The Potomac-SAIS report on North Africa: Paid Analysis, Partisan Fear Mongering, Bad Policy

April 2009

At the end of March, a relatively obscure Washington, D.C., think tank called the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies published a report — in conjunction with the conflict management program of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University — arguing largely in support of Morocco’s 2007 autonomy proposal to solve the Western Sahara dispute. Framed in terms of US policy towards North Africa (‘Why the Maghreb Matters’), the report is a thinly veiled effort to provide academic and political legitimacy to a one-sided view of the Western Sahara issue. It precipitated a detailed response from the Western Saharan Union of Writers and Journalists.

Out with the Old, in with the New: Western Sahara back to Square One?

March 2009

The closing months of 2008 saw the end of a chapter and the opening of a new one in the Western Sahara conflict. Over the past three years, the peace process in Western Sahara, what the United Nations considers Africa’s last colony, was under the guidance of former Dutch diplomat Peter Van Walsum, who lost his position as UN Secretary General Personal Envoy at the end of August. Taking up where Van Walsum left off, the United States put forward the nomination of Ambassador Christopher Ross – one the US’s leading Middle East diplomats – to mediate the three decades old dispute between the occupying power, Morocco, and the Sahrawi pro-independence movement, the Polisario Front.

in Mediterranean Politics, Volume 14, Number 1, March 2009 , pp. 115-122.

The Morocco-Polisario War for Western Sahara, 1975-1991

January 2009

in Conflict and Insurgency in the Modern Middle East, Barry Rubin (ed.), Taylor and Francis, 2009: 209-231.

Negotiations in Western Sahara: UN’s Last Chance?

December 2007

In recent months, the 32-year old Western Sahara conflict has generated almost unprecedented media coverage, all because of one de-contextualised fact. The pro-independence Polisario Front and the occupying Moroccan government met to discuss the disputed Britain sized territory in June and August 2007. Optimists pointed out that these were the first face-to-face meetings between the two antagonists since 2000. For pessimists, this author included (see Mundy, 2007) the mere existence of talks has come as a surprise. Nonetheless, the chances of a Polisario-Morocco agreement any time in the near future remains nil given that both sides are still attached to diametrically opposed positions. As always, Polisario continues to demand a self-determination referendum on independence for the native Sahrawi population of Western Sahara. Morocco, on the other hand, says independence is off the table, though it is willing to discuss an asymmetric power-sharing agreement (i.e., limited ‘autonomy’).

in Review of African Political Economy, Volume 34 Number 114 (Dec 2007), pp730-735.

How the “War on terror” undermined peace in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara conflict after 9/11

August 2007

in Bulletin of the Association of Concerned African Scholars 77 (Summer 2007): 15-19.

Performing the nation, pre-figuring the state: the Western Saharan refugees, thirty years later

June 2007

Recent social, economic and political changes in the Western Saharan refugee camps in southwest Algeria have import not only for the project of Western Saharan nationalism, but also for the ongoing peace process. These are examined through a background to the Western Sahara conflict, and an appraisal of the camps’ internal processes of elite politics, self-management and recent post-war socio-economic change.

in The Journal of Modern African Studies (2007), 45(2): 275-297
Cambridge University Press

Western Sahara: Against Autonomy

April 2007

In recent years, the Moroccan government has championed the idea of autonomy as a solution to its territorial dispute with pro-independence advocates over Western Sahara. Rabat has said it is willing to consider an autonomous, locally elected government in Western Sahara, which would have powers independent of the central government, albeit circumscribed by Morocco’s ultimate sovereignty. The movement for Western Saharan statehood, on the other hand, has rejected autonomy. It continues to claim the right of self-determination, to be exercised through a final status referendum among the territory’s indigenous ethnic Sahrawis.

Western Sahara between Autonomy and Intifada

March 2007

in Middle East Report online (16 March 2007):

Colonial Formations in Western Saharan National Identity

January 2007

This study attempts to interrogate existing constructions of the Sahrawi identity; to disentangle the various conceptions of Western Saharan nationalism by re-framing them, re-historicizing them and then re-examining them. The first step in this process is to provide both a theoretical and methodological backdrop. This is accomplished through a post-colonial critique of ethnography and historiography in the western Sahara, one that is deeply informed by recent cultural struggles in North Africa. Secondly, this study takes these sensibilities and applies them to a new description of the broad historical and social contexts upon which Spanish colonialism and Western Saharan nationalism were grounded. Finally, this study looks at the recent ethnogenesis of the Sahrawi people, concluding that the concept is the product of an interaction between two contending forces, colonialism and anti-colonialism (i.e., nationalism). Far from being an academic exercise with little practical import, this study aims to help observers of, and interveners in, the conflict better understand issues of identity in Western Sahara, which are, for the time being, still the The heart of it all.

Citation: Mundy, Jacob Andrew. “Colonial Formations in Western Saharan National Identity.” In North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities. Edited by Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2007: 294-320.

Neutrality or complicity? The United States and the 1975 Moroccan takeover of the Spanish Sahara

September 2006

From mid-October to mid-November 1975, the Spanish Sahara was the site of a tense standoff between the governments of Spain and Morocco. By the end of the crisis, Madrid had abandoned its colony to Rabat, precipitating the now thirty-year-old conflict for Western Sahara between Morocco and the independence front Polisario. For many years, analysis of the US role in the 1975 Sahara crisis has had to rely on much speculation and little fact. This investigation is based on recently declassified US records and archival sources, as well as documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act. It demonstrates that the Ford administration adopted an explicitly pro-Moroccan policy. Though avowedly neutral in the affair, behind the scenes the US government worked to make sure the Spanish Sahara went to Morocco.

in The Journal of North African Studies, Volume 11, Issue 3 September 2006 , pages 275-306.