The US delegation on Moroccan soil led by Joshua Harris also expressed the clear idea that the success of the political process for peace and a solution to the Saharawi conflict depends on a series of conditions, including a ceasefire in the region

Morocco's history cannot be understood without Western Sahara

Nourdine Mouati
photo_camera Nourdine Mouati

Nourdine Mouati, Audakia consultant and political analyst, analysed all the details of the visit of Joshua Harris and Staffan de Mistura before the microphones of "De cara al mundo" on Onda Madrid. The conversation took place before the earthquake that shook the Moroccan country in the early hours of 9 September. Nourdine Mouati expressed his sorrow for the serious human and material damage caused by the earthquake and thanked the international aid, especially that offered by Spain and the Red Cross. 

The US Under Secretary of State for North Africa, Joshua Harris, has been visiting the countries of the region with the message of supporting the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, also touring the region recently to reopen the dialogue table to seek a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara. 

Is something on the table? There are signs that the diplomatic action of the US Under-Secretary of State and the UN special envoy will lead to the reopening of the negotiating table where the Moroccan proposal for broad autonomy for the Sahara under its sovereignty will be included. 

In my view, the issue of Western Sahara has been settled. It has been shown that it is mainly Algeria that wants to continue blocking the process of negotiations to find a peaceful solution. A country that has financed and armed the Polisario Front guerrillas and does not want there to be a solution. Many countries, and this has been demonstrated in recent years, including the United States, the world's number one power, have recognised, let us insist on this, Morocco's full sovereignty over its southern provinces - over Western Sahara. This position is enough to put the issue to rest. 

Why, if the position of most countries is favourable to Morocco, does Algeria continue to insist on destabilising the Western Sahara region? 

The question is that if Algeria, the Algerian leadership, mainly the military junta that rules the country with an iron fist, sits down to negotiate directly with Morocco because they have generated the conflict, they finance it, they maintain it. The US continues to insist.  

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for North Africa Joshua Harris has insisted that Morocco's autonomy plan is the only serious, credible and realistic solution. That the first power continues to insist on this, that Algeria or Algerian leaders continue to insist that they have nothing to do with it, while continuing to finance, support and even give diplomatic passports to Polisario terrorists, is an unmistakable sign that the problem here is Algeria and that Algeria must exert pressure from the European Union and other multilateral bodies to find a solution to this long-running conflict, which in the end simply serves to keep Algeria harassing its neighbour to the west.

 - Joshua Harris, subsecretario adjunto de Estado de Estados Unidos para África del Norte
PHOTO/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE - Joshua Harris, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for North Africa

What political weight does Staffan de Mistura's latest visit have on the conflict? 

Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary General's special envoy for this problem, was in Laayoune for the first time and was, according to what I am told, impressed by the development of Morocco's southern regions. Since Morocco became independent, since Morocco regained its southern provinces that were part of the Spanish protectorate, there has been an impressive development. Staffan de Mistura also had the opportunity during his visit to Laayoune to meet with the true representatives of what are wrongly called the Sahrawi people, who are, after all, Moroccan tribes. 

Where does this significant feeling for Western Sahara come from? 

I insist that all the dynasties that have ruled Morocco have come from the Sahara, that is to say, Morocco cannot be understood without its Sahara because it is from there that the union that has allowed this historic nation to be maintained for 12 centuries has arisen. And there with Staffan de Mistura, after meeting with representatives of the different tribes that make up southern Morocco, it has been clearly demonstrated that the majority of what they call, in inverted commas, the Sahrawi people, are Moroccan, have considered themselves Moroccan for many, many centuries, and that there has always been a very direct relationship with the different dynasties that have governed the country. 

Why the Algerian insistence on the conflict? 

In the end, this Western Sahara story is an issue that suits Algeria's military leaders to maintain a conflict and divert attention from the fact that the richest country in North Africa, the richest country in North Africa that has the best resources while its people continue to live in misery, even worse than Morocco, which is a country that simply has agriculture, tourism and services, a country that does not have the huge resources that Algeria has, that the Algerian people's money is being used to finance a guerrilla of murderers who, let us remember again, now that we are in the Spanish media, have murdered more than 350 Spaniards, murdered at the hands of Polisario Front terrorists. The solution is to put pressure on Algeria so that the Algerian state sits down to negotiate directly with Morocco for an end to this conflict that has lasted for many years.

