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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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The chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan affairs (CORCAS), Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid, said, I, an interview made on April 28th to "La Vérité" weekly, that the autonomy that the Kingdom proposes for the Southern Provinces “will mainly preserve the Moroccan interests and specificities”, adding that this “does not prevent us from inspiring from the existing experiences throughout the world”.

 Full text of the interview:


« The appointment of the chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS) has brought about number of commentaries. Not all of them were in favour of him. Some people reproach him Khalihenna Ould Errachid some proportion of confinement. In fact, he seems exclude any responsibility of Algeria and its interference in the Sahara issue. Mainly by reducing the problem to a Morocco-Moroccan disagreement. As a matter of fact, we cannot follow the defender of the Moroccanity of the Sahara Mr. K.Ould Errachid, who once belonged to the first elites of the region who rallied the homeland when he totally clears Algeria.

One has to put himself in the place of somebody who lived the genesis of the separatist movement. Accordingly, we cannot help notice that the Moroccan side has lacked pedagogy and sense of listening. We cannot neglect the Tan Tan bastonade following a manifestation in 1973 claiming the liberation of the Moroccan Sahara. Because of a weariness war, the young militants of Sahrawi origins decided to redeploy around a liberation programme which did not consider abnormal, at a time when Libya and Algeria were claiming paternity of liberation movements around the world, to contact Alger and Tripoli. Consequently, the Attar congress (north of Mauritania) was held and resulted in the 22 article charter founding the Polisario.  This came within the framework of the divisions we know whether at the international level marked by confrontations between the West and the East as well as the regional and Arab level which, after the death of Jamal Abdennasser, the Nassiri legacy was recovered by Captain Kaddhafi. The latter was publicly financing the IRA movement. It even declared its support to the failed coup d'Etat  in 1971 against the Moroccan monarchy.

This is to establish the setting. Now,  things have changed the allegations of Khalihenna Ould Errachid, in the interview he gave to La Vérité reshape his declarations. The founder of the Sahrawi National Union Party (PUNS) in 1974 explains his vision. The why and how of his approach. CORCAS chairman astonishes but assumes. He puts forward his ideas and defend them. The man who was “inside” the issue and who lived its evolutions since 70s seems to privilege the positive side of things. For him, the implication of Algeria is a ramification of a problem whose genesis concerns the Kingdom. Nevertheless, according to him, this is the change of direction made by the royal speech of March 25. Moreover, concerning this issue, there are two periods one preceding March 25 and the other following it.

How things will evolve? CORCAS chairman expresses its optimism which he thinks not naïve. He explains his vision on autonomy project which should lead to definitively closing this issue. 


La Vérité : Your show at Hiwar programme of the first national television channel did not leave the media indifferent. What do you think about the reactions, including those on newspapers columns, it has raised?
Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Frankly, I did not have time to read everything. Still, I suppose that the reactions certainly relate to a new speech. Indeed, it is a new policy that His Majesty wants to develop for Morocco’s welfare.

In other words?
In short, this is a radical change. In fact, the Royal speech on March 25, 2006 represents a historic change. The principle is that we decided to do things differently to end once and for all Sahara issue. But in a much more intelligent way in the sense that it is not a political manoeuvre, not even a tactic or strategy. His Majesty’s speech is the expression of a royal will to bring about full, comprehensive and general reconciliation of the administration with Saharawis. 

So an approach change …
This is not an approach. This is a new policy in every sense. In fact, an approach, in essence, stems from the momentary. If so, it is limited in time since is intended to solve a temporary situation. No, it's a new policy that His Majesty inaugurated in Laayoune.


The King paved the way for historic reconciliation before resolving anything. He laid the foundation for reconciliation, and it will lead to the closure of this problem in its political, economic, social and cultural aspects. Therefore, we can not speak of approach. This is a new policy whose primary purpose is to solve the problem of the Sahara, strengthen territorial and national unity in the kingdom and create a new Morocco in terms of political involvement and participation of the entire population in the management of political and economic affairs of the state.

How can this be translated into reality? 
The Royal Council has already begun a teaching and explanation work. The royal amnesty of 46 Saharans gives tangible demonstration of reconciliation, so as to put an end to problems concerning human rights and what follows. Every day, there will be a change in this region as in others. In fact, it is a policy that is not going to stop because there was amnesty. It will continue deploying, little by little, to achieve the ultimate goal which to turn the page of the Sahara issue, whether with the Saharans nationally or with neighbours. Obviously, there will be a new Morocco which will be born, because implementing autonomy in the Sahara implies a new Morocco.

You are showing too much optimism…
My optimism is not naive. It is based on confidence that Saharwis are beginning to see. Thanks to this confidence, the solution will come out. Lack of confidence has created and exacerbated the problem. We will rebuild that confidence.  

How are you going to work at CORCAS?
We started work on March 25. On the ground, we are getting in touch with the population. We are in constant communication. Sahrawis are communicating recipients… we communicate across the board. The credibility of the Royal council is to get people join en masse the His Majesty’s policy, the final, democratic and transparent choice to which is autonomy to resolve the problem of the Sahara and recommit ourselves on other fronts.


For accuracy, what do you intend exactly by "autonomy", compared to the experience already known in other countries…
Morocco is a kingdom and autonomy that we are talking about is that which is being implemented in democratic countries. I am thinking of Spain, Germany, Italy, France or Britain. We are not going to copy a model since each country has its peculiarities. It will be an autonomy that will preserve Moroccan interests and Moroccan characteristics. But this does not prevent us from taking example from the existing experiences in the world.


As CORCAS chairman and politician involved in the case, how do you imagine the autonomy outlines?
Autonomy outlines are known. It is the details that remain to be determined. The Sahara will remain Moroccan.
The first symbol of sovereignty is the direct links with His Majesty, the guarantor of unity and institutions and the commander of the believers. This is fundamental. Secondly, there are all the attributes of sovereignty. Now, about details, they will be the subject of discussions over the next few weeks at the Council.

We therefore commit ourselves to tie up a project that conforms to the royal will, desired by Morocco. The project will comply with all the kingdom’s specificities. So we do not intend to copy any model. We will prepare a draft that preserves the fundamental interests of the kingdom and that solves this problem definitively. Indeed, this is not a project only limited in Morocco, but it will revolutionize Africa and the Arab and Muslim countries. No similar experience took place before in the region. It will create jurisprudence at the continental level.


Some observers believe that there is a risk if autonomy would be based on the ethnic aspect ...
No. These people judge things before they occur. In my view, these are free reviews, certainly, but too biased. This is too much imagination!

You have also surprised at the programme…
I was appointed to surprise…

… Saying for example that this is a Morocco-Moroccan problem and Algeria has nothing to do with it. We did not exactly