Peacekeeping: Stalemate in the Sahara

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November10, 2006: Back in 1991, Morocco finally won the war against Polisario Front rebels, who were seeking independence for the Western Sahara (a region south of Morocco). But the problem won't go away. Because Polisario was so well-subsidized by Algeria, back when Algeria was a radical state, Polasario still has enough diehards out there to keep lots of people in Western Sahara unhappy. This provides a potential resource for al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals.

The UN has spent $600 million, over the last 15 years, to try and work out a final peace deal between Polasario and Morocco. In the 1990s, Algeria cut off all support for Polasario. But that, and UN efforts to mediate the differences, have just not worked. The area is largely desert, and has a population of less than 300,000. Logic would have it that the area is better off as a part of Morocco. But there are still thousands of locals who would rather fight for independence, than submit to Morocco. Some resistance of this is tribal, with the Moroccans seen as another bunch of alien invaders (the area was administered, until 1976, as a Spanish colony). If the fighting breaks out again, possibly inspired by Islamic radicals, it could go on for years, just as it does in many other parts of Africa, and the immediate neighborhood.

 


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