Western Sahara leader hints at return to violence

Western Sahara leader hints at return to violence
Brahim Ghali hinted of a return to open conflict on Sunday, now that Morocco has rejoined the African Union and blocked Western Sahara's hopes of international recognition.
2 min read
06 February, 2017
The leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, in January 2017 [AFP]

The president of the Polisario Front said on Sunday that "all options were open" in its fight for an independent state of Western Sahara, now that Morocco had rejoined the African Union.

Brahim Ghali hinted at a return to violent resistance against Moroccan forces in the disputed region to the country's south.

"We always look for the peaceful way" to resolve the conflict, he said in an interview with AFP.

"But all options remain open," he said, reportedly hinting towards a return of armed struggle.

The Polisario Front wants to see a referendum on independence, which was promised in 1992, following a peace agreement with Morocco the year previous.

An estimated 10,000 Sahrawis died in the Western Saharan war for independence between 1975 and 1991, although the exact number was never recorded.

Polisario's foreign relations chief, Ould Salek, told the UN Security Council in October that the situation was tense and that "anything" could restart hostilities in the region.

The president's statement came on the same day Morocco's deputy foreign minister said Rabat would never acknowledge a Western Saharan state.

"Not only does Morocco not recognise - and will never recognise - this so-called entity," Nasser Bourita told French website, Le Desk, on Sunday.

"It will (also) redouble its efforts so the small minority of countries, particularly African, which recognise it, change their positions."

Ghali made the statement at a Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria, which has been kept open through financial grants from the European Union.

The 67-year old was announced president in May 2016, following the death of his predecessor Mohamed Abdelaziz.

A 2014 report from the European Anti-Fraud Office found that much of this aid had been "diverted" to senior leaders of the Polisario Front.