Sahara: Polisario’s Banditry Puts Ceasefire Agreement At Risk

The Polisario is set to occupy the border crossing linking Morocco to Mauritania through its repetitive acts of banditry in the area that is supposed to remain demilitarized under the UN sponsored 1991 ceasefire agreement in the Sahara.

Few days after barring the road to participants in a desert rally departing from Dakhla and bound for Nouakchott, Polisario militiamen have deployed their pick-ups in an attempt to establish a checkpoint obstructing the flow of traffic in the only road that links Morocco to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite the intervention of the UN mission in the Sahara, MINURSO, Polisario maintained presence in the buffer strip, showing disregard for the international legality, the 1991 ceasefire agreement and the UN resolutions calling for a negotiated solution to the regional dispute over the Sahara.

Morocco’s representative at the UN in New York, Omar Hilale, has condemned in a letter to the UN Security Council Polisario’s provocations in the southernmost tip of the southern provinces.

For his part, head of the MINURSO, Canada’s Colin Stewart, informed the UN of the Polisario’s breach of the ceasefire agreement in the demilitarized area, east of the Moroccan-built security wall.

Morocco has warned on multiple occasions that there will be no negotiations with the separatists unless they withdraw from the Guerguerat border crossing. In April 2017, Morocco won the battle over the Guerguarat without firing a single bullet as the Polisario ensued a humiliating retreat prior to the adoption of a UN security resolution on the Sahara.

But with the return of the Polsiario militiamen to the area, emboldened by Algeria’s military and diplomatic cover, Morocco’s restraint comes to a new test. If last year Morocco sought international pressure over the Polisario, which occupied the border post despite warnings by the UN Secretary General that the flow of commercial traffic needs to remain unhindered, this year it is unclear if Morocco will let the separatist group mess with its strategic interests.

The Polisario, which acts upon directives from its mentors in Algiers, sees in setting up the checkpoints in the buffer strip an act to galvanize support amid the disenchanted population held against their will in the Tindouf camps.

The Tindouf-based militia are also attempting to divert attention from Morocco’s recent diplomatic breakthrough in Africa, notably after it gained support of countries that were until recently aligning with the Algerian-sponsored separatist thesis.

By pulling the strings of the Polisario to provoke Morocco into a military response, the Algerian military junta is also seeking to divert attention from the internal economic and social crisis that bears the seeds of an imminent implosion.

Such irresponsible Polisario acts are also likely to sap all efforts aiming to find a lasting, political and mutually acceptable solution based on the Moroccan autonomy initiative.

The Polisario’s hostile acts and its obstinacy to maintain its armed men within the buffer zone in an utter disregard for the ceasefire agreement are threatening with a casus belli the whole region.

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