Aminatou Haidar, a champion of peaceful resistance to Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara, is demanding urgent international action to prevent the frozen conflict from devolving into war.
The 52-year-old Sahrawi human rights activist, who on Wednesday will receive a top human rights award in Stockholm, said she feared that youth in the disputed region have given up hope of achieving self-rule through non-violent means.
“The international community must act without wasting any more time, because the young people have no more patience. They no longer believe in peaceful resistance,” Haidar told AFP in Geneva last week.
The activist, dubbed the “Gandhi of Western Sahara,” insisted that the United Nations, Europe, and France and Spain in particular, had a responsibility to “avoid war” in the region.
Morocco annexed the Western Sahara in 1975 following the withdrawal of colonial power Spain in the dying days of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco‘s regime, sparking a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement.
The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 1991, and a U.N. mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.
The U.N. peacekeeping force (MINURSO) of 240 Blue Helmets is charged with monitoring the nearly three-decade-old ceasefire.