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Why the World Needs to Know About Western Sahara’s Seemingly Endless Struggle for Independence

ArticlesWhy the World Needs to Know About Western Sahara’s Seemingly Endless Struggle for Independence

An interview with a Sahrawi Journalist and Activist.
By Amira Ali.

In 1975, Morocco, under King Hassan II, invaded Western Sahara; and since, the Sahrawi people — female-dominated society of Arab and Berber descent — have been in an unflagging resistance struggle, committed to self-determination without exception. Today, Western Sahara remains the African continent’s (overtly) occupied territory — a Moroccan colony.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (a full member of the African Union) is governed by the Polisario Front (a national liberation movement), and controls about 20% of Western Sahara while claiming sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara.

The Sahrawi people (Sahrawi is an Arabic word for Ṣaḥrā’ meaning desert), despite decades of struggle against colonization and several failed efforts of conflict resolution and decolonization, continue to live ambiguously. Second to Palestine, the Sahrawi people (regarded as some of the most courageous and principled people) are the longest suffering group of refugees in the world — more than 165,000 Sahrawi people have been living in refugee camps since 1976.

A protracted state of affair, Morocco, “sponsored and protected by the French,” ceaselessly carries on its occupation, impinging on the Sahrawi’s rightful independence. Insisting on “autonomy within the Kingdom of Morocco” and struggling to control its neighboring country, it continues to avoid any referendum or agreement, preventing the possibility of any wide-ranging and durable political settlement. Morocco’s defiance toward the Sahrawi people’s call for self-determination is further highlighted in its absence from the African Union 668th meeting on the situation in Western Sahara held on 20 March 2017.

Four decades later and after fifty-four years of failed attempts to fully decolonize Western Sahara, the way forward remains uncertain. The Kingdom of Morocco remains unbending with its colonial program, all while the Sahrawi people resiliently stand their ground, affirming, “no political solution would be accepted unless it gives justice,” and justice would mean “Morocco withdrawing from Western Sahara and respecting Western Sahara’s borders.”

To learn more about the situation in Western Sahara — the shape and state of Western Sahara’s resistance struggle, Morocco’s recent interests to rejoin the African Union and its further intentions in Western Sahara, the illegal exploration and plundering of the territory’s natural resources, and the impasse in the peace process — we spoke with Malainin Lakhal, a journalist and advocate of Western Sahara.

How long has Western Sahara been in a resistance struggle with attempts to decolonize and gain its independence?

Lakhal: Western Sahara has always been a target of European colonial attempts of invasion since the 15th Century, or maybe even prior, because of its strategic position for the old European merchant movements. During various periods, the Sahrawi population fought against many attempts of invasions by the Portuguese, the British, the Dutch, French and the Spanish. After the notorious Berlin Conference of 1884-85 that launched the Partition of Africa, Spain was “awarded” Western Sahara (that included what is now known as the Southern zone of Morocco). But from day one, the Sahrawi resistance, though small, scattered and not really aware of the danger of colonization, started attacking the Spanish (few) positions on the coasts of Western Sahara. So it can rightly be said that the Sahrawi resistance against colonialism officially started in 1885-86.

In modern history, a prominent Sahrawi political Leader, Martyr Mohamed Sidi Brahim Basiri, formed the Sahrawi politically organized resistance in 1966-67. He was a Sahrawi who studied political science and journalism in Morocco, Cairo and Damascus, prior to returning to his country to start a political party for the liberation of Western Sahara (The Vanguard Movement for the Liberation of Saguia El Hamra & Rio De Oro). Between 1967 and 1970, this political movement adopted peaceful means of struggle against the Spanish colonization, but in 1970 the Spanish colonial authorities harshly oppressed a popular uprising organized by this movement in the Capital city of Western Sahara, El Aaiun, killing dozens of civilians and imprisoning the majority of the leadership of the movement including Mohamed Sidi Brahim Basiri. To this day, the Spanish government refuses to reveal the truth about what happened to Basiri, though we have testimonies from some of the survivors who state that he was cowardly assassinated by his torturers because he refused to surrender or compromise with the colonial power.

