Mapping of the Conflict in Western Sahara

por Sidi M. Omar, 10 de septiembre de 2009

The conflict in Western Sahara between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO has lasted for over three decades, and continues to pose a potential danger for stability and security in the entire region of North Africa. Despite the successive efforts of the international community to resolve the conflict, a mutually agreed solution remains elusive.  
Drawing on theories of conflict resolution, I will present in the paper a roadmap of the conflict in Western Sahara by analysing its history and context, primary parties, core issues and the positions and interests of the parties involved as well as the conflict dynamics. The aim of mapping the conflict is to provide a clearer understanding of the root causes, nature, dynamics and the possibilities for resolving the dispute.
Various conflict analysis tools are employed to map out conflicts. However, I will draw on the model of “conflict mapping”, which was proposed by Paul Wehr (1979) and then developed by other peace and conflict researchers.
The paper will begin with the discussion of the history and context of the conflict in order to determine the setting in which it started and evolved. The analysis will focus on the factors that made the conflict emerge in the first place, and then escalate in 1975 to reach varying degrees of violence in the following years.
The primary parties to the conflict in question will be identified and the nature of power relations between them will be analysed. Interested parties and “third parties” will also be considered, with special emphasis on their forms of involvement in the conflict. After identifying the primary parties, the analysis will focus on the core issues around which the conflict has developed and how they are perceived and articulated by the two parties.
The paper will analyse the dynamics of the conflict including the precipitating events and the stages of escalation and de-escalation through which the conflict has passed. Finally, a set of possibilities for resolving the conflict will be outlined.
Before presenting a roadmap of the conflict, it is important to say a few words about the nature of the dispute in question. As will be made clear later, the conflict in Western Sahara is not a societal, communal, ethnic, religious or class conflict. Rather, it is an international conflict of a political nature between a state and a national liberation movement. From a conflict resolution perspective, it is framed within the context of what Edward Rice calls “wars of the third kind” (quoted in Miall, Ramsbotham and Woodhouse, 1999:69). This category refers to conflicts in which communities seek to create their own states in wars of national liberation (Holsti, 1996:27). Moreover, the question of Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations as a decolonisation issue. This explains the fact that the territory is still on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories still to be decolonised.
Overall, my main aim in this paper is to demonstrate that the peaceful and sustainable solution to the conflict in Western Sahara necessarily entails the exercise by the people of the territory of their internationally recognised and inalienable right to self-determination through a negotiated, democratic and free process consistent with international legality and norms. 
Conflict History and Context
To set the background of the conflict situation, it is important to examine the key historical and political elements that shaped the setting in which the violent conflict emerged and evolved. This contextualisation is also useful in determining the origins and the root causes of the dispute.
One key element of analysis is the existing political and decision-making structures of the parties. It is hence necessary to examine the nature of the political regime ruling in Morocco at the time. As will be made clear later, the nature of this political regime had a significant bearing on how the conflict emerged in the first place.
All Moroccan constitutions[1] stipulate that the country is “a democratic, social, constitutional monarchy”. However, unlike modern constitutional monarchies, where the monarch “reigns but does not rule”, the king in Morocco is the one who appoints the prime minister and other cabinet members and terminates their services. He is also both a temporal and spiritual ruler (Amir Al-Mu’minin or Commander of the Faithful) who rules by decrees, and is not answerable to any state institution. Moreover, the monarchical system of the state is one of the “red zones” that cannot be subject to any constitutional revision.
Because of its authoritarian nature[2], the Moroccan regime oftentimes has had to contain and counter the mounting opposition of many Moroccans who wanted a more democratic system of government. One of the most disturbing examples of the regime’s intolerance of opposition was the 1965 riots in which hundreds of protesters were killed by government forces.[3] The riots symbolised the growing rift between the monarchy and the opposing groups that were calling for an end to the monarchical rule. Opposition to the monarchy continued and developed into other riots in 1981, 1984, 1990 and 1999, which were crushed by state security forces.[4]  
To restore its challenged legitimacy, the regime has also resorted to mobilisation techniques by creating the false impression of a “national unanimity” around some “sacred causes” (Hammoudi, 1997: xiv) that serve to saturate the political spectrum and refocus the public attention and resources. One prime example, in this regard, was the expansionist policy that the regime set in motion in the mid-1950s. The significance of this policy lies in the fact that it brought to the surface a latent conflict of interests, which would ultimately develop into a manifest, violent confrontation.
