April 30, 2012
On Tuesday, April 24 the UN Security Council unanimously kicked the Western Sahara issue down the road for yet another year (sigh) when it once again renewed the mandate for its peacekeeping mission in the region, MINURSO, with little more than further encouragement that the parties continue to cooperate with the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy in the search for a “just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara [...]” MINURSO recently celebrated its 20th year of peacekeeping operations. But have two decades of peacekeeping really brought us any closer to a resolution of this lingering relic of the Cold War? Sadly not. But why not?
The answer is really not that complicated. One side - Morocco — has offered to compromise in the search to make the peace, but the other side – the Polisario Front — refuses to accept anything other than its own optimal outcome. Stalemate. The status quo promises to thrive for yet another year. But must it be so?
In this case, two things could happen that would likely break the logjam. The recalcitrant party could have an epiphany and come finally to understand that for the sake of the thousands of people wasting away for nearly 35 years in squalid refugee camps, and their grieving relatives living on the other side of the divide, and for the sake of the security and prosperity of the Maghreb region as a whole, the time has come to put an end to their stubborn insistence that their own singular idea of “the best” should forever triumph over what is clearly “the good” in these circumstances. One can hope. But hope, as they say, is not a policy.
Or, with apologies to Horace, something less dependent on pipe dreams and more firmly grounded in reality could intervene to become the deus ex machina that cuts through this nasty little knot and moves the story along to a happier ending for all. What, pray tell, might cut so sure?
It has been awhile since the foreign policy of the United States has been able to pat itself on the back for the wisdom of its conception and/or execution anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa, but here we think the opportunity is at hand. If we take it.
For more information about the Western Sahara Conflict, check out:
- “Simmering Discontent in the Western Sahara,” Anouar Boukhars, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- “US Policy on the Western Sahara: Implementing the Policy of Three Presidents,” Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) & Robert M. Holley, MIT International Review
“Group Rights & International Law: A Case Study on the Sahrawi Refugees in Algeria,” MACP & the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies
- “USCRI Report: Stonewalling on Refugee Rights – Algeria and ther Sahrawi,” U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- “The case for UNHCR supporting durable solutions for the Polisario-run camps near Tindouf, which are becoming a recruiting ground for AQIM and drug traffickers,” MACP