Western Sahara. Forty people were reportedly injured, ten
of them seriously, when military forces forcibly dispelled a
demonstration in the capital El-Aaiún in January. In
February, the official news agency of the Western Saharan
Republic reported that residents of parts of Western Sahara
and the refugee camps in Algeria had voted in an election to
the Republic's parliament. All candidates belonged to the
independence movement Polisario.
On April 29, 1991, the UN Security Council adopted a
peace plan, which was based on a ceasefire, which was to
take effect on September 6, as well as the formation of a
mission to organize a referendum in Western Sahara
(MINURSO). The referendum itself was to take place in
In the following months, the government of Rabat
continued to send thousands of Moroccan nationals to Western
Sahara to give them the right to vote; the ceasefire was
violated on several occasions and obstacles were put in the
way of the work of the international press. The Moroccan
government also banned the entry of international observers,
and the repression of the people of Western Sahara was
stepped up, as well as intense propaganda, which called for
the referendum to be a confirmation of Western Sahara's
affiliation with Morocco.
Hassan II also unexpectedly changed his foreign policy
and decided to resume diplomatic relations with Algeria,
which had been interrupted since March 1976. This gave rise
to suspicions that Algeria would be on the verge of
weakening POLISARIO's support. well off until then. However,
the result of the resumed relations was rather a
strengthening of the peace process, because Algeria
continually supported the direct dialogue between Morocco
MINURSO was tasked with drawing up the referendum that
should form the basis of the referendum; it should be based
on the census of 1974. This meant that an unknown number of
people from Western Sahara could not vote; but in turn,
Moroccans who immigrated after 1976 would also be excluded
from the vote. The people of Western Sahara who were
entitled to vote and who were in refugee camps in Algeria
would be transferred from the camps to the villages from
which they came.
In December 1991, the United Nations Special Envoy in
Western Sahara, Johannes Manz, resigned, reflecting how many
difficulties the decolonization plan was facing.
In January 1992, when the referendum was supposed to have
taken place, MINURSO was still far from identifying the
voters and the repatriation plan for refugees from Western
Sahara could not be implemented. At the same time, there
were still 60,000 Moroccan soldiers in Western Sahara. One
of the members of POLISARIO's leadership, Brahim Hakim,
ended his exile in Algeria in 1992 and returned to Morocco.
He stated that the armed struggle had proved futile and
called for it to be abandoned. In recent years, an
increasing number of dissidents have distanced themselves
from POLISARIO as military setbacks occur.
Algeria, which had always supported POLISARIO's struggle,
also changed its policy, withdrawing its support and urging
POLISARIO to resolve the conflict through UN negotiations.
POLISARIO accused Morocco of violating the UN-negotiated
ceasefire. The capital of El Aaiún and Smara were both
practically surrounded by the Moroccan army.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali told the Security
Council in August 1992 that negotiations on the referendum
had produced very few results until then.
On September 4, 1992, the third time Western Sahara
residents had the opportunity to take part in a Moroccan
vote when they participated in the vote on a constitutional
amendment proposed by King Hassan (see Morocco). The event
was interpreted by diplomatic sources as an attempt by the
Moroccan authorities to incorporate the disputed area before
the referendum to determine its future status.
Morocco continued to complicate the implementation of the
referendum. According to many observers, it was in the firm
belief that time worked for Morocco's interests. After
several postponements of the referendum in the following
years, POLISARIO threatened to resume the war. POLISARIO
President Mohamed Abdelaziz said in May 1996 that with that
momentum, voter registration would not be complete until