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Why Is Western Sahara Moroccan ? July 13, 2010

Posted by saharanews in Uncategorized.
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Western Sahara has been part and parcel of Morocco dating back to the nomadic, semi-nomadic to the most recent sedentarisation of the mixed people of the Sanhaja Amazigh, Arabs and black Africans who unified under the direct rule of the Moroccan authorities, at least since the XIth  century under the Amazigh Almoravid Empire followed by that of the Almohads of the post-modern Arab-Muslim period, extending from Niger, Mali, reaching to the Ghana Empire, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Portugal and Spain. It is this Muslim period which is the root of its problems as Spain could never forget or forgive the reign of the Amazigh Empire over Spain, a similar resentment felt by successive Algerian governments since they became an independent state in 1962. But Spain was able to forget its massacres during the Reconquista, as Algeria was able to backtrack on its agreements with Morocco. European ambition on colonialism started with Christopher Columbus in 1492 and concentrated on pillaging the Americas before it turned to Asia and Africa in the XIXth  century and the Spanish one was the most violent and intolerant of all, still carrying with it the venom of the Reconquista, not only of its actions in Morocco but also in its dealing with South America and the development of the concept of the ‘theory of humans without a soul’, pre-dating Hitler by more than 400 years.

Spanish fears stem from witnessing the crushing defeat suffered by Portugal at the Oued el Makhazine at Ksar el Kebir in 1578 at the hands of the Almohads King Abdel Malik, leading to Spain and Portugal forming a short-lived union of the two kingdoms under Philip II of Spain, and by the treaty of Lisbon of 1 January 1668 when the King of Portugal ceded Ceuta to King Carlos II of Spain, though Melilla was taken by Spain in 1497. There was a time of respite for the Moroccan army until the Tetuan aggression which Spain with its allies organised. Conflict with the Rif was to take a serious turn on the first Rif war when Spain suffered a major defeat in the hands of the Rif people from 1893 to 1894 when the whole Spanish army was crushed and there followed several lost battles in 1909 and as reinforcement increased an agreement with the people there was reached and Spain lost over 2,517 dead when the conflicts ended around the region of Melilla in 1910. The more serious defeat Spain had found difficult to accept; with wounds still fresh, feeling humiliated worldwide, was when their army was wiped out during the first encounter with Abdelkrim in the third Rif War of 1920 without this time, the treachery and the military assistance of the French or the British. The Spaniards had to take their revenge on the Rif people by gassing them with the military support of the French army during the 1925 fourth Rif war, leading to the exile of Abdelkrim in 1926. Spain so far escaped any war damage, condemnation or compensation for using gas in the Rif. As for the Sahara the conflicts continued until Spain was only able to assure certain success in 1958 when the French military joined them against the Moroccan and Sahraoui ALN. Morocco got back Tarfaya Strip in 1958 and Sidi Ifni in 1969.

The humiliated Spaniards in retreat from America rebounded on Morocco and never stopped its aggression against the Moroccans and continues to harass and fight them to the present, hence the sensitivity of relations between the two countries, the show of force Spain is always ready to show as the deliberate out of proportion Spanish aggression over the Leila or Perejil Island demonstrated in 2002. The Rif war has not yet been finished and the big showdown remains to be seen with Ceuta, Melilla, Jaaffarines and many other smaller islands around the Moroccan coast. The new Ksar Essaghir Navy Base and the Tangier Med are seen both as economic and military threat, a fact which Spain does not hide and to which it is hostile as they impinge on the Algeciras port activities and threatening the hegemony of Spanish navy on the Mediterranean, on the one hand, and a military threat facing the Moroccan navy as a source of confrontation, rather than complementary to control drugs, human trafficking, harraga, counter band of all types, terrorism, in short, the security of the Mediterranean, which the Moroccan government insists on, on the other.

