When moving on from the 20th century to the 21st century, the Muslim world was obliged to face numerous unsolvable problems. Palestine was one of our most important issues, and the problem caused by Israel could just not be solved. We were inadequate in solving the problems we faced in Kashmir, Rakhine, Uighur, Ogaden, and the Western Sahara due extraneous reasons. Perhaps what gave the most hope was the efforts in recent years aimed at resolving the Moro problem. Significant progress has been made in Moro with Turkey's intermediator, and the Muslim presence that has been prevalent for almost a century has become acceptable, primarily by the Philippines and surrounding countries.
The Western Sahara problem has an aspect different to the matters we mentioned. While the opposing party is India in Kashmir, in Rakhine, China in Uighur, Ethiopia in Ogaden, it is a Muslim country, Morocco, in the Western Sahara.
Last week, after a six-year hiatus, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria and Polisorio authorities who have been fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, gathered under U.N. special representative Horst Köhler's leadership in Geneva.
There are claims that the Donald Trump administration is the force that brought the parties together. Really, it is made to feel like there is a magic wand solving the problems that could not be solved for years with a single touch. If you remember, the problems between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritrea-Djibouti and the Somalia government, Ethiopia and Eritrea had started to be solved in a trice.
Western Sahara is primarily a problem of the Muslim world. The one to solve this problem should be Muslim countries. However, the division of Muslims worldwide and their lack of will to solve problems makes it difficult for them to play a role in the resolution of the problem.
Looking at Western Sahara's history, it was under the control of Muslim dynasties founded in Morocco until the Spaniards came along. However, after establishing dominance in the region, the Spaniards distanced the Saharawis, the people referred to as the desert wanderers, from the people of Morocco and Mauritania. When Spain left the region, it left behind a divided region instead of a single whole Western Sahara, and left part of it to Morocco and part to Mauritania. The Polisario front that was established to fight for independency against Spain's colonization rejected this division and started an armed fight against both Mauritania and Morocco. Algeria also backed this fight and supported the war of independence against Morocco.
It does not seem like it will be easy to solve the problem in Western Sahara. First, the Moroccan government needs to be determined on solving the problem. The people of Western Sahara want a referendum and they do not want the Moroccan migrants the Moroccan government sent to the Western Sahara to vote. Because if the Moroccans vote, the referendum result will not change and Western Sahara will continue to remain under Morocco.
The primary demand of the people of Western Sahara is independence. Giving independence to Western Sahara, which is also known for its phosphate-rich beds, may be an effort aimed at destabilizing the region. Because the Tawariks, another desert wanderer group that has spread through Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Algeria are also going to take action for independence, and hence, the Tawarik problem, which seems to be Mali's problem only today, will turn in to a regional matter.
Algeria has been giving special attention to Western Sahara since the very beginning, and its regional interests are in the foreground in this attention, more so than the Sahrawis' independence.
Even though it is a difficult task, the Western Sahara problem must be solved. More so than Western Sahara's independence, an autonomous administration is necessary and this administration needs to be recognized by Morocco. Independence is not a solution for the people of Western Sahara; it will lead to much greater problems. Africa is full of these examples. Eritrea's division from Ethiopia had a negative impact on the economy of the people in the region, and both Eritrea and Ethiopia paid the price of this division for many years - and at a very high cost.
There is an inarticulate civil war in South Sudan, despite the air of peace these days. Is Sudan's secession not the biggest reason behind this civil war? Has it not become obvious that the real intention of the states that provoked South Sudan for independence is oil and to sell weapons to the government and rebel groups?
The Muslim ummah has become much divided and it is still under the danger of further division. It is now time to unite. The people of Western Sahara and Morocco need to understand this. Morocco needs to give the people of Western Sahara their basic rights and the opportunity to live freely and in peace. The Moroccan administration's duty is not to silence through elimination, to oppress, but to tolerate the Sahrawis' freedoms and support the isolated people of the Muslim community.
The Western Sahara problem is neither Spain’s, nor France’s, nor the U.S.'s problem. It is an issue that we need to overcome and solve. If the issue continues to remain unsolved, the stability and security that cannot be provided will continue to remain present as chaos.
Similar to Polisario, Algeria must also be convinced for the resolution of the Western Sahara problem. In a sense, Morocco is not sitting at the table with Polisario, the representative of the Sahrawis alone. It is sitting with the Algerian administration as well. Despite not being one of the parties for the resolution of the problem, Algeria stands as the real determining factor. It is important to convince Algeria for a political, realistic and sustainable final solution. In a sense, the actors to convince Algeria also need to step in and be sincere about solving the problem.
The resolution of the Western Sahara problem signifies stability and security in the region. It signifies the economic and political strengthening of a stronger Maghreb union. It means Morocco and Algeria will become Africa's new rising stars. What's more, it means the peace that has been postponed for years will blossom.