Keene says that “more than eighty” countries recognize the Tindouf-based Polisario “government.” The true number is not even close to forty, however.
Rabat – David Keene is at again. In an opinion article published on August 10, the Algeria-paid lobbyist vilified Morocco’s reputation and presented Algeria as the friend and savior of what he describes as Africa’s “last colony.”
Keene built his case in the article on a single, sad event that occurred in the aftermath of the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN), when reported clashes between the Moroccan police and pro-Polisario activists in Laayoune caused dozens of injuries and two deaths.
Capitalizing on that incident, Keene presents Morocco as a “military, colonial regime” doing everything to ensure that news of its purported atrocities in the territory never reach the outside world, especially the United States. “The problem is that few Americans even know that Africa’s last colony exists,” Keene said.
From one post-CAN incident, Keene’s readers are told that, by and large, Morocco is a colonial “invader” and a violent “regime.”
Keene also seems upset by the fact that Rabat’s public relations strategy has been working in the US. “Rabat has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and others in Washington to convince policymakers to do nothing” on the Western Sahara dossier.
But he added, Morocco’s lobbying and diplomatic efforts in Washington have recently met with unfriendly winds after President Trump appointed John Bolton as his senior national security adviser. Rabat knew that the “troubling” appointment of Bolton would soon expose its “fiction” and “conspiracy theories” to the international community, according to Keene.
In the process of presenting Morocco as the main culprit for the diplomatic stalemate that has characterized the UN-led negotiations on Western Sahara, the article exaggerates the appeal of the separatist Polisario Front as well as the seemingly humanitarian compassion of its Algerian backers.
Keene says that “more than eighty” countries recognize the Tindouf-based Polisario “government,”when the number is not even close to forty in reality.
A quick internet search would have shown Keene that while 77 countries have in the past expressed their support for “Saharawi self-determination,” only 35 have recognized the Polisario self-proclaimed Sahrawi Republic. But Keene was only interested in bashing Morocco, presenting it as a colonial occupier with no legal or historical claims to Western Sahara.
Keene recently signed an extremely juicy lobbying contract with Algeria.
The contract includes propagating pro-Polisario narratives in Washington, to influence US public opinion. According to the supplemental statement submitted to the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit last June, David Keene held over 40 meetings with members of the US Senate and of the Trump administration between December 15, 2018 and April 22, 2019.
But his article presents his own stance on the “Sahrawi cause” as a result of his compassion and sympathy for the misery and poverty he says Sahrawis have been made to suffer in decades.
“My concern for what I saw then and I have learned since,” he said of a trip to the Tindouf camps he made some fifteen years ago, “has led me to agree to work with the Algerian government on this.”
This humanitarianism-cloaked activism, or save-the-world rhetoric is ubiquitous in US circles, including American evangelicals, close to the Polisario leadership.
But where America’s evangelical humanitarians are politically and ideologically motivated in their crusade to advance Polisario’s narrative, Keene’s avowedly anti-Morocco rhetoric stems from the $30k a month lobbying contract binding him to Algeria, Polisario’ main political and military backer.
Nowhere does Keene’s article mention the tense scrutiny the separatist front is facing for embezzling the humanitarian aid to the people living in dire conditions Tindouf as well as reports of glaring violations of human rights in the Tindouf Camps, including torture in prisons and criminalization of political dissent.
Keene also failed to even fleetingly mention the fact that a number of countries that once supported Polisario’s agenda have recently shifted allegiances, saying that Morocco’s Autonomy Plan is more “serious,” “credible,” and more politically feasible.
But more disconcerting still, although Keene’s article was published on August 10, days after the Polisario leadership called for war because “great powers support Morocco,” it remarkably omitted that episode.
Keene also knowingly pushed aside a single fact that has been driving most of the debates on the Western Sahara issue over the past months: for security and stability reasons, the US and other countries with a notable say in the UN negotiations are more favorable to Morocco’s stance.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the issue last Sunday. But the idea was already public knowledge back in April, when the UN Security Council adopted what has been widely described as a pro-Rabat resolution.
But Keene, only interested in meeting the requirements of his lobbyist engagements, glaringly ignored reports about Morocco’s Autonomy Plan being lauded by an increasing number of countries, including some which used to side with Polisario.
In Latin America, where Polisario used to boast almost unanimous support, Morocco’s “sincere” and “credible” efforts towards settlement have ended up convincing a number of governments to side with its stance.
This has been described by some observers as a “diplomatic remontada,” with Brazil, Surinam, Chile, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic all embracing Morocco’s stance in the past two months alone.
Brushing all these developments out of the picture, Keene insisted instead on the now dismissed “Bolton effect” idea reported by the New Yorker’s Nicolas Niarchos in December of last year.
The suggestion that Bolton’s sympathy for the separatist front may overturn the traditionally strong US-Morocco ties and eviscerate Morocco’s Western Sahara agenda has largely become part of the diplomatic furniture in recent months.
At least since March of this year, a series of reports have concurred that Washington helped Morocco to draft its autonomy plan and plans to stand by it. But Keene disagrees. In his reckoning, the “Bolton effect” is still a thing.
“With the U.S. taking a more aggressive stance, the Trump Administration and the man Morocco hopes it can continue to ignore may end up freeing Africa’s last colony,” he said.