I mentioned a Le Monde article by Western Sahara researcher Jacob Mundy a post or so back. Here he is again, with a long new piece in MERIP. It chronicles the peace process from the 1989 agreements to today's political vacuum, and comments on the autonomy plan suggested by the Moroccan government. Perhaps most interestingly, it contains a good summary of Polisario's negotiating tactics: concede to Moroccan demands in order to destabilize their position and earn some goodwill. That has been the case from the very beginning, over the Houston Accords, and all the way up to Baker's first plan in 2001, and his Security Council-endorsed second one in 2003 (although in that last precipitous step, the leadership was prodded along by Algeria).
This one-step-forward-one-step-backwards waltz is probably a sensible strategy for a movement like Polisario, with grand plans and few powerful friends. Movement is everything, attention is next to everything, and international goodwill accounts for the rest. But it is also a position that can last no longer when you've conceded everything but your very raison d'étre -- a referendum on independence -- and are asked to take one more step. Writes Mundy:
After years of making tactical concessions, Western Saharan nationalism has learned a bitter lesson in asymmetric power politics: It does not matter how many compromises the weaker party strikes if the stronger party always asks for more.True, and an argument that has been made for hardliners and militants within the Sahrawi movement for many years. The international community has proved them right, and deflated the arguments of the more moderate Sahrawi leadership, as their concessions and adherence to the cease-fire have so far only assisted Morocco in its game for time. Mundy goes on to briefly discuss the tensions that are now, as a result, boiling inside Polisario, with powerful pressure from activists for a return to arms, bombs, anything.
You read, and we'll see. For Polisario, the upcoming General Popular Congress this fall will probably make or break the independence movement -- unless there's drastic action in either direction at the Security Council this April.