A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The King's Speech on Green March Day

King Mohammed VI delivered his toughest, and strongly-worded speech yet on the Western Sahara. In his annual televised Green March Day speech, Mohammed VI reiterated Morocco’s stance on the conflict that has pitted Morocco, against the Polisario Front, and Algeria for almost four decades. Much like previous speeches, Mohammed VI advanced Morocco’s position for an autonomy arrangement for the Sahrawis under Moroccan sovereignty. This stance has been Morocco’s unwavering offer since 2006, and it is difficult to foresee a different path to conflict resolution in the Western Sahara. The king reiterated in the strongest terms that the Sahara is "an existential issue, not a border issue" for Morocco. This discourse is in line with previous speeches where Morocco has maintained consistency in its policy towards the conflict. Mohammed VI affirmed his commitment to a negotiated solution that takes into consideration the Moroccan autonomy plan, confessing that as a crown prince he negotiated in the Polisario camps in Tindouf. 

The king’s speech on the Western Sahara would not be complete without criticism of Algeria’s role in the conflict as an integral party to the hostilities in the region. The speech echoed the tone and tenor of previous discourse on the Western Sahara where the monarch appeared stern towards the neighboring north-African country: "Without holding Algeria responsible, as a key party to the conflict, there will not be a solution."

Unlike previous speeches though, the monarch lamented what he perceives as the ambiguity of the US position towards the Western Sahara, especially as the US continues to herald the kingdom as a “model for democratic development”, and “a partner in combatting terrorism in the region.” The royal comments towards the US are not expected to force any change in the American recalcitrant stance towards the issue, as any clear penchant towards Morocco could negatively affect US-Algeria relations, itself a key partner against terrorism in the Sahel.

The sovereign also cautioned Moroccans against “conspiring with the enemy” stating that "those that continue to betray the country, are considered traitors by national and international laws,” and that “a person can either be a patriot or a traitor” This dichotomous, zero-sum position indicates that the monarch is increasingly annoyed with the demands for reforms, and demonstrations against Moroccan human rights violations in the Western Sahara. Mohammed VI concluded that Morocco's stance is unchanged and that "the autonomy initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer in terms of negotiations to achieve a final solution to this regional conflict."

The king's speech is the latest pronouncement on Morocco's intransigent position in a conflict that has been in quagmire since the UN-brokered cease fire in 1991. Historical and identity issues, in addition to regional realpolitik tensions between Morocco and Algeria have virtually made it impossible to find a comprehensive solution to the conflict. The lack of will on the part of the international community, and regional security issues also favor the status-quo. Any solution to the stalemate will have to address all of these factors, and the plight of the Sahrawi people in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.