Thinking the Sahara Question and promoting innovative solutions

Thinking the Sahara Question and promoting innovative solutions

Dakhal maroc


The Pan-African Institute of Strategies (Peace - Security - Governance) organized, on June 16, 2021, in Dakar, is an important seminar on the theme "Thinking the Sahara Question and promoting innovative solutions".

This sub-regional event brought together thirty experts, political figures, members of think tanks, academics and prominent members of West African civil society, represented by the following countries: Senegal, Cap Vert, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania.

The format of the seminar was that of a brainstorming. This exercise allowed to initiate an intellectual and scientific reflection as to formulat innovative answers to the question of the Sahara, which constitutes an obstacle to the march of Africa towards Progress, Peace and Concord.

Having noted that the AU, our continental organization, by its partisan acts, has de facto chosen to take over the resolution process of the Sahara issue, the Brainstorming was immediately in line with the dynamics that currently prevail within the African and International Community. Such a dynamic recognizes the pre-eminence of the UN Security Council in the management of the Sahara issue.

As a thought without actions is considered orphan, this seminar adopted an intellectual approach that combines thoughts and actions and therefore invites "to think freely, to propose freely and to accompany freely" the proposals and innovative solutions resulting from the deliberations of the participants.

This meeting (face-to-face and virtual) was an opportunity to salute and commemorate the historic work of the Casablanca Group and to call for the organization of a high-level meeting in 2021 to celebrate its 60th anniversary, which will be an opportunity to launch a solemn APPEAL for the effective realization of the pan-Africanist ideals and of its illustrious host: His Majesty King Mohamed V. This appeal will also allow us to ask Africa to correct the legal aberration and the historical anomaly that constitutes the admission of the "rasd" within the OAU and then its maintenance in the AU.

The seminar also stressed that the responsibility of the African intelligentsia was fully engaged on all major issues regarding the continent, including that of the Sahara. In this sense, he called for the mobilization of experts, civil society figures and Think Tanks to contribute to this new dynamic of "speaking out" of the African intelligentsia.

During the seminar, participants praised Morocco’s African roots, as well as its dazzling economic growth, which should be replicated rather than feared.

Here is a brief summary of the discussions which were composed of five axes :

AXIS 1: Thinking of the Sahara issue as an opportunity to refound and rehabilitate the African Union (AU) by freezing the presence of a non-state entity that advocates separatism

During this first axis of discussion, participants discussed the freezing of the "rasd" from the AU’s ranks and its effective suspension, as a way to rectify an injustice and thus allow the pan-African organization to play the striking role of credible and legitimate support to the UN process.

In particular, it was emphasized that such a solution should not be considered as a taboo but as an objective to be reached. In fact, the realization of such a solution, which is part of a dynamic where realism and pragmatism prevail, must be an ambition of all African States wishing to put an end to unnecessary divisions and the instrumentalization of an organization that must guarantee our unity rather than promote our division.

Finally, it was agreed that correcting this anomaly will enable the AU to comply with the opinion of the overwhelming majority of its members on the Sahara issue, and with that of 85% of UN member states, as well as with that of other international or regional organizations and RECs.

AXIS 2: Thinking of the "member" status granted to the "rasd" within the AU as a "historical anomaly" inherited from the OAU  which undermines the credibility of the AU defined by its Constitutive Act as "an organization of independent and sovereign States

The seminar also looked at the circumstances of the admission of the "rasd" to the OAU and its retention in the AU. It focused on the legal reasons that could correct what was unanimously considered to be, at the very least, an anomaly, and at worst a conscious aberration. Indeed, according to the participants, the OAU, through this decision, validates a double aberration. Since the "rasd" has none of the attributes of a real state (Westphalia Treaties, Weberian definition, Montevideo Convention), the pan-African organization has, consequently and in flagrant violation of its Charter and its Constitutive Act, admitted a non-state and non-sovereign entity. This bias is a political and ideological power grab rather than a legal and legitimate act.

Brilliant jurists and political scientists who participated in the seminar gave legal opinions that deserve to be taught in prestigious law schools. According to them, the status of "member" granted to the "rasd" is "an eminent legal issue which has been hijacked and circumvented to impose a political, partisan, inconsistent and ultimately absolutely illegal decision. "

AXIS 3: Thinking of the regional dispute over the Sahara as an obstacle to the socio-economic, political and human integration of North Africa, which has been paralyzed for several decades to detriment of its brotherly peoples

The seminar also highlighted the issue of post-Covid economic recovery, marked by an unfavorable context requiring a strengthening of the integration of the continent as well as intra-African cooperation, on the socio-economic, political and human aspects. The success of this integration is mainly based on the role of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). These remain of a paramount importance as to support the integration process in a continent that is currently the least integrated area in the world. The successful example of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stands in stark contrast to that of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).

It remains clear that the regional dispute over the Sahara has so far hindered the region's tangible contribution to the continent's socio-economic development and made this area, which is rich in economic opportunities and human capital, the least integrated region in Africa. From being a potentially leading region, AMU, paralyzed by an artificial conflict, has lost not only its historical initiative but also its historical capacity and is undeniably trailing at the bottom of the performance table of all RECs on the continent.

