Guergarate: lessons from a crisis

The Guerguerate crisis, named after this only terrestrial passage between the Kingdom of Morocco and Mauritania, gave a sudden boost to a decades-old conflict between Morocco and Algeria, whose resolution made the most seasoned UN diplomats insomniac.

For a few months now, the separatists of the Polisario have been practicing provocation as an art of living on a daily basis. Armed mercenaries were engaging in a demonstration of force by blocking this vital passage for economic and land relations between Rabat and Nouakchott. In their calculations, the Moroccan authorities could not take the risk of intervening to free this passage from the grip of these mercenaries without running the risk of being catalogued by the international community as the power that violated the ceasefire, signed under the umbrella of the United Nations in 1991.

However, Morocco has not yielded to blackmail or fear. On the contrary, he took a diplomatic clarification approach by referring to information alerts to all decision centres that closely follow the crisis. He accompanied him with a responsible military approach that liberated the passage in question without causing casualties. Within a few hours, the Royal Armed Forces restored civil and commercial traffic to neighbouring Mauritania.

And yet in the face of this situation, the rattling of weapons and the noise of boots were heard in the great Sahara desert. From this crisis as sudden in its manifestation and chronic in its reasons for being, there are many lessons to be taught.

First observation of this episode, the predominant role played by the Algerian military institution. It is well known that the separatists of the Polisario, who have been fed, financed, armed and sheltered by Algeria for years, have no freedom of action and decision. In fact, they are only an arrow in the Algerian military arsenal that has always been pathologically obsessed by the Kingdom of Morocco.

Should we link the actions of these mercenaries to the pay of Algiers to the political stalemate that country is experiencing and its inability to extinguish the flames of popular protest? Morocco‘s hatred today and the warlike provocations towards it serve as an outlet for Algerian antagonisms that have become powerful enough to be difficult to contain without the risk of gaping and deadly internal fractures.

The second observation is that in the face of this Moroccan approach, a momentum of solidarity and support, especially Arab and African, has come to consolidate the indisputable Moroccan nature of its Sahara. This is so impressive that it has managed to agree countries whose political and diplomatic agenda is in total confrontation. The example of Qatar on the one hand and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other showed that these countries usually so opposed in their alliances have succeeded in agreeing in their unfailing support for the Kingdom of Morocco in its long struggle to regain its territorial unity.

The result of this unanimity was to underline Algeria’s extreme loneliness and its military and political choices. This support and this Algerian loneliness will weigh heavily politically and psychologically when it comes time for the United Nations to relaunch negotiations to find a solution to this conflict between Morocco and Algeria.

The third observation that this crisis has highlighted and which is likely to influence the choices of each other is the illumination in this grey region of the presence of armed groups and mercenaries who move freely. In this region where terrorist groups of all tendencies are making their law and constitutes a security nightmare for all countries in the region, the separatists of the Polisario and the mercenaries who support their mafia approaches act according to the same terrorist logic.

The Algerian territory that gives them shelter and logistics is transformed into a terroir for terrorist groups that threaten regional security both for the already explosive Sahel region and the countries of North Africa and the European Union.

This is likely to precipitate an awareness that a solution must be found quickly before terrorism and regional instability take precedence.