Spain started its second Reconquista in 1476 when it took over the Canary Islands and in 1478 invaded southern Morocco when Garcia Herrera, with instructions from the King of Spain, arrived on the shores of the Sahara and built a wooden shack there naming it Fort de Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña. This outpost was later completely destroyed and obliterated by the Amazigh Saadyeen dynasty and the Sahraoui people of the region in 1524, leaving no trace of the Spanish shack. This outpost is going to be the beginning of the Moroccan-Spanish conflict over the question of the Sahara up to today, as many fundamentalist catholic and fascist elements resented Moroccan historical past and the Moorish Empire dominating over Iberia. Jabal Tarik, though now under the British, is there to remind them of the Amazigh General Tarik Ibn Ziyad, el Tuerto, and the first Governor General of Muslim Spain. Spanish ambition on Morocco was never in doubt and in 1860, with the help of the French and the British, it engaged in a fierce combat in Tetuan when the Moroccan army lost that battle, Spain drew a treaty imposing war damages far beyond the means that the Moroccan economy could afford, reminiscent of what was to emerge in the post-World War One, after the Treaty of Versailles when the Germans were forced to work harder to pay the French for war damages and this led to a rise in German nationalism and to the Second World War. History repeats itself, doesn’t it? Morocco was forced to pay 100 million francs to Spain as well as give it a piece of land in the Western Sahara. Tarfaya was chosen arbitrarily for the lost Santa Cruz, which never was and Tarfya was nowhere nearer to the original Santa Cruz shack. Morocco became a pray for colonialism as Britain and France increased their incursions, and England for a short period was able to secure a commercial post near Tarfaya when it sent in Donald Mackenzie, a Scotsman, to set up Casa Mar in 1878 only to be negotiated between the Sultan Abdelaziz of Morocco and England in 1895, thus recognising Moroccan sovereignty over the region, and Mackenzie received £50,000 in compensation to leave the Moroccan shore. All these elements of historical fact point to the sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara and the Tindouf region when Algeria was partly Moroccan since the Almoravids, partly Ottoman and became fully French since 1830 with hardly any role left for her in history only as an occupied territory for which the Beni Snassen paid heavily coming to the aid of Amir Abdelkader and post-Abdelkader extending to the FLN and to the Algerian refugees. The French, on their part, tried to infiltrate Morocco on several occasions since their occupation of Algeria and were in pursuit of the Beni Snassen when they entered Algeria to fight alongside the Emir. After they lost the battle they retreated to Morocco and Abdelkader followed when his army was overcome by the superiority of the French firepower. As a refugee in Morocco he was helped by the Beni Snassen and fought the French at the battle of Isly River crossing the city of Oujda in August 1844. Though Abdelkader chose voluntary exile in 1847, the involvement of the Beni Snassen continued till the French finally occupied the region of Oujda, Ain Sfa, Ahfir, Berkane and Tafoghalt in 1907 under the command of Lyautey and remained there till independence in 1956. The 1884 Berlin Conference among the Europeans gave the green light to colonise Africa and Morocco was divided in accordance to the spheres of influence and hence the Spaniards seized the opportunity to take over the Sahara. All that remained was the tactical approach on how to gradually infiltrate Morocco. The occupiers started to penetrate different regions of the kingdom and as a result, several wars were fought over the territory in the Sahara, in the name of the Sultan, engaging the local people against the new insurgents. Their attempts continued to 1901 and several battles were fought in 1902 when France was also involved and eventually occupied Casablanca with Oujda as early as 1907 as a result of the 1906 Algeciras Conference. This gave rise to the 7 April 1907 French-German Algeciras Agreement on controlling Morocco’s Banking, Customs and Policing. France engaged its army in different parts of southern Morocco in 1908-09 occupying the Adrar region. This military engagement in southern Morocco, after Oujda and Casablanca, was a logistical political map that prompted the root cause of the eventual Fes Treaty of the Protectorate of 1912, which led to the division of Morocco into a French Zone, extending from the Moulouya River in the North–East from the Confines of Saidia on the Mediterranean within the Berkane region to Larache in the West on the Atlantic, extending south to the northern borders of present Western Sahara, and a Spanish Zone in the rest of Northern Morocco and the eventual and gradual occupation of the Western Sahara as a whole, in the south. This division was not part of the Protectorate Treaty of Fes and France reached an agreement with Spain without any consultation with the Sultan of Morocco. Nevertheless, the Western Sahara was still engaged in wars with Spain and remained under the influence of the Moroccan Sultan and his authority throughout history. The two regions occupied by Spain, like all regions of Morocco, were run by their local people in the name of the sultan. In post-1939 it was administrated by Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri, under the Khalif of the Sultan both based in Tetuan, and also Maa El A’inain family, from the Sahara and a long list of Sahrawi Moroccan governors who paid their due respect by the traditional Bay’a to show their loyalty to the Sultan of Morocco during A’shura, the Prophet’s birthday celebration. All these events are documented in Rabat, Madrid, Paris and personal libraries of the families of the many people involved. So, in effect, Morocco’s present autonomy reflects the system already in existence since the beginning of Bled Siba and Bled el Makhzen and the principle of el Bay’a to the centre, where local people dealt with their own affairs at regional level; that is regional autonomy and Moroccan sovereignty at the centre in Rabat in the modern understanding of Central democratic government, based on Shura with the locals and Bay’a to Amir el Mouminine the Commander of the Faithful, according to Si Mohammed Lahbabi.