This blow to peaceful resistance pushed hundreds of Sahrawis, including Sahrawi students (in the universities of Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Spain and elsewhere), former militants in various armed resistance groups, victims of the Spanish oppression and the remaining militants of the recently crashed Vanguard movement to join force and form groups of secret political organizations that will unite on 10 May 1973 to constitute the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguia-El-Hamra y Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO- Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia-El-Hamra and Rio de Oro).

But this time, the new political organization adopted armed struggle. It learned from the experience of the Vanguard movement that the colonizer only understands the voice of fire and Iron, as Polisario’s anthem stresses. The armed struggle against Spain officially started on 20 May 1973. So this is a very brief chronology of the commencement of the Sahrawi resistance against colonialism.

How committed are the Sahrawi people (today) to carry on the fight for self-determination?

Lakhal: Just try to imagine how committed a people that have been resisting colonization since 1884 to date must be, refusing to be swallowed by Spain first and now Morocco. The Sahrawi people are so committed to their cause that they have refused, at least for the last 41 years to submit to the Moroccan attempts to impose a colonial fait accompli on them. For 41 years, Sahrawis have chosen to live as political exiles in refugee camps, in a very harsh part of the planet (in terms of weather conditions) and face all sorts of sufferings, rather than surrender to the Moroccan colonial will.

Thousands of Sahrawis have been victims to forced disappearances, illegal imprisonments, iniquitous trials, summary executions, and all sorts of colonial oppressive methods, but they still continue with the struggle, participation and demonstrations. They still loudly say: “We are not Moroccans! We want our freedom back!”

What is the driving force behind Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara?

Lakhal: There are various and complicated motives behind the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

One, Morocco is a very poor country (in terms of natural resources) with a big population (over 35 millions), while Western Sahara is very rich in all sorts of renewable and non-renewable resources.

Two, geographically speaking, half of Morocco’s territory is completely useless because of Mountains and arid regions. The only useful regions are the coastal ones while the entire zone in the middle, the far North, and South of Morocco are difficult to live in because of Mountains. So, Western Sahara presents a big and wide-open territorial expansion for Morocco.

Third reason is the outcome of the expansionist dogma of the kingdom. Morocco has historically been a chain of kingdoms that varied in territorial sovereignty. Absolutely none of them have ever ruled or owned Western Sahara. In fact, their Southern borders have been some 300 to 400 km far from the current Northern border of Western Sahara. But, most of these Kingdoms, and especially the actual Family have always had expansionist tendencies and territorial ambitions and claims in all the neighboring countries (Algeria, Mauritania and Spain). It should be recalled here that the Moroccan King tried to invade parts of Algeria (the famous Sands War in October 1963) a few months after Algiers gained its independence. The Kingdom also refused, for 9 years, to recognize the independence of Mauritania.

Four, the crucial reason that ignited the late King Hassan II’s decision to invade Western Sahara in 1975 was nothing less than fear of his army, after he was a victim of two dangerous military coups in July 1971 and August 1972. In fact, the rule of Hassan II, who can be considered the real builder of the modern Moroccan Kingdom, has been threatened by more than 20 political or military coups, according to recent reports by Moroccan Press. The king needed to find a way to get rid of his army by keeping it busy with a colonial adventure in Western Sahara, and at the same time try to impose a colonial fait accompli and exploit the rich neighboring territory.

Five, most of us often forget that the Moroccan Kingdom and the current Monarchic Family is and has been the protégé of France since 1912. In fact, the throne of this family was threatened by various Moroccan revolutions since 1911. The Moroccan people were then criticizing the complicity of the ruling family with the French colonial power. The Moroccan elite even dethroned one of the grandfathers of the current king, who immediately handed over the country to France for protection. This is why France didn’t colonize Morocco; rather, it was a Protectorate. It was France that built the roots and bases of the modern Moroccan Monarchy. Morocco was and is still a country under the political, economic and even cultural influence of France.

Six, within this same plot of complicity with the West, it was the duty of Morocco to never let the newly independent and revolutionary state of Algeria become a dominant power in North Africa. This is one of the geo-strategic reasons France supports the Moroccan invasion followed by the occupation of Western Sahara. To this date, the French political class has never been able to overcome the chock of total independence of Algeria from the French colonial Empire. And by the way, the politics of what is well known as the France-Afrique is still dominating huge parts of our continent, and many French-speaking countries are still under the influence and authority of Paris.

