Nov 14, 2020 - World

Western Sahara independence group declares war on Morocco

Military units from the Arab Democratic Republic Saharawi performing manoeuvres in Western Sahara in January 2019.
Military units from the Arab Democratic Republic Saharawi performing maneuvres in Western Sahara in January 2019. Photo: Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Brahim Ghali, the leader of a pro-independence group in Western Sahara, declared war on Morocco Saturday, breaking a decades-long ceasefire, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The declaration could reignite an armed struggle and exacerbate years of animosity between Morocco and its neighbor Algeria, which hosts the independence group, the Polisario Front.

  • The ongoing conflict "has left Morocco controlling about 80 percent of the disputed territory, leaving thousands of Sahrawis living in a protracted displacement situation near the Algerian town of Tindouf," the Times writes.

The big picture: The breakdown of the truce comes one day after Morocco conducted a military operation in a UN-patrolled buffer zone in the territory to open a road blocked by Polisario supporters.

  • Escalating tensions between the groups have drawn concern from the UN, the African Union and nations in Northern Africa and across the Middle East, according to the Times.
  • UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement Friday that he is “determined to do everything possible to remove all obstacles to the resumption of the political process.”
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