Western Sahara

News in Brief

It is hard to believe that there was any down side to the departure of the superhawk John Bolton from the Trump administration, but it has had an unfortunate effect on the Western Sahara peace process.

Bolton had exerted pressure since he was appointed Trump’s national security advisor in April 2018 to move the Sahrawi peace process forward.

Bolton had said he was ‘frustrated’ over Western Sahara, which has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. The US acting ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Cohen, said: ‘There can be no more ‘business as usual’.

In April, the US forced the UN to renew the mandate of its ‘Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara’ (MINURSO) for only six months instead of the usual year. This was to create further pressure for real negotiations.

After several signals that the US was growing closer to Morocco, and Bolton’s departure in September, the UN renewed MINURSO’s mandate for 12 months on 31 October.

Sahrawi negotiator Fatma Medhi wrote in Passblue: ‘The Security Council has lost vital leverage over Morocco and sent a dangerous signal to the people of Western Sahara: that the diplomatic process and playing by the rules of the diplomatic game don’t matter.’

She went on: ‘Like so many Sahrawis, I have long believed that the best way to achieve the goal of a free and independent Western Sahara is through nonviolence and UN-led negotiations. But the collapse of the political process – and the strong sense of betrayal we Sahrawis feel by members of the Security Council – throws this assumption into question.’