These are, more or less, some of the main motives for the Moroccan invasion and occupation of Western Sahara. This occupation not only hinders my people’s emancipation and prosperity but it also hinders all the efforts and dreams of the North African States to join forces and form a strong and unified region (within the African Union). Knowing that if North Africa really unified it can compete with the South European countries, and become even more developed given that we have everything in the eight countries of North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Sahrawi Republic, Mauritania, Tunis, Libya and Egypt). But of course, France and the West will never let us unite, neither in North Africa nor the Continent as a whole.

How much of the 266,000 square kilometers (130,000 sq. mi) of Western Sahara’s surface area does the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic control?

Lakhal: The Sahrawi Republic controls a liberated zone of more than 90,000 sq km (East and South of the Moroccan military separation wall), the remaining 176,000 sq km are under Moroccan military occupation.

A lot of people including Moroccans often say as an argument that we cannot be a State because our territory is small and our people do not make up a million (around 600.000 Sahrawis all over the world, maybe more). Worldwide, the territory of Western Sahara is bigger than 180 sovereign states and dependencies. In terms of population, we are bigger than 74 sovereign states and dependencies. So, I see no relevance to that argument of size or population.

The Polisario Front, the leading front of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is considered “a legitimate government in exile.” What does that mean in real terms?

Lakhal: The Polisario Front is in fact considered the legitimate political representative of the people of Western Sahara (UN’s General Assembly’s resolution 34/37 of 1979). As a liberation movement, Polisario represents the Sahrawis in the UN and in all European countries. It is the official interlocutor and negotiating party in the UN facing Morocco as the colonial party in the conflict.

But on 27 February 1976, to avoid the administrative and political vacuum, Spain was going to create by its unilateral withdrawal from Western Sahara, the Polisario Front, as a unique representative of the Sahrawi people, decided to constitute and proclaim the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as the legitimate and sovereign government in Western Sahara. After that, the Sahrawi Republic became the government and official authority running the country. The State has a semi-presidential system with a President, a prime Minister and a fully operational government. It has a Parliament composed of elected representatives. It has an independent judiciary with various levels of courts, and all the ministries and institutions. Same as any African country.

In fact, and though the Sahrawi population (administrated by the SADR) are still in exile, the administrations and institutions of SADR are far advanced in democracy. For example, the Sahrawi Republic in exile succeeded to raise the level of analphabetism since the eighties and nineties from around 10% to 90%. Violence against women is almost insignificant; women participation in political spaces and public life is very high. The women dominate positions of leadership at the local and administrative levels, and in sectors of education and health.

So to sum-up, the Polisario Front and the Sahrawi Republic are succeeding in governing a country despite the fact that they’re fighting against colonization and do not have full access to the resources of the country. The Sahrawi people have managed, for more than 40 years, to operate the only refugee camp in the world administered and organized by refugees themselves.

What is the current situation on ground? How long have the Sahrawi people been living in refugee camps? How are the camps managed, and who funds them?

Lakhal: The Sahrawi people have been living in refugee camps since 1976. The Sahrawi Republic and its different ministries and institutions manage the camps. There are currently six camps — one administrative camp and five camps where the majority of the refugee population settle. Each of the five camps has a Governor, with an administration where all ministries and institutions are represented as directorates. Each of the five camps are sectioned into 6 to 7 Dairas (like municipalities), and each Daira is parted into 4 Hay (neighborhoods). The Government has police services, courts, and the necessary directorates to serve the citizens. And the camps have hospitals, schools, and other administrations like any other country in the world. The only difference is, these are refugee camps.

Politically speaking, every four years the population votes to elect its representatives in parliament and the highest political bodies of the Polisario. Also, there are active civil society groups in the camps. There are many sectoral unions and NGOs that cover various sectors of civil society. The Sahrawis usually say they’ve had 40 years of preparation. Since they’ve built all their institutions in exile, once the country gains its freedom, they only have to take what they’ve already built and implant it in the country, with full access to their country’s resources.

Currently, everyday survival of Sahrawi refugees is dependent on international aid, which is not sufficient (the Sahrawi refugees only receive the minimum emergency aid though their case is ongoing for more than 40 years now). But, because this aid is not sufficient the refugees are creating small businesses and operating private services to assist their families (informal and sub-economies).

