The Polisario Front has declared a state of war with Morocco and the initiation of multiple attacks against the wall that defends the occupied territories. Brahim Gali, president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, issued a decree this Saturday announcing the end of the commitment to the Ceasefire signed in 1991.
The official news agency of the camps also reported on artillery operations against four points along this barrier of more than 2,700 kilometers, from the vicinity of Tindouf to the southern limit. The guerrillas claim to have attacked the bases of Mahbes, Hauza, Auserd and Farsia, causing casualties and the destruction of facilities.
The guerrilla movement has assured that this decision responds to the opening of the Guerguerat border crossing by the Moroccan Army on Friday night and that it had been closed by initiatives of various civilians. Rabat has criticized his opponent’s strategy, but has not yet provided any military-type information and there is no verification of these facts by observers outside the conflict.
The Sahrawi authorities have sought support from their international solidarity network. The Delegation in the Basque Country of the independence organization convened this Saturday in Vitoria a meeting with NGOs from the autonomous community that work on behalf of the inhabitants of refugee camps. After its celebration, the Sahara Euskadi Movement issued a note of support in which it denounced the breaking of the ceasefire by the troops sent by Rabat and the immediate celebration of the self-determination referendum agreed in 1988 and which has not been carried out.
The breakdown of the status quo has occurred almost 1,000 kilometers south of Laayoune. Barricades prevented, for three weeks, the intense commercial traffic with Mauritania and, two days ago, Moroccan troops cleared the obstacles that prevented the passage of dozens of trucks. The maneuver was carried out without skirmishes, beyond shots in the air, but it has been the trigger for the breaking of the truce. The Polisario has alleged that the agreements prohibit opening illegal steps in the wall such as Guerguerat, which allows trade with countries located south of the former Spanish colony.
Mobilizations in the Basque Country
The Sahara Euskadi Movement has stated that starting tomorrow it will announce the names of the participating entities and will initiate mobilizations to reaffirm its support for the militia. In addition to emphasizing “his unequivocal solidarity with the struggle of the Saharawi people,” he holds the Alawite kingdom responsible for violating the ceasefire and denounces the inability of the United Nations troops to protect citizens and carry out their objective. The UN Mission for the Referendum in the Sahara, created in 1991, has shown itself powerless in the face of disagreement between both factions on the electoral roll.
Morocco has not officially responded to the Polisario. Public opinion seems more concerned about the ravages of Covid-19. The country is one of the most affected by the spread of the virus in Africa and suffers the ravages of the second wave, with almost 290,000 cases. Although they do not mention the warlike events, the media cite the Royal Armed Forces maneuver to establish a security cordon in Guerguerat and have described the Polisario’s decisions as “dangerous and senseless gambling.”
The Spanish Government has urged the resumption of dialogue, an initiative that António Guterres, UN Secretary General, has also demanded from the Saharawi president. The request for restraint has also been taken up by Russia and, above all, by Algeria, which hosts the SADR, and Mauritania, countries highly affected by a possible escalation of the clashes.
The breaking of the truce exacerbates the drama in the camps
Not even a place as remote as the desert region that is home to the Sahara refugee camps has been able to escape Covid-19. The Saharawi authorities decreed a drastic reduction of administrative and economic activities, and the confinement of the population during the first months of the pandemic. The quarantine becomes even more complex given the harsh conditions endured by the 165,000 refugees in this environment, southwest of Algeria, the country that welcomed them after the Moroccan invasion of the former Spanish colony.
The resumption of the fighting may come at a particularly negative juncture for the followers of the Polisario Front on the other side of the wall. The situation was already worrying before the arrival of the coronavirus and it worsened with health measures.
International aid has been paralyzed by restrictions on the traffic of goods. Small businesses have lost their supply networks and, according to the Sahara Euskadi Movement, the solidarity caravan that was to leave for Tindouf between February and March remains held in Alicante.