Western Sahara’s independence movement, Polisario Front, has declared a 29-year ceasefire with Morocco over with focus reverting to armed hostilities between the movement and the Moroccan government.
On Saturday, Ibrahim Ghali said a decree he had signed prompts Polisario to take up arms against Morocco again because the North African powerhouse had broken the terms of a ceasefire agreed in 1991. But Reuters reports that Morocco says it is sticking with the 1991 truce and has no immediate plans of going to war.
Polisario has meanwhile announced that it has already launched attacks on Moroccan positions along a buffer zone inside Western Sahara. Morocco annexed two-thirds of the entire territory after 1979 during its war with the indigenous Sahrawi political movement.
Last Friday, Moroccan soldiers opened a road blocked by a Polisario-backed group in Guerguerat since October 21. The road, which connects Morocco and the rest of Africa, lies beyond the buffer zone secured by Morocco during the war.
It is believed that this incursion is what the independence movement terms an act of aggression. A representative of Polisario in Europe says the group’s response to the Moroccan army’s actions on Friday is “a return to the armed struggle”.
Reuters also reports weapons were heard from around the buffer zone on Friday but Morocco has described these as warning shots.
Africa’s longest ongoing independence struggle
The territory of Western Sahara was seized and colonized by Spain in 1884, making it one of the European country two colonial domains on the African continent apart from Equatorial Guinea.
In 1975, Spain left the territory in the hands of Morocco and Mauritania after some 300,000 Moroccans marched peacefully into the territory to claim ownership. Prior to what has been called the Green March, the Polisario Front, had been formed in 1973 to seek independence for Western Sahara.
Polisario even declared the territory independent calling it the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic in 1976. But the Polisario government could not even live in the country and was settled in Algeria.
In 1979, Mauritania ceded its portion of the territory to Morocco. But backed by Algeria, Polisario launched guerilla warfare on the Moroccan army throughout the 1980s, hoping to force the issue of independence.
The 1991 ceasefire was secured through the mediation of the United Nations (UN), however, no further progress has been made with regards to everlasting peace.