ABC: what kind of change occurred since three decades that made you move from the National Sahrawi Union party created by Franco to a loyalty to Morocco?
KOE: I saw it was impossible to set up a small country based upon tribalism. Ties with the Kingdom of Morocco were stronger enough. Therefore, we opted for unity to serve the historical agreement between Spain and Morocco. Contrary to what some people say, Spain did not let us down and owes nothing to Saharans. We chose unity. Spain respected history and signed agreement with Morocco.
ABC: what is your job in Corcas?
KOE: Our main job is to accomplish the King’s decision by putting an end to the Sahara conflict as soon as possible. We are preparing psychological, economic, social and political conditions for autonomy.
ABC: The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said that although the Baker plan was not applicable, autonomy is not a solution and the will of Sahrawis must be respected in all cases. Is corcas considering this?
KOE: The Annan report says that Baker plan is not applicable since it does not take into account the main issue which is the fact that Morocco cannot accept independence as one of the options. The only solution is autonomy and there will be no winner or loser. Morocco will then have its sovereignty and Sahrawis will have their rights.
ABC: You sent letters to Sahrawis and the Spanish associations backing your proposal in which, surprisingly, you did not qualify refugees as “detainees” as usual, and you did not call Polisario “a party in this conflict”
KOE: I qualified Polisario as brothers. Sahrawis are divided. They are not all with Polisario and they are not all separatists. They constitute one third of the population living in Tindouf camps. Except Polisario which claims to be separatist. It is not a liberal but a separatist movement because the front’s leaders are Moroccans.
ABC: Annan encouraged parties to hold direct negotiations. Can you see the Moroccan government and Polisario members sitting around the same table in the near future?
KOE: there is no other way out to the Sahara. The referendum option based upon identification was not successful by the UN in any other place of the world. We know Saharan tribes, they live in Algeria, Mauritania and Mali. Therefore, if we want to carry out a real referendum based upon self-determination, we have to change the map in order to include these areas. Since it is impossible, Polisario has now a historic opportunity to put an end to this conflict. This conflict is between Sahrawis not between Morocco and Polisario.
ABC: do you have direct contacts with Polisario? To whom you talk?
KOE: We talk to everybody, except Mohammed Abdelaziz, Polisario leader since I don’t have his phone number. If “ABC” can help me find him, I’ll talk to him right now.
ABC: Polisario and many associations, including Moroccan associations, have protested against the existence of 13 Sahrawi political detainees in Laayoune and many other Moroccan prisons.
KOE: Not true since the Royal pardon on april 22. They are all free now. No one of them in prison because of political activities and the same thing will be in the future.
ABC: There have been some slips-up during the last months?
KOE: As the case everywhere. Not only by security forces. Everybody has the right to freedom of expression but not through stones and violence. In morocco, it is not allowed to praise separatism. In Spain, it is forbidden to praise terrorism. If we don’t understand this, we will not be able to understand why security forces behaved that why.
ABC: the “Sahrawi Intifada” will soon celebrate its first anniversary, it generated many conflicts, what do Sahrawis who back it claim?
KOE: I have some preservation concerning the word “Intifada” because it is happening only in Palestine. Talking about Intifada is not fair because Intifada is a revolution carried out by all population. In this case, some people were carrying Polisario flags but it was limited.
ABC: Are human rights respected in Laayoune, Dakhla, Smara and Boujdour? Is there freedom of expression?
KOE: there is full freedom of expression except in case of violent acts. Security forces may resort to oppression and ban Polisario flags under democracy. In the camps, on the other hand, there is no freedom; they are unique in the world. These are Stalinist camps where Polisario forces unique thinking and ideology ie separatism.
ABC: Rabat does not allow Spanish representations to enter to the Sahara. Isn’t it harmful for Morocco’s image?
KOE: as the Mayor of Laayoune, I will be glad to see those representations there; however, they were against the Moroccan proposal.
One of our missions is to improve the Spanish point of view towards this conflict, this is why coracs is going to talk to the Spanish as well, including our enemies. This is why I addressed letters to them.