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Polisario Front strategy to divide Moroccan (Western) Sahara: Guerguerat crossing border Case



The Moroccan (Western) Sahara file has flared up to zero solution case due to the rebels Polisario Front’s (SADR) approach to the option of field escalation at the Guerguerat border crossing. The Kingdom of Morocco proclaimed, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, that “there is no political talks with separatists, no diplomacy with bandits, no political process with those who have unable to resolve Moroccan Sahara issue and who work as armed groups and as a gang “, in his response to the developments of The last incidents in Guerguerat.

To anti-peace and stability groups, Foreign Minister in his statement to noted, “Whoever practices provocations deviates from international legitimacy and puts himself in confrontation with the United Nations and international law, and this is not strange for groups operating with the logic of gangs.”

Additionally, Bourita described what happening at the border crossing between the Kingdom of Morocco and Mauritania as a “group of hijackers or muggers in the true sense”, before pointing out that the Polisario Front (SADR) cannot be addressing Morocco in any resolution process and cannot form the basis for any political series.

In parallel with the UN Security Council resolution on extending the mandate of the MINURSO mission one more year, the Polisario Front strongly declared a rebellion against the United Nations by rejecting to respond to the repeated calls to withdraw from the Guerguerat crossing, which puts it in a collision with the UN organization.

Accordingly, it doesn’t make sense to see the Polisario Front (SADR) chose for the first time in its statements to be hostile to the United Nations and the MINURSO mission during its discourse about the Guerguerat borders crossing, which it uses as a coercive card before to the announcement of the Security Council report as Al-Mousawi Al-Ajlawi pointed out, an expert on Moroccan Sahara conflict and African affairs. Thus, the Polisario is currently in direct conflict with the United Nations, because the ceasefire agreement was not signed by the front with the Kingdom of Morocco, but was signed with the United Nations.

From the very beginning, the Kingdom has drawn attention to the fact that the upsurge of the Polisario Front (SADR) is due first to the absence of anything called “liberated territories concept” in the UN report of the Secretary-General, which is the same trend that the forthcoming Security Council resolution takes, and then secondly to the confirmation of current UN political resolutions that the conflict is categorized as a regional dispute including Algeria as the main part of this issue. Meanwhile, the Kingdom believes that the strong phrase statement issued by the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs is a warning to the United Nations that the Polisario Front (SADR) has overstepped all limits in its irrational provocations.

On the other hand, The Kingdom considers the Guerguerat commercial border crossing region is Moroccan, leaving it voluntarily and with its consent in the hands of the United Nations to facilitate its operations in monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between it and the United Nations and between the latter and the Polisario, and that the United Nations through the MINURSO mission is responsible for it, and it has been warning and threatening that in case The inability of the United Nations to restraint in the Polisario Front, which is heading to change the situation there, as it will militarily assume this mission, according to previous experiences in the region since the 2016 and 2018.

In the relation to the two previous crises, the Security Council expected the task of affirming the nature of the buffer zone, stopping at the seriousness and sensitivity of the attacks of military and civilian Polisario Front elements on it, and ordering it to immediately evacuate and refrain from making any change in its current situation, and not to settle any facilities. Rather, the head of MINURSO, the Special Representative, and the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General reject to receive them by the leaders of the Polisario Front (SADR)  in the region to avoid any inaccurate explanation or disguised interpretation of this and to use it to claim any international recognition or legitimacy of the Polisario Front on the region.

More specifically, The Sahrawi Association for Solidarity and Awareness of the Autonomy Project and Sustainable Development sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in which it noted that the Guerguerat crossing is seeing a dangerous and worrying escalation on the part of the “Polisario armed group” and Algeria after they paid many residents of Tindouf camps and a bunch of recruits in civilian clothes in order to shut down the commercial crossing.

The same association considered that these intimidations “constitute a serious violation and demonstrates Algeria’s outrageous intention to create an insecure environment in the region,” stating that what assures this is that these moves coincide with several people loyal to “Polisario SADR” and Algeria declaring the establishment of a separatist party Politics in the city of El-Ayoun, to undermined and jeopardize the stability of the Kingdom.

In a response to the increased leverage of Polisario Front in Guerguerat borders crossing, the Moroccan Secretary of Foreign Affairs also visited conflicted borders recently, warning that Polisario Front (SADR) was an impendence to the territory’s future. True, the region is experiencing tension that may lead to a new military conflict, but the Polisario Front cannot fire a single bullet without getting the green light from the host backer state, Algeria.