In the historical narrative of the conflict in Western Sahara, the year 1957 has special importance. It was precisely in that year (14 October 1957) that Morocco, for the first time, declared officially at the UN that Mauritania, the then Spanish Sahara and Ifni “were integral parts of the Moroccan territory”, and hence they were not entitled to decolonisation (Soroeta Liceras, 2001:38). As will be discussed later, Morocco’s argument, as explained by King Mohamed V in September 1958, was that the peoples of these territories were historically Moroccans and “will always be part of the Moroccan community” (Villar, 1982: 65).
There is ample evidence that Morocco’s territorial claims to its neighbours originated in the expansionist ideology of the “Greater Morocco”, which was advanced in the late 1950s by Allal el-Fassi, the leader of the ultranationalist Istiqlal party, shortly after Morocco gained its independence from France in March 1956.[5] This ideology, which was fully embraced by the monarchy[6], asserted that the then Spanish Sahara, all of Mauritania, a large part of western Algeria and even St. Louis du Sénégal and a slice of northern Mali (including Timbuktu) all belonged historically to Morocco (Villar 1982; Hodges 1983; Pazzanita 2006—to cite just a few authors).
However, in practice Morocco’s numerous claims were fraught with contradictions. For instance, as early as 1966, Morocco publicly recognised the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination at the UN VI committee. This position was reiterated consistently until 1974. By the early 1960s, Morocco had quietly dropped its claims to parts of Mali and Senegal. The claim to Mauritania was upheld throughout the 1960s, until 1969 when Morocco finally recognised the country as an independent state.[7] As for Algeria, Morocco launched a failed military campaign to take forcefully part of the Algerian western desert in 1963 in what came to be known as the “Sand War”.
After dropping its territorial claims to the other countries, Morocco centred its attention on the then Spanish Sahara. When Spain announced that it would hold a self-determination referendum in the territory by mid 1975, Morocco tried to frustrate the promised referendum. Morocco, who was then joined by Mauritania, requested the UN General Assembly to refer the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). On 13 December 1974, the General Assembly requested the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on the status of Western Sahara prior to Spanish colonisation, and called on Spain to postpone the referendum. [8]
In its historic advisory opinion on Western Sahara, issued on 16 October 1975, the ICJ very clearly established that there never existed “any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity”. It also endorsed “the decolonisation of Western Sahara” by means of the exercise of “self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory”.[9] 
Morocco was hoping that its claim to the territory would be legally endorsed by the ICJ. The advisory opinion, however, dealt a heavy blow to its plans and put the monarchical regime in a very difficult situation. It is significant to note at this point that the rule of King Hassan II of Morocco was challenged by two coup d’état in July 1971 and August 1972. Although the king survived both attempts, the mounting discontent in the country, particularly amid the Moroccan military, made it even more difficult for the monarchy.
Another major element of the historical narrative of Western Sahara was the decolonisation process of the 1960s thanks to which almost all African countries gained their independence form the colonial powers. In the context of this process, the United Nations called on Spain, as early as 1965, to put an end to its colonial domination of the then Spanish Sahara, and to allow its people to exercise their right to self-determination. Obviously, all these elements went against Morocco’s territorial claims to the territory. 
Finally, another significant element to take into account was the emergence of the Frente POLISARIO in 1973 as a nationalist and anti-colonial movement representing the Sahrawi people and their collective will to freedom and national independence (Cisteró Bahima and Freixes Sanjuán, 1987: 26; De Piniés, 1990: 62). 
In view of the discussion above, it is clear that, by 1975, the monarchy in Morocco was in an increasingly difficult situation and in a dire need for an outlet for its domestic problems. This explains the decision taken by King Hassan II, a few days after the issue of the ICJ ruling, to order a so-called “Green March” of 350,000 Moroccans to “peacefully” march into Western Sahara. Furthermore, by 31 October 1975, Moroccan forces were already advancing and invading the northern part of the territory. Although the “Green March” had been prepared well before the ICJ issued its verdict[10], it was the major event that triggered a set of events that led to the outbreak of the violent conflict in Western Sahara.