President Jacob Zuma and President Brahim Ghali, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic addressing the media at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria. 06/01/2016 Kopano Tlape GCIS

How does the younger generation, especially those who were born and raised in the camps, view their socio-political condition, and how do they respond to it?

Lakhal: The Sahrawi youth is now in a serious state of unrest because of the long period of passive struggle in the country. Since 1991, they see nothing progressing. Morocco is still colonizing and oppressing our brothers in the occupied zones. The UN is moving nowhere with the point at issue; we are still waiting for its promise of organizing a referendum that never comes. The international community is only attentive to war zones and bloody conflicts, and time is running. Babies who were born in 1991 when the UN intervened and brokered the Settlement Plan are now 26 years old. So, I can understand their unrest and anxiety.

This situation creates a generation that wants the leadership to resume to war, to end the colonization. They see, and they are somehow right that Morocco and the so-called international community only listen to the sounds of guns. Yet, they are very active in various social movements in the camps and internationally. They are struggling now though… in human rights, unions, universities, in the streets of the occupied zones, etc.

The older Sahrawi generation fear for the day when their patience ends. No one can predict what would happen then; personally, I think it will be violent.

In 1984, Morocco withdrew from the AU after the organization accepted the membership of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic into the AU. Since, Morocco refused to join the AU unless membership of SADR was revoked. Earlier this year, Morocco was admitted back into the AU with reports indicating that 30 out of 54 African Heads of States voted in favor of its re-admittance. What triggered Morocco’s interest to rejoin the AU? What do you think influenced the shift in political position?

Lakhal: In my humble opinion, those African States who supported the admission of Morocco, no matter what their reasons are, made a historical mistake that the African Union will pay for the coming 5 to 10 years. The admission of Morocco into the AU is very similar to the deliberate injection of dangerously cancerous cells in an already weak body.

We will soon see what Morocco’s next moves are.

I said it before and I’ll repeat, Morocco will do its best to stop the African Union from supporting the decolonization of the remaining occupied zones of SADR. If it fails to achieve that goal, then Rabat will create divisions in the AU thanks to its influence on many French-speaking member States. It absolutely has no problem wrecking all of what we’ve achieved so far. In fact, Morocco has always created parallel bodies and institutions that compete with the OAU/AU. So, why do you think Rabat would care about the unity of Africa? It wouldn’t.

I strongly believe that the Moroccan change of strategy and application to join the AU without putting conditions on revoking SADR’s membership is a strategy built and plotted by France to recuperate the AU, which has became an important player in the international arena. We will hear many who say this is just another conspiracy theory. My response to people who say so is: go back and read our history. Who killed Sankara, and why? That’s just one example out of many. How does France still control the economies and politics of more than 14 countries through an unjust colonial pact? Rebelling against them will result in coups, wars and civil wars as well as direct intervention. The French army never left Africa; it is still present in many countries, and even in many African military staffs.

As for how many countries accepted the admission of Morocco, the numbers are not accurate at all. It was an open discussion that ended up with a sort of Add slider agreement between supporters and those who were suspicious about the Moroccan move. But in the end, the majority said that Morocco is an African State and should be admitted so as to deal with its occupation of Western Sahara in house. We will see where this argument will lead, though, personally, I know that Morocco is a bandit state that has never respected or honored its commitments in the UN and elsewhere.

What does Morocco’s re-admittance (allegedly by a majority vote, without an excoriation) into the African Union — without ratifying the Constitutive Act — mean to the Sahrawi people and their struggle for self-determination? How are the people responding to the splintering and contradictory messages? And what may this do to ongoing efforts of promoting continental integration?

Lakhal: Morocco signed and ratified the AU Constitutive Act without a single condition or reservation. In fact, the AU made it clear in its contacts with Morocco before the 2017 January Summit stressing that if it wants to join the organization it must ratify the Constitutive Act with no comment, conditions or reservation. Morocco will have to deal with its contradictions since it has adhered to the AU Constitutive Act that clearly stipulates in its objective: “b)- Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States.” And the AU will have to deal with Morocco about defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Sahrawi Republic, which is a founding member State.

More significantly, there are 16 relevant principles of the Union enshrined in the Constitutive Act. And I stress Principles, not just any articles but the very foundation of the Union. Morocco is violating 7 of these principles, just by being the occupying power in Western Sahara.

