The former Polisario police chief said that nothing has changed for the Sahrawis in 45 years, while they are still divided between the autonomy plan and independence.
Rabat – Former Polisario member Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud shared on Facebook on December 14 the story of a meeting with Polisario leaders in 1975, pointing to how little has changed since that time.
The province of Sakia El Hamra, southern Morocco, was still under the Spanish occupation at the time. Mustafa Salma recalled that beyond Spanish occupation, the southern provinces also saw tensions between supporters of the Polisario Front, supporters of the Sahrawi National Party (PUNS), and supporters of the Sahrawi Group, which Spain created in 1967.
The former Polisario police chief said that Polisario, under the leadership of the late El Ouali Mustapha Sayed, called for a meeting in the village of Ain Ben Tili, near Tindouf and in northern Mauritania, with Sahrawi leaders and tribal sheiks.
The topic of discussion was weighing Spain’s autonomy proposal against the independence proposal that both Algeria and Libya backed at the time.
Mustafa Salma said that “the voice of wisdom and reason prevailed” in the meeting. Tribal sheikhs agreed that armed struggle would present unknown consequences, and that it was favorable to act peacefully.
According to the former Polisario police chief, Mustapha Sayed only pretended to listen to the sheikhs’ opinions to appear respectful, and opted for arms instead.
Mustapha Sayed was a senior Polisario official and the founder of the Front and died the next year, in June 1976. He attended Mohammed VI University in Rabat in 1970.
The death of Mustapha Sayed remains a mystery. Some claim that he died on the battlefield during a Polisario operation in Mauritania. Meanwhile, many former Polisario operatives argue that Algeria killed him after he expressed his willingness to negotiate a solution with Morocco regarding the Western Sahara conflict.
Still at square one
Mustafa Salma said that 45 years after the Ain Ben Tili meeting, and after trying several means, including armed struggle, negotiations, and alliances, in addition to sacrificing lives, “we [Sahrawis] find ourselves at the starting point.”
“The options and equations are still the same, even if the names have changed,” said Mustafa Salma. He noted that the only change is that Morocco replaced Spain in controlling Western Sahara and Algeria alone backs independence, after the death of Libya’s Gaddafi.
Since then, Sahrawis, said Mustapha Salma, are divided between advocates of independence and supporters of the autonomy plan.
He said the 1975 meeting could have been an opportunity for the Sahrawi people to spare nearly half a century of “loss and pain,” which those involved did not seize due to selfishness, lack of experience, and emotions.
However, the Sahrawi activist believes that “continuing to commit a sin is a sin and a crime” against the old, against young generations, and against generations to come.
Morocco in 2007 proposed the Autonomy Plan to the UN, to make Western Sahara a semi-autonomous region under Morocco’s sovereignty.
The plan would allow the Sahrawi population to manage their social, economic, and political affairs while Morocco handles diplomacy and defense.
Many observers see the country’s Autonomy Plan — which the UN Security Council has consistently described as “serious” and “credible” — as the most viable route to a lasting solution to the Western Sahara crisis.