Algeria remains Africa’s largest military importer, spending three times as much on defense equipment as Morocco, according to a 2018 report issued by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), reports Morocco World News.
The report, “Trends in world military expenditure 2017,” estimates that the world’s arms spending stood at USD 1,739 billion in 2017. The globe’s military expenditures in 2017, according to the report, are at the “highest level since the end of the cold war.”
Although Algeria decreased its military expenditure by 5.2 percent between 2016-17, the country remains Africa’s largest importer of military arms, spending USD 10 billion. The report opines that the decline in Algeria’s military spending is related to “low oil and gas revenue in recent years.”
SIPRI added that this was the first decrease in Algeria’s military spending since 2003.
SIPRI’s report does not feature Morocco’s military expenditures. However, in a previous report on international arms transfers, SIPRI listed Morocco as the second largest arms importer in Africa, at the rate of 12 percent of African arms imports from 2013-17.
The Polisario Front has been involved in illegal military actions in the region until last month, when the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2414, pressuring the separatist group to withdraw from the region. The resolution urges Polisario Front’s main supporter, Algeria, to shoulder its responsibility in the conflict, after a long series of Morocco’s condemnations of Algeria.
Algeria is not only an importer of arms. For decades, Morocco’s eastern neighbor has been exporting armored vehicles and weapons to Polisario. Furthermore, Algeria has refused to cooperate in the United Nations-led political process to find a solution to end the conflict over Western Sahara, despite its long-term support of the separatist group.
However, Algeria is no longer hiding its support for the self-proclaimed Polisario Front. In May 2017, the Algerian government delivered a generous number of arms to Polisario, escalating the conflict in Western Sahara.
On April 2, King Mohammed VI addressed a letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressing his deep concerns over Algeria’s denial of its involvement with Polisario.
“It is Algeria that hosts, arms, backs up, and brings diplomatic support for the Polisario,” said the King.
This is not the first time that Morocco condemned Algeria’s involvement in supporting the separatist group. On May 2, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced its decision to cut ties with Iran and has unveiled “detailed evidence” of a delivery of military equipment from Iranian ally Hezbollah to the Polisario Front through Algeria.
Polisario, Algeria, and Iran have denied a coalition. The Moroccan ministry, however, stands firm in its argument, presenting evidence, including names and documented action, that implicates Iran. Algeria condemned the ministry’s statement, but Morocco’s ministry labeled Algeria’s reaction predictable.
“We understand Algeria’s embarrassment, as Morocco has documented proof that demonstrates Hezbollah’s connection with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.”