The monarchy’s search for a “sacred cause” to divert the attention from its growing domestic problems was therefore the main reason behind Morocco’s decision to invade and annex Western Sahara in 1975 in violation of UN resolutions and the ICJ ruling. Another key factor was clearly Morocco’s increased interest in the abundant natural resources of the territory particularly fish and phosphate. The Cold War geostrategic considerations also had a significant bearing on Morocco’s move into Western Sahara. It is an open secret that, before and after the outbreak of the conflict, Morocco received huge political and military support from major Western powers, particularly the US and France. As some commentators have observed, the support was “an act of political expediency grounded in East-West political alliances” (Franck cited in Mundy, 2006: 291). 
In the main, Morocco’s expansionist ideology of the “Greater Morocco” and its political implications on the regional level was the major element that set up the context in which the conflict in Western Sahara emerged and evolved. Other elements have also contributed, in varying degrees, to shaping the conflict context. Conflicts change and their contexts change as well, but it is essential to gain a full understanding of the key elements that constitute the settings in which conflicts emerge in the first place.
Conflict Parties
A key element of conflict analysis is evidently the parties that openly oppose each other and have a direct stake in the outcome of the conflict.
In the case of Western Sahara, the two conflicting parties[11] are: first, the Kingdom of Morocco and mainly the ruling regime that has mobilised the army and security services to carry on its policies and achieve its goals in the conflict. It has also managed to win the support of some political parties and ordinary people for its annexation of Western Sahara. Second, the Frente POLISARIO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people[12], which has equally mobilised its army to carry on the struggle against Morocco. It has moreover gained massive support for its cause among Sahrawis in the territories under Moroccan occupation, in the Sahrawi refugee camps in south-western Algeria and in the diaspora.
As indicated above, the conflict is essentially an international conflict of a political nature between a state and a liberation movement. This fact puts the two parties into a situation of clear asymmetry in terms not only of power and resources but also of international alliances.
The mainly interested parties in the conflict are the two neighbouring countries to Western Sahara, Algeria and Mauritania. Algeria’s interest in the conflict is due to a number of reasons. First, it has always supported the internationally recognised right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, and has remained faithful to this position. This stance is also reinforced by Algeria’s opposition to the use of force to alter the “borders inherited from colonialism”, a principle sanctioned by the African organisation. Second, Algeria was the only neighbouring country that did not take part in Madrid accords that led to the partition of Western Sahara. Third, it hosts over 150,000 Sahrawi refugees who were driven out of their land because of the Moroccan-Mauritanian invasion of the territory. Fourth, it is interested in the restoration of peace and stability in the whole region. As for Mauritania, which was once claimed by Morocco, its interest lies in its concern for peace and stability of a neighbouring country. This is why the two countries are invited, as “neighbouring countries”, to the UN-sponsored negotiations on the future of Western Sahara.
As indicated earlier, Morocco received huge political and military support from Western powers during and after the Cold War. A key power that has unreservedly supported Morocco is France, which was the only external party that intervened militarily in the war in the 1970s on the Moroccan-Mauritanian side. Moreover, it has played a crucial role at the Security Council in support of Morocco’s position.[13]
Another key party is Spain, the former colonial power of Western Sahara and the de jure administering power of the territory. Many observers have indicated that now the US and France may hold the key to resolving the conflict given their close ties with Morocco and their influence at the Security Council. However, Spain still has legal obligations towards Western Sahara and its people ensuing from its failure to decolonise the territory in line with the UN doctrine. According to Ruiz Miguel (2008), Spain is still under the obligation to observe, respect and promote the right to self-determination of the people of the territory and to maintain the separate and distinct character of the latter with a view to avoiding any obstacle to the future self-determination.[14] Yet, all Spanish successive governments have failed to assume their responsibilities vis-à-vis the decolonisation of Western Sahara. Furthermore, the current Socialist-led Spanish government has been lately engaged in diplomatic actions that, despite their rhetoric, have only complicated the situation and cast more doubts over Spain’s role as an impartial facilitator in the conflict resolution process.
