‘I’m so fed up, and I’m so angry. There is a war and nobody is talking about it. Everybody is talking about Ukraine, and nobody is talking about Western Sahara,’ Mohamed-Lamin, a human rights activist living in a Sahrawi refugee camp, told New Humanitarian in February.
Western nations which have fiercely opposed Russia’s invasion, occupation and annexation of part of Ukraine are drifting towards accepting and officially recognising Morocco’s invasion, occupation and annexation of most of Western Sahara.
The US is the only government in the world to have officially recognised the annexation (which followed Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara in 1975).
US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over all of Western Sahara, a position re-affirmed by US president Joe Biden.
On 20 March, US secretary of state Antony Blinken re-confirmed US policy, saying that Morocco’s ‘autonomy plan’ for Western Sahara was ‘serious, credible, and realistic’.
The plan excludes the possibility of Western Sahara becoming an independent nation: Morocco would maintain control over Western Sahara’s natural resources, foreign relations, currency, and external and internal security.
In March 2022, Spain reversed its previous position on Western Sahara and said that Morocco’s autonomy plan was ‘the most serious, realistic and credible’ proposal for resolving the conflict.
Other European countries such as the Netherlands have also said warm words about the plan.
How would they react if Russia proposed a similar ‘autonomy plan’ for Ukraine?
- Sahrawi activist Sultana Khaya, who escaped house arrest last May, continues to speak out for Western Sahara, including at the European parliament on 7 February. Moroccan corruption deprived her of a human rights prize (PN 2664).