A report issued by The Africa Report has shed light on the major arms race between Morocco and Algeria, after former US President Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
According to the report, the Algerian and Moroccan armies (ranked second and fifth in Africa, respectively) are allocating massive funds to acquire the latest military equipment. Rabat prefers US and French weapons, while Algeria is focusing on Russian-made arms.
Last January, Morocco acquired the US-made Patriot air defence system, a medium-range surface-to-air missile system designed to neutralise air threats.
Morocco believes that purchasing more weapons will narrow a significant gap, placing it in a better position vis-à-vis the Algerian army, which is equipped with the Russian S-300 missile system.
The Moroccan kingdom also bought two Ground Master 400 radars from the French manufacturer Thales Group, to be added to three similar systems it already owns.
Morocco is also expected to receive seven radars from the US Lockheed Martin Corporation.
These deals may provide Rabat with a surveillance system capable of detecting targets that require low radars, said the report.
On the other hand, Algeria owns a wide range of high-quality radar systems, such as the Russian-made Rezonans-NE and the Chinese YLC-8B.
The Algerian army also purchased Russian fighters, most notably the Sukhoi fighter jets with strong manoeuvring capabilities, while Morocco has US-made F-16 aircraft.
Tension between Algeria and Morocco has increased dramatically over the past few months.
Morocco has criticised Algeria’s support for the Polisario Front, which demands the independence of Western Sahara (a former Spanish colony), while Algeria says it is supporting the people’s right to decide their fate.
The conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front has been ongoing for decades over Western Sahara, which is on the United Nations (UN) list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Morocco, which controls 80 per cent of Western Sahara, proposes an autonomous rule under its sovereignty. Meanwhile, the Polisario Front demands holding a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s fate under the auspices of the UN, as stated in the 1991 agreement.
The negotiations on Western Sahara, sponsored by the UN with Algeria and Mauritania’s participation, have been stalled since the spring of 2019.