Interview. ‘The young people have lost patience, and they’re not the only ones. All Sahrawis feel that they have fallen victim to a lie. The Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front, will use all legitimate means to achieve their objectives.’

Brahim Ghali, re-elected as Sahrawi leader, ‘does not exclude armed struggle’

Brahim Ghali was re-elected Secretary General of the Polisario Front and President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD) at the end of the 15th Congress of the Polisario Front, which was held from Dec. 19 to 25 in Tifariti, in the “liberated territories” of Western Sahara. 

Over 2,500 delegates met to re-elect all the members of the movement’s leadership. It was a crucial meeting for deciding whether to continue to resist peacefully and diplomatically, an approach that has defined the Sahrawi movement since 1991 (which marked the signing of the agreement for the Minurso peace mission), or whether to change the manner of waging the fight, including considering armed struggle as an option, as wanted by some of the members of the Polisario Front, especially young people.

How has the Polisario Front changed in recent years?

The Polisario Front is a movement of national liberation. In recent years, it has maintained as always its spirit of revolution and change: we have experienced many transformations at the political and social level. Today, we are a modern, open and tolerant people, which respects the values of democracy, freedom and equality and in which women play a decisive and essential role, both in the struggle and in everyday life. In the more than 46 years since its foundation, the Polisario Front has changed and adapted to the times. What has not changed and will never change is our commitment to the legitimate right of self-determination and independence for our people.

How do you view the Security Council resolution of last October and the diplomatic stalemate following Kohler’s resignation in May 2019?

It was a missed opportunity for the Security Council, because it failed to exert the necessary pressure to enforce international law. The worst aspect is that there has been a clear attempt to abandon the legal framework of the Sahrawi-Moroccan conflict, with a search for solutions that are ambiguous and diverging from what has been established in the peace agreements. This tendency, led mainly by France, has forced us to take the decision to review our participation in the peace process.

After the congress, what are the Polisario Front’s options to achieve the goal of a referendum in the occupied Western Sahara?

The raison d’être of the Polisario Front is to allow the Sahrawi people, as in the case of all colonized peoples, to decide freely and choose their own destiny, including the right to live in a free and sovereign state of their own. The referendum aims to guarantee the free, democratic and transparent expression of their decision. This option was included in the 1991 Minurso plan, the only one agreed, signed and approved by both parties to the conflict, the Polisario Front and Morocco, as well as the Security Council. 

What is lacking is a firm will on the part of the latter to enforce the implementation of this agreement. This is something that falls under the responsibility of the international community. The Polisario Front, the only legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, will no longer participate in any process that does not respect the core principles of the solution, namely our unshakable and legitimate right to self-determination and independence.

What is the situation like today?

Despite the Moroccan propaganda being spread by some European countries, the situation in the camps and in the liberated territories is difficult, but entirely normal. Our people are managing the camps on an everyday basis, and we have organized the 15th Congress of the Polisario Front in the best possible manner, as witnessed by the international guests who were present. However, it is certainly the case that we are a people who hopes to exercise their right to return to their land in conditions of freedom and dignity.

A generation of young people have been living in refugee camps since birth. What prospects does the Polisario Front have to offer them: continuing with peaceful resistance, or something else?

The young people have lost patience, and they’re not the only ones. All Sahrawis feel that they have fallen victim to a lie. We have lost faith in the United Nations, because they have not shown enough firmness in the face of Morocco’s intransigence, losing their credibility before our people, who had placed their trust in the UN. The Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front, will use all legitimate means to achieve their objectives. This does not exclude armed struggle, as it is a universally recognized right for peoples defending themselves against a colonizing occupation force. The Security Council must assume its responsibilities and enact the mandate of Minurso, the United Nations mission for a referendum in Western Sahara, and thus avoid a possible conflict that would destabilize the whole region.

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