Other third parties include the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) and the United Nations that intervened, at different stages of the conflict, to settle the dispute.
Causes and Core Issues of the Conflict
After identifying the primary parties, the analysis will now focus on determining the causes that underlie the conflict and the core issues around which it has developed, and then how they are perceived and articulated by the two parties. Without doubt, identifying the causes of a certain conflict helps us both to understand the nature of the conflict and to deal with it.
The root causes of any given conflict are typically the situations and factors that make a social conflict escalate and reach varying degrees of violence. Conflicts are obviously never mono-causal, but are underpinned by a variety of causes that dynamically interact over the span of the conflict.
My focus however will be on what I consider the structural causes of the conflict in Western Sahara. By structural causes, I mean the “underlying reasons” of the violent conflict that set the global context in which the parties interact, pursue their goals and use the means to achieve them. As outlined above, the structural direct cause of the conflict in Western Sahara is thus Morocco’s military invasion and annexation of the territory in 1975, which provoked resistance on the part of the Sahrawi people under the leadership of the Frente POLISARIO. This situation has led to more than 16 years of outright war and so far other 17 years of war, but by other means.
Goals of the Parties
To understand the nature of the conflict, it is also important to identify the goals of the conflict parties, or their desirable outcomes of the conflict, and to place these issues within the context of the dispute.
In analysing the goals of the parties, it is also useful to make a distinction between their positions and interests, where the first describes the specific demands publicly articulated by the disputants, and the second refers to the underlying needs that drive them.
Positions of the parties
In any conflict situation, the goals of the parties and the way in which they articulate them (positions) are typically described as diametric opposites. As regards the conflict in question, Morocco’s recourse to violence (in the form of invasion and forced annexation) was prompted, first, by its intention to recover what it perceived as a “despoiled” land, and then (in the face of the Sahrawi resistance) to defend the “territorial integrity” of the Kingdom. By contrast, the goal of the Frente POLISARIO is to defend the country (over which Morocco has no legal sovereignty) and liberate it from foreign occupation as a prerequisite for the Sahrawi people to be able to exercise their internationally recognised and inalienable right to self-determination.
The positions of the conflicting parties are usually framed in the form of either a status-quo maintaining or status-quo changing (Sandole, 2007). In this case, Morocco intends to maintain its de facto control of the territory, although no country or international organisation recognises de jure this situation. In contrast, the Frente POLISARIO is engaged in status-quo changing by seeking to put an end to the occupation and institute an independent state as a result of a self-determination referendum.
Interests of the parties
Whilst positions are articulated in visible forms and could be assessed objectively, needs and interests are subjective and hence hard to gauge accurately. However, this does not mean that these self-perceived elements cannot be analysed, but any analysis requires some caution. Caution is essential, not least in the case of third parties that seek to intervene to help settle a given conflict. This is because they have to take into account the parties’ own needs instead of imposing their visions of those needs on the parties.
Unlike the parties’ positions, interests refer to the desires, concerns and fears that underlie those positions. Many theorists contrast interests with positions (Fisher, Ury and Patton, 1991: 40). It is suggested that when framed in terms of positions, conflicts often appear to be highly intractable, since one party may want something that the other party diametrically opposes. It is also argued that redefining the conflict situation in terms of the reasons that underlie the parties’ positions may enable the parties to identify win-win solutions.
Some conflict theorists combine the concepts of interests and needs. However, human needs theorists distinguish between the two, arguing that one of the primary causes of intractable conflicts is people’s unyielding drive to meet their unmet needs on the individual, group and societal level (Northrup, 1989).  Interests in this sense may represent tangible things that could be traded and bargained for, whereas needs are intangible things such as identity, security and recognition, which cannot be compromised. Human needs theorists, however, argue that, although needs cannot be traded, they could be addressed in a generally win-win situation (Rothman, 1997) that is beneficial to the parties concerned.
