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Morocco versus Polisario: a Political Interpretation

  • Anthony G. Pazzanita

By 1994 Africa had only one major unresolved colonial question. Namibia and Eritrea having acquired their independence in March 1990 and May 1993 respectively, the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara remains controlled by the Kingdom of Morocco (as it has since 1975), despite the expenditure of thousands of human lives, billions of dollars, and strenuous diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute through the Organisation of African Unity (O.A.U.) and the United Nations. Both Morocco, under the monarchical régime of King Hassan II, and the Frente popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario Front) composed of Saharawis dedicated to the establishment of an independent Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (S.A.D.R.), have found each other far more resourceful and less willing to compromise than they could possibly have surmised almost two decades ago.

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1 For an indication of the complexity of this matter, see ‘Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara’, S/23299, New York, 19 December 1991, pp. 512, and another United Nations document, ‘The Situation Concerning Western Sahara: Report by the Secretary-General’, S/25170, 26 January 1993, pp. 1013.

2 ‘Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Report, Near East and South Asia’, Washington, DC, 2 Febuary 1993, p. 23, and 3 March 1993, p. 13. This source is hereinafter referred to as FBIS-NES.

3 Africa Research Bulletin. Political Series (Exeter), 30, 1, 1–31 01 1993, p. 10866.

4 See Zoubir, Yahia H., ‘Reactions in the Maghreb to the Gulf Crisis and War’, in Arab Studies Quarterly (Washington, DC), 15, 1, Winter 1993, pp. 91–2.

5 Woodward, Bob, Veil: the secret wars of the CIA (New York, 1987), p. 308.

6 See, for example, Amnesty International, Morocco. Breaking the Wall of Silence: the ‘disappeared’ in Morocco (New York, 04 1993).

7 Zunes, Stephen, ‘The United States in the Saharan War: a case of low-intensity intervention’, in Zoubir, Yahia H. and Volman, Daniel (eds.), International Dimensions of the Western Sahara Conflict (Westport, CT, 1993), pp. 55–7.

8 Ibid. p. 57. In 1993, Moroccan interests in the United States were represented by the law firm of White and Case, and by the public-relations/lobbying firms of Neill and Company and the Capitol Group.

9 Ibid. pp. 57–62. However, opposition to Morocco's policies continued in the U.S. Congress throughout the 1980s.

10 Middle East Institute, Middle East Organizations in Washington, DC (Washington, DC, 1990), p. 48.

11 The New York Times, 13 September 1989, and Time Magazine (New York), ‘Western Sahara: the challenge of peace’, Special Advertising Section, 4 December 1989.

12 Hodges, Tony, Western Sahara: the roots of a desert war (Westport, CT, 1983), pp. 232–4.

13 Ibid. pp. 267–78.

14 See Hodges, Tony, Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara (Metuchen, NJ, and London, 1982), p. 306.

15 See Legum, Cohn (ed.), Africa Contemporary Record: annual survey and documents, Vol. 15, 1982–83 (New York, 1983), pp. A5960, and Vol. 16s, 1983–1984 (New York, 1984), pp. A90–6.

16 The New York Times, 13 and 18 November 1984.

17 In one of the many ironies of the conifict, Ibrahim Hakim defected to Morocco in August 1992. See Africa Research Bulletin, 29, 8, 1–31 08 1992, p. 10689, and FBIS–NES, 12 August 1992, p. 20.

18 Hodges, Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, p. 306.

19 The New York Times, 15 November 1981.

20 Ibid. As a Moroccan officer observed, for Morocco ‘it is a line of obstacles and surveillance, not a thing to hide behind’.

21 Africa Contemporary Record, Vol. 20, 1987–88 (New York, 1988), pp. B566–7.

22 In Britain, Polisario's activities were characterised by a somewhat higher profile and level of activity, but faced some of the same obstacles, even extending to relations with various human-rights and activist groups themselves. See Harding, Jeremy, The Fate of Africa: trial by fire (London and New York, 1993), pp. 116–17.

23 Cf. Layachi, Azzedine, The United States and North Africa: a cognitive approach to foreign policy (New York and London, 1990).

24 The United Nations document, ‘Western Sahara: working paper prepared by the Secretariat’, A/AC.109/1163, New York, 8 July p. 11, first revealed this policy change by way of quoting an Agence France presse dispatch from Algiers dated 21 June 1993.

25 United Nations, Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning Western Sahara (New York), 28 07 1993, pp. 48.

26 United Nations, The Situation Conerning Western Sahara: report by the Secretay-Genera1 (New York), 10 03 1994, pp. 3 and 79.

27 The Times (London), 19 03 1994, and U.N. Security Council Resolution 907 of 29 March 1994.

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The Journal of Modern African Studies
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