So, in effect and contrary to Algeria, until the first years of the twentieth century, no European nation had been successful in establishing more than isolated trading posts on Moroccan territory, thus avoiding western occupation by rejecting any direct co-operation.[1] Morocco was modernising its army, which was engaged against European infiltration both Spanish and Portuguese, with the help of Turkish advisers and especially the British captain, ‘Caid’ Maclean who joined the Moroccan army in 1877 as a major, promoted to colonel and general commanding the Sultan’s forces, with the title of ‘Caid’. He was knighted in England as Sir Harry “Caid” Maclean in 1901 and he later returned to Britain where he died in 1920. He modernised the Moroccan army and used all that was modern at the time and were ready to participate in the First World War where Maclean lost his son and many of the Moroccans he trained. In effect, Morocco reversed its previous policy and started to look east for its modernisation rather than north, as it did with Carlos II to repulse the Ottoman expansion from Algeria to Morocco.[2] As a result of this modernisation, the many attempts made by the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, the British, and others to penetrate the interior of the country, all failed. By 1900 Portugal and Britain had withdrawn entirely from Morocco, and only Spain, with its Mediterranean presidios of Ceuta and Melilla and the Western Sahara on the Atlantic, actually possessed any territory there. It was only after the 1904 entente cordiale agreed between France and the UK, following the 1884 Berlin Conference, that Morocco came under the influence of France, and Egypt under the British, an arrangement which upset the Germans creating the Tangier Crisis when Emperor Guillaume II disembarked in that city on 31 March 1905 raising the temperature leading to the 1906 Algeciras Conference gathering twelve European states and Theodore Roosevelt was the mediator. The Germans were also present and were angered by the outcome which recognised French and Spanish influence over Morocco; this led to the Second Agadir Crisis or the Panther Sprung of 1911. All this was in fact about territory and not about any European altruism and finally France made a deal with Germany and was given territories in the Congo and Cameroun, the original source of corruption. The 1912 Protectorate Treaty signed with France changed the history of Morocco with Tangier being internationalised in 1925, and ruled over the next 30 years by a series of occupiers including the Portuguese, the Spanish, the British,[3] and the Americans who also acquired there their first ever possession outside the United States.