AFP/FADEL SENNA - Puesto fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, situado en el Sáhara Occidental
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Morocco-Mauritania border crossing point at Guerguerat, Western Sahara

Morocco is now exercising leadership in the Arab League, at the last meeting it was leading the discussions, it is all part of what is a diplomatic offensive that aims to bring Morocco to the table to negotiate and settle this conflict once and for all. 

Yes, Morocco is now leading the Arab League in this 160th session, and Nasser Bourita, Morocco's Foreign Minister, has made this clear. We must insist on a very important aspect of Morocco's foreign policy, which is non-interference in the external affairs of other countries and always seeking a peaceful solution, to insist on this. Morocco, as His Majesty the King has made clear in his various speeches, does not have a conflict with the Algerian people, while Algeria is within the Arab League, conspiring to continue to present its guerrilla of Polisario terrorists as the representatives of a supposed people and to continue to poison the atmosphere within the Arab League, while the most important countries at the level of the Arab League, including Egypt, including Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, have made it clear. 

Morocco's sovereignty over its southern provinces is not negotiable, it is very clear, and it is not a matter for the Arab League to get involved in, even if Algeria tries, at every opportunity, to divert attention and talk about the alleged conflict of the alleged Sahrawi people. 

What are the main problems that were discussed at the 160th session of the Arab League? 

Morocco advocates a solution to the pressing problems in the Arab world, the problem of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but for example, during this session of the Arab League, Morocco, together with other ambassadors and other Foreign Ministers of Arab countries, inaugurated an exhibition on the great effort Morocco is making through the Beit Maal al Quds agency, which is a development agency financed 100% by Morocco, which carries out a very important activity helping the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the problems that the Arab League has, mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian conflict, where there are many displaced people, there is a lot of suffering, and these are the two real problems.  

In addition, there is the problem of Sudan, which is experiencing a civil war, on which the Arab League should focus and not on other problems or artificial conflicts, which, for example, Algeria wants to put on the Arab agenda. Algeria has already tried several times and all the Arab League countries have made it clear that this is not a topic for discussion.

Last week we witnessed an unacceptably tragic event, when Algerian coastguards machine-gunned French-Moroccan bathers who had strayed into Algerian waters with jet skis. Algeria in the last few hours has said yes, it will allow the repatriation of the body of one of the two bathers who were on its shores. Protests in Morocco. I think that this isolated event shows the need to not tighten the noose so much, because there may be officials who are then influenced by the media and this type of very condemnable situation may arise, families broken by the death of these bathers who were there. France will also have something to say. 

Yes, France has something to say, because two of the victims are French nationals. Unfortunately this shows that Algeria is a militarised state, a state that violates human rights, a state that violates maritime law, because these three people who were on jet skis were lost and suddenly they were stopped. They stopped and then they machine-gunned them without a word. 

This is a crime, this is a flagrant violation of maritime law. And what this shows is that Morocco is reaching out to the military regime in Algeria to find a solution. From the other side, we have the shooting, the use of violence, which is something that is in the nature of the military regime that governs Algeria, because we cannot forget the black decade of Algeria in which the army murdered or was involved in the murder of more than 250,000 Algerians. In other words, in the end, these authoritarian regimes led by the military are failed regimes, which do not understand any language other than the language of violence.

PHOTO/FILE - Dos de los cuatro jóvenes fallecidos, Bilal Kissi y Abdelali Mechouar
PHOTO/FILE - Two of the four deceased youths, Bilal Kissi and Abdelali Mechouar

How has the tragic news been experienced among Moroccans?  

The truth is that it has been deeply felt in the bordering region of Zahidia in eastern Morocco, a place where we consider ourselves to be family, as well as the Algerian people. A few weeks ago, two Algerians tried to cross the valley into Morocco. The agents of the auxiliary forces who were guarding the border did not machine-gun them. On the contrary, they told them to stop and called their "colleagues" from the Algerian army to retrieve the two Algerians. In other words, Morocco is a serious country, a country which applies international legislation on borders, and Algeria is a militarised country, governed by soldiers who only understand the language of violence and who, through false messages - fake news - are fuelling and generating hatred between the two twinned peoples, both the Moroccan people and the Algerian people. 

