Ceasefire in Western Sahara fails after 29 years

North Africa threatened with further destabilization (Press Release)

Following the failure of a ceasefire agreement that has been in place in Western Sahara for 29 years, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns of the consequences of a war in the former Spanish colony. As there are currently more than 100,000 unprotected refugees from Western Sahara living in southern Algeria, the human rights organization fears a humanitarian catastrophe in North Africa. Thus, the European Union (EU) should urgently step up its peace efforts – and the Security Council should hold an emergency meeting to address the escalation of the conflict. "A new war in the region would have catastrophic consequences for the civilian population, which is already suffering from the growing destabilization in the Sahara. If Western Sahara will soon be burning as well – like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger – this will fuel flight and misery in North Africa," emphasized Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Saturday.

Yesterday, after Moroccan troops violated the ceasefire agreement by entering a buffer zone protected by UN soldiers, the Polisario Frente, which advocates for the independence of Western Sahara (which was occupied by Morocco in violation of international law) had announced that it considers the ceasefire agreement failed. 

According to Delius, the EU has a special responsibility to prevent a new war in Western Sahara. As a former colonial power, Spain should not stand idly by and simply watch further human rights violations in the course of Morocco's attempts to secure its occupation of Western Sahara. Further, France is responsible for helping to upgrade Morocco's military since the signing of the ceasefire in 1991 – and Germany had done similar things with its Polisario partner Algeria. Thus, if the tensions escalate further, Germany-made arms might soon be used against French weapons systems.

The human rights organization demanded immediate efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. For example, the EU should press for the appointment of a new UN special envoy for Western Sahara. The position has been vacant ever since former German President Horst Köhler resigned from his mediating role for health reasons in May 2019.