Fez – Whether or not you are acquainted with the question of the Western ahara and you come across any article about the issue published on a foreign news outlet, you have undoubtedly encountered the following (mis)information: the Polisario leadership is fighting for the independence of the Saharawi people.
You will have read that the Polisario leadership is the sole legitimate representative of the Saharawis, that Algeria supports the Polisario because the principle of self-determination is one of the tenets of its foreign policy. The articles will, of course, include that Morocco annexed the Western Sahara in 1975 and is illegally occupying the territory and violating the human rights of the Saharawis.
Yet these supporters of the Polisario and pseudo-defenders of human rights have been only publicizing one side of the story in order to lure the international public opinion sympathy with the “cause” of the Polisario, and dismiss Morocco as an occupying power. In the process, the main victim is the truth. Those who tackle the issue, irrespective of their ideological leanings, analyze it from a one-sided perspective -that of the Polisario and Algeria – while ignoring many historical, political and social factors crucial to grasping the multifaceted nature of this thorny conflict.
Polisario opponent Mustapha Salma Oueld Sidi Mouloud has recently released a video in which he debunks the “truths” that have long been touted in pro-Polisario narratives. The video uncovers the true nature of Polisario leadership and to what extent its ideologies and behaviours represent the Saharawis.
In an interview with Moroccan news outlet Hespress, Mustapha Salma said that Polisario leadership had banned him entry to the Tindouf camps. He explained that this was not only due to his conflicting political view on finding a resolution to the ongoing conflict, but also, and most importantly, because he “has more legitimacy than the Polisario leaders.” In this regard he highlighted his belonging both by birth and origin to the Western Sahara, unlike the leaders of the separatist movement.
Unlike the current leaders of the Polisario, “I belong to the Western Sahara by birth and by tribe,” he said. “My tribe never went out of the Western Sahara, neither is it recorded in Algeria nor Mauritania,” he added.
He went on to say that this is what the leaders of the Polisario lack. “It is rare to find a leader of the Polisario who is Saharawi by tribe and by birth,” he noted. “Most of them may have been of Saharawi origins, but did not live in the Western Sahara, nor they were born in the Western Sahara and are not of Saharawi descent,” he said.
He gave the example of the President of the Saharawi Parliament, and head of the Polisario negotiating delegation, El Khatri Adou, as well as Mohammed Boukhari, Polisario’s representative to the United Nations.
Khatri Adou “was born in the Western Sahara but his origins have nothing to do with the Western Sahara. He is from a Mauritanian tribe and you won’t find a cousin or a relative of his in the Western Sahara,” he said.
“Whether the Saharawis lose or win, he has nothing to lose since he has nobody in the Western Sahara”, he noted.
As regards Mohammed Boukhari, “he was born in Dakhla and belongs to the Gar’a tribe. Gar’a is a Mauritanian tribe,” he said. “All his uncles live in Mauritania and are Mauritanians.”
The same applies, according to Mustapha Salma, to Mohammed Abdelaziz, leader of the Polisario, and the Minister of Defense, Mohamed Lamin Bouhal.
“Although Mohammed Abdelaziz is from a Saharawi tribe, he was not born in the Western Sahara, nor did he live there, while the Minister of defense was born in, and his family lives in Algeria.”
“The only tribe that has both legitimacies [in reference to his Rguibat tribe] is banned from taking the leadership of the Polisario, because it is not the interest of Algeria,” he said.
According to the former Polisario official, Algeria prefers to deal with the likes of Boukhari, Khatri or Mohammed Abdelaziz, because it can put pressure on them. These leaders can be influenced and if they refuse to abide by Algeria’s orders, it can tell them they are not fully Saharawis.
‘Those are people who can be put under pressure and can even be called mercenaries, because they are fighting for their own self-interest.”
Mustapha Salma went on to denounce the fact that none of those who speak on behalf of the Saharawis and negotiate with Morocco are from the Western Sahara, nor were they born in the territory. “The delegation that negotiates with Morocco does not include a single person who was displaced (uprooted) from the Western Sahara.”
Mustapha Salma expressed his disappointment at seeing the international community extend the red carpet to Mohammed Abdelaziz and his acolytes while ignoring Saharawis like him.
“These people have hijacked our legitimacy, our rights and even our name, since they negotiate on our behalf,” he said.
“Even if they created an entity on our behalf, we have the right to partake in it, but we are being excluded,” he added.
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud is a living example of the undemocratic nature of the Polisario and its determination to stifle dissenting voices in the Tindouf camps.
In the summer of 2010, Mustapha Ould visited the southern city of Smara for the first time in 30 years, and declared that the Autonomy Plan presented by Morocco in 2007 was “the ideal solution” to the conflict. On his way to the Tindouf camps, on September 21, he was kidnapped by Polisario militia and imprisoned in the desert for 71 days. He now seeks to return to the camps to join his family but is being denied access. The United Nations and human rights activists maintain a staggering silence in the face of his plight.