No occupation of Western Sahara:

Contrary to some short-sighted views, there is no occupation of the Western Sahara, but the unification of the Southern regions, just like the Tarfaya Strip or Sidi Ifni, to the mother country Morocco. The return of the region was established with the Jema’â, after the signing of the handover of the administration of the region to the Kingdom of Morocco by Spain in 1975. It was Spain that insisted that Morocco sought the approval of the Jema’â, which the Kingdom did and received allegiance from the representatives of the Southern regions, in accordance with the Moroccan tradition and law. There is, however, the question of the Tindouf region and its return to Morocco sooner or later, as the accord reached was breached by Algerian interference and bad neighbourhood policy and the subject had not been submitted to a national referendum which the Moroccan people have the right to demand before accepting the ratification of such accord. That’s the rub for the Algerians, in addition to having failed to have any legitimate government to run the country since independence in 1962, in spite of billions of dollars coming from oil and gas, and one wonders where all that money is gone, if not to build minarets in Switzerland, but the Swiss are not happy with that idea, but the banks are welcoming and obliging to keep the money safe.

Algeria as a new independent state only emerged in 1962 after centuries of foreign rule from Morocco, the Ottoman or the French. As a new state, it failed in its bid to establish a legitimate government since independence and jealously envied the success of Moroccan history, its political and economic breakthroughs being one of the three emerging economies in the world after China and India, given that Morocco has far less resources than Algeria in terms of oil and gas. Morocco has the highest GDP in the region when excluding these two commodities. Having failed to run their own country they started interfering with others. They found the so called Polisario accommodating and were also driven by self-interest and hashasheen idealism seeking power and wealth, and happy to be the stooges at the beck and call of the failed Algerian regime, rather than being their own masters in their country Morocco. Morocco has always had its opposition and people fought tyranny and ‘les années de plomb’ with courage and sacrifice thus emerging victorious and in control of their own destiny and not under the dictatorship of the Algerian regimes, resorting to blackmail and cowardly exploiting the victims of the Tindouf camps. It is a fact of history that there has never been a Western Sahara State and there could never be such entity at the expense of Moroccan sovereignty. If Algeria is incapable to run its Sahara and is so eager to create a state within a state it could do so in the Moroccan Tindouf and the Sahara Français the French created and Morocco refused to adhere to, otherwise we would be talking today about a Touareg Saharan Republic and deservedly so as the Algerian government failed to control all its territories, except for the Algérie utile, reminiscent of colonial policies. Moroccan Sahara is, was and will always be part and parcel of the Kingdom of Morocco. No one can seriously think that the EU or the US are dumb enough to even contemplate such idea and agree to the creation of another failed state to add to the Sahel region and to the Algerian security fiasco and daily violence it suffers from reaching the heart of its security services. Algeria only remains viable because of it oil and gas wealth and without them the West or the Africans supporting that regime would not think twice about abandoning them all together. Foreigners and businesses are already a great security risk and they seldom visit and travel into the country other than the stricter limits of business with a security as tight as that in Iraq or Afghanistan. Only the Chinese are gambling with their lives and for ideological and historical reasons are less a target than the Westerners. The Algerian people are living through a nightmare, a situation that is comparable or worse than the one encountered in the Sahel region, Yemen or Somalia. Algeria has failed to control its own country, plagued with terror and repression, and there are thousands of Moroccans suffering in the Tindouf and other camps, children being sent to Cuba or kept away from their families, adults are guarded 24 hours a day, though around 600 Sahrawi Moroccan harraga have managed to escape to their mother country from March 2010 to the present, the rest are separated from their relatives and loved ones, impatiently waiting for the final reunion with their families in this world and not the next.

