Magazine article New Internationalist

The Forgotten People: Western Saharans May Have to Revert to War

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Forgotten People: Western Saharans May Have to Revert to War

Article excerpt

THE UN is abandoning its mission to end the war in Western Sahara. UN civilians pulled out on 31 May, leaving a token presence of 200 military observers who may also pull out by 31 December. It is a bitter blow to the Saharawi people's hope for a peaceful and democratic end to over 20 years of war with Morocco's occupying army.

The UN Peace Plan, which was negotiated with Morocco's King Hassan and Polisario, which since 1973 has led Saharawi resistance, was formally adopted by the Security Council in April 1991 and was heralded as a great success for UN diplomacy. Polisario seemed to have won its great prize of a referendum on independence or the incorporation of the territory into Morocco.

But Morocco impeded the Peace Plan from the start. In August 1991 Morocco sent armoured columns and launched air strikes against Polisario - held towns in Western Sahara and the UN has since recorded hundreds of violations of the ceasefire.

Morocco has also refortified its major asset - the 2,500 - kilometre wall that encloses three - quarters of the territory which was constructed with US military advice and is equipped with sophisticated French and US surveillance technology. …

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