The Polisario motion, which seeks independence in disputed Western Sahara, began assembly Friday for leadership elections within the shadow of mounting tensions between host Algeria and Morocco, which controls most of the territory.
More than 2,200 members of the motion and 370 overseas friends are attending the five-day congress deep in Algeria’s desert, at a Sahrawi refugee camp named after Dakhla, an Atlantic port metropolis in what’s Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.
The Polisario’s present head Brahim Ghali, 73, seems to benefit from the important backing of Algeria and is predicted to be re-elected on the gathering, which comes at a crucial time for the motion.
“It’s the first congress since the armed struggle resumed,” the motion’s consultant in South Africa, Islam Beissat, informed AFP.
The battle dates again to 1975, when colonial occupier Spain withdrew from Western Sahara, sparking a 15-year battle between the Polisario and Morocco for management of the territory.
That led to a 1991 ceasefire cope with the North African kingdom in management of 80 p.c of the resource-rich desert territory and the Polisario clinging to hopes of a UN-supervised referendum on independence offered for within the deal.
The referendum has by no means taken place.
The truce broke down in November 2020 after Morocco despatched troops to the far south of the Western Sahara to disperse Sahrawi protesters who have been blocking the only real freeway to Mauritania and the remainder of Africa, which the Polisario says was constructed after 1991 in violation of the settlement.
A string of lethal incidents since has sparked fears of a return to full-blown battle.
Morocco sees the complete Western Sahara, dwelling to plentiful phosphates and fisheries and the strategically important freeway to West Africa, as its sovereign territory, and has supplied restricted autonomy.
Since late 2020, the Polisario says it has been in “a war of legitimate defence” and has declared the complete Western Sahara, together with its land, sea and airspace, a “war zone”.
‘Stepping up the campaign’
The congress comes as tensions spiral between Morocco and Algeria, which minimize all diplomatic ties with its neighbour in August 2021 over “hostile actions.”
The administration of former US president Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the huge Western Sahara desert territory. Emboldened by that assist, Rabat has stepped up the strain on different international locations to again its place.
The Polisario is holding its sixteenth congress under the slogan “stepping up the campaign to make the occupier withdraw and to impose total sovereignty” within the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
The convention marks the top of mandates for the motion’s nationwide secretariat, and for Ghali. He is a founding member and the SADR president.
“Sahrawi people will have their final word during this congress,” stated Oumeima Abdeslam, the motion’s delegate to the United Nations in Geneva, who denied reviews of an inside wrestle over Ghali’s successor.
“The post of secretary general is not the monopoly of anyone,” she stated.
“So far there is no list of candidates for the post. These are just rumours.”
Algerian professor and worldwide regulation knowledgeable Tahar Eddine Ammari predicted Ghali can be elected for one more time period, as “if the congress decides to replace him, the Sahrawi representation would be weakened”.
His continued rule is due to this fact “a logical choice for the Sahrawi fight to continue,” he stated.
The motion, nevertheless, wants “to adapt to the new international context,” Ammari stated, pointing to Spain’s declaration of assist early final yr for the Moroccan autonomy plan.
In late October, the UN Security Council referred to as on the events to renew negotiations with out preconditions and in good religion “with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.”
It stated this answer ought to present for the self willpower of the individuals of Western Sahara.
Its envoy to the area, Staffan de Mistura, has travelled a number of occasions to satisfy with the completely different events since he was appointed in late 2021, however has made little seen progress.