The 45th anniversary of the founding of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or SADR, commemorated throughout the world on Feb. 28, 2021, was marked with words of defiance and solidarity rather than celebration. SADR is recognized as the legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara throughout much of the world — except, of course, within the occupied territory itself, where Morocco rules over the Sahrawian people with an iron fist. 2021’s annual remembrance was especially significant given two events of previous months: the November 2020 Moroccan breach of a ceasefire agreement, which has been in place since 1991, and the December announcement by then-President Trump that the United States would officially recognize Morocco’s “sovereignty” over the occupied territories. In a U.S. critique of colonial policies, Stephen Zunes noted that Trump’s deal supporting Moroccan annexation could only lead to “more global conflict.”
The Polisario Front, considered by Sahrawians and by the United Nations as the legitimate popular representative of the Western Saharan people, used the opportunity to declare that the “liberation struggle on hold since 1991” would be immediately resumed. Polisario representative to UN Ambassador Sidi Omar — working diplomatically but without governmental voting rights — reiterated that “The United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) as well as the European Union have never recognized Morocco’s forcible and illegal annexation of parts of Western Sahara…” Therefore, Omar asserted, “the question before the international community, in particular all peace- and justice-loving countries, comes down to this: Do they allow the rule of ‘might makes right’ to prevail in the case of Western Sahara, and thus allow the Moroccan military occupation of parts of the territory to continue with impunity, or do they defend the fundamental principles underpinning the existing international order and thus implement UN resolutions on the issue?”
For their part, 100 leading Sahrawian organizations — from within the occupied territories, the Algerian-based refugee camps and the diaspora — joined together as soon as President Joe Biden was inaugurated to call on the new president to “take an honorable stance that corrects the improper mistake of your predecessor.” Careful not to offend the U.S. government nor to contradict any formal strategies of their own quasi-governmental representatives, this grand and diverse coalition of groups addressed the United States as having a particular “international responsibility… and vanguard role.” For its part, Polisario announced that it blames the whole of the United Nations for the “political deadlock” in the decades-long efforts for full freedom and decolonization.
“The question before the international community, in particular all peace- and justice-loving countries, comes down to this: Do they allow the rule of ‘might makes right’ to prevail in the case of Western Sahara?”
Civil resistance has become a cornerstone of recent Sahrawian efforts for independence. The youth-oriented Group of Nonviolence in Western Sahara, or NOVA — which was one of many organizations that took part in an historic 2018 “Sahara Rise” conference calling for widespread acceptance of strategic unarmed resistance — has redoubled its efforts for building international solidarity. NOVA announced its support for release of all Sahrawian political prisoners, calling upon international peace and human rights partners to join it in shedding light on the Moroccan aggression. NOVA appealed to the international community and especially the International Committee of the Red Cross, for “immediate and urgent intervention to protect Sahrawi civilians from the oppression of the Moroccan occupation forces.”
NOVA President Enguiya Mohamed Lahu, critical of the “silence of the international community,” convened a commemorative panel on the imperatives of international solidarity, featuring a dialogue with the leadership of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation as well as the International Peace Research Association and others. (You can view the full webinar on IPRA’s YouTube channel). NOVA also participates in a growing network of peoples still under direct colonial occupation, looking to link with the struggles of Palestine, Ambazonia, Kashmir, Puerto Rico, West Papua, Tibet and elsewhere. Together they call for a global movement that will more truly commit — as the UN has done on paper for over three decades — to a world without colonies or military occupation.
Founded in 1964 to advance research on the conditions of peace and the causes of war and violence — with five regional associations covering every corner of the planet — the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) is the world’s most established multi-disciplinary professional organization in the field of peace, human rights and conflict studies.
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