In terms of the conflict in question, the main concern for the Moroccan Kingdom is to preserve the monarchical establishment itself and to sustain its nationalist prestige and, in part, its legitimacy that has inextricably been linked with the issue of Western Sahara. Another key concern lies in maintaining the individual and collective interests of other shareholders that have big stakes in the conflict. These include the military establishment of which bulk is stationed in Western Sahara, and the political and business class that form part of the Makhzen system. [15]
As far as the Sahrawis are concerned, it is their collective feeling that their national identity is being attacked and denied by the Moroccan state that has prompted their involvement in the conflict in the first place. For them, Morocco does not only claim their land, but also denies the existence of a Sahrawi people. The translation of this denial in the realm of politics was the bombardment of Sahrawi civilians with napalm and white phosphorus in 1975, and the scorched-earth policy pursued by Moroccan occupying forces in Western Sahara. It is also reflected in the various forms of violence practiced nowadays against civilians in the territories under Morocco’s occupation, and the deliberate destruction of Sahrawi cultural heritage.
Some commentators describe the conflict in Western Sahara as the case of two nationalisms pitted against each other. However, unlike the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, where two national identities fight for establishing themselves on the same land, the Moroccan-Sahrawi conflict was originally triggered by a ruling elite making use of an ultranationalist ideology for rallying support for its cause. It is true that the official discourse of the Moroccan regime about the “morrocanity” of Western Sahara has been embraced and widely diffused by all state apparatuses to the extent that it has purportedly become the first national cause. Yet the realties on the ground demonstrate that, notwithstanding the timid opening taking place under the new king, the question of Western Sahara is still the exclusive domain of the ruling elite. It is little wonder bearing in mind the incalculable consequences that a possible solution to this question may have on the existence of the monarchy itself.
It is this context of confrontation of interests and needs that has largely shaped the way in which the parties have related to each other, which has been characterised by a great deal of hostility and suspicion mainly during the violent stage of the conflict. Even though the feelings of enmity may have been lessened following the cease-fire of 1991, suspicion is still there especially after Morocco unilaterally backed out from the mutually agreed and UN-sanctioned agreements. The persistence of human rights violations in the territories under Moroccan occupation has also sparked strong feelings of resentment and rejection amid Sahrawi population. If these violations continue, they may lead to further violence, and the situation may slide again into the spiral of violent conflict.
Dougherty and Pfaltzgraff (1990:282) have suggested that when conflicts escalate, the aggressor, rather than taking the blame itself, tends to place the blame on the victim because it challenges its aggression. By doing this, the aggressor shapes its own reality and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that the victim is malevolent. A prime example of this behaviour is the Moroccan official and media discourse that repeatedly describes the Frente POLISARIO as a “secessionist movement” in order to justify its aggressive conduct.
The search for a mutually negotiated solution to the conflict would primarily require restoration of trust between the two conflicting parties. This may involve attempts to break the psychological barriers, which have been erected in the course of the conflict, through incremental confidence-building measures (CBMs). A few initiatives have been made in this regard including, for instance, visits by Moroccan journalists to the Sahrawi refugee camps, and the publication in some Moroccan newspapers of interviews and articles penned by Sahrawi activists and officials of the Frente POLISARIO. The United Nations has also been engaged in a series of CBMs and it is willing to expand those measures, but Morocco is still unwilling to accept the proposed arrangements.[16]
Conflict Dynamics
Conflict is “something ever-changing, ever dynamic” (Galtung, 1996:89). Even if the parties are at a stalemate, aspects of the conflict context keep on shifting. Moreover, the ways in which the parties respond to conflict and the means by which they attempt to achieve their goals influence and direct the course of the conflict. The action of one party determines to some extent the responding action of the other party, and it is this action-reaction pattern that typically shapes conflict dynamics.
As outlined above, the “Green March” and the subsequent invasion by Moroccan forces of the northern parts of Western Sahara in October 1975 were “triggering events” that marked the start of the manifest conflict between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO.
