The 2016 Appropriations Bill passed by Congress and signed today by President Obama once again requires that US aid to Morocco be used everywhere in the country, including in the Western Sahara. In its legislative report for the bill, Congress re-affirms their strong bipartisan support for longstanding US policy to support a negotiated solution to the dispute over the region based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, and encourages investment in Western Sahara by the US private sector:
[F]unds made available for assistance for Morocco shall also be made available for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara . . . The Committee remains concerned by the failure to resolve the longstanding dispute over the Western Sahara and the protracted refugee situation in the Polisario-run camps near Tindouf, Algeria. The Committee believes that the Secretary of State should pursue a negotiated settlement to the dispute, consistent with United States policy to support a solution to the issue based on a formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. These redoubled diplomatic efforts can lead to a realistic and lasting settlement, the completion of a UN Peacekeeping mission that has existed for more than twenty years, and a more stable region. The Committee also encourages the Administration to support private sector investment in the Western Sahara.
Three US administrations – Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama – and strong bipartisan majorities in Congress have supported autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for Western Sahara. In a Joint Statement after King Mohammed VI’s 2013 visit to Washington, DC, the King and President Obama pledged a “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara,” and over the past several decades, Morocco has invested billions of dollars in economic and social development in the area. The country has also recently launched a regionalization project to devolve political power to local and regional authorities throughout the country, including Western Sahara. And in a speech to the nation in November, the King announced a broad range of additional new development projects aimed at enhancing progress in Western Sahara and furthering its role as a hub for trade and investment in Africa, including an enhanced road network; airports to serve African destinations; “a rail link between Tangier and Lagouira to connect Morocco with the rest of Africa”; and a new economic development fund that will “support businesses and the social economy, generate steady income and create jobs, particularly for young people.”
“Both the US and Morocco have committed to improving the lives of the people of Western Sahara. Morocco has clearly put the dignity and wellbeing of the Sahrawis at the heart of its Western Sahara policy, and I am very pleased that the US government is supporting our oldest and most reliable ally in the region in its efforts to further the development of its Saharan provinces,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. “Providing financial aid and private investment there is the right thing to do.”