Strategically, Morocco deems that Algeria has tried to drive a wedge between Morocco and Polisario Front as it did during the previous years. Yet, Algeria always pushing towards fueling the situation in the Guerguerat borders zone,. because the Algerian regime today needs an outlet to divert attention from what is happening inside the country, especially to pass the referendum phase on the constitution and disregard the ongoing arrests and the widespread condemnation campaign regarding the deteriorating human rights condition and rule of law.

All in all, it is noted that the developments in Algeria may push the latter to set fire to the Guerguerat border crossing and destabilizing the region, and these new developments will not work the new UN special envoy to be appointed to succeed Horst Köhler in carrying out his duties, particularly since the accumulations of achieved negotiations table among both conflictual parties by the Geneva sessions. Therefore, The kingdom of Morocco has fully committed itself to the decisions of the international society, because we are a state of principles, legitimacy and we do not seek a military confrontation, while the Polisario Front (SADR) and its supporter Algeria did not abide by them. The United Nations must do its part to put an end to the provocations against the Kingdom of Morocco, and to reopen the Guerguerat crossing as soon as possible.

Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in and North African Studies and Western Sahara Issue, a Ph.D. fellow in Jilin University School of Public Affairs

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‘Full scale’ humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia’s Tigray



Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in the country's northern Tigray region, rest and cook meals near UNHCR's Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan. © UNHCR/Hazim Elhag

A “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday. 

More than 27,000 have now crossed into Sudan through crossing points in Kassala and Gedaref states, as well as a new location further south at Aderafi, where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend, according to UNHCR

The scale of the influx is the worst that part of the country has seen in over 20 years, according to the agency. 

“Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since 10 November, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground,” said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, briefing reporters in Geneva. 

“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings”, he added. 

According to news reports, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has indicated the military operation that was launched in response to the reported occupation of a Government military base by Tigrayan forces nearly two weeks ago, would continue, although he said it was now in its “final phase”.  

‘Needs continue to grow’ 

UN agencies, along with relief partners have ramped up assistance – delivering food rations, hot meals and clean water, as well as setting up latrines and temporary shelters. They are also supporting the Sudanese Government in its response. But the needs continue to grow.  

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also supporting other humanitarian workers in its response, providing fuel for vehicles and generators in remote locations. The UN Humanitarian Air Service, managed by WFP, has also increased flights from three times per week to daily flights for aid workers. 

Since Saturday, UNHCR has relocated 2,500 refugees from the border to Um Raquba settlement site, in eastern Sudan. There is however, a “critical need” to identify more sites so that refugees can be relocated away from the border and can access assistance and services, said Mr. Baloch. 

UNHCR has also issued an emergency fundraising appeal, through which people can help provide urgent, lifesaving assistance to refugees. Click here to make a donation

‘On standby’ in Tigray 

Meanwhile in the Tigray region of Ethiopia itself, lack of electricity, telecommunications, fuel and cash, continue to severely hamper any humanitarian response, the UNHCR spokesperson said.  

“After nearly two weeks of conflict, reports of larger numbers of internally displaced grow daily, while the lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move in goods to the region, remain major impediments to providing assistance,” he said. 

UNHCR and partners are on standby to provide assistance to the displaced in Tigray, including basic items, when access and security allow. 

The conflict is also a major ongoing concern for the Eritrean refugee population of nearly 100,000 in Tigray, who are reliant on assistance from UNHCR and partners.  

“Potential for further displacement of refugees inside the country is increasingly a real possibility … The humanitarian situation as result of this crisis is growing rapidly” he warned, reiterating UNCHR’s call for peace and urge all parties to respect the safety and security for all civilians in Tigray.

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Russia to Build Naval Facility in Sudan



Emerging from the first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi a year ago, Russia will make one huge stride by establishing a naval facility in Sudan. This marks its maritime security presence in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea region. Sharing a northern border with Egypt, Sudan is located on the same strategic coastline along the Red Sea.

According to the executive order, the published document says “the proposal from the government of the Russian Federation to sign an agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Sudan on creating a facility of the Navy of the Russian Federation in the territory of the Republic of Sudan be adopted.”

It also authorizes “the Defense Ministry of Russia to sign the aforementioned agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation.” The document stipulates that a maximum of four warships may stay at the naval logistics base, including “naval ships with the nuclear propulsion system on condition of observing nuclear and environmental safety norms.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved the draft agreement on establishing a naval logistics base in Sudan and gave instructions to submit the proposal to the president for signing. The draft agreement on the naval logistics facility was submitted by Russia’s Defense Ministry, approved by the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee of Russia and preliminary agreed with the Sudanese side.