It is regrettable, it is very regrettable that they are demanding that the family of one of the victims pay almost 40,000 euros to transport the body to Morocco, bearing in mind that on other occasions when there have been accidents, for example, of Algerian nationals in Morocco, out of deference, out of brotherhood, out of friendship, what Morocco has done is repatriate the body directly without demanding anything from the family. But it is a regime where the military dictates strategy and policy, and unfortunately Algeria is a failed country, it is a rich country, but it is a failed country and the Algerian people are suffering all of it, and they are also victims of their regime. 

I would like to make it clear that the military are not bad in themselves, but it is a different matter when the military come to power and exercise power in an authoritarian manner. The Sahel, with the threat of terrorist groups operating in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, etc., should make us think a great deal about the need for Algeria to reconcile, to restore relations with Morocco and to have a common front in the face of this threat of destabilisation from terrorist groups, beyond the activity of the Wagner group, the Russian mercenaries, in the latest coup d'état in the region, in Gabon. 

Yes, Morocco's international policy stance is very clear: it does not intervene in the internal affairs of countries and always tries, when asked, to provide assistance. Morocco is a very important player in international cooperation, in development cooperation, in south-south cooperation on the African continent, and although many analysts or some of the press, which I would describe as hooligans, try to see the coup d'état in Gabon as a way for Morocco to lose its relevance. 

Our relations with Gabon are with the Gabonese people and, moreover, the coup d'état, which I would not call a coup d'état, but a palace coup, which is literally defined as any kind of coup d'état where it is part of the government itself that unlawfully displaces the governing force, which is what has happened in Gabon because unlike the coups d'état that have taken place in Niger or Burkina Faso, for example, which have been instigated by elements outside the continent, mainly the influence of Russia through Wagner, who has a very important activity through social networks, is also hiring, there is evidence of this, many influencers on the African continent to feed this hatred of France and to feed this type of coup d'état that serves no purpose, because both the coup in Burkina Faso and the coup in Niger have served no purpose, only to impoverish the two peoples.

PHOTO/AFP - Partidarios ondean banderas de Níger mientras se reúnen en apoyo de la junta de Níger frente a la Asamblea Nacional en Niamey el 30 de julio de 2023
PHOTO/AFP - Supporters wave Niger flags as they rally in support of Niger's junta in front of the National Assembly in Niamey on July 30, 2023

What are the consequences and characteristics of the palace coup d'état in Niger? 

Niger has been deprived of all very important economic, monetary and financial aid, both from France and the European Union, and the same has happened in Burkina Faso, that is to say, they are impoverishing their countries and are betting on buying arms instead of using their resources mainly for the development of the education and health sector.  

Niger and Burkina Faso are buying arms from Russia and have become puppet countries of Russia, unfortunately, and they are hiding behind their hatred of France, their hatred of the former coloniser, but without having a strategy for the development of the country, while in Gabon there has been a palace coup in which the head of Alibongo's personal security, General Braisoli Gemma, has taken the reins of the country, the first thing he has done is to send a message of calm, tranquillity and continuity and to move towards the best to all the powers, whether at the level of the European Union, neighbouring countries or France, and I believe that the coup in Gabon is very different from the coups that have taken place in Niger and Burkina Faso. The coups in Sudan or the coup in Guinea Conakry are very similar to the coup in Gabon, because it was also the head of security, General Mahamadou, who was the head of security of the former president of the country.

What conclusions and what measures should be taken to eradicate the problems plaguing these countries and the Sahel region? 

This invites us to reflect very deeply on Russia's interference through satellite countries, in this case Algeria, which has Wagner bases and is a satellite country of Russia, buys its military technology from Russia and is a country, let's make it clear, that depends on the Russian side, on how they are operating in the very sensitive territory of the Sahel, and the European Union should intervene. France should also coordinate and work within the European Union, because these countries cannot be left in the hands of soldiers who do not have a strategy. In other words, since the coup d'état in Niger and Burkina Faso, there have been two coups d'état in just eight months. All this is leading to increased tension and instability in the Sahel region. 

The European Union must clearly intervene and must work with the solvent and serious countries on the African continent, both Morocco and Nigeria and other countries. There should be European and African coordination to find a solution to these conflicts that will eventually degenerate into major migratory waves, more terrorism and other problems.

More in Politics