By Samir Bennis
By Samir Bennis
Morocco World News
New York, January 27, 2012
The year 2012 does not start under good auspices for the Polisario leadership as it finds itself beset by growing disapproval from within the people whose “rights” and interests it pretends to defend.
A few days ago, Sahrawi protesters in Tindouf camps staged a number of demonstrations to topple Polisario leader Mohammad Abdel Aziz. These plans came in the aftermath of the Polisario’s 13th congress, which was characterized by an extreme lack of transparency and a fraudulent procedural system that granted Abdel Aziz his 11th term at the helm of the movement with a totalitarian-regime-style 96.99% of the votes.
Driven by strong determination to show their opposition to the Polisario leaders and express their rejection of the results of the 13th congress, as well as their disgruntlement with the disastrous way in which it managed negotiations with the government of Morocco, leading to an endless deadlock, young Saharawis started a revolutionary movement and many have been organizing sit-ins in front of the headquarters of the Polisario.
Some protestors have written the slogan “clear-off” along the pavement leading to the Polisario’s Secretary General’s headquarters.
The Forum of Pro-autonomy Supporters in Tindouf circulated special photographs that showed what it described as “a military truck involved in the process of dismantling the Sahrawi youth revolution camp”.
The caption added that the intervention was carried out by “the Polisario’s Gendarmerie” and that it extended to a protest camp “set up by young people who call for reforms and changes in the camps, including the departure of Mohammad Abdel Aziz.” As a result of the heavy-handed way in which the camp was dismantled, many young people have been injured and at least three have been arrested.
The same organization, which comprises activists who support the Moroccans Autonomy Plan proposed by the King of Morocco as a solution to the Sahara conflict, stated that “negotiations are being conducted with the demonstrators protesting against the dismantling of their camp” and that the escalation of protests may compel the Polisario leadership to allow the protestors to return to the place where the camp was first established.
These protests come against the backdrop of a prevailing confusion within the ranks of the Polisario. A few days before the 13th congress of the separatist movement, a leaked document sent by Mohammed Al Wali Akik, the General Director of the Protection of National Institutions of the self-proclaimed SADR, revealed an acute discord among the Polisario Front’s leadership, as well as mounting discontent within the Polisario camps and warned of a general uprising that seeks to topple the “democracy-loving” president of the SADR Mohammed Abdel Aziz, who has been in office since 1976.
“In the course of preparation for the 13th Congress and taking into account the sensitive juncture and the demonstrations that are vigorously used by the enemy and some unpatriotic officials, we are urged to maximize our efforts to triumph over the hardships of this period (…). Our duty is to urge people to vote for the brother and the president and to harass all those who stand against him.” read the “top secret” leaked document.
It is worth recalling that this not the first time that the Polisario tried to nip in the bed any sign of protests expressed by those who demand more political freedom in the camps or call for the adoption of a new approach in order to put an end to their dire living conditions. Last March, the Polisario moved to quell the demonstrations led by the Khatt Echahid Movement (Line of the Martyr), during which the demonstrators denounced the corruption of its leadership and expressed their disgruntlement with the continuation of the current deadlock in the Sahara issue.
Earlier this month, in a statement to Mauritanian daily Le Quotidien de Nouakchott, Mahjoub Ould Saleck, coordinator of the Khatt Echahid Movement, described as “ridiculous” the re-election of Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz by 96.99% of votes during the 13th Polisario congress. Such an election, he said, “shows the obstinacy of a handful of Polisario leaders, who perpetrate the suffering of the population held in the camps to only line their pockets.”
The Polisario under fire from the outside
The past year has been without a doubt a disastrous year for the Polisario. In addition to losing one of its allies with the toppling of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the reputation of the Polisario as a peace-loving and democracy-prone movement was dealt a serious blow when many news reports, since last March, implicated the Polisario militias in siding with Gaddafi’s attempts to quell the rebellion that erupted in Libya last February.
If that was not enough, Polisario elements were directly involved in the kidnapping of three European aid workers in the Tindouf camps last October. After the Mauritanian authorities arrested the authors of the kidnapping, it turned out that one of them is the son of the Polisario representative in Cantabria, northern Spain.
As a result of the recurrent kidnappings of Westerners in the Sahel region involving Polisario elements, as well as their involvement in large scale drug-trafficking, their relations with Mali entered a period of tension.
A document of Mali’s secret services entitled “Al Qaeda in Polisario camps (Al Qaeda dans les camps du Polisario)”, made public by AFP last December, points out that two Saharawis are involved in the kidnapping of two Frenchmen in Hambori, north-eastern Mali, last November, and that the government of Mali has proof that substantiates the implication of elements of the Polisario in drug-trafficking in the sub-region.
The Polisario is also accused by non-governmental organizations of inflating the numbers of people living in the Tindouf camps and misappropriating the bulk of humanitarian aid provided to the population residing in Tindouf by non-governmental organizations, governments sympathetic to the Polisario and other entities.
The Polisario was dealt yet another serious blow when American President Barack Obama signed last December the USA 2012 Omnibus Spending Report, which grants financial aid to all Moroccan regions and territories managed by Morocco, including the Sahara provinces.
This aid, which was approved by the U.S. Congress, conveys an implicit message to the Polisario to the effect that the American administration supports the Moroccans Autonomy Plan presented by Morocco in 2007 as a way to find a long-lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the Sahara conflict.
Since its presentation, this plan has been qualified by the members of the Security Council, as offering the basis for “credible, serious and realistic” solution to the conflict.
As recently as last week, France’s foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, called on the Polisario to improve the human rights situation in Tindouf as well as conduct a headcount of the population living there.
In light of the foregoing, it clearly appears that the position of the Polisario junta is weaker than ever before. The ball now is in Morocco’s court and it has to make good use of this situation to its advantage.
Edited by Ahmad Azizi