Morocco (Polisario Front)


Conflict Summary

The decision of departing Spanish colonists to divide the Western Sahara region between Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 – and the subsequent seizure of greater tracts of land by Morocco – denied the indigenous Sahrawi people a UN-recognised right to self-determination. The result has been one of Africa's longest-running and most neglected territorial disputes. A low-intensity conflict between the Sahrawi's poorly armed Polisario Front and the overwhelmingly superior Moroccan Forces Armées Royales (FAR) ended in a ceasefire in 1991, with the promise of a referendum on independence. However, that has continually foundered on disagreement over voter eligibility. With some 140,000 Sahrawi refugees in Algeria and elsewhere, the Polisario Front threatened in 2006 to resume armed conflict. In 2007, it convened its first Popular Congress since 2003, again proposing a resumption of hostilities. Talks between the parties then resumed, but despite the efforts of UN mediators little has been achieved. France and the US have always backed Morocco diplomatically, while Algeria is the Polisario Front’s main ally.