Western Sahara’s potential sovereignty in jeopardy
The Sahrawi people of Western Sahara are once again political pawns between major powers attempting to determine their fate. A narrow strip of land south of Morocco bordering the Atlantic Ocean has been for 25 years trying to gain a say in a referendum about its future status. Once a Spanish colony, Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975, stranding thousands of refugees in desert camps. The United Nations (UN) brokered an agreement in 1991 leading to a fragile truce. Morocco’s neighbor, Algeria, has been hosting the government in exile of the Polisario Front, an armed separatist group fighting for Western Sahara’s independence.
US President Trump has intervened by endorsing Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara, something that no other major power has done, rather than leaving its sovereignty up to a referendum among its inhabitants. Nabeel Khoury, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council wrote, “Once again, Trump cedes territory (an executive action on his part without a debate in Congress) which he does not own without even a discussion with, let alone an agreement from, the Sahrawi people who have fought long and hard for self-determination.” Ambassador John Bolton agrees that “Trump was wrong to abandon thirty years of US policy on Western Sahara just to score a fast foreign policy victory.”
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