An international expert team has shed light on the risks the American proposal to extend the MINURSO mandate would have had not only on the political process seeking to settle the Western Sahara conflict but also on the security and stability of the whole region. Pundits Alex MacKenzie (University of Salford), Dustin Dehez (Global Governance Institute), and Daniel Novotny (Global Europe) have explained the risks underlying the U.S proposal in a recent briefing paper entitled "United States' U.N. Proposal and Policy on Western Sahara: A Dead-End?”. The three experts described as most “surprising” Washington’s proposal to the UN to expand the MINURSO mandate to include human rights monitoring in Western Sahara and in the Polisario-controlled Tindouf camps.
“The U.S. proposal was all the more surprising as the terrorist threat is endangering the region more than ever,” say the document authors. The expansion of the U.N. mandate would have exacerbated tension “in the context of the deep-rooted mistrust between Morocco on the one hand and Algeria and the Polisario Front on the other,” they add. Had the US proposal been endorsed by the UN, it would have ultimately trapped the MINURSO in an endless chain of mutual accusations of human rights abuses by both Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, and put off the conflict settlement indefinitely. The experts, recalling the recent warnings voiced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who has said that the ongoing conflict in Mali threatens to spill over into the Western Sahara, point out that “the Malian crisis is but an instance of what extremists and terrorists can do, when the central power is weakened and the army is disorganized. Mali also provides additional evidence, if need be, that a weak state can easily descend into civil war and become a breeding ground for terrorism.” Also, the paper deplores the lack of progress on the Western Sahara, one of the most divisive issues on the geopolitical landscape of North Africa that has already been going on for over 30 years and recalls that the closing of the border between Morocco and Algeria since 1994, “hampers all efforts to foster economic and security cooperation between the two countries and in the region in general.”