In the latest edition of “De cara al mundo”, on Onda Madrid, we have the participation of Hach Ahmed Bericalla, the first secretary of the Movement Saharawi for Peace (MSP), who has denounced in an interview with Javier Fernández Arribas the aggression suffered by his relatives at the hands of armed groups from the Polisario Front in the Saharawi refugee camp of Dakhla, 160 kilometres east of the Algerian town of Tindouf.
Why is there now an increase in repression in the Polisario camps?
Personally, I think it is a combination of facts and circumstances, mainly the stagnation of the peace process in which there is no sign of hope or a way out of this long conflict. I believe that the fundamental element is the failure of the last Polisario congress, which meant a tremendous fracture between the political organisation that has been leading this process for 50 years and the fact that no renewal has been possible and that the old guard has been reaffirmed in its command posts.
An old guard formed in the Cold War era, with a mentality totally outdated by the times and by the normal development of societies. They still run things from a limbo where they do and undo and use brute force to deal with any adverse circumstances, especially critical or dissenting voices. This is not new, the Polisario carries an old black legend as a consequence of this kind of behaviour of using repression and brute force to silence any critical voice. As I said, from the 1970s until now it has accumulated a series of behaviours that amount to crimes against humanity.
Do you fear for the integrity of your family?
Evidently, knowing a little about the organisation’s own conduct, which always seeks ways to put psychological pressure on and make uncomfortable all those who feel opposed to its policies, there is a concern.
Moreover, it is a territory that is practically in the middle of nowhere because it is Algerian territory where the refugee camps are located and where, in reality, what should prevail there are the laws of the sovereign state, which is Algeria. There is also a vacuum with regard to the protection that international bodies should exercise insofar as these are refugee camps, but this is also a space in which the Polisario has always exercised its authority in its own way. Clearly this is generating growing discontent and outrage, and there is now a worrying tension that we have even warned could culminate in a new wave of repression.
This concern is still latent, although perhaps it has been delayed by the holidays and Holy Week, when we know that many foreigners have come to visit their families. Perhaps they are waiting for the situation to clear up a bit and for there not to be many observers before entering a phase of repression that would involve the arrest of the alleged perpetrators of the latest acts of what they call vandalism that arose after the disturbances in the Dakhla camp. The same ones that have affected my family and others.
Can this action by the Polisario be preventive of the report and the proposals that the UN Special Envoy for the Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, may make? What do you expect from this new report?
The Polisario is dealing with a very delicate situation after the latest decision regarding the violation of the ceasefire and the war that the UN has started in the territory. Since 2020, it has produced very poor results, with almost no capacity to influence the course of events.
This is obviously also creating a state of disarray among Sahrawi civilians and refugees as the results on the ground are catastrophic. The drones have caused many casualties among Sahrawi civilians and military personnel. This is creating a state of dissatisfaction that I believe the Polisario and its current section have not been able to handle.
It is believed that the next report will not bring anything new as long as the Polisario insists on maintaining this line of conduct, and we believe that this is an additional element that generates this concern. We do not think that the next report will mark the beginning of a new cycle, we believe that stagnation will be the order of the day and this is obviously a reason to increase the state of anguish among the Saharawi population. We believe that this is a consequence of the accumulation of these feelings and these facts.
The stalemate is also perhaps caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian intervention in the Sahel, and there are also data and reports that Iran has provided drones to the Polisario Front, and this aggravates the situation.
On the one hand, the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine has obviously sidelined many other problems that were occupying the attention of the UN Security Council. This is why the problem of Western Sahara has been on the back burner for almost a year now, a conflict that has been forgotten. This is obviously a cause for concern.
What is worrying, however, are the consequences of this new order that is about to be defined as a result of the war in Ukraine. We are concerned that the Western Sahara programme will once again suffer from the division of the world into two blocs.
In 1974-1975 we made the mistake of trying to impose a progressive, revolutionary-style regime that was very much in Libya’s interests. We tried to force this on an area under the influence of the West. It would be the height of the curse if in 2023 we were once again to be guinea pigs in this confrontation between different ideological camps. Evidently, this concern has led the Sahrawi Movement to call for a quick solution, to seek a solution in dialogue with the King of Morocco in order to prevent the Sahrawis from once again suffering the consequences of the mismanagement of politics with respect to the ideological confrontation that may reign at some point in the future.
Yes, because the Moroccan proposal for a broad autonomy is being supported by European countries, as well as the United States, the Emirates, etc., on a daily basis. What you proposed at the international conference held in Las Palmas is that this Moroccan proposal should make sense and have content for the lives of the Saharawis.
Yes, we have reached this point after a long regression and after knowing that from a military point of view it is unviable. The solution sought by the Polisario continues along this warmongering path, but the correlation of forces is totally asymmetrical and it is impossible to win the war. Therefore, in this situation, what common sense dictates is to look for a way to achieve a mutually acceptable solution, which is what the United Nations recommends.
We believe that in order not to waste time and wait until things become much more difficult, we should take advantage of Morocco’s offer and try to move forward through this formula presented in 2007 towards a point of convergence in which the rights of the Sahrawi people are guaranteed, but also Morocco’s interests.
This is an exercise in common sense and reasonableness for those who exercise politics. That is the art of politics, not to lead the Saharawis to collective suicide in the style of religious sects.
We believe that this appeal is having an effect among the Saharawi population, and that is why this movement and its approach are being well accepted by the Saharawi population.