Kal, from the Moor Next Door (which, by the way, is an amazing blog that I highly recommend), tweeted a link to this brief article by Anouar Boukhars. The article is called “Look to the More Stable Neighbors,” referring to Algeria and Morocco. However, it was the conclusion of the article that struck me the most:
If Algeria refuses to engage in the conflict in Mali, then the international community must look for leadership in Morocco, the other North African heavyweight directly affected by the chaos in the Sahel. Morocco has the will, the influence and the capability to contribute to conflict resolution in the region.
Boukhars has been a prominent source for information on the Maghreb, namely Morocco, for many. Yet, the conclusion to this article is so far removed from the actual reality of Morocco’s role in the region. How can Morocco be expected to lead an initiative for conflict resolution in Mali while it is actively involved in the longest running territorial dispute in Africa? Morocco’s ongoing human rights abuses in the Western Sahara and the tumultuous relationship it has with Algeria as a result of the Western Saharan conflict indicate anything but “the will, the influence and the capability to contribute to conflict resolution in the region.” This is a country that initially rejected UN envoy, Christoper Ross, over the fact that he was doing his job in reporting human rights abuses in the Moroccan-controlled Western Saharan territory. The closest the conflict ever came to a resolution was when the 1991 referendum was due to take place, yet it was Morocco who imposed conditions that would have systematically yielded the referendum results in its favor (Morocco stipulated that Moroccan settlers be able to participate in the referendum, while the referendum should have taken place based on the 1973 census).
I don’t want to initiate a game of Oppression Olympics, but while the crisis in Mali is certainly a major source of instability in the Maghreb, despite its technical location in the Sahel, dismissing the situation in the Western Sahara and removing it from an analysis that addresses Moroccan-Algerian ties in the context of leading measures for greater stability paints an incomplete picture. But given his less-than critical position toward the Moroccan regime, I don’t doubt that the exclusion of the Western Saharan conflict was strategic.