afrol News, 6 June - Emhamed Khadad, Polisario's Coordinator to the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara, told afrol News that, contrary to common analyses, the US-led "war against terrorism" had not influenced on the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Western Sahara conflict. Morocco had however tried to take advantage of the situation.
The battle over the Morocco-occupied Western Sahara territory for the last eleven years has been a diplomatic battle. Polisario's main ally has all the time been Algeria, but a majority of the world's nations accept the liberation movement's principle that only the Sahrawi people can decide on the future of their territory. Morocco, backed by its main ally France, has gained an increasing support from the US government. The US have seen the Moroccans as a key ally (against Communism, or now, Muslim fundamentalism) in Northern Africa for decades, also providing military aid.
The world has certainly changed after 11 September and most analysts take it for granted that the new "war against terrorism" is bringing the US and Morocco closer together. This, the argument goes, will tilt US and world sympathy over to Morocco, at the expense of the Polisario. We asked the Polisario's top diplomat what changes he had noted after 11 September.
- Well, I really don't know what could have changed; Khadad surprisingly starts his answer, with an expression indicating he means what he says. He explains: "The matter of Western Sahara remains treated as a decolonisation matter within the UN."
The answer seems logic, but doesn't take into account the changed mood of diplomacy after 11 September. "In practical terms you are right, but Morocco has become a key US ally in the 'war against terrorism'", we argue.
- I think that Algeria also is giving its support in the fighting of terrorism, Khadad replies seriously. "That is to say, I think this is a challenge for the international community at large," he adds.
The impression of Morocco as the key ally against terrorism was wrong, he holds. "Morocco of course wanted to promote its position. It wanted and wants to gain advantages from this situation. But truly, I don't see in which way Morocco could contribute with anything more than other countries in the region."
Khadad holds that the most significant contribution to promote stability in the region would be to let the Sahrawi people decide about their own future and stop the suffering of the refugees living in camps in Algeria. "This is a key element in fighting whatever type of extremism, because the accumulation of frustrations constitutes the growing fields of extremism."
Making this statement - resembling the arguments currently produced by frustrated Palestinians - Khadad quickly reminds us of Polisario's traditions. "Polisario has always been a movement of national liberation; it has always assigned its actions within the framework of international law and never turned to terrorism of whatever kind."
- This might be, but the world has turned more black and white, we argue. "In conflicts nowadays one distinguishes the parties as terrorists or non-terrorists, as is the case in the Palestine-Israel conflict."
Khadad doesn't agree to the argument: "I observe that in the Security Council, during the three sessions that have taken place since 11 September, the perception has not changed. I also underline that during the September/October debate in the UN General Assembly the matter of Western Sahara was treated as an issue of decolonisation; with all what this implies for the people subjected to exploitation and colonialism and its right to defend itself."
Being an issue of decolonisation means that the Sahrawi people's "struggle is legitimate because it is a struggle within the framework of the resolutions of the international community," Khadad explains the Polisario's position. Therefore, there was really no change in the Sahrawi situation after 11 September, neither in the UN nor in the international press coverage or international opinion, he concludes.
With a new, modern-imaged and well-articulated King, Morocco has however achieved a public relations improvement. We wanted to know if anything had changed with the rule of Mohammed VI.
Not surprisingly, Khadad is less impressed by Mohammed VI than the international press. "In spite of the propaganda and marketing campaign to present Mohammed VI as a new King, as the King of the poor, etc., on the spot and on an international level people have noted that it is all a lie," Khadad says.
- The old regime continues, with Hassan II and without Hassan II, he emphasises. "The censorship of the national and international press continues unchanged and liberties are still missing," Khadad explains. "Any Moroccan citizen saying that Sahara isn't Moroccan can be charged only for having differing opinion nuance over Western Sahara. Expressing one's opinion over this issue might bring one into prison."
By afrol editors Rainer Chr. Hennig and Pablo Gracia