The UN Mission in Western Sahara Can Be Next Target of Terrorist Groups?
ALI EL AALAOUI
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS EXPERT
Since 1960, the international community has insisted that a referendum must take place in Western Sahara in order can people of this territory determine its final status in democratic choice. In this context the UN peace plan take place in 1991 when he was been signed by both Morocco and Polisario (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de ORO) .The resolution 690(1991) decided to establish the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara called (MINURSO), in accordance with the secretary General’s report S/22464 which further detailed the implementation plan.
However, the settlement plan still in delay, and the referendum in Western Sahara has been blocked by Morocco because he want to introduce into the eligible electoral thousands bodies of Moroccans to change the electoral structure. This situation of blockade remains until our days without issue. Such disagreements create a dangerous threaten for peace and stability in Maghreb region while the MINURSO his role still to remain confined in the safeguard of ceasefire between the two belligerents.
The land of Western Sahara covered area of 284 000 square Kilometers, it lies between the 20th and 30th parallel straddling the Tropic of Cancer. It is bordered to the north by Morocco, by Algeria to the east, Mauritania to the south-east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The Polisario Front version SADR( Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic ) exercises its sovereignty on 20% of the territory while the Moroccan authority takes possession of 80% of western Sahara. It is therefore in the center of the Maghreb and very close to the Sahel. Consequently, it will be threaten by all kinds of terrorist groups activated in both Maghreb and Sahel. So any studies must take in consideration what happen in Sahel and in Maghreb mainly for now in North Mali and Libya.
In the face of this very dangerous situation the UN mission in Western Sahara MINURSO could be an unavoidable object for the terrorist and jihadist groups. Notably in regards to an increasing spread of Jihadist presence in Sahel after the France intervention in North of Mali. In this context the Jihadist and terrorist groups seems to seeking a new hub to maintain the Jihadist ideology and propaganda, without forgotten that ISIS in Libya seek other new road to reach Europe. We thus need to understand better the factors encouraging this presence and estimate how they could impact the future solution of Western Sahara negotiation between Polisario Front and Morocco?
In this post, we shall discuss first the factors producing the presence of those terrorist groups, as well as the risk who threaten peace in Western Sahara, in order to see the plausible solutions to avoid the Malian or the Libyan scenario.
It is clear after the attack in October 2011 inside the refugees campus in western Algeria Tindouf (where about 160000.00 Sahraouian still waiting for referendum) when three coopering of ONG working to help refugees (two spaniel and one Italian), released after almost two years of jail are attributed to terrorism of a jihadist orientation, practiced by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb(AQIM), but also by the Movement for Unicity and Jihad in West Africa(MUJWA) and both the organizations established a new entity called al Mourabitoun . You can see a new era of terrorism in Maghreb has been inaugurated by this attack in Western Sahara refugee’s camps.
In this context, the factors that have a direct impact on the situation of the UN mission in Western Sahara can be summarized succinctly in the following elements:
One of the major factors, the spreading use of banknotes and many types of currency easily in Western Sahara in the Maghreb and in the Sahel region without passing by Bank, it’s a normal practice in region for commercial business.
Furthermore, the terrorist groups provide money and financial means to their activity by securing ample funds from participating in illegal immigration, transporting African migrants from the Horn of Africa in collaboration with African gangs anxious to cling to the backs of young Africans, who want to find a better life in Europe. These reinforce those groups to use and to produce counterfeit money.
Moreover, it seems indisputable the evidence that terrorist groups in Sahel region and Maghreb are involved in illicit trade like the transport of cigarettes from the Gambia to the Western Sahara and later you can find it in the streets of Casablanca in Morocco. You can imagine how many countries are targeting for Traficant’s and terrorist allies.
Apparently, the lack of security in the borders of the entire region with the lack of cooperation between all those states, encourage smugglers, Traficant’s and terrorist groups to attain a fertile field in order to develop their illegal actions. Added to this the several conflicts devastate the region, the civil war in Lybia and North Mali who led to parallel institution within the same state creating a big division in political and economical institution
Also, a new gap of inequality most notably in the economic domain has generated a widening class division between small ordinary wealth elite at the top, who are the great beneficiaries in Western Sahara, and a rather larger precariat at the bottom, who lack economic resources. Thus poor people will find way to smugglers and Traficant’s and by the way they will be between the arms of terrorist groups one day. The indices of development in the entire region it’s at low level comparing to others countries.
You can add the lack of democracy in the entire region including in both morocco and refugee’s campus, these situation can be use it by terrorist groups to recruit much people to embrace those organizations. The atmosphere of early 2011, where across the Maghreb the uprising of people seeking democracy still remain because the chirurgical solutions provided by the governments has put again today all the Maghreb in a delicate situation, where high-intensity demonstrations threatening the stability of the regimes in place as what is happening now and for seven months in Northern Morocco in the Rif region.
So that was the context and the direct factors, then can you imagine the following of the events? For that reason you must see how you can manage the risk of terrorism who threatens today the mission of UN in Western Sahara.
