The latest move from Tebboune is a clear rejection of Morocco’s dialogue initiative as Algeria continues to question the kingdom’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Rabat – The Algerian government has now publicly rejected Morocco’s dialogue initiative, with repeated hostile actions that oppose Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Tebboune addressed a congratulatory letter to the leader of the Polisario Front, Ibrahim Ghali, to mark his re-election as Secretary-General of the self-proclaimed SADR.
The congratulatory message comes a month after Ghali’s re-election in December 2019 at the Polisario Front’s 15th Congress.
“The Sahrawi people, through the activities of the 15th Congress of the Frente Polisario, demonstrated their deep awareness, high sense and heroic determination in order to overcome difficulties, achieve legitimate demands for self-determination and build a new future in freedom, security and stability,” Tebboune wrote.
While Algeria and Polisario claim victory over the re-election of Ghali, some Sahrawis believe that he does not represent them. There are an estimated 2,000 Polisario members who are “imposing” their representation on a population of more than 100,000 Sahrawis.
In December 2019, Sahrawi and former Polisario police officer Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that Sahrawis are held “hostage” against their will in the Tindouf camps.
“The people of the so-called Sahrawi republic live on an Algerian soil, and the Algerian state recognizes, supports and houses the Polisario, only,” he said.
Mustafa Salma argued that Algeria is doing the “impossible to get those who challenge the Polisario front out of the camps in various ways in order to remain the exclusive representative of the Sahrawis who are fighting Morocco.”
Algeria’s continued support of the Polisario constitutes interference in Morocco’s internal politics. As well as financial support, Algeria also arms the breakaway group.
In his recent statement, Tebboune renewed the support of previous government, reiterating Algeria’s “firm determination to continue support for the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination, to achieve the decolonization of the African continent.”
Such statements from Tebboune are not new for Morocco, the newly elected president used Western Sahara as a card on his election campaign.
While Algeria shows its support for the Polisario Front through financial aid and supplying arms, it continues to block the possibility of census of the population held in the Tindouf camps.
The UNHCR population estimate puts the Sahrawi population in the camps at100,000 people.
The UN bodies, as well as Morocco, have long called for official registration and a census to record the population of the Tindouf Camps. The Algerian government, however, has consistently refused to allow the move that would mean more international scrutiny in the camps where Sahrawis are allegedly living in inhumane conditions.
A recent UN report, issued in October 2019, expressed serious concerns over persistent challenges in the camps.
The report referred to the prevalence of worrying diseases in the camp, due to malnutrition among children and women.
Celebrations marred by Morocco’s successes
After his inauguration as president, the Algerian president said that the Western Sahara conflict is a matter of decolonization.
It took Tebboune nearly a month to congratulate Ghali amid Moroccan diplomatic achievements as several African countries decided to open consular missions in Morocco’s southern regions in Western Sahara.
The Comoros and Gambia opened general consulates in Laayoune and Dakhla, respectively.
The move not only angered Polisario, but also its main supporter Algeria.
The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued separate statements to denounce the opening of diplomatic missions in the region.
The latest statement against Gambia reads: “Gambia’s decision constitutes a flagrant violation of the norms of international law, of the relevant decisions and resolutions of the Security Council and of the United Nations General Assembly relating to the question of Western Sahara.”
Tebboune’s statement also comes as the United Nations strongly warned the Polisario Front against any threatening messages that aim to change the status quo of the region.
The warning was as a response to Polisario’s letters to disrupt the Africa Eco Race crossing in Western Sahara’s Guerguerat buffer strip.
The participants of the rally will cross the region on January 13.
Despite moves to restore diplomatic relations with Algeria, Morocco is determined to continue to combat any hostile actions that question against its sovereignty over Western Sahara. Algeria’s continuous hostile moves suggest that Morocco and its neighboring country will never engage in the political dialogue envisioned by King Mohammed VI to break the stalemate.