Refugees’ frustration drives renewed Western Sahara conflict
March 2, 2021 - Conflict is growing between Sahrawis in Algeria’s desert refugee camps and Morocco after former president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in December.
The Sahrawi government-in-exile has called on U.S. President Joe Biden to reverse his predecessor’s decision, according to Reuters.
The dispute over Western Sahara dates to the time when the territory, rich in phosphates and fishing grounds, was a Spanish colony, resisted by the Sahrawi group’s Polisario Front with Algerian backing but also claimed by Morocco.
When Spain left in 1975, Moroccan troops marched in and the Polisario, with Algerian support, turned its guns on what it saw as a continuation of colonial rule by a different country.
The two agreed a ceasefire in 1991 but, as the conflict froze and negotiations over a permanent settlement stalled, the refugees stayed in the camps.
Morocco regards the region as part of its territory and is prepared to offer nothing beyond limited autonomy. The Polisario and its government in exile seek independence.