2- The Necessity to Manage the Risk of Terrorism in Western Sahara
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continues to contain some of the highest-risk countries in the world, with heightened political risk and elevated levels of political violence (for example, in Iraq, Syria and Yemen) spilling over to neighbors, and undermining trade and tourism.
The analysis of risk can be viewed to identify and to measure the degree of terrorist risk through the level of the threat and the vulnerability in order to predict how to save human life and to decrease damage.
The barometer of terrorist risk in Western Sahara can be studying through the following elements.
The MINURSO still a weak level of security due to its very small staff. Otherwise, the Security Council doesn’t give enough importance to that mission since there is no blood or war. So why leave aside the other aspects of security? The lack to interest in terrorist risk management can be in future short time the epicenter of the mission. Indeed, you must identify the terrorist planning and even more crucial to identify the new and emerging trends. The role of social media gives the extremist more ability to act.
The intention of terrorist group activate in Maghreb and Sahel was to carry much more attacks and rapt against the west interest, the UN missions in order to have an impact in a world scale to achieve the mainly goal to show they are in other part of the Atlantic façade by approaching the American territory unlike the terrorist groups in the Middle East. This risk has not yet been taken by USA or UN as really threat. For that reason, UN mission in Western Sahara MINURSO can managed this risk by increasing the existing UN staff.
Moreover, UN staff should be involved in the development program in the Western Sahara region to establish direct human relations with the populations of the Tindouf camps and those under the Moroccan occupation in order to build trust. This can prevent the infiltration of jihadists into its populations.
In 1985 Morocco completed the construction of a sand wall along the border of Western Sahara in order to prevent the fighters of the Polisario Front from fighting against the Moroccan armed forces. During the war of the Western Sahara the forces of the front Polisario have inflicted to the Moroccan army a heavy loss of materials and personnel. However, if this wall reduced the incursions of the Polisario forces it has a big impacted in Western Sahara people separated between two communities like that which separates the two Koreans. So why the MINURSO doesn’t open a way between the both sides to decrease the risk of infiltration, taken in mind the permeability of the wall where smugglers, cannabis, drogues and illegal immigrant skip without any problem. Consequently in time of cease fire this wall represents a symbol of impotence and a factor of danger. This risk is still far from being supported by the MINURSO mission.
To avoid the UN mission in Western Sahara to be under the fire of terrorist groups, you can implement the following remedy:
First of all the democratic government is the only key as a barrier to inhibit terrorism, at least in the long run. For example, free elections though are simply one element of the democratic process to emphasize and to establishing the rule of law who should be the first priority.
The UN must backing the initial solution to hold a referendum far from any other geopolitical solution in order to maintain peace and stability not only in Western Sahara but in the whole region. The question of respect of international law without any double standards’ would show to the terrorist groups and Jihadist that there is no other alternative then law in the conduct of international affairs, and a good sign to the people in the region of Maghreb and Sahel they can trust UN for the future growth and programmers.
Western Sahara must take much importance in international agenda then before, the main reason the proximity of Europe and his large Atlantic facade of American interest in the Atlantic Sea can be a source of not only worry but also a direct threat, if one imagines the scenarios of using the fishing boats and zodiac boats that are within the reach of the terrorist groups.
The need to go beyond the sovereign’s reading of each state included the SADR for another reading of geopolitics cooperation between all states to found operational security away from foreign interventions that are sometimes used by terrorists to preach jihad within the Muslim society (the countries of the Maghreb and the Sahel are predominantly Muslim).
In the face of armed groups that play on the borders, the regionalism securities proves an adequate solution, while not associating with the group of the Sahel the whole countries of the Maghreb as well as the RASD to close the door to the game of the terrorists.
The cooperation between Polisario and Morocco against the terrorist groups can inaugurate the final road to peace in Western Sahara by encouraging direct negotiations between the two belligerents. No doubt, the resulting of this cooperation will impose a new area of peace in Western Sahara conflict. Can UN and Security Council Take steps in this direction before it will be too late.
In conclusion today the road to peace in Western Sahara it seems that it will pass through a military cooperation between the Moroccan army and the military forces of the SADR.
 Resolution 690(1991) of 29 April 1991
 Report by the Secretary- General S/22464 19 April 1991
 For more détails You Can Read the book of Michel GALY la guerre au Mali, comprendre la crise au Sahel et au Sahara : enjeux et zones d’ombre, Editions la Découverte, Paris, 2013.
 Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof and Manal Omar, “ stakeholders of Libya’s February 17 revolution” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 300, January 2012.
 In reference to the Almoravid Dynasty was a Berber imperial dynasty established an empire in the 11th century that stretched over the western Western Maghreb and El Andalus. The dynasty originated among the nomadic Berber tribes of the Sahara, traversing the territory between the Draa, the Niger and the Senegal rivers.
 Agency Ecofin in 21 march 2017 established the following World Rank of Maghreb states: Algeria 83, Tunisia 97, Libya 102, Morocco 123, Mauritania 157
 Borodzicz, Edward, Risk, crisis and security management, Edward Editor Chichester,: Wiley, 2005
 See the site of MINURSO: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minurso/facts.shtml, just 245 military personnel