Furthermore, the hypocrisy of a Maghreb Union which never was and if the Maghreb Union is about unity and the original principle of federalism, it is surprising that instead of working for that unity, Algeria is promoting division. It is the weakness of the regime that is driving it to acts of despair and creating scapegoats to cover its political and economic failure and the squandering of the Algerian wealth. There are enough cowboy states already in existence and to add another one under the influence of the Algerians would be a suicide; a roaming al Qaida du Maghreb (IQAM) in direct control from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, through the Sahel and the Sudan. Algeria failed to control its own borders and 11 of its gendarmes were recently slaughtered on the Mali border and others taken hostages; it is the worst county in Africa in terms of internal insecurity, only comparable to Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia or Darfur. The sooner the Polisario decided to accept the Moroccan proposal the better it would be for the victims of the Tindouf and of other camps in Algeria. The Polisario leadership, if one can call it that, is no more than political pone to the Algerian regime, with some exceptions and silent groups who are waiting for the return home to Morocco. The rest are doing very well and living in luxury as opposed to their victims living in squalid and inhuman conditions, restricted to the camps. Contrary to some short sighted individuals driven by their vanity, the Western Sahara is not an annexation but a return of the region to its mother country, as the return of Alsace Loraine to France, and its people are united with their brothers and sisters who share the same history, the same vernacular languages and standard Arabic, the same religion as other regions of the Kingdom, in short, they are part and parcel of the land, the people and history of the Kingdom of Morocco. There is no further action needed to be taken, and no apologies to be given except for the immediate application of the autonomy as soon as the commission had finished its job and had agreed on the modality the regional autonomy should take and its application throughout the kingdom. This is frightening for the dictatorship of the old guards in Algeria who are finding it hard to swallow the inevitable outcome, but they should not worry as their time has come and soon they would be switching off and no one is eternal and may peace be on them. It is unfortunate that they still reminiscing on the defeat of 1963 and that of the Sahara and these events make it, understandably, difficult for them to accept reconciliation and let the bygones, bygones and start a new page. Their pride is compromised and instead they are creating in their minds their own Berlin Wall and cannot change that. And why should they? They have abused every principle of human rights and are doing very well, thank you very much!

Deeds Speak Louder than Words:

The shameless actions of successive Algerian governments is deplorable and Morocco is being paid back for its kindness when the Moroccans fought for the Algerians since Emir Abdelkader’s took arms against the French and beyond his voluntary exile to France in 1847. His defeat brought shame on Morocco as Algerian capitulation opened up the border to French imperialism into the country. Nevertheless, Moroccan assistance continued throughout and Moroccans shared everything with the Algerian refugees during the Franco-Algerian war from 1954 to 1962. To remind Bouteflika of how much the Moroccan suffered for Algeria as he was a witness to all the events that took place in his adopted country. Just to highlight how much the Moroccans in the region of Oujda, Ahfir, Saidia, Berkane, Figuig and the rest helped the Algerian cause, and the direct support given to the FLN and to Bouteflika and his parents, who grew up and studied in Oujda, or Boumediene’s frequent stay in Borj Ouaoulout FLN military camp, in Berkane. Morocco was rewarded in 1975 by mass expulsion of Moroccans from Algeria without any notice or allowed to take anything with them, thus losing everything they worked for, in some cases, for many generations; this is no different to what the Nazis did to the Jews or the Zionists did and still do to the Palestinians. Who needs enemies when you have such friends and neighbours as the Algerian government? It is unfair to say Algerian people who themselves have been suffering for decades under different repressive regimes and insecurity. The Algerian government also down tracked on the agreement reached by the Provisional Algerian government in exile/the FLN with Morocco, before their independence in 1962, on the question of Tindouf and the Moroccan-Algerian borders. This is also a cause of concern for Moroccans who feel that they had not been consulted and there should have been a referendum to resolve the issue and hence the ratified accord is considered by many as nil and void. This adds fuel to the fire and it would be alarmingly dangerous to wish for or to contemplate a war, but it is also wrong to renew the Minurso Mission as it is prolonging the suffering of many people imprisoned in the Tindouf and other camps. It is a source of violence, encouraging corruption, exploiting children and separating families. Algeria is spending 15% of its GDP on arms, which is considerable compared to Morocco’s 5%, a fraction of that of an oil and gas producer. Algerian government arrogance has been going on for too long and should be checked, and if war is the only option and so be it. They have been defeated again and again and the Moroccans are well prepared and ready to confront them any time, even though the Moroccan choice has always been that of settling any dispute by peaceful means; Algerian leaders do not understand that language. They are still dreaming of Stalin and not aware that the world had moved on and the Cold War has ended and the choice that remains is between a hot war and peace.

Dr. HUSSEIN BEN KIRAT

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