The Stream

Decades of dispute in Western Sahara

What will it take to resolve the ongoing conflict?

For more than forty years Western Sahara has been under dispute. A Spanish colony until 1975, its map reflects its complicated story.

Resource rich territory in the north and along the western coastline are under Morocco’s control, and they claim it as their own. Across a dividing line known as the berm, land to the east is under the control of the armed Polisario Front which wants an independent and free state. And in neighbouring Algeria’s Tindouf province, some 150,000 Sahrawi refugees are living in camps. This is also the seat of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic government who are calling for a sovereign Western Sahara.  

This region was entrenched in guerilla war between the sides for two decades until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, but the referendum that was meant to follow never happened. Earlier this month the Moroccan government, which must agree to the terms of any vote in order for it to take place, rejected independence for Western Sahara as an option.

The United Nation’s Secretary General has recently called for “true negotiations” to end the deadlock and his special envoy is currently visiting the region. Claims of human rights abuses and growing extremism are adding to the concerns of the international community over this disputed area. What is the prospect for resolution in one of the world’s longest running conflicts?

On today’s episode, we speak to: 

Senia Bachir Abderahmanin @SeniaBA
Sahrawi activist

Samia Errazzouki @charquaouia
Co-editor, Jadaliyya

Ali Yazghi @Elyazghi_ali
Member of Parliament, Socialist Union for Popular Forces Party, Morocco

Mohsine El Ahmadi
Professor, Cadi Ayyad University

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.