Since its beginning, the conflict witnessed a rapid escalation of violence with destructive consequences for both parties. However, by the early 1980s, the intensity of the conflict was reduced due to the construction of the Moroccan defensive walls (the berm) and the huge cost that Morocco was incurring to continue the war. By that time, the two parties came to realise that neither side was able to achieve a military solution to the conflict. This situation provoked a stalemate, which gave the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) and the United Nations an opportunity to intervene by brokering a peace deal that the two parties accepted. With the entry into force of the UN-supervised cease-fire in September 1991, which is still in place, the violent conflict was completely de-escalated. This de-escalation phase, which some would describe as one of “no war, no peace”, is what prevails now and no one is certain of what it may lead to. Will it lead to a final solution, the continuation of the status quo, or, what is worse, the resumption of hostilities? This question cannot be easily answered.
Possibilities for Solution
In the context of the previous discussion, I will now outline the prospects for resolving the conflict and the possibilities to which they may lead. I will mention these possibilities in an order of likelihood.
1. In my view[17], it seems more likely now that the impasse will continue for some time. Given the already known positions of the two parties and the lack of interest by the key powers in the Security Council to press for any solution to this low intensity conflict, there seems to be no way out in the near future. The status quo is likely to continue for many months or years to come. Obviously, the maintenance of the status quo has thus far benefited Morocco, which continues to control three-quarters of Western Sahara, whilst seeking to obtain international recognition for its de facto annexation of the territory.
2. Another possibility is that the two parties engage in direct negotiations in good faith, without preconditions, to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution as requested by the Security Council in its latest resolutions on Western Sahara. However, given the history of negotiations between the two parties, where agreements were concluded and sanctioned by the UN and then violated with impunity by Morocco, negotiations may not lead to any substantive results unless new factors are brought into play.
2.1. Among these factors may be the intensification of the Sahrawi peaceful uprising in the occupied territories that began in May 2005, which may make the situation much harder for Morocco, compelling it then to consider negotiating for a settlement. However, it is still too early to assess what impact the uprising may have on the situation in Morocco in the long run.
2.2. Another related factor is the possibility of drastic internal changes taking place in one side that may compel it to go to the negotiating table. What happened in Indonesia in 1998 in relation to the case of East Timor is an example of how significant changes in one camp could lead to the settlement of a protracted conflict.
2.3. Another important factor, which has until now been clearly absent, is a stronger involvement by the UN in the resolution of the conflict and a greater interest by key powers in exerting considerable pressure on Morocco to allow the self-determination referendum to take place. For the UN to engage very actively in the issue it may have to resort to Chapter VII of its Charter, which provides for enforcement measures. However, it is very likely that France will oppose any resolution imposing an unfavourable solution on Morocco.
3. Another possibility is that the two parties voluntarily, with or without the assistance of the UN, reach a mutually agreed arrangement leading to a just, lasting, and viable solution consistent with international legality. For this to happen, however, it requires a genuine political will on the part of the elite currently ruling in Morocco that has not yet showed any interest in any solution, not least in the context of international legality and norms.
4. Lastly, should all these factors fail to bring about a solution to the conflict, the likelihood of active hostilities between the two parties would be greater.  Obviously, the resumption of violent conflict in Western Sahara will be in nobody’s interest, and it is certain that it will be a source of extreme instability not only in northwest Africa but also in the whole Mediterranean region.

The discussion above has made it clear that the direct, structural cause that underlies the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO is Morocco’s military invasion and annexation of the territory in 1975. The origins of this action, however, lie in the expansionist ideology of the “Greater Morocco” and the subsequent territorial claims that the Moroccan regime has laid on its neighbours. As expected, Morocco’s military invasion provoked a reaction and resistance on the part of the Sahrawi people led by the Frente POLISARIO.

This situation has led to a protracted conflict that has lasted for over three decades, which continues to pose a potential danger for stability and security in the entire region of North Africa. Despite the successive efforts of the international community to resolve the conflict, a mutually agreed solution remains elusive. Yet, for the peoples of the region to achieve their aspirations to integration, development and peace, a rapid, just and sustainable solution to the conflict has become more urgent than ever.

In this context, I believe that a peaceful, just and lasting solution to conflict in Western Sahara necessarily entails the exercise by the Sahrawi people of their internationally recognised and inalienable right to self-determination through a negotiated, democratic and free process that is consistent with international legality and norms. In this process, they could decide their political future, either to be independent, integrate into Morocco or settle for another arrangement. In any case, the final word should be theirs.