AXIS 4: Thinking of the regional dispute over the Sahara as a blockage to the pacification of the Sahel-Saharan space and as being a major impediment to the successful coordination of the fight against jihad/terrorism in the Sahara, the Sahel and the whole sub-Saharan region


The seminar established that, despite various political and military efforts by the AU to mitigate the continental security crisis, terrorism remains an active and growing threat across Africa with serious implications for peace, security and stability of the continent, which has also become the global epicenter of terrorism, as advocated by the IPS, since 2015, and as recently confirmed by the French President. Participants noted, with concern, the resurgence of crises and armed conflicts in the Sahel-Saharan space: the Libyan crisis, the Malian conflict, the attempts to neutralize Chad, as well as the rise of transnational security threats and the expansion of the criminal economy (slavery, hostage-taking, trafficking in weapons, drugs, currency, migrants...).

The operationalization of the main components of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) by the AU is necessary for the collective prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the continent. The establishment of pan-African armed forces was also strongly encouraged by the speakers. It would take the form of a strong cooperation and an effective pooling of resources and expertise between African countries for the management of issues related to security, peacekeeping and stability, going beyond the “lure of sovereignty”. In the particular case of North Africa, the activation of its dedicated Standby Force (NARC) would be of considerable added value, as long as it exceeds the various handicaps that hinder its operationalization and the economic integration of the region.

One of these major handicaps originates precisely in this artificial dispute knowingly maintained to serve as a pretext for aggression against the territorial integrity of a multi-secular and sovereign nation of North Africa; which de facto contributes to the worsening of the security crisis and to the proliferation of entrepreneurs of Jihado-terrorist violence and narcotics traffickers. Therefore, the undeniable umbilical cord between North Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region requires the immediate resolution of this regional dispute and a return to a fruitful and benevolent partnership between the countries in the area.

AXIS 5: Thinking about the Sahara issue from the perspective of the autonomy plan proposed by the Kingdom of Morocco, considered "sincere, credible and realistic" by the United Nations and by the majority of African states.

Finally, the seminar looked in detail at the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco, in its three chapters and 35 articles and has considered it as a balanced solution. This solution exposes several aspects for an autonomy in the Sahara, through the establishment, at the local level, of executive, legislative and judicial bodies and institutions with their own powers. The New Development Model of the Southern Provinces was then studied, with particular attention paid to its various transformational projects relating to multiple sectors: renewable energy, infrastructure, logistics, higher education, etc. These projects put the region as a hyphen between West Africa and Europe, as well as a source of economic and social value creation for local populations and the continent.

Finally, participants welcomed the positive evolution of the position of the AU and its member states. This evolution reflects a consolidation of the recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara, the growing alignment of the continent with the Moroccan position and the desire of a growing number of African countries to put an end to the instrumentalization of the dispute, which is immensely detrimental to the progress and happiness of the populations of the south of the Kingdom. The recognition by the United States of this sovereignty is a powerful reminder that history makes progress by moving forward, not backward.

Some key recommendations of the seminar:

  • The participants unanimously wished that, beyond the policies of the States and the relations between nations, the intelligentsia and the African civil societies could make their demand for Peace, Security, Concord and Unity of the continent heard loud and clear. It is therefore urgent to put an end to the silence of the intellectuals who, in large numbers, advocate the need to correct the historical anomaly and legal aberration that is the admission (illegal and illegitimate) and the maintenance (illegal and illegitimate) of the "rasd", an entity that cannot claim any of the attributes of an independent and sovereign state;
  • Remedy the anomaly that constitutes the presence of the "rasd" within the AU and initiate its effective suspension will put an end to the will, conscious or not, to encourage the hyper-balkanization of the continent and to protect the pan-African body from any attempt of political or ideological instrumentalization;
  • According to the participants, the success of pan-African economic integration rests largely on the primary role of the RECs in supporting this process. In this regard, they considered the resolution of the regional dispute over the Sahara as a necessary first step in the economic construction of North Africa, a strategic partner for ECOWAS and a guarantor of the fluidity of trade between Africa and Europe;
  • Participants reiterated the urgent need to strengthen the AU’s capacity for security action, particularly in the Sahel region, which remains plagued by the dangers of jihad terrorism and the criminal economy. They advocated the operationalization of the main components of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the rapid emergence of coordinated defense and security forces on a pan-African regional or inter-regional basis;
  • Finally, the seminar participants studied and discussed in depth the Autonomy Plan developed by Morocco. In this sense, they called for support by the AU and its member states for this solution, which has already been hailed by the United Nations as being "sincere, credible and realistic" and whose undeniable added value is its spirit of compromise, which remains a fundamental African value.

Done in Dakar, on June 16, 2021

By the Communication Unit of

The Pan African Institute of Strategies (Peace - Security - Governance)

(On behalf of all the participants in the Day of Reflection)