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ModernDiplomacy.eu: The labyrinth of the special envoys to settle the question of Western Sahara

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Friday, 31 May 2019

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After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the decomposition of the Soviet empire and the resulting geopolitical turmoil put an end to the order of Yalta. The old threat disappears, but at the same time, new dangers arise. In short, the end of the bipolar equilibrium, as a result, the new world has become more “dangerous”, more «unpredictable” and more “irrational». It is in this atmosphere that the U.N. peace plan in Western Sahara is born, and which institutes the mission of MINURSO to organize a free referendum for the Saharawi people.

However, the objective of the mission of MINURSO will be blocked by Morocco. Indeed, since the implementation of the cease-fire agreement on 6 September 1991 between Morocco and Polisario Front, Morocco from the very beginning wants at all costs to register the Moroccan settlers on the electoral lists of the eligible body, because he does not trust the indigenous people of Western Sahara who mainly prefer their independence.

To unblock this situation, the United Nations will use the practice of sending envoys in order to find a compromise solution between the two parties. In this optic, the U.N. appointed the new special envoy Horst Kohler in August 2017.

Horst Kohler had the merit of triggering a new dynamic in order to find a solution that respects the self-determination of Western Sahara people. Therefore, it has twice reunited both parties and neighbouring countries Algeria and Mauritania on the same table round.

Despite Horst Kohler’s enthusiastic displays at first, he was forced to resign after 20 months of work, the reasons are multiple but in our opinion the direct causes are represented by the systematic order inherent to the actors in the conflict, namely the two belligerents and the restricted group known as the group of friends of Western Sahara.

Morocco and Polisario: two antinomy approaches

We can say from the beginning that the conflict persists between Morocco and Polisario, because of the absence of communication, and each party’s misunderstanding about the real aims of the other and the lack of the goodwill on all sides.

For Morocco, the annexation of Western Sahara is an irreversible strategic choice and in this way was helps by French diplomacy to establish certain fictitious sovereignty. It is in this sense that we must understand the Moroccan intransigence.

The goal of Morocco is played on the denaturation of the conflict, to change the nature of the conflict, from a question of decolonization to a secessionist question.

Naturally, the Polisario has an excellent day to affirm that the theory of acquisitive prescription invoked by Morocco confers no title of sovereignty because the Moroccan occupation was neither peaceful nor uninterrupted.

Morocco and the Polisario Front were stuck in a situation that resembles a Prisoners’ Dilemma. Both sides were unclear about the intentions of the other side, and without somehow communicating with the opponent; both would find it challenging to overcome the dilemma.

The game of the two parties is to defeat the other party, and not to co-operate the reason for which this type of negotiation can never lead to a solution. Either side is nervous about being cheated in the end; therefore, they do not accept any compromise.

Kohler wants to introduce a new paradigm suggested, that the future of the Maghreb would rest upon economic cooperation between all states, including Western Sahara people that would trump political conflict in the long run.

However, the differences in the position of the group of friends of Western Sahara had a direct effect on the mission of Kohler, who was forced to resign.

The problem of the group of friends of Western Sahara

The present U.S. administration put tremendous pressure on the Moroccan government to engage in the peace process of negotiations again, by forcing S.C. to adopt only six months for the MINURSO mandate instead of one year.

However, Kohler will be in front of the reality of the weight of the group of friends of Western Sahara who have a different strategy of him. In fact, the game between the USA, Russia, France, UK and Spain has a direct impact on the future of any solution in Western Sahara.

This is why we must understand that the position of the direct actors is fueled by the position of the indirect actors, taking into consideration the lack of a regulatory system, then we cannot speak of a possible outcome.

In our case, we believe that the passage from the question of the decolonization of Western Sahara must move towards the application of Chapter VII and not remain confined in Chapter VI, in order to impose a definitive solution that respects the self-determination of Western Sahara people’s democratically.

The solution can be imposed?

Despite the changes in the international and regional system, the two belligerents are far from making historic decisions for the benefit of all the peoples of the Maghreb.

These findings lead to a conclusion that the status of negotiations is interpreted by Morocco and Polisario Front as the ‘endgame’, and therefore we can say they will not be able to resolve their conflict

We think, without the reinvigoration of a joint vision for the future, peace is unlikely to settle on North West Africa.

Finally, the U.N. can find in the spirit of the initial settlement agreement signed by both parties the only democratic choice that will push the entire region of the Maghreb to unite on the banner of democracy and economic complementarity.

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