Polisario’s Brahim Ghali Vows to Fight Morocco in Western Sahara Until UN Holds Independence Vote
23:41 GMT 18.10.2021 (Updated: 11:35 GMT 23.11.2022)
Brahim Ghali, the head of Western Sahara’s Polisario liberation front, has vowed that the group will continue to resist Moroccan rule over the territory until the United Nations holds the independence referendum it has long promised to oversee.
The 72-year-old revolutionary told reporters on Saturday that while the appointment of new officials from the United Nations was a welcome development, it comes in the context of a military conflict that was renewed almost a year ago.
"The appointment of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura, which we have taken note of, should not be an end in itself,” he said in Camp Rabouni, a Saharawi refugee camp in western Algeria.
“The goal is to complete the decolonization of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa, and the fulfillment of its mandate by the United Nations, in accordance with the only agreement signed between the two parties, which stipulates the implementation of the UN-African settlement scheme, and the organization of the self-determination referendum for the Saharawi people,” Ghali said.
Ghali pointed to “the obstruction of Morocco” as the cause of failure for de Mistura’s predecessors, noting that the United Nations has the power to push the issue further - a point Polisario’s EU envoy, Oubi Bouchraya Bachir, also made to Sputnik in an interview last month.
"The forthcoming resolution of the UN Security Council must correct the dysfunction that led to the return of war," he said of the council’s scheduled meeting on October 28. "The upcoming UN Security Council meeting should not be an ordinary one, because the situation is no longer ordinary, and therefore its results could be decisive for the situation in the region."
According to Africa News, he also said that the Saharawi army would continue attacking Moroccan positions along the 1,700-mile-long sand berm unless a UN-appointed envoy was given a clear mandate to hold a self-determination referendum in the territory, as it as promised to do since a ceasefire was agree upon in 1991.
That peace treaty ended 16 years of war that followed Spain’s withdrawal from what had been its colonies of Rio del Oro and Saguia el-Hamra in the present territory of Western Sahara. Polisario declared an independent Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in the territory, but Morocco and Mauritania invaded, claiming the land as their own. While Polisario quickly pushed the Mauritanians out, the Royal Moroccan Army, which enjoys US backing, has proven more resilient, and successfully pushed Polisario into the territory’s eastern marches while bringing in hundreds of thousands of Moroccan settlers.
The peace created in 1991 ended almost a year ago, after Moroccan soldiers forcibly dispersed a Saharawi protest encampment at Guerguerat, a UN-policed border area in the south, which Polisario said violated the deal. Less than a month later, then-US President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s claim to rule Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat normalizing relations with Israel, something it had long sworn to avoid.
In the year since, Polisario has excoriated MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission, for its lack of action and for continuing to lack a human rights monitoring component to its mission - almost unique among UN missions. The new Biden administration in Washington has also shown little desire to change Trump’s precedent, despite appeals by senior US diplomats to do so.
According to Africa News, the conflict has been low-intensity, with eight Saharawi soldiers being killed so far. However, Ghali noted that engagement with Moroccan forces is happening “daily.”
However, the last year hasn’t been without its successes: last month, the European Union Court of Justice struck down an EU trade deal with Morocco. The court found that the EU could only import products or resources from Western Sahara if the Saharawis had consented to the deal. While some Saharawi civil society groups were consulted by Rabat, Polisario wasn’t invited, and the EU high court - referencing the UN’s policy - said Polisario is the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people.