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Sahara returns to war

The long ceasefire in Western Sahara is finally ending.

Morocco, which has illegally occupied most of Western Sahara since 1975, broke the 1991 ceasefire on 12 November by sending military forces into a UN-patrolled buffer zone in the south.

Unarmed Sahrawi protesters had been blockading a major road, protesting against the illegal export of resources from Western Sahara.

Sahrawis have been protesting against the building of the road, which leads to a port in Mauritania, since 2016. The latest blockade in October seems to have been provoked by Morocco’s preparations to tarmac the rest of the road, increasing the flow of Sahrawi resources out of the country – through what Sahrawis see as an illegal border post.

Sending troops into the ‘Buffer Strip’ was a breach of ‘Military Agreement No 1’, agreed between Morocco, the UN and Western Sahara’s national liberation movement, Polisario, in December 1997.

Polisario has responded militarily in both the north and the south of the country.

According to the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), protests have broken out in important towns such as Laayoune and Smara, and human rights defenders have been arrested and beaten by the Moroccan security forces.

Topics: Western Sahara