Morocco’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, condemned, in two letters addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the president and members of the Security Council, South Africa’s complicity with Algeria and the Polisario Front, indicating that “it plays, once again, the role of messenger of an armed separatist group, whose involvement in the Sahel region has been more than proven”. Nigeria also reminded the UN and the Security Council that they must take responsibility for defending the Saharawis in the southern provinces from what it described as “human rights violations”.

In order to create a lobby willing to use the African mechanism in the Sahara, South Africa is trying to use the conflict in the Sahara, by renewing its support for the Polisario Front, to influence the direction of the UN dossier. Hilale stated that the North African country regrets that the South African Permanent Mission serves as an intermediary for an illegitimate entity not recognised by the UN. Hilale presented several examples in his letters to the UN and the Security Council of the Polisario’s “involvement in terrorism”, such as that of Adnan Abul-Walid – known as al-Sahrawi – a former member of the Polisario Front before becoming one of the leaders of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, who is listed as a terrorist.

Moreover, he went so far as to claim that al-Sahrawi used to seek refuge in the Tindouf camps to receive treatment there, before he was killed on 15 September 2021. Nabil al-Andalusi, head of the Maghreb Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, confirmed that Omar Hilale’s message carries a serious accusation against South Africa, which supports a terrorist organisation, and pointed out that this message is not limited to it, but includes all nations and organisations that recognise or deal with the Polisario. Al-Andalusi told The Arab Weekly that Pretoria’s continued involvement in supporting the Polisario Front and its declaration of hostility towards Morocco was due to the expansion of the Kingdom’s influence, much to the chagrin of South Africa, which seeks to play a leading role on the continent.

Threats to Pretoria’s historic roles in the region stem from Morocco’s encroachment on several African nations. Hilale expressed Morocco’s regret that South Africa’s Permanent Mission had consented to distribute to Security Council members a letter written by Polisario separatist leader Brahim Ghali, who is currently on trial in Europe for rape and torture. While the Security Council praised the two regional committees of the National Human Rights Council in Laayoune and Dakhla for their work, as well as Morocco’s cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, it said the letter was full of human rights lies about the situation in the Moroccan Sahara.

Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Foreign Minister, previously stated that South Africa’s position “expresses impotence, not strength”, adding that when it recognised the Polisario militia in 2005, he thought Africa and the rest of the world would do the same. The Saharawi conflict is a territorial dispute that has been ongoing for more than five decades, hundreds of thousands of civilian refugees and a web of interests for countries such as Spain, France and the United States. However, after all these years, South Africa finds itself in front of half of the African nations that have opened consulates in the Moroccan Sahara, and 90 nations around the world have expressed a favourable attitude. In this regard, Al-Andalusi has claimed that South Africa has failed to persuade other African nations to support the Polisario, contrary to what its leaders anticipated and hoped for, and is currently doing its best to garner some support.

In return for the growing base of supporters for the autonomy initiative put forward by the Kingdom of Morocco, its position has been isolated in Africa and internationally. Europe’s apathy towards the Sahrawi people’s desire for freedom has facilitated a new African territory that suits Moscow’s interests, as has already happened in Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso and Madagascar. Although Russia’s position on the conflict has always been neutral, the rapprochement with Algeria and the shadow of the United States have made the Kremlin reconsider its position against the Alawite kingdom.

North Africa is witnessing dangerous Iranian moves that could blow up the situation in the region, especially with the Revolutionary Guards continuing to provide advance marches to the Polisario Front, threatening stability around the Moroccan Sahara. It is not surprising that the Iranian regime, Algeria’s ally, seeks to detonate “tranquillity” in the region. Moreover, the fact that its ally in the region has been launching propaganda messages in recent days does not help. According to a report published on the Israeli website Mako, the ceasefire in the region is expected to come to an end when Iran starts arming the Polisario Front, as it already does with Algeria.

Over the past decade, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has established close relations with the Polisario Front, and a senior Moroccan diplomat revealed late last year that the Maghreb countries are facing serious threats to their national security in the context of an unprecedented incursion into the region by Iran and its Lebanese affiliate Hezbollah. At the time, Omar Hilale called this “a dangerous development” and said that “the world must realise that Iranian interventions in other nations have undermined and ended with the outbreak of civilian guerrillas as has already happened in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon”.

Relations between Algiers and Moscow are no a secret to anyone. If we focus on Russian arms exports, we observe that between 2013 and 2017, 78% of all arms sold to Africa went to Algeria. Russia’s constant supplying of arms to the Western Sahara conflict, under the shield of Algiers, has been going on since the beginning of the dispute in the 1970s. Russia’s interest in Western Sahara has two components. The first is to mitigate Morocco, which was the first African country to order military aid to Ukraine and which has also positioned itself as the United States’ biggest ally in the Maghreb. The second is to win backing in the Maghreb for Algerian policies.

In this respect, the meeting held in January 2023 between Brahim Ghali and the Russian commission at the 16th Congress of the Polisario Front was very characteristic. The vice-president of the Russian Communist Party underlined their “unconditional solidarity with the Saharawi cause and their recognition of the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence”, stressing that “they have succeeded in sensitising over eighty-nine Russian formations on the question of Western Sahara” and that “their position will remain unchanged until the Saharawi people impose their sovereignty”.

Source » atalayar