We will therefore wait and see how the AU will deal with Morocco on all the violations, knowing that the Sahrawi Republic has complete right to ask for the intervention of the Union to resolve the issue, in accordance with the African Union Principles.

As for the Sahrawi people’s reaction to the admission of Morocco to AU, there were different views. There are some who felt really sad to see such a colonial and brutal regime admitted in our continental organization. Others are saying that the admission is an opportunity to put Morocco in the corner and it face our officials directly in the AU meetings. So, in general, a lot of Sahrawis and non-Sahrawi followers of the issue see the Moroccan adherence to the AU as a legal and political recognition of the Sahrawi Republic. No matter how Moroccans may try to deny it, they are sitting as members in the same organization that our Republic founded with other African Nations.

Efforts to find a solution and/ or facilitate resolution to the conflict have failed in the past, and most recently reached an impasse. Do you believe the UN and/ or the AU have the political will to apply pressure on Morocco in order to protect Western Sahara’s integrity as a non-self-governing territory, and more importantly to move toward an agreement for the referendum of Western Sahara?

Lakhal: The only resolution that has been implemented is the resolution 690 of 1991, which approved the OAU/UN Settlement Plan “for the Organization and the supervision, by the UN in cooperation with the OAU of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”. The same resolution also decided, “to establish a UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO),” and resolution 725, which confirmed these same decisions.

The process of implementation found a lot of ups and downs. It was always due to the Moroccan colonial authorities delays, rejections of previous agreements, violations of agreements, etc. And unfortunately, no one can do anything to this Bandit State! Why? Because it’s powerfully and unconditionally protected by the French Veto.

Now, I do not know if the UN and AU have the political will and consensus to not necessarily exercise pressure, but to apply international law. We’re not asking the AU to put pressures on Morocco, we just want it to respect, implement, and apply all the principles and objectives of the Constitutive Act and the different AU instruments like: “The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” and other principles that are applicable.

Africans have invested time, energy, and resources for the last 60 years to come up with all these laws, conventions, and brilliantly elaborated principles. It’s now time to implement them. This is what the Sahrawis are asking for.

Same thing goes for the UN. If you read all the treaties, conventions and legal instruments adopted by the UN, you will say that all the problems of humanity can be resolved. But no! It’s not. Not because those instruments are bad — absolutely not. It’s because we have few powerful states that play the role of bully against other nations, and hinder the implementation of laws, unless it suits their interests and the interests of their protégées.

Besides Morocco, which countries, institutions, and/ or corporations are benefiting (profiting) from Western Sahara’s occupation through the illegal exploration and exploitation of the territory’s natural resources?

Lakhal: I do not want to say everyone except Sahrawis, but it seems to be the truth. The main countries that exploit and benefit from the occupation of Western Sahara are Morocco of course, but also France and Spain. There are lots of other so-called democratic states that also benefit from making business with Morocco, especially in the exploitation of our natural resources. The countries, sometimes represented by multinational companies or national firms are: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritania, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and UK, among others.

These countries whose firms are still operating inside the occupied zones of Western Sahara, with the help of the colonial power, are exploiting our fisheries, our phosphate, sand, salt, and exploring for oil, gas, diamond, gold, iron and many other resources. For more information on these companies, you can access interesting stories and data here: www.wsrw.org.

Can you give us examples of how these countries (and companies) are threatening and/ or suspending the independence of the Sahrawi people through their exploitative operation?

Lakhal: These companies are all signing contracts with a bloody colonial power to exploit the resources of a colonized nation. Just like the Moroccan regime, they are simply thieves and criminals wearing nice suits. This is how we see them. We absolutely have no respect for these companies; they are feeding their clients blood resources.

These activities are fueling and providing the Moroccan colonial regime with money to keep the occupation ongoing. We are talking about billions yearly. Meanwhile, for the last 40 years, we’ve had more than 200 Sahrawi refugees who can barely survive on some 25 million US dollars of aid, which is often cut or delayed. So basically, those countries, through their companies plunder billions of profit from our resources, and hardly contribute to the humanitarian aid, despite the few thousands that they give and see themselves as doing us a favor. Can you imagine this dishonesty?

