UN Chief Expresses “Grave Concern” Over Maintaining 1991 Ceasefire Located In Western Sahara

Antonio Guterres, the UN Chief has expressed his concern regarding an operation reported to have been launched by the Moroccan Government in response to blockades run by the Frente POLISARIO in the Western Sahara buffer strip in the Guerguerat area. The Frente POLISARIO is a Sahrawi national liberation group that aims at removing Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara region. In the last couple of days, the UN has been involved in initiatives to help de-escalate the potential conflicts arising in the region. Guterres has warned all parties about how the violations they plan to commit will affect their 1991 ceasefire treaty and could result in massive consequences to their existing peace. Unfortunately, Guterres has expressed his concerns over the fact that his efforts have been unsuccessful and that we may see escalations in the weeks to come from Morocco’s latest developments. 

Before the ceasefire in 1991, the Western Sahara region was largely controlled by the Spanish colonial administration. The Frente POLISARIO began in response to their opposition to Spanish control of the region and after the Spanish administration left the region in 1975, they relocated to Algeria where they had access to military aid and bases to operate from. 

As the Frente POLISARIO and Mauritania (a neighbouring country to Morocco) made peace in 1979, Morocco essentially did the opposite by annexing Mauritania’s portion of Western Sahara. This caused fighting to erupt and in the 1980’s, the Frente POLISARIO mobilized 15,000 troops to the area and raided Moroccan outposts and defences. In response to the raids, the Moroccan government built large berms to deter Frente POLISARIO from disturbing the region. In the 1990’s the Frente POLISARIO suffered from some high-level defections in the organization and reduced military support from the Algerian government. Shortly after in 1991, the Frente POLISARIO and Morocco accepted the UN’s peace plan for Western Sahara and began peacefully negotiating on it for the years following. This also marked the beginning of the region’s ceasefire.

Although the UN Secretary-General “remains committed” to doing the utmost to prevent the end of the region’s ceasefire, it is deeply concerning to see the tensions rising once again. The UN Secretary-General also says he will “do everything possible to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process.” We are hoping that things will not progress violently in the region and that the UN will be able to assist Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO continue to communicate their disagreements in a civilized manner.

Sophia Seemann

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