No. 66 – January 2016
Author: Luca Maiotti
Western Sahara Conflict 1975-2015
Forty years have now passed and the conflict that has been going on in various forms since 1975 in Western Sahara still remains unresolved. This ancient Spanish colony has become a symbol, a pretext and an obstacle in the relationship between Morocco and Algeria. Even though there has been a form of détente between the two in the last decade, the Saharan issue still represents a source of friction and hinders a greater degree of regional integration. Starting as a mainly ideological domestic policy matter, it has progressively become a financial and political burden for both countries. Moreover, the suspended status of the conflict resolution process is causing tensions in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, where little improvement has been made since the end of the war. On the institutional side, the UN Mission could not fulfill the entirety of its mission because of the lack of political agreement. Its mandate was extended once again in April 2015 for twelve months, but there is no will to upgrade it to put more pressure on the main actors to find an agreement. Even though the condition of open warfare has de-escalated to low-intensity conflict, the root causes of the conflict have not been properly addressed. Currently there is a situation of stalemate on the ground. The aim of this essay is to show how and why the conflict has frozen down, thus showing that the particular interest of the main stakeholders is currently blocking the resolution of the conflict. In the first part the internal drivers that triggered the outbreak of the conflict will be described. The second part proceeds with an overview of the diplomatic and military confrontation between the main actors. In this part the peace process and the current situation of stalemate will be examined.