To understand what has been happening in Spain's North-African city of Ceuta, you have to go back to 1975 and a fading dictator, Franco.
In November 1975, a mass of Moroccan civilians marched across Spanish-controlled Western Sahara, effectively checkmating the Spanish colonial authorities. When we say mass, we mean 350,000 people, coordinated by the Moroccan Government.
Franco was on his death bed and the last thing that the regime wanted was to get bogged down in a colonial war – what had just happened to Portugal in Angola and Mozambique was a pretty clear indication of what that could lead to. So the Spanish Army, much better equipped and trained than the Moroccan Army, was ordered to stand down and not interfere. In fact, to avoid deaths, in some areas they removed their own landmines
The actual people who lived in Spanish Sahara were and are the Sahrawis, who had been fighting against the Spanish since 1973, as well as against Mauritania to the south who wanted a slice, and then the invading Moroccans. The Sahrawis armed resistance was guerrilla organisation, the Polisario Front.
The International Court of Justice decided in October 1975 that there should be a referendum so that the Sahrawis can decide for themselves their future and this decision has stood for decades until Donald Trump decided to recognise Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara (because of the mineral wealth and petroleum deposits in its waters; a recognition for which US petroleum companies would receive special treatment, perhaps).
Now fast forward to a little over a week ago when the leader of Polisario was hospitalised in Logroño for urgent treatment. Obviously, it had been approved by the Spanish Government. Morocco is fuming.
Such is the annoyance felt by the Moroccan authorities that not only did the Moroccan border police do nothing to stop over six thousands of their citizen invading Ceuta, but that they actively assisted people by opening up the border gates so they could enter without having to swim around the fenced breakwater that separates not just Spanish territory (Ceuta) from Morocco but also an EU frontier.
Whole families were encouraged to risk their lives; men, women and children, by swimming out and around onto Spanish beaches further along after the Spanish Army arrived with APCs to occupy the nearest beach to the border.
When the Spanish Ambassador to Spain was called for consultation, she simply said, “some actions have consequences.”
However, Morocco may have bitten off more than it can chew because as expressed above, Ceuta represent the frontier of the European Union, so the Moroccan Government – which is little more than a puppet administration that puts into practice the King’s will – is risking a tremendous show down with the EU, which fully backs Spain.
A final twist was announced at 21.30h last night when a Spanish judge reopened a case from 2014 that had been shelved against the Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, for genocide and other serious crimes, so it is very difficult to not see this as a gesture of appeasement towards Morocco.
(News: Ceuta, Spain)