Tipping Point?

Algeria-Morocco: ‘Western Sahara is non-negotiable,’ says Mohammed VI

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on November 8, 2021 15:59

Firefox_Screenshot_2021-11-08T13-26-34.793Z Morocco’s King Mohammed VI after his speech to the nation, 6 November 2021, in Fez © AFP
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI after his speech to the nation, 6 November 2021, in Fez © AFP

The Western Sahara, a disputed territory between Morocco and the Sahrawi independence fighters, who are supported by Algeria, “is non-negotiable,” Morocco’s King Mohammed VI said on 6 November. However, he did urge the two Maghreb countries to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“Today, as in the past, Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara will never be up for negotiation,” said Morocco’s monarch Mohammed VI in a speech broadcast on national television. “In fact, Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is a truth as perennial as it is immutable. Therefore, it is not up for debate.”

This statement comes amidst high tension between Algeria and Morocco over the former Spanish colony.

“If we engage in negotiations, it is […] in order to reach a peaceful solution to this artificial regional conflict,” Mohammed VI said in the speech that he gave on the 46th anniversary of the ‘Green March’ into Western Sahara. On 6 November 1975, at the request of King Hassan II, 350,000 Moroccans crossed the border of Western Sahara – then a Spanish colony – on foot, in the name of ‘belonging’ to the kingdom.

Tensions with Algeria

A week ago, the UN Security Council called on the parties involved in the conflict to resume negotiations “without preconditions and in good faith.” These negotiations will resume under the auspices of the new UN envoy, Italian-Swedish Staffan de Mistura, “with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.” The UN mission (Minurso) in the region has been extended for a year and the agency says its ultimate goal is the “self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”

The Moroccan sovereign’s speech, which was highly anticipated, comes at a time when relations between the two Maghreb countries are at their lowest. Last August, after months of tension, Algiers ended diplomatic relations with Morocco, accusing it of ‘hostile actions’. Rabat regretted this ‘completely unjustified’ decision.

Tensions have risen again in recent days after Algiers accused Rabat of being responsible for a bombing that resulted in the deaths of three Algerian truck drivers in Western Sahara, a territory disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front’s Sahrawi independence fighters.

US recognition

In his speech, the king welcomed former president Donald Trump’s agreement, dating back to December 2020, to recognise Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, in return for Morocco normalising ties with Israel. “It is the natural result of the previous US administrations’ constant support and an illustration of their constructive contribution to the process of settling the Sahara issue,” he said.

Finally, Mohammed VI welcomed the intervention of the Royal Armed Forces (RAF) which “restored the free movement of people and goods at the Guerguerat crossing” linking Morocco and Mauritania.

On 13 November 2020, a ceasefire – that was concluded in 1991 between Morocco and the Polisario Front under the auspices of the UN – was broken after Moroccan troops were deployed to the far south of Western Sahara to dislodge pro-independence fighters that were blocking the only road to Mauritania, which – according to them – was illegal. The Polisario has since declared a state of war.

“This firm peaceful action has put an end to the provocations and aggressions, which Morocco had already warned the international community about, regarding the serious need to secure and stabilise the region,” said the monarch.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.