Sahara Conflict History
The Polisario Front, created in 1973, was named “Polisario”, or the liberation front of Essaquia al Hamra and Oued Eddahab, while the armed branch was called the Armée de Libération populaire sahraouie (ALPS) / Sahraoui Popular Liberation Army. The group of people who founded the Polisario consisted of about 30 young Moroccans of Sahraoui origin studying at Mohammed V University in Rabat. The hardships imposed on the creators of the Polisario were considerable and what these young men went through should not be forgotten, as those who had the same experience can confirm.
At the time, they took advantage of the local Moussem being held in Tan-Tan to demonstrate in its tiny streets. The Caïd of this district ordered their incarceration, but there was there was no local jail, so an attic the size of about 12 square meters was improvised to hold the prisoners. Sitting in this room made of adobe, with only one low-lying narrow door, lacking windows and in an atmosphere of intense heat, no one could doubt the courage needed by these men to overcome the gruesome conditions.
Like their mothers and fathers, they lived in incredibly degrading and inhuman conditions. Tan-Tan at the time was a tiny place with no tarred roads, sidewalks, no running water, no sanitation, no electricity, no investment and, of course, no work.
They were able to survive by national aid thanks to the distribution of bags of flour, distilled to the last drop. It took courage and self-control to remain honourable, because prisoners were withheld even the meagre rations they had, unless they were willing to betray their compatriots.
It was in this state of abject misery that these brave fighters had to vegetate after the ECOUVILLON operation threw them into positions without hope of getting out.
Thousands came seeking freedom, happiness and peace in dignity, but nothing of that had been obtained, and it is in this world, forgotten by all local and regional authorities that the thirty students tried to make themselves heard and make known the predicament of their social, economic, cultural and political situation.
One must not underestimate the contempt and hatred that the administrative authorities felt towards these young individuals who came out of nowhere and who would neither submit, nor be resigned like their parents. They were criticized for expressing their opinions and vocalizing disagreement with the dictates of the Caïd.
How could they dare defy the power and authority of the invisible governor?
How could they have the audacity to say aloud what their families thought in secret?
How did those without hope get the courage to lift up their heads to the shins of the local Khalifa?
To cool off these “hot heads”, it was decided that nothing was better than to giving them a good thrashing, and not just by anyone, especially not by a gendarme or policeman. No, they did not deserve this privilege, better to suspend them, shut them up, deprive them of food, let them suffocate and suffer martyrdom while awaiting the arrival of the mobile Makhzen, stationed at more than two hundred kilometres to the north (at Bouizakarne) coming to torture and humiliate them. Making them suffer the sharp burning and pain of being defenceless, thrashed by those considered as the most inhuman and mediocre of the police force.
The youngest did not understand what happened as their only crime or, better said, their only misdemeanour was that one day they had become more agitated than their parents and on the eve of that catastrophe walked through the narrow street of the little town of Tan-Tan.
They demonstrated so that Morocco could regain, or at least do something to regain its Sahara. Their condition for improving this state of affairs considered to be unbearable and of the deepest despair.
It was only after they were confronted by this brutality, that their revolt became destructive and devastating, that the hate in their hearts and minds became greater.
The most extreme, due to their lack of patience and because they were the most affected by the tenants of progressiveness, in other words those who were the most excited and attached to the ideology then present in their country, that is to say, the one seeking the destruction, attempting to accelerate the pace of sudden change?
In a word, they were those who were incapable of distinguishing the chaff from the grain in the turmoil of the 1970s in Morocco. Those who didn’t have the hindsight to discern what is tantamount in the exercise of power, to little local authorities, of what is the responsibility of the central government.
Those who were convinced that they were going to remain eternally misunderstood decided to make themselves heard by the use of force. In short, the biggest idealists who believed in a world revolution by Che Guevara or Fidel Castro, decided to break with their past and the negation of their origins as well as that of their ancestors.
The order was given to the most vulnerable among them to disperse or disappear so as to escape evening roundups, to meet with certain officials under different circumstances, to take revenge on their lost honour and to return to the hangman the blows that he had no qualms about inflicting, and that with good reason.
The person in charge of this cataclysm was quickly found out. The question was, what level in the hierarchy did he occupy?
The response left room for no doubt, that the Khalifa was an incompetent leader, as was the Caïd, the gendarmes and the policemen were not decision-makers, nor were the poor Mokhaznis. As for the governor, he was “untouchable”. None of his staff could be held responsible for the misfortunes of this «incident» either.
No, the responsible person is the one who allowed this vermin of local officials, to act like lions in the desert, and now left them to fend for himself.