As the draft agreement says, the Russian Navy’s logistics facility in Sudan “meets the goals of maintaining peace and stability in the region, is defensive and is not aimed against other countries.”

The signing of the document by the Russia president shows the positive results of negotiations, the possibility of constructing a naval base in the region, over the years with African countries along the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

During a visit by then-President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir to Moscow in November 2017, agreements were reached on Russia’s assistance in modernizing the Sudanese armed forces. Khartoum also said at the time it was interested in discussing the issue of using Red Sea bases with Moscow.

On the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Russia had a naval base in Somalia during the Soviet days. Currently, Djibouti hosts Chinese and American naval bases. China’s military base in Djibouti was set up to support five mission areas. India is another Asian nation that has increased its naval presence in Africa. In order to protect its commercial sea-lanes from piracy, it has established a network of military facilities across the Indian Ocean.

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Will South Sudan follow its northern neighbour’s lead?



As the world watches to see whether President Trump accepts the US election results, few have noticed thatcivil war is looming in Ethiopia, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he was sending troops to the Tigray province. This imperils not only Africa’s second most populous state but its neighbours, Sudan and South Sudan, as well.

Sudan has had a good run recently and is in a better position to weather any regional conflict. In a surprise movelast month, President Trump announced Sudan’s removal from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SST)in exchange for normalising relations with Israel. The US is understood to have sweetened the deal with a raft of economic and political incentives, including humanitarian assistance and high-level trade delegations. It would also support Sudan in its discussions with international finance institutions on economic and debt relief.

Since the toppling of President Bashir in 2019, the new transitional government, led by Prime Minister Hamdok, has focused on reviving Sudan’s economy and managing its $60bn debt burden. Hamdok faces a severe economic crisis, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, high inflation and the worst flooding in decades, that has affected more than 800,000 people and destroyed homes and large tracts of farmland just before the harvest. Food, bread and medicine are in short supply.

Thesanctions removal means that Sudan can now expect substantial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bankand unlock investment into its fledgling economy.

This is good news for Sudan. But where does it leave its neighbour, South Sudan?

The international community had high hopes for South Sudan when it announced independence in 2011. But its optimism was misplaced. It never understood the Sudanese conflict that began with British colonialism and erupted after the British left in 1956. It wasn’t just a war between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudanese rebels. Nor was it a fight between the Islamic North and the Christian South. It was a fight over resources and power.

South Sudan continues to fight. After its first post-independence civil war in 2013 and its endless cycle of violence and retribution, South Sudan is now as unstable as it was before it seceded from Sudan. To accommodate the different factions and keep old military men in power, the South Sudanese government and bureaucracy is peopled with those loyal to the former rebels.

Few have the skills needed to manage the country properly. They have squandered their oil opportunity, through mismanagement and corruption. With falling oil growth demand, oil is unlikely to remaina sustainable revenue source. This will challenge the South Sudanese economy which is 90% reliant on oil.

South Sudan is also facing multiple sanctions. In 2014, the international communityimposed travel bans and asset freezes, as well as an arms embargo. In 2018, the EU designated sanctions against individuals involved in serious human rights violations, alarmed  by “the outbreak of a destructive conflict between the Government of South Sudan and opposition forces in December 2013.” Most recently, the US added First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai to its Global Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in the disappearance and deaths of human rights lawyer Samuel Dong Luak and SPLM-IO member Aggrey Idry.

If US foreign policy towards Sudan was driven by religious and ideological interests in the 1990s and 2000s, what we are now seeing is a shift to transactional diplomacy. There is no reason to think that President Biden would change course.

South Sudan is watching closely. It may be why it has instructed a US lobbying  firm to allegedly lobby for their own sanctions removal. It is also why it welcomed a peace deal between Sudan and five rebel groups in September, paving the way for increased oil export cooperation with its neighbour. 

But stability in the youngest African state is fragile. Even with a recently signed peace agreement between former foes, President Kiir and Vice-President Machar, violence is always lurking. South Sudan is plagued with the same environmental challenges of flooding and poor harvests.  The fighting in Ethiopia will not help. 

As South Sudan looks to the North, it will see a New Sudan, unshackled by the weight of its history and benefitting from international goodwill. Will this encourage South Sudan to look forward instead of back? Or will it unleash demons from the past? 

Let’s hope that the international community pulls itself away from Trump’s horror show and starts paying attention to East Africa. It may be a long winter.

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