Martin Pabst

 

The West Sahara Conflict has kept diplomacy busy for decades. Morocco has annexed the former Spanish colony unilaterally and controls three quarters of the area of 252.120 square kilometres. In 1975/76 numerous Saharauis fled to Algeria. After 16 years of war between Morocco and the liberation movement POLISARIO-Front the UN peace mission MINURSO was sent in 1991, which, however, is not able to organise the referendum of self-determination accepted by both parties, as there is no agreement on persons entitled to vote. The autonomy solution offered by Morocco as a substitute is rejected by the POLISARIO-Front. Now the „Arabian Springtime“ livens the West Sahara Conflict up. In the area controlled by Morocco Saharauis provoke the administration with protests. Furthermore, the regional-political environment is changing. Dschihad groups from the Sahel region, who stroke in the border region between Algeria and West Sahara for the first time in October 2011, give rise to additional dynamics. Undoubtedly the West Sahara Conflict is embedded in the regional conflict between Algeria and Morocco. It will, however, not be possible to brush aside the POLSARIO-Front as an “invention of Algeria”, just as the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa was no “invention of Moscow” at that time. In the EU the North European nations tend towards the POLSARIO-Front, and the South European nations towards Morocco. Morocco considers itself a factor of stability in the region, but whether it will be able to maintain this part is controversial. In various agreements with Morocco the EU has virtually accepted the annexation of West Sahara. The „Arabian Springtime“ becomes apparent in refugee camps as well. At the turn of the year 2011/12 there were demonstrations of young Saharauis demanding reforms in the tightly controlled POLISARIO-Front, and new approaches in overcoming the status quo. Will the young refugees make friends with the offer of autonomy of Morocco? Or will they rather demand a more militant policy, as it is propagated by the Frente POLISARIO Khat al-Shahid faction? Or will frustrated young people try their luck by migrating to Europe? In any case the „Arabian Springtime“ livens the rigid West Sahara Conflict up. With its settlement, a refugee problem which has existed for decades could be solved, and a pivotal hurdle for the Arabian Maghreb-Union could be cleared.