Western Sahara: Expansion of MINURSO Mandate, a Risky Shift

The expansion of the MINURSO mandate to human rights monitoring in Western Sahara recently proposed by the U.S. would have exacerbated tensions in a context already marked by deep-rooted mistrust between Morocco on the one hand and Algeria and the Polisario front on the other. The warning is issued by three international experts who argue that the U.S. proposal to extend the MINURSO mandate “to monitoring real or alleged human rights violations,” would have ultimately ran against the main underlying objective of the U.N. mission – to design and implement confidence building measures and supervise the cease-fire established in 1991 in Western Sahara. Had the U.S. proposal been passed, “it is easy to envision an endless chain of mutual accusations of human rights abuses by both Morocco and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria”, a scenario that would have bogged the conflict deeper. In a briefing paper entitled “United States’U.N. Proposal and Policy on Western Sahara: A Dead-End?” Published by Global Europe, an independent think tank specializing in European external relations, the three researchers believe that this proposal would not have had any tangible benefits either for the United States or for Morocco and the Maghreb region in general.

Likewise it would not have in any way helped unfreeze the situation or resolve the old simmering conflict. In addition, the U.S. proposal that experts Dustin Dehez (Global Governance Institute), Alex MacKenzie (University of Salford) and Daniel Novotny (Global Europe) describe as “surprising” in the current context, would have ultimately complicated the UN mission in Western Sahara, made the negotiations even more difficult and delayed further any settlement of the territorial dispute that has been going on for nearly four decades. The three pundits deplored the dim prospects for progress on the Western Sahara issue and the closure of borders between Morocco and Algeria since 1994 as this closure hampers all efforts to foster economic and security cooperation between the two neighboring countries and in the region in general. The paper finally drew the attention of Washington and Brussels to the rising risks induced by the protracted conflict as the extremists in the Tindouf camps may rally the terrorist groups which are seeking to destabilize several countries in North Africa and the Sahel.


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