Morocco-Algeria: The New Strategy, is it Good Enough?

Morocco is not helping its sacred cause by asking Algeria to be part of the solution. Just as Morocco will never accept losing one inch of its Sahara, Algeria too will never allow itself to lose the fight against Morocco.

The Moroccan Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Mbarka Bouaida said that “Algeria is a direct party to the conflict over the Moroccan Sahara and should involve itself in the search for a solution to this problem.” Asking the Algerians to be part of the solution, and get actively involved in the negotiations, however, is nothing short of telling the Algerians to raise the white flag and admit that the conflict is between Morocco and Algeria, something the Algerians obviously will never do.

Besides, the Algerians are not in any position to give up any piece of the fight to the Moroccans. They have repeatedly stated that they have no interest in the Sahara, and their main concern is to see international law prevail. The Algerians don’t feel that they need Morocco, or even the Maghreb in general, economically. They believe that any Maghreb Union will only serve Morocco, and they instead favor dual agreements such as the preferential trade exchange agreement with Tunisia. It’s their way of keeping a firm hold on the economy.

Moroccan officials are not naïve when they make the statements above, those are merely tactics to place Algeria on the spot. But there is a problem with such tactics. They are simply outdated and have already been used by Morocco and they have not produced any positive result. The whole world knows that Algeria is the creator and the maintainer of the Polisario, what does Morocco gain from repeating something that is already known?

While these statements get picked up by the news media in both countries and are used for or against the other, it does not change the reality on the ground.

What Morocco needs to do is something it has not tried in the past: implementing the changes in the Sahara instead of asking its foes to change.

As much as I like Morocco’s foreign policy going on the offensive in the international arena, and inasmuch as aI think that this new direction taken by the king of Morocco is a good start, it is not enough to have an impact neither in the present nor in the future. We need more than challenging the Algerians in regard of the Kabylie region as was the case when the charge d’affaires of Morocco in Geneva, Hassan Boukili said that “Algeria systematically violates these rights and freedoms in Kabyle and Mozabite territories and in the Tindouf camps”

While it makes us feel good that Morocco is finally challenging the Algerians on the human rights issue, by pointing out that Algeria is no angel when it comes to human rights, and should correct the problem in their own backyard before asking Morocco to do so, it is not a deal breaker. We need to do and say things that have some serious impact and not be content with the tit for tat game.

Moroccan decision makers should aim for something drastic to change the course, and go for the knockout punch. I can think of no better punch than giving a real chance to the autonomy proposal that the state has championed but never had the will nor the courage to actually implement.

Morocco’s autonomy proposal calls for decentralizing authority to the people and institutions of the Western Sahara, so that they may manage their own affairs. Can you imagine the effects of a palpable autonomy on the region when people have their say without interference from the central government?

Sahraouis are tired of more of the same talk with no action. They have been hearing the same song for decades now, and they are still waiting for a lasting solution. As a matter of fact, all Moroccans are waiting. While the Algerian regime can afford to squander its oil revenues that could be used on the people of Algeria, Morocco does not have the luxury of matching Algeria’s big spending. We have other urgent needs.

As if the dispute with Morocco is not enough, the Algerians are getting deeply involved in the Malian and Libyan crisis. This is what a military regime does; it thrives on wars and conflicts.

In 2008, King Mohammed VI announced his intention to implement regionalization in the Western Sahara. Six years later, nothing has happened except for Algeria continuing to be the only hurdle to peace. Algeria is not the only obstacle; Morocco is also to blame for its lack of determination to solve the Western Sahara problem. Waiting on Algeria to have a change of heart is not a solution; this wishful thinking will never take place. I would be very surprised if the decision makers in Morocco are not already fully aware of this fact. The last presidential elections in Algeria should be a clear indicator that Algeria with Bouteflika or after him, will not change, not one iota!

One thing I have to credit the Moroccan authorities for, is that in the last few months, they have prevented some Polisario sympathizers paid by Algeria from entering the Western Sahara. We simply don’t have time to deal with these human rights defenders “wannabes.” Algeria has prevented this type of people from entering its territory for decades, and I do not see why Morocco has an open door policy to Morocco’s enemies disguised as human rights defenders. I commend Moroccan authorities for quashing the propaganda war that they were losing to the Polisario. The Algerians hosted the Polisario in Boumerdes to reignite this war, and so far, Moroccans are vigilant and not much is taking place to tip the balance in favor of the Polisario.

Salaheddine Mezouar, Mbarka Bouaida, Omar Hilale, and Hassan Boukili are doing a great job, and Moroccans following the Sahara dossier are fully aware of the magnitude of their work defending Morocco’s territorial integrity. This team should be supported to fend off the enemies of Morocco in the international arena, a place where the Algerians have been successful placing Morocco on the defense. This time, with this team, Morocco should have no problem defending the sacred cause against and unchangeable Algerian regime.