The Polisario Front has long claimed to be a representative of the population living in Western Sahara.
Rabat – Former Polisario member Hamada Elbaihi has shared a video testimony describing the living conditions of the Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps and the corruption of the separatist Polisario Front’s leadership.
The Tindouf camps in western Algeria are a group of refugee camps under the control of the Polisario Front. Refugees at the camps and many observers have long denounced the repression of their basic freedoms.
Elbaihi, who currently lives in Laayoune, southern Morocco, and presides over the Sahrawi League for Democracy and Human Rights, made the testimony during a debate show about the Western Sahara issue, broadcasted on social media.
The human rights activist started the testimony by describing his childhood, spent in labor camps in Cuba.
According to the testimony, Polisario members deported Elbaihi to the Caribbean country when he was nine. His journey started from the port of Algiers and he went to Havana aboard a commercial ship.
El Baihi said that he did not see his family until he returned to the Tindouf camps, 14 years after his deportation. After his return, the activist found “a population that is suffocating under the oppression of the Polisario.”
However, Elbaihi did not fully understand the gravity of the situation until he worked at the “International Cooperation Directorate” of the Polisario Front, where he witnessed Algeria and Polisario’s “systematic embezzlement” of humanitarian aid intended for the Tindouf population.
According to the testimony, Polisario leadership systematically diverted the most nutritious food to be sold on the black market in Algeria and some neighboring countries and “arbitrarily” distributed the rest of the food among the Tindouf population.
Elbaihi explained that embezzlement is made possible by the absence of data on the size of the population in Tindouf camps, due to Algeria’s refusal to allow a census in the camps.
In contrast, after leaving the Polisario Front and living in Morocco’s southern regions, Elbaihi expressed his surprise at how “the economy thrives, the population fully enjoys its political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and civil society flourishes.”
The activist concluded that the Polisario Front cannot, “by any standard,” claim representation of the Sahrawi population, qualifying it as “an armed militia that only subsists through repression and impunity.”
According to Elbaihi, the only representatives for people in Western Sahara are local officials to whom Morocco gave democratic legitimacy.
Morocco’s Autonomy Plan is the only solution that would allow the Sahrawi population to emerge from its “pain and suffering,” Elbaihi continued, calling the UN to act quickly and bring the dispute to an end.
The Autonomy Plan, considered by the international community as the most credible effort to solve the Western Sahara conflict, consists of giving Morocco’s southern regions complete autonomy on the condition that they remain under Morocco’s sovereignty.
The former Polisario official also blamed Algeria for the “suffering, angst, and pain” of the Tindouf population, due to its delegation of authority in the camps to the Polisario Front.
At the end of his speech, Elbaihi said that only Polisario’s leadership and the “Algerian masterminds” benefit from the persistence of the regional dispute in Western Sahara.