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Morocco, Algeria renew Sahara war in words

A diplomatic war broke out in the past week between several African countries over who is to blame for the 30-year conflict in the Western Sahara.

Moroccan King Muhammad VI sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week in which he named Algeria’s involvement, primarily its support of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a government-in-exile declared in 1976, as well as its military wing the Polisario Front, as the main source of the conflict. It also denied that its presence is an “occupation” and has affirmed its desire to resolve the conflict in the context of the U.N.

From the letter: “Algeria’s involvement in the Sahara question has taken multifaceted and various forms: military engagement, financial and logistic support, mobilization, diplomatic training, breach of international humanitarian law, etc…Algeria sponsored, in 1976, the creation of an alleged ‘republic’ and embarked on an all-out campaign to make some countries recognize this fictitious ‘entity’ that does not have any of the characteristics of a sovereign State,” as it was printed on the Arabic News website.

In response to Morocco’s letter, Algerian President ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Bouteflika told the U.N. General Assembly that the case is one of “unfinished colonialism,” according to reports, effectively placing the blame on Morocco.

The spat started last week when South Africa, one of the continent’s greatest political forces, announced its recognition of the SADR. Subsequently, Morocco called back its ambassador from Pretoria.

Up to 200,000 Sahrawi refugees were forced into Algeria after Morocco invaded the previously-Spanish territory in 1976. In addition to Algeria, the African Union as well as several international solidarity groups support Sahrawi sovereignty in the Western Sahara.