This responsibility can fall upon no other entity than Moroccan administration itself and must be accounted for by the entire system, by all those officials, all those representatives and generally by those who had the right and capability of doing something about it.
Requital had to be taken against this State that was unable or worse, unwilling, to protect its most deprived citizens. Especially, when these could claim to having been among the most faithful. The decision became an ideal and even a myth, that unfortunately over time became an illusion giving rise to a full-fledged nightmare.
In the early 1970s these young university students from the Sahara had legitimate political, economic and social demands. But they were domestic in nature and operated in a strictly Moroccan framework.
Their demands came to the fore at a difficult time in Moroccan history when the Government was facing tough external and internal pressure. It can be said without doubt, that at that time, i.e. during the 1970s, there was no power, nor any political forces in Morocco that could positively respond to a demand of a regional nature, as legitimate as it might be.
At that time, Morocco was facing enormous internal and external challenges. Priorities were elsewhere, given the circumstances of the period. They were marked by the antagonistic context of cold war, as well as continuous and interminable inter Arab conflicts.
For this reason, a part of this group of students from the Sahara studying in Rabat, was moved by a spirit of vengeance, following the repression of the demonstration in Tan-Tan, the following incarcerations, and ensuing ill treatment.
The ill treatment led these young men to enter into alliances with other countries, in a context of the cold war and inter Arab and inter African conflicts. At that time such alliances were permissible.
They expressed their vengeance against their country of origin, in other words Morocco, from whence all their ancestors came.
Their parents struggled tirelessly in the liberation army to free the country from the nation where these young people from the Sahara did their studies.
Their fathers defended with force Sultan Mohammed V and swore allegiance to his son, the late King Hassan II.
A bit more understanding would have been better. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it was the Moroccan authorities, who initiated the ill treatment, torture and persecution of these young students during the demonstration in Tan-Tan in 1972; and were also behind two attempted government overthrows.
That is the picture of the great contradictions of Morocco in the 1970s.
Nevertheless, all these riots had no effect on the normal course of history, simply because the Sahara affair has to do with de-colonization between Morocco and Spain.
Morocco had to gradually and in successive steps, recuperate that part of the territory under Spanish administration, beginning with the North and Tangier in 1956, Tarfaya and Tan Tan in 1958, Sidi Ifni in 1969 and the Sahara in 1975.
The adversaries of Morocco, who aided and abetted the conflict in the Sahara and opposed Morocco’s territorial integrity, by funding and helping the Polisario, prepared in advance this opposition to Morocco.
This led to Algeria’s acceptance of this movement on its territory in Tindouf, due to the differences existing at that time between Morocco and Algeria with regard to common borders and after Morocco signed an agreement with Spain in compliance with the historical relations that had always existed between the two countries.
Moreover, Morocco recovered its Sahara through negotiations and consensus, in accordance with the usual process of dialogue and negotiation followed with Spain.
With Morocco having recovered is southern provinces, the Polisario found nothing better to do than to park the Sahraoui population in camps set up on Algerian territory. These were called refugee camps and were occasionally referred to under fictitious names, such and the camps of Laayoune, Smara, ’Aouserd, or Dakhla.
The Polisario withheld information and manipulated the segment of the population placed in Tindouf, Algeria. All Sahraouis know that in November and December 1975, the Polisario asked many people to attend the meetings in Gueltat Zemmour and when they came, they were asked them to organize another meeting in Bir Lahlou. Thereafter, they were invited to come to Tindouf in the hope of trapping them and never letting them out.
Mainly due to the lack of means of transport, they did gettrapped in Tindouf and had to remain there. Many realized their predicament and did everything they could to return home to Samara, Laayoune, Dakhla and Aouserd.
All Sahraouis, at least those who were over 15 years of age at the time, remember this. The Polisario planned and carried out the setting up of camps on Algerian territory.
Why did the Polisario create these camps and keep them adrift in territory that is not their own by taking people with no identity cards hostage and not letting them move?
These populations were under surveillance night and day by the Polisario which would recruit their children in schools thorugh a curriculum based on preaching hate and despair.
One asks oneself what reasons led the heads of the Polisario to hold people against their will in these camps for over thirty years now? What is their real objective? Are these people being used as bargaining chips?
It is easy to conclude that without the existence of these camps, there never would have been a political-military movement called “Polisario”.
The existence of the Polisario is connected to the very existence of these camps. But this policy doesn’t have any reasonable or even tangible end goal.
The very existence of these camps on a hostile territory and the subhuman conditions in which they have operated for over such a long period is a flagrant infringement on human rights.
By what right is it possible to keep people living under tents for more than thirty years? By what right can people be kept from moving freely? By what right can children be recruited and inoculated with hate and despair? By what right can people be impeded from living just like everyone else? By what right can a part of the Sahraoui population be forced to live in camps?
By what right can human misery be sold to international charitable organizations?
These are outright infringements on the most important human rights as they affect the very essence of what it entails to be human and the right to choose and seek fulfilment for one’s self and for one’s family.
The Polisario Front has constantly and deliberately violated the most elementary human rights for over 30 years.
For more than 25 years it has held Moroccan prisoners and their relatives in conditions of unbearable suffering, separated from their families.
Why does so much suffering have to be inflicted on these prisoners, who are human beings too? Why to have held them for more than 25 years in unliveable conditions and under the physical, psychological and moral torture that to the say the least, that implies?WHAT?
So many questions without a single justifiable reply.
This movement was obliged to free them without any political counterpart.
The Polisario then set up its Headquarters in Hassi Rabouni, in Tindouf and since 1976 has taken over the names of certain people without any legal, historical or legitimate foundations and without slightest consultation with the Sahraouis themselves.
The Polisario is a political and military movement that has instituted a system similar to that which existed in former totalitarian countries with single party systems, sole institutions, structures, and bureaucracies with everything wrapped up in one-track thinking.
It began armed control over the population using food aid as a tool for permanent blackmail and control of people in the camps by strict physical, psychological and moral domination akin to that of political commissaries.
The front instituted denunciation as a method of control. Permanent enlistment, or more particularly, brainwashing of both the young and adults, is undertaken through the falsification of history, hate preaching and the manipulation of events.
The Polisario is the product of another era. One prior to the collapse of the totalitarian system that held half the world in check before 1991. But it hasn’t been affected by any of the changes that have since ensued: no free elections, no democracy, no plurality, no freedom of expression, no free opinions and no civil society. It totally clamped down on everything and partitioned off structures to make them seemingly last forever. All of the political or political-military type movements, which bore similarity to the Polisario, have disappeared from the world since the fall of the Berlin wall. Either they have changed name, disestablished themselves, or have created new structures corresponding to the new globalized, free and democratic world.
The Polisario, considers itself an independent, so-called Democratic Sahraoui Arab Republic (RASD), while referring to the land liberated by Morocco in the Western Sahara as occupied territories.
The so-called « RASD » is in flagrant contradiction to the proclaimed request by the Polisaro for a referendum on self-determination.
How can a referendum on the self-determination of all Sahraouis be called for in their name by an entity without the slightest moral, historical or democratic basis?
This is reminiscent of the processes followed by totalitarian and anti-democratic movements. The old and very well-known phrase of answering in the name of the people, bids the question of whether they were ever asked. The unilateral proclamation by the Polisario Front of the « RASD » is in flagrant violation to international law. This is tantamount to the failure to respect the will of the people and the rules of democracy, as well as the deliberate and premeditated attempt to procure political gain by using underhanded methods and cheating.
This is the reason why the Polisario Front discredited the request for free self-determination of the Sahraoui people. It engaged in manipulation by replying in advance of letting the people themselves decide.
Thus it can never be said that it respects what the Sahraouis want when it acts in such a way. No one can say the Polisarios are honest while they respond in the place of others. One cannot claim to be oppressed, and then cheat on his own principles.
One cannot say that the right to self-determination of people is being crippled and then decide on their future without any consultation with a multitude of their representatives.
One cannot say that one is honest if one has cheated in advance.
The « RASD » has no territorial existence. It is set up in Tindouf, Algeria and has no people, as the only population it can draw from are the sequestered people in the camps, held and controlled to their great dismay. None of this is the result of an election.
It does not hold the power of sovereignty, existing only on the internet and in fictitious institutions on the territory of a foreign country.
The Polisario Front, has set up fictitious institutions such as the Sahraoui government, the Red Crescent (CRS), the union of Sahraoui women, the Union of Sahraoui youth, in Tindouf. These spare no effort in organizing on Algerian soil festivities commemorated under the names of: 27 February, 10 May, 20 May or the 12th of October.
Upon its creation, the Polisario appointed its first secretary general, Chahid el Ouali, who took over in the place of Mohamed Abdelaziz, thereafter called president, secretary general or chief of the Polisario. The front also managed to create propaganda media in support of these separatist ideas, i.e. the “Sahraoui press agency », (SPS), « Radio Sahara » and « Radio Polisario », dedicating its body and soul to becoming the absolute chimera of the Sahara.
Indeed, after it lost the war and following the failure of the referendum project, which incidentally is impossible to hold as all the borders would have to be changed, the Polisario began to a say to anyone willing to listen, that the Sahara is a territory occupied by Morocco and that this region is subjected to all the forms of political repression and violation of human rights.
