Algiers, Tunis and Rabat: relations soured?

The neutrality advocated by Bourguiba in the conflict between Morocco and Algeria, particularly regarding the Western Sahara issue, is now under threat. Tensions persist in the Maghreb, notably due to the unresolved territorial conflict of Western Sahara, firmly pitting Morocco against the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria.

Western Sahara, formerly a Spanish colony, is claimed by Morocco as integral to its territory, while the Polisario Front (on the Algerian side) seeks independence for the region. In 1975, after Spain’s withdrawal, Morocco and Mauritania annexed most of the territory, sparking a war with the Polisario Front. A ceasefire was signed with the UN in 1991, but the final status of Western Sahara remains pending, despite mediation attempts and peace talks.

In 2022, tensions between Tunisia and Morocco escalated when Kaïs Saïed invited Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). Tensions intensified on April 22 with the Tunisian authorities organizing a tripartite Maghreb meeting (Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia) in Tunis, aimed at forming action groups to address the impact of sub-Saharan clandestine migrations. Discussions also covered political, economic, and social issues.

The Tunisian authorities, while praising the “brotherly and friendly” countries, omitted to invite Morocco and Mauritania to the consultative meetings.

The Algerian diplomacy chief defends these initiatives as addressing the void left by the moribund Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) since 1994. Founded in Marrakech in 1989, Morocco’s ambition was to strengthen political and economic ties among Maghreb countries.

On the Moroccan side, the media accuse Algeria of attempting to sow discord in North Africa, “aimed at making it appear that Algeria is not isolated in its neighborhood.”

On August 20, the Moroccan King Mohammed VI stated in his annual throne speech a “clear message to the world,” affirming that “the Western Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”

Due to the unilateral decisions of Kaïs Saïed, the positive neutrality once expressed by Bourguiba regarding the conflict between Algiers and Rabat is now threatened. The supposed alliances of the Tunisian authorities with Polisario figures may one day lead us to be considered enemies of Rabat.

Ahmed Lagha


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