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Moroccan army launches an operation in Western Sahara border.

The Berm. Image Credit: AFP

On Friday, Morocco announced a military operation on the Southern border of the Sahara Desert. The military operation was aimed at stopping the provocations by the pro-independence Polisario Front.

The Polisario Front is a rebel group which aims to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara desert. The conflict has been ongoing since 1970. The Polisario Front controls around 25% of the Western Sahara territory. This territory is known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Western Sahara is known to have abundant natural resources such as phosphates, fishing zones, agriculture and precious metals.

Western Sahara is considered the last colony in Africa, south of Morocco and North of Mauritania. The vast territory was mainly inhabited by tribes known as the Saharawi people. They were under Spanish colonial rules, until their exit from the region in 1975. The territory was designated as ‘Non-Self- Governing Territory’ by the United Nations amid increasing pressure from a number of foreign countries, which led to Spain’s withdrawal from the region. It is rumoured that Spain signed a secret deal with Morocco and Mauritania to hand the territory to both countries. The International Court of Justice found that there were no legal ties between Western Sahara and Morocco or Mauritania. They confirmed that the Saharawi people have the right for self-determination. This has prompted several invasions from both Morocco and Mauritania, which led to a 15-year war against the Polisario Front. Morocco finally withdrew from the region in 1979, but still continued to seize Western Sahara territory. They eventually built a sand wall known as Berm that runs the length of the whole country. The region controlled by Polisario Front sits between Morocco and Mauritania. The sand wall is known to be littered with landmines.

The Moroccan troops will attempt to stop a blockade of trucks which are travelling between Moroccan-controlled territory and neighbouring Mauritania territory, and ‘restore free circulation of civilian and commercial traffic.’ The Polisario Front warned the Moroccan military that it would disregard a three-decade ceasefire, if Moroccan military sends its troops to the buffer zone located on the Mauritian border.

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