As Morocco becomes increasingly involved in the bitter desert war against the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara, King Hassan of Morocco visited some of his troops on Tuesday (4 September).
As Morocco becomes increasingly involved in the bitter desert war against the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara, King Hassan of Morocco visited some of his troops on Tuesday (4 September). At a military outpost near Ifrane he awarded medals to outstanding soldiers for their valour in the Shaba province of Zaire. He told the troops that the army would be strengthened and supplied with new weapons to combat the Polisario guerrillas.
SYNOPSIS: King Hassan first sent troops sent troops to Zaire in 1977 to help President Mobutu repulse an invasion by Katangan rebels. Another force of one thousand two hundred troops was sent to Zaire in June last year as part of an Inter-African force to protect Shaba province. Moroccan troops did not finally leave zaire until eight weeks ago when the peacekeeping forces were replaced by a new young Zairean army.
King Hassan's visit to the troops comes at a time when their morale may well need boosting. Just over a week ago over a hundred Moroccan soldiers were reported to have been killed in an attack by Polisario Front guerrillas inside Moroccan territory. Morocco has been involved in a four-year conflict with the Polisario Front over the phosphate-rich territory of the Western Sahara. Spain finally ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1976, but Mauritania withdrew from the conflict a few weeks ago leaving Morocco to soldier on alone.
Morocco has annexed the former Mauritanian sector of the Western Sahara making it its thirty-seventh province and is organising quick elections so that the people can be represented in Morocco's Parliament. Morocco's latest moves have triggered a series of attacks by the Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas who are expected to do all they can to hamper the elections. But Morocco is unlikely to give up its claims even though it could be risking open confrontation with Algeria.