In what were surely welcome words in Rabat, the top police official of the rebel Polisario Front broached the possibility of autonomy rather than independence for Morocco-occupied Western Sahara last week. Speaking at a press conference in the occupied territory’s town of Smara, Polisario Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said the proposed autonomy initiative is the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict: “In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction.” Today, the Polisario Front only has power in Tindouf, a desert town and refugee camp under their control across the Algerian border. (Magharebia, Aug. 11)
The comments came one week after Moroccan police intervened against a protest by striking workers in El Aaiún, capital of the occupied territory. The Trade Union of Saharawi Workers launched a general strike on Aug. 2 to protest the “policy of segregation applied by Morocco” and the “plundering of Saharawi natural resources.” When workers demonstrated in front of the Department of Mines and Energy, the march was attacked by the police, injuring 14.
A statement by the strikers said: “The Moroccan government’s policy of impoverishment and racial segregation in the occupied territory of Western Sahara has become unbearable: the Saharawi workers’ basic human rights are violated, the natural resources are plundered and the MINURSO has failed to organize a self-determination referendum for the Saharawi.” MINURSO is the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. The referendum has been repeatedly postponed since 1990. (Western Sahara Resource Watch, Aug. 2)