western Sahara conflict. The stage was set in 2014 when former President Obama signed a bill allowing that US aid to Morocco to be used in Western Sahara and when the EU signed agriculture and fisheries treaties with the North African country that included the contested territory.
Agreements between Russia and Moroccan fisheries also include Western Sahara. These tacit nods at sovereignty paved the way for the recent wave of direct recognitions from the US and African and Arab countries. International legality is being written as we speak.
But Europe should not remain idle. Playing the role of a passive onlooker while it has so much at stake, economically and from the point of view of security in North Africa and the Sahel is not wise.
By recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, it would push the involved parties to explore the Autonomy Plan, praised by President Trump, and so often lauded by Security Council members and other major world players as a “credible and realistic” solution since 2007 when it was proposed by Morocco to get out of the stalemate.
Europe’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory would also free Algeria from having to support the Polisario and tens of thousands of Sahrawis it considers “refugees.” Algeria could instead use its resources to deal with the domestic political, economic, and social crises that have been shaking the country for years.
Moreover, Algeria has a long border with Mali and Libya and is strained financially to control the movement of terrorist groups into its vast territory. Algeria and Morocco could coordinate action and exchange valuable information to monitor transborder crime and terror and contribute to the international community effort (led by France, the US, the UN-MINUSMA, G5 Sahel Joint Force, the UK, Germany, and others ) to stabilize and pacify the Sahel region.
Coordination between the two Maghreb countries regarding the Libyan question could speed up the political reconciliation process and beef up the reconstruction effort that is necessary for stability in the region and all North Africa.
A stable and prosperous Northwestern Africa is not only important for Europe, plagued by waves of immigration, organized crime, and terror threats, but is also an important entry point to reinforce the momentum recently created on the ground in the Sahel region.
Polisario elements and disenfranchised Tindouf populations could become easy prey for Jihadist groups that operate across the Sahel and share a belief in extreme Islamist ideology like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Nusrat al-Islam (JNIM), Ansar ul Islam (Burkina Faso) and others.
A win-win solution for Western Sahara via the autonomy-under-sovereignty solution could help repatriate the “refugees” and integrate Polisario militia into the official military and political structures of Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania.
The three countries could work together to create stability that could positively impact the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Sahel, and West Africa.
Europe would have a lot to gain from this development but it must act now. Europe must recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory and push the parties to sit together and discuss a winning solution for all.
War, referendum, and no-war-no-peace solutions have been tried in the past and have failed. Let’s give a chance to a win-win solution: Autonomy under Morocco’s sovereignty. The US has done its part.
Europe needs to do the same. Now is the moment. It is an opportunity that we need to seize for the sake of peace and a brighter future and hope for the young generations of all African and Arab countries. And for Europe as well.