Western Sahara was never a state, nor a nation, nor will it ever be in the future


It is common to see misconceptions about the conflict in Western Sahara in the press, partly due to ignorance on the subject and the use of second or third hand sources by journalists and some academics. To be able to give accurate opinions on this conflict, it is necessary to study it very thoroughly, as well as to go into the facts. We believe that the most frequent errors when analysing the conflict are:

  1. Western Sahara was never a state, nor it is a nation, nor will it be in the future. It never had the status of an independent country, recognised by the international community. It is only a puppet movement of Algeria to prevent the reunification of Morocco and its strengthening, as it is not seeking competition in the Maghreb where it feels to be the dominant power. This leads many analysts to make the mistake of saying it is an occupied state or nation. Western Sahara was merely a southern province of Morocco that was occupied by Spain, by security glacis. That is, to dominate the opposite coast in order to increase the security of the Canary Islands. It was claimed by Spain at the Berlin conference of 1884-85; however, due to its weakness, it could not be fully occupied until the 1930s. Although this movement proclaimed itself the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, it was never recognised as such by most of the countries in the international community and has never gone beyond being a landmark in the city of Algiers. Today, it is recognised by only about forty unimportant countries.
  2. It is said that there is a war in the Sahara today, which is not true. Serious magazines and newspapers should send correspondents to the alleged war front and not employ them from a distance. There is no news of the war parties. Not even the Cross or Red Crescent mentions anything about it. The UN is represented there by the MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), this Mission has not reported anything about clashes in the area. Dakhla and El Ayoun, the most important cities in the territory, are beautiful, pleasant, and are places where one breathes an air of tranquillity. It can be seen that the Moroccans have invested a lot in the development of this territory. There are liberties in the area, so much that even the presence of supposed enemies of the Polisario is tolerated.
  3. There is much talk about the referendum in the territory. It will never be held, as Polisario was the first to reject it, and then Morocco also refused to hold one. Polisario ruled it out when Morocco asked for the referendum to be held on the basis of the latest Spanish census in the territory, which reported 75,000 inhabitants. Polisario opposed this, as its Algerian bosses had endeavoured to settle false or non-native Saharawis, who were Algerian, others from Niger, Mali, Mauritania or Chad, among others, so that they would vote in favour of the territory's independence. Then Morocco rightly asked to count the Saharawi inhabitants who had fled to Morocco after the repression of the "Ecouvillon" operation in the 50s, where the Saharawis of the territory rose up to ask for their return to the Moroccan motherland and were violently repressed by France and Spain; causing a large number of families to move and settle in the south of the country and even in the north. These families have now returned to the territory and live in peace in the area's cities in the region.
  4. Morocco is accused of the fact that migrants are leaving its territory for the Canary Islands. But the truth is that the vast majority of these migrants go directly from the coasts of Senegal or Mauritania to the Canary Islands. 

There are many misconceptions about this artificial conflict. Algeria does not want to come out looking like a loser in the conflict, as it has invested a lot of money and efforts to set up the whole scenario of making the Saharawis look like a people occupied by the repressive Moroccan government, when it is Algeria that represses and almost keeps the Saharawis in Tindouf kidnapped. It has never allowed a census to be carried out in the camps to ascertain how many actually originate from the former Spanish colony. 

The Polisario continues to profit from the refugees it represses and continually inflicts violence on them, while its leaders have the best time in Europe, taking advantage of the international aid that naive organisations and countries send to the refugees. This aid ends up in the markets of Algerian and Mauritanian cities and in general in the countries of the Sahel where it is sold, and the profits end up in the pockets of the gang that controls the Polisario. 

The story of the Sahara conflict is coming to an end; the United States has recognised who the real owner of the territory is, and many more countries are sure to follow. Autonomy within the Moroccan state is therefore the best peaceful solution to this artificial conflict. 

Article published previously in La Voz del Árabe 

*Román López Villicaña - retired professor UDLAP / author of the book: 'The problem of Western Sahara: a geopolitical perspective'. Edit. La Voz del Árabe Editorial Division - ©2013 - 2020. Forthcoming reprint.