Home Op-Eds Sahrawis of Tindouf to the Polisario: Either Put up or Shut up

Sahrawis of Tindouf to the Polisario: Either Put up or Shut up

Polisario Seeks Attention Through Fictional Maneuvers in Buffer Zones
Photo Credit: Javier Otazu Elcano/EFE

Washington, DC – Recent articles published in social media sites close to the Polisario capture a growing level of despair and demoralization among a new generation of Sahrawis born and raised in refugee camps in Algeria.

The return of Morocco to the African Union was a big blow to the secessionist militia and a sound defeat for the Algerian diplomacy. This major development has pushed a large segment of well-educated and pro-independence Sahrawis to challenge the Polisario to either put up or shut up.

Faced with little hope to see their leadership overcome Algeria’s political dictate that led to a deadlock in the United Nations (UN) sponsored negotiations over the final status of the Western Sahara and confronted with bleak economic prospects, a new generation of Sahrawis has given up on the Polisario.

For young Sahrawis born after the 1975 Green March and the liberation of the Western Sahara from Spain the dream of an independent Sahrawi nation has been nothing but a nightmare. They realize that Algeria is exploiting their hopes for a homeland as a bargaining chip in its constant regional race to beat Morocco. Consequently, they are forcing their leaders to reject a status-quo that benefits Algeria and Morocco but keep the displaced Sahrawis in refugee camps.

This generation is well aware of the history of previous negotiations during which Algeria compulsively sought to foil direct talk between Morocco and Polisario. The more promising the talks, the more contrarian Algerian diplomats behind the scene acted to disturb any progress. This very attitude and the reluctance of the Algerian military to engage on a military confrontation with Morocco in case of resumption of armed hostilities in the Western Sahara have enraged young independent minded Sahrawis fed up with living under miserable conditions as refugees.

Actually , the Tindouf  based Sahrawi press pleas  for tougher positons against Morocco and the UN is a symbol of rebellions against Polisario’ s new Chief Brahim Ghali and his Algerian backers.

The military standoff at Guerguerat region in the Western Sahara that has been brewing for weeks now has opened the door to dissident Sahrawis to expose their leaderships’ enslavement to Algeria’s selfish policies.

In fact, Polisario’s fresh tough talk of a military confrontation with Morocco and the refusal of the rebels to withdraw from the UN controlled buffer zone despite calls from the UN Secretary General are results of the political pressures exerted by this new youth movement. This new defiant stand aims at appeasing the Sahrawi population in Tindouf by promising either an open war with Morocco or full independence.

Furthermore, the socio-economic malaise in the refugee camps, political discontent of Sahrawi youth in Tindouf, misgivings around Ghali’s leadership and the volatile political situation in Algeria are pushing the Polisario to double on its threats in the region. This escalating of hostility came at the perfect time for Ghali who has been facing discontent and gloominess in Tindouf.

However, as Ghali and his comrades try to solidify their statuses within the movement and accede to the demands of a restless population, they find themselves in a corner with limited exit solutions.

Even though Polisario makes such threats on a regular basis, this is the first time the group has challenged the UN and harassed Moroccan citizens crossing into Mauritania. These incitements would lead to the inevitable beefing up of Moroccan troops in the area and increase the likelihood of war.

The refusal of the Algeria backed militia to withdraw from Guerguerat is drawing condemnations from the U.N. but praise from the refugees in the camps. Nevertheless, Brahim Ghali’s threating rhetoric signal an escalation of hostilities and put the Maghreb a step closer to open conflict.

The Polisario switched from complaining about Morocco’s “incursion” in this largely desert zone which is technically under the control of The U.N. mission in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, to settling and claiming the land as “liberated” and thus belonging to the so-called Sahrawi Republic.

This new military posture near the Mauritanian border is a provocation and escalation that can lead to “unprecedented phase of tension and instability in the region”. This hardening of   postures did not happen in a vacuum. Several developments in Tindouf led to a change in strategy.

For some Moroccans these attempts to heighten further hostilities is a cry for outside help and a pretext to drive Algeria and Morocco to sit-down face to face and find a final solution to this never-ending conflict. This dangerous game, still, could spell trouble for the region.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity. 

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