CEASEFIRE BETWEEN MOROCCO AND WESTERN SAHARA’S POLISARIO FRONT COLLAPSES
Analysts have expressed concern that renewed fighting in Western Sahara between the Polisario Front and Morocco after a 29-year ceasefire threatens regional stability and renews fears for the security and future of Sahrawi refugees – most of whom have been displaced since 1975. The Sahrawi refugee situation is among the most protracted ones worldwide. Occupied by Spain until 1975, Western Sahara has remained the subject of dispute between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front for more than four decades. In September 1991, a ceasefire was signed between Morocco and the Polisario, under the aegis of the UN, after 16 years of war. The planned referendum has been repeatedly postponed since. The latest dispute arose when Pro-Polisario protesters blocked the road (on 21 October) where it passes through a UN-monitored buffer zone near the Mauritanian border after an October UN Security Council resolution (2548) appeared to favour Morocco when it called for a “realistic, practicable and enduring solution… based on compromise”. That language was widely seen as calling into doubt any referendum on the territory’s future – a goal long sought by the Polisario and backed by the United Nations in 1991. After three weeks, Morocco undertook to forcibly end the blockade and restore the free flow of civilian and commercial traffic. Morocco enjoys widespread support for its territorial integrity throughout Africa and the Middle East, and even in several Latin American countries. In Europe, a growing number of public figures and intellectuals are welcoming Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for the region and condemning Polisario’s militancy.
From a Christian perspective, people on the edge of society are always affected by political instability and uncertainty. Most Christians in this region still find themselves on the edge and will always be affected by any kind of instability. The tension between Morocco and Algeria over the Western Sahara region will result in greater scrutiny along their borders. This has a definite effect on the growth of Christianity in the region, especially among the Berber people group. It is known that there is a strong Christian movement among the Berber tribes of Algeria in recent years – closed, or more monitored, borders hinder movement (including those bearing the gospel) between Algeria and Morocco. Escalated tensions also impact foreign Christian workers. An example of this is how certain countries struggle to get visas because of their nation’s support for either Western Sahara or Morocco. It means that expatriates living in this region may struggle to renew their visas or not be able to secure a residence permit because of the political stance of their home countries.
Pray with us for the following:
- For effective political negotiation – essential for regional stability – to restart, and that any further escalation of the conflict will be prevented
- For the well-being of Sahrawi refugees, and that they will be heard, especially the youth, many of whom feel hopeless about their futures
- For believers in the region to be able to continue their work, and to be able to reach out to Sahrawi refugees with the hope and love of Christ
Image: REUTERS/Ammi Louiza-ABACA