The Northern Region of Africa has for quite a long time been in the spotlight for incidences of political violence and armed conflicts within the states. Such incidences have been witnessed in Libya, Morocco, Egypt and other countries in the region (Anon., 34). These conflicts are associated with some political interests within the countries. This dissertation looks at one of the countries, Morocco, with the aim of discussing how its expansionist activities into the Saharan region could have sparked violence in the region and how the violence has affected the refugees in the region.
The cause of the violence is majorly the activities of Morocco in the Saharan region. After the end of colonialism, African countries which were under colonialism became independent. Colonialism had brought about the issue of country borders. This was the major problem. As the Independent countries tried to get ways of resettling their people, they often faced the challenge of having less space to do so. They, thus, turned to expansionism (Eiran, 40. This in turn led to the issue of contested territories such as the Polisario Front which was contested for by Morocco and Mauritania. Morocco adopted the Strategic Settlement Projects (SSP). As Eiran (4) observes, these strategies involve the countries resettling people in the targeted areas, even if the area or territory is not specifically under the jurisdiction of the country’s authorities.
These strategies that Morocco adopted were undoubtedly quite disturbing for its neighbors. It is therefore not a surprise that various countries in the region arose from these expansionism activities. There have been continuous efforts to restore peace within the region (IBP, 217). These efforts are tied along the diplomatic lines given that Morocco is a monarch governed by the rule of law. The major issue in the conflict is the Polisario Front, the land annexed by Morocco and which needs its independence. The peace efforts have been in process since 1991 but there has been no breakthrough since the Moroccan side has held tightly onto its position. Due to the aggressiveness of Morocco, other neighboring countries such as Mauritania sought to expand their boundaries into the Sahara. This spread the conflict between Morocco and Polisario to include Mauritania. Algeria also got drawn into the battle since it was also being affected in a way (Anon., 36).
The main reason as to why Morocco has held onto its claim for the sprawling region in the Saharan region is the fact that the country has the Franco-American support. These two countries have supported Morocco’s pursuit of the territory since 1975, with Washington coming on and off in restoring peace within the nation. On the other hand, Paris has continuously advocated for Rabat to be retained within the UN (Oxford Business Group, 17).
As such, it can be seen that the conflict in the Northern region emanated from the colonization period. Countries in the Northern region, especially Morocco, sought to expand their territories further so as to resettle their people. These expansionist efforts led to a conflict between the neighboring countries, sparking a regime of violence within the regions. This is the situation that has marred Morocco since 1975 when it laid claim on the Saharan region. This conflict has various adverse effects on the inhabitants of the land, especially the refugees. This is discussed below.
Effect on Refugees
Whenever there is a military conflict between any two countries, it is the civilian community that bears the blunt end of the war. The economy becomes unstable and the environment is no longer conducive for economic activities to be carried out. However, according to UNHCR (1), it is the refugees who are worst hit by such a problem. Here, it is important to look at the effect of the Moroccan conflicts on the refugees in the Sahara region.
UNHCR(1b) observes that Morocco was one of the countries in the region in which refugees could be resettled. However, with the escalation of the conflict, the situation grew from bad to worse. As such, the refugees in the land were facing serious economic crises. They could get no help from the country as it was busy in war. On the other hand, the international community could not serve them effectively since its activities are largely supported by the government in the land where the refugees are settled. With conflict rocking the country, there was no way that they could be effectively catered for. As such, the conflict led to much suffering for the refugees (Asprey, 1882).
With the refugees’ situation becoming more desperate, they had to find a means to save themselves from the catastrophe. As such, they sought to salvage their situation. For this reason, many refugees were repatriated from the land. In real sense, quite a large number of the refugees were repatriated in an endeavor that cost about 34 million U.S dollars (Asprey, 1182). This was an expensive affair.
As seen from this illustration, the Moroccan expansionism endeavors in the Saharan region caused a lot of unrest in the area. In as much as many people felt the impacts of the violence, the refugees residing within the region was the worst hit. They could not receive any help from the Moroccan or the neighboring governments since they were busy in the territorial conflict. The international community through the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees could have come in to save the situation. However, their efforts could not yield the expected results since the resident governments, which could provide the logistics and infrastructure for delivery of assistance to the refugees were not reachable for help. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Moroccan expansionist efforts caused untold suffering to the refugees in the Saharan region of North Africa.
Objective of the Study
This research wishes to look at the effects of the Moroccan expansionism efforts on the refugees in the Western Sahara region. It will look at the suffering that the refugees underwent as well as the efforts that were made in saving the situation.
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