Incidentally the clashes, which claimed about 36 lives of civilians and soldiers, happened as Morocco and the Polisario held talks at the United Nations on the future of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic and the independence of the occupied territory.
About 163 Saharawi people, under Moroccan army of occupation, have also been detained while about 700 were injured. Trouble started when Moroccan security forces broke up a protest camp in the main city of the occupied territory, Laayoune.
The people in the occupied territory have again called on the UN to probe this latest round of bloodletting. They want a speedy resolution of the dispute that would ensure their "self-determination" as and inalienable right under the watch of the world body.
In a way there has been ferment in the territory since 1975 when Morocco annexed the territory in the northwest of Africa at the departure of the Spanish colonial authorities.
By the way, the territory has a population of about 500,000 but it is very rich in mineral resources, especially phosphates (used in making fertilizers) and as great potentials to export offshore oil and gas. Another great resource of the territory is to be found in fishery. The material fortune of the territory, of course, explains why foreign powers are backing Morocco in its occupation of the territory. The occupiers control the resources.
The interests of the former European colonialists seem to be coterminous with that of Morocco, the modern African colonial master in the Western Sahara.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) was formed in 1973 by a group of insurgents against the Spanish colonial powers. When Morocco replaced Spain as the new colonial power, the Polisario, acting both as a political movement and military group, switched to a resistance of the occupation of the territory.
Since 1991 when the two parties signed a ceasefire, the question of a referendum to determine the will of the people has been on the agenda. The November 8 meeting of Morocco and the Polisario was actually a continuation of the negotiations.
In simple terms, Morocco is making some "historical" claims on the territory; the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) wants independence for the subjugated Saharawi people. While Morocco has conceded some "wide-ranging autonomy", the Saharawi people want total independence. And the Polisario is giving leadership in that respect.
It is salutary that the African Union (since the days of the Organisation for African Unity) has continued with the progressive position supporting the resolution of the conflict in the Western Sahara in favour of social justice. That explains why SADR is recognised by AU while Morocco is out of the union in protest.
It is also remarkable that Nigeria has been consistent in her support for SADR. The latest development in the territory should even make Nigeria to lend her diplomatic weight in support of the speedy resolution of the dispute in a way that could ensure that the will of the Saharawi people ultimately prevail.
The tone and tenor of the Polisario's protest to the UN two days ago indicated that the anti-colonial movement might be running out of patience. Almost 20 years after a ceasefire was signed, the movement issued a subtle threat to resume armed struggle. The statement issued two days ago even described the negotiations at the UN as a "camouflage" for Morocco to perpetuate its occupation of the land.
The UN should act to prevent further shedding of blood in the territory by expediting action on the referendum so that the will of the people could be freely expressed. It is clear that the UN cannot expect the problem to be solved by merely stationing a few dozens military observers and a handful of soldiers and policemen in the territory.
Meanwhile, the AU and Nigeria in particular should remain steadfast in their support for justice and equity. The Saharawi people should be set free from foreign occupation and SADR should be an independent republic soon. When that is done, decolonization could be said to be completed on African continent.