I also believe that the success of the UN-led negotiation process will depend not only on the political will on both sides to achieve a mutually acceptable solution consistent with international legality, but also on their ability to think seriously about their relations in the post-conflict context. This process of cooperative thinking will imply, among other things, determining the mutual guarantees in all vital areas, which each party would be willing to grant to the other  with a view to achiving  not only a win-win solution, but also one that will address the core issues around which the conflict has developed. The proposal presented by the Frente Polisario to the UN in April 2007 contains significant elements to be considered in this regard. What is needed, therefore, is not only a settlement of the conflict that addresses the publically articulated positions of the parties, bus also a transformaion of the root conflict in the first place. In other words, what is needed is a solution that does not only end the hostilities but also seeks to address the structural causes of the violent conflict in order to create the underlying conditions for a sustainable peace in the whole region.

[1] Since its independence in 1956, Morocco has had five constitutions promulgated respectively in 1962, 1970, 1972, 1992 and 1996.
[2] Many works have been written about the authoritarian nature of the monarchical system in Morocco. One important historical study on this subject is done by the Moroccan scholar, Abdellah Hammoudi’s, in his book Master and Disciple: the Cultural Foundations of Moroccan Authoritarianism (University of Chicago Press, 1997).
[3] Patricia Campbell “Morocco in Transition: Overcoming the Democratic and Human Rights Legacy of King Hassan II”. African Studies Quarterly 7, no. 1, <> , accessed 2 March 2004.
[4] Because of its repressive history, Morocco has often been listed among the world’s most repressive regimes. See, for instance, “Freedom in the World 2003: The Annual Survey of Political Rights & Civil Liberties”, A Special Report to the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, 2003.
[5] On 7 July 1956, the Istiqlal daily newspaper, Al Alam, published a map of the “Greater Morocco”, and a month later, the expansionist policy was endorsed by the party’s congress.
[6] In 1957, a new department was created at the Moroccan Interior Ministry called “General Directorate for Saharan and Frontier Affairs” and a cousin of Allal el-Fassi, Abdelkebir, was named head of the department (Pazzanita, 2006).
[7] On 8 June 1970, a treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed in Casablanca between Morocco and Mauritania.
[8] GA resolution 3292 (XXIX) of 13 December 1974.
[9] ICJ (1975) Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara, 1975, ICJ 12ICJ, < = 323&code = sa&p1 = 3&p2 = 4&case = 61&k = 69&p3 = 5>, accessed 20 November 2008.
[10] In August 1975, two months before the ICJ issued its ruling, King Hassan II stated that “whatever the result, Morocco will recover its rights over its despoiled provinces no later than toward the end of this year” (quoted in Hodges, 1983: 207).
[11] Mauritania joined Morocco in invading and partitioning Western Sahara by virtue of Madrid accords of 14 November 1975. However, in 1979, it formally abandoned its claim to Western Sahara, and signed a peace agreement with the Frente POLISARIO. Morocco immediately moved to annex the portion previously claimed by Mauritania.
[12] See, for instance, A/RES/34/37 of 21 November 1979.
[13] The Frente POLISARIO publicly voiced great concern about France’s position at the Security Council in April 2008, which rejected any reference to human rights in the Council’s resolution on Western Sahara. The position was described as “contrary to the international community’s efforts for peace in the region.” <>, accessed 14 July 2009.
[14] See Carlos Ruiz Miguel (2008): “Spain’s Legal Obligations as Administering Power of Western Sahara” a paper delivered at the International Conference on Multilateralism and International Law, with Western Sahara as a Case Study, Pretoria, South Africa (4- 5 December 2008), <>, accessed 20 July 2009.
[15] Makhzen is a specific form of authority that is present throughout the governing class in Morocco with the king as its linchpin, and it is considered the “power behind the throne”.
[16] One case in point was the reluctance of the Moroccan delegation to discuss and accept the package of CBMs proposed during the UN-sponsored negotiations held in Manhasset last year.
[17] Similar views were expressed in my article Omar, Sidi M. (2008): “The Right to Self-determination and the Indigenous People of Western Sahara”, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 21-1, 41-57.