President Donald Trump announced Dec. 10 that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Trump’s official proclamation states that “as of today, the United States recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory.” The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump’s vaunted “Abraham Accords,” which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his “historic decision” to sign the deal, and pledged a “very warm peace” between the two countries.
A “very warm” relationship between Israel and Morocco would indeed be appropriate, as both nations are illegally occupying the territory of a colonized Arab people. Until Trump’s proclamation, not one country on Earth has recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara, which it seized after Spain withdrew from its colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975. Some 60 countries recognize the exile government that has been declared over Western Sahara by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of the territory’s Sahrawi Arab people. This government, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is based in the massive refugee camp at Tindouf, just over the Algerian border.
Responding to Trump’s move, the SADR noted the irony that it came on International Human Rights Day, and four days before the 60th anniversary of UN General Assembly Resolution 1514, “On the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.” The SADR statement condemned “in the strongest possible terms the decision taken by the outgoing US President Donald Trump to recognise that which Morocco does not possess, namely ‘sovereignty over Western Sahara’… The position announced by Trump constitutes a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and its resolutions and the precepts of international legality. It hampers the efforts of the international community to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between the Sahrawi Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco. It also comes in the wake of the rupture by the Moroccan occupying state of the ceasefire as a result of its blatant aggression on 13 November 2020.”
After a years-long truce between Morocco and the Polisario Front, fighting broke out again on that day, as Moroccan forces moved to clear a contested enclave within the UN-patrolled buffer zone that divides the territory.
Trump’s statement also stipulates that “the United States will encourage economic and social development with Morocco, including in the Western Sahara territory, and to that end will open a consulate in the Western Sahara territory, in Dakhla, to promote economic and business opportunities for the region.” The coastal town of Dakhla is the location recently chosen by US-based Soluna Technologies for a massive wind farm to power bitcoin mining operations—leading to accusations of “conflict bitcoins.” (Haaretz, Western Sahara Resource Watch, Sahara Press Service)
Just two days before Trump’s announcement, the African Union held a virtual summit on addressing the continent’s ongoing conflicts. Speaking at the 14th Extraordinary Summit on Silencing the Guns, Namibia’s Vice President Nangolo Mbumba called for “ridding the continent from vestiges of colonialism; the Sahrawis for instance should be accorded their inalienable right to self-determination and national independence.” (SPS) Since South Africa’s 1990 withdrawal from Namibia, Western Sahara has been Africa’s last colonized territory.
Photo: Kirby Gookin via Western Sahara Resource Center