Same thing for the Moroccan regime. Tt’s profiting from the exploitation of our resources, making billions every year. It has built nothing in the occupying territory. During the 41 years of occupation, Morocco didn’t build a single university in the whole territory, no single theatre, no single economic sector or factory that would help, in at least the employment of the Sahrawi people under occupation. For example, the unemployment rates in the occupied zones of Western Sahara are higher than those in the Moroccan cities. Our students are targeted, harassed, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed by the police. The Sahrawi women are the main targets of the ill-treatment of Moroccan police. And still we hear some misled African brothers and sisters that say that Morocco is an African country. Well yes, Moroccan peoples are Africans, but the Moroccan regime is just a puppet regime, a proxy to the French colonial greed in Africa. The Moroccan regime is not, and has never been African. It has never served Africa. It has always served the French France-Afrique policy in the continent. That is what it really is.

Thus far, soft power has been applied to end the colonial occupation over Western Sahara. Do you think it’s time for hard power? What do you recommend the AU, international bodies, civil society organizations, and the African states do to unlock the deadlock in the peace process and actualize complete decolonization of the Western Sahara territory?

Lakhal: I am not a big fan of violence. I have always called, in my actions, my writings and my interaction with my compatriots, for peaceful and well-targeted activism. I believe that soft power is a very strong weapon to achieve goals. It only needs a widely spread, worldwide backing to achieve results.

And in Western Sahara, we’ve come a long way from having completely no voice in the international arena to becoming a sort of hot topic on the table in the UN, EU, AU and other international entities. Our activists, civil society organizations, and official diplomacy have done a lot to make the issues well known internationally. But we still need more visibility in Africa. We need to have an African popular and official support as it was once granted to the ANC and South African freedom fighters. That is what will make our case even hotter.

On the other hand, I cannot blame the Sahrawis who see the resumption of armed struggle as a solution. They are in a way right that the colonial powers only recognize power. Through history we know that the colonialist never gives up its greed and violence, not until the last moment. It’s a pity. If you just go back in history, in Africa, you’ll see the price many African Nations have had to pay for their freedom.

So in the end, if the Sahrawis decide to resume to war with all the legitimate and internationally recognized methods including armed struggle, it will be in total accordance with their legitimate right in order to gain their freedom.

What I recommend to international bodies is to quickly and urgently intervene to impose and enforce the International Law in Western Sahara, and give justice to the Sahrawi people who have been suffering from foreign intervention for the past 133 years. It is not a simple political dispute, as some would like it to appear (especially Morocco and a few French-speaking and Arab countries). It’s a struggle for freedom. It’s a nation’s fight for its right to be, live freely and independently on its rightful land. It’s a nation’s struggle for dignity and national sovereignty. And no political solution would be accepted unless it gives justice to this nation. Morocco should simply withdraw from our country and respect its borders. That’s the only reasonable and just solution we would accept.

Based on the name Sahrawi “Arab” Democratic People, do the Sahrawi people identify themselves as Arabs or African, or both? What is the historical link and/ or significance behind adopting the “Arab” identity?

Lakhal: The Sahrawi people are a mixture of Amazigh, African, Arab, and even European (Spanish in particular) intermingled through centuries of inter-marriages. So the Republic was named Sahrawi (which is the bigger ethnic umbrella that all Sahrawis identify with), while Arab is a more political inclination that stems from the influence the Arab revolutions of the seventies had on the founding fathers of the Sahrawi revolution; in addition to the feeling of belonging to the Islamic/Arab world.

Concretely, we feel more African than Arab due to all the suffering and enmity we’ve faced from the Arab world. Except for Algeria, Libya under Gadhafi, Syria, and South Yemen, all the remaining Arab countries militarily and financially supported Morocco in its invasion and colonization of our country.

What are the next steps for Western Sahara and its people?

Lakhal: I see two main scenarios in the future.

The first scenario: Sahrawis resume war against the Moroccans. The war will disturb all the existing plans in the region. I can see the Moroccan regime fall and collapse due to a strong possibility of a revolution in the North of Morocco.

The second: The Sahrawis decide to keep up and scale up their peaceful resistance. The AU will be a very hot scene where Sahrawis and Moroccans will be confronting each other, just like in the early eighties. And hopefully (and why not), the UN and AU will finally succeed in implementing the law and justice in Western Sahara.

Photo credits: Sahrawi Supporting Activists.

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