Morocco intends to establish a port in the Western Sahara city of Dakhla, the Interior Minister said last week. Abdelouafi Laftit revealed that the budget for the project will be $642 million but did not say when work will begin.
The minister explained that the port is one of 136 projects in the region with a total cost of $1.9 billion. Observers argue that the projects aim to enable Morocco to establish “facts on the ground” in the disputed Western Sahara.
According to Moroccan political activist Mustafa Boumlik, the state authorities are seeking to impose their sovereignty in the region through development and urban projects. “The government and the Polisario are well aware that the Sahara crisis will only be solved diplomatically, and not through war,” he told Masr Al-Arabia. Boumlik suggested that the government’s development plans in the region confirm its commitment to its perceived rights and sovereignty over the Sahara.
Meanwhile, international relations researcher Mohamed Lhariri noted that Spain is watching the situation carefully. “Spain is the former colonial power in the region,” he pointed out, “and it is still occupying parts of northern Morocco [Ceuta, Melilla and the Jafari Islands]. Madrid knows that it is not in its interest to end the conflict [in Western Sahara], because this will undoubtedly renew Morocco’s claim to the occupied territories in the north.”
Neighbouring Algeria, Lhariri concluded, is also reluctant to see an end to the conflict with the Polisario Front over Western Sahara, because it will enhance Morocco’s position in the region. The government of Algeria plays host to the leaders of the Polisario.