U.S. welcomes appointment of Staffan de Mistura as UN Secretary General’s personal envoy for Western Sahara as the conflict between Morocco and Polisario Front lingers on

Staffan de Mistura will be another UN official who will try to find lasting peace in the ongoing conflict between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco,

The United States on Wednesday ‘warmly’ welcomed the appointment of Staffan de Mistura as the new UN Personal Envoy of the Secretary General for Western Sahara. 

“Personal Envoy de Mistura brings considerable expertise – addressing challenges in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria – to this important position and we will actively support his efforts to promote a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Western Sahara and the region,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.  

“We strongly support Personal Envoy de Mistura’s leadership in resuming the UN-led political process to advance a durable and dignified resolution to the conflict in Western Sahara,” Blinken added.

Staffan de Mistura will be another UN official who will try to find lasting peace to the ongoing conflict between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco, which originated from an insurgency by the Polisario Front against Spanish colonial forces from 1973 to 1975, and the subsequent Western Sahara War against Morocco between 1975 and 1991.

These days, the conflict is dominated by unarmed civil campaigns of the Polisario Front and their self-proclaimed SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) state to gain fully recognized independence from Western Sahara.

For decades, Western Sahara has been unstable, with the conflict escalating further after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accord. Beginning in 1975, the Polisario Front, backed and supported by Algeria, waged a 16-year-long- war for independence against Mauritania and Morocco. In February 1976, the Polisario Front declared the establishment of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which has not been recognized by the United Nations but has won recognition from a number of states around the world, including Nigeria.

Following the annexation of Western Sahara and Morocco in 1976, and the Polisario’s Front declaration of independence, the UN addressed the conflict via a resolution reaffirming the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people.

When the conflict reached its peak intensity in 1976, France intervened and Mauritania withdrew from the conflict and territories in 1979, leading to a stalemate through most of the 1980s.

A ceasefire was finally reached between the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government following several more engagements between 1989 and 1991 when most of the Western Sahara remained under Moroccan control while the Polisario controlled some 20 percent of the territory capacity as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, with some additional pockets of control in the Sahrawi refugee camps along the Algerian border. These borders have remained largely unchanged to this day.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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