The Polisario is absolutely in no position to preach to anyone else on human rights.
Everyone knows that the borders in the northwest region of Africa, in particular with regard to the confines of Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Mali were drawn with a ruler in conjunction with the sharing of these African territories between France and Spain.
The current borders are based on no logical or valid geographical, human or other criteria. It can be said without fault, that they are borders drawn arbitrarily at the time of the split up. This is the real reason behind the failure of the referendum project.
Sahraouis are found not only in Morocco. The entire southwestern part of Algeria, from Bechar to the borders of Mauritania and Mali is a region peopled by Sahraoui tribes. The entire northwestern part of the territory of Mauritania is also populated by Sahraouis, as is the far north of Mali between Timbuktu and the border with Algeria at Taoudenni.
For this reason, to hold a free, democratic, fair and honest referendum on self-determination allowing all Sahraouis to express an opinion on their future as promoted by the United Nations in its plan for an initial settlement indispensable for changing the borders of the four relevant countries, i.e. Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria and Mali, in such a way as the Sahraoui populations and their old and current historical geographical sphere could be determined.
Such changes in borders are obviously impossible, illogical and irresponsible. Therefore, a referendum on identification is also impossible to conduct. Any attempt at organizing one is a deliberate bid to lengthen the conflict and the unnecessary suffering of the populations.
Along the same lines, the Polisario Front did not hesitate to create more completely fabricated institutions with the complicity of certain anti Moroccan individuals for diverse reasons, such as associations for friendship with the Sahraoui people, human rights associations, associations for solidarity with the Sahraoui people, associations for solidarity with the RASD, humanitarian aid associations, the Chahid el Ouali Association, the Oum Driga Association, the association of friends of the Western Sahara, or the friends of the Sahraoui people.
Although the United Nations has decided it is impossible to organize a referendum in the Sahara without changing borders, the Polisario resorted to inventing the issue of self-determination arguing that thereby, through the referendum, this could only lead to separatism.
However, the UN Charter, the ultimate international jurisprudence, stipulates that self-determination must take account of the territorial integrity and unity. Thus, autonomy remains one of the best solutions for self-determination.
This type of autonomy exists in most highly developed Western countries across the world.
For this reason, the international community denounced the Organization of African Unity (OAU)), accused of having deliberately violated international law by recognizing the so-called « RASD ». The institution that filled in the space left by the dissolute OAU, the African Union (UA), also deviated from international law by recognizing an entity that was declared by a political-military movement and not on the basis of a consultation by referendum.
On the other hand, the remainder of international organizations like the UN, non-aligned countries, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the European Union (EU), and the Asian Union categorically refused to reject international law and complied with the resolutions of the UN Security Council. In other words, there has been an attempt to look for a political and consensual solution to the sterile conflict in the Sahara, through negotiation and dialogue.
Indeed, this conflict impeded the construction of the Arab Maghreb Union, (UMA), hindering any form of agreement between the neighbouring sister countries, Morocco and Algeria, while keeping Sahraoui families from returning home to live among their own.
Encouraged by the proliferation of human traffic, it also created a center of tension in northwest Africa. In particular in the form of clandestine immigration, weapons trafficking, drugs, the deviation of goods in the camps as well as the appearance of terrorism.
The UN often sends delegations from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to these camps, in order to inquire about the poor management and deviation of humanitarian aid coming from these institutions. While the European Humanitarian Aid Organization (ECHO), in principle, is intended to support the camp detainees.
Deviation of humanitarian aid has been confirmed by several international non-governmental organizations, in particular the « US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) », the Fondation France-Libertés and the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC).
These organizations several times have attracted the attention of the International Community to the phenomenon of deviation and its impact on the humanitarian situation of the populations held in the camps of Tindouf, in Algeria.
In spite of this unfortunate affair, the Polisario could still come to a settlement and return to reason. It is of no use to be stubborn and remain in error. Extremists have never won out anywhere.
Today, history enables the Polisario to come to an agreement that is both honourable and comes to the advantage of our people and families.
Today, history enables the Polisario to open the road to hope, to make people forget the suffering, the errors and moral failures of the past.
Today, history offers a golden opportunity for the Polisario to accept the only solution possible, indeed the best one, i.e. political autonomy under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco.
If it has the slightest bit of consideration or respect for the Sahraouis, it should readily seize this historic opportunity.
The Polisario needs to get out of the trap it finds itself in and must not serve the interests of anyone else or be used as a thorn in the sides of the Kingdom of Morocco to obtain political hegemony.