Independence leader: the wall will not stop the fight in Western Sahara
DAJLA REFUGEE CAMP, Algeria – The leader of the independence movement in Western Sahara says fighting with Morocco will continue through a long wall spanning the vast African desert until the international community keeps a broken promise of self-determination for the Saharawi people.
The UN considers Western Sahara the last territory in Africa to be decolonized, but its envoys have not paved the way for a referendum on its future since a ceasefire was signed 30 years ago. years between Morocco, which annexed it in 1975, and independence – the search for the Polisario Front.
The conflict has received renewed attention due to the growing frustration of the Saharawi people, but also after the United States last year ignored UN efforts in supporting Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the whole of the country. disputed territory.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently appointed a new special envoy to Western Sahara, Staffan De Mistura.
In a rare public appearance after a long recovery from COVID-19 this year, Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali on Tuesday defended his movement’s decision in November 2020 to cancel the 1991 ceasefire.
“There will be no peace, no stability, no just and lasting solution to the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict if the UN Security Council does not assume its responsibilities by responding frankly and firmly to the aggressive and expansionist practices of power Moroccan occupier, ”Ghali said. in a speech to hundreds of Sahrawis at Dajla refugee camp in Tindouf province, southern Algeria.
Hostilities remained on a relatively small scale, although Polisario officials told The Associated Press that at least 8 of their fighters died in action or withdrew from attacks on Moroccan army positions. along the wall.
But the conflict could escalate and destabilize the entire North African region, Ghali said.
“War is already raging on the ground. And its dangers and repercussions on the region cannot be avoided if the United Nations continues to manage the crisis instead of solving it,” Ghali said.
Algeria has sheltered Sahrawi refugees since Morocco annexed their homeland. But now the Saharawis who did not flee have become a minority in the Moroccan-controlled part of Western Sahara, due to policies that encourage Moroccan settlers to come and live there.
With a heavy security issue, Ghali was in Dajla to mark the day of Sahrawi unity, which recalls the date on which the main Sahrawi tribal leaders and former members of the Spanish colonial administration supported the Polisario’s struggle for an independent state .
In their constant search for allies, Morocco and the Polisario have sought to win diplomatic battles at the UN and with other stakeholders. The Biden administration has not taken action to make effective on the ground the recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty that Trump announced in a tweet at the end of his term.
Meanwhile, in Europe, a European Union tribunal recently sided with the Polisario in recognizing that Morocco should not be seen as the legitimate party for the bloc to sign fisheries and agriculture agreements. concerning Western Sahara.
In his speech on Tuesday, Ghali accused “countries, companies or others” doing business with Morocco in the disputed territory of supporting “an illegal, aggressive and expansionist operation, as well as the theft and looting of the wealth of a oppressed and defenseless people “.
Ghali was hospitalized in Spain in April, a move the Spanish government has tried to keep secret but has angered the Moroccan government in Rabat. Shortly after the news broke, more than 10,000 Moroccans crossed the Spanish border, triggering a humanitarian crisis that has reduced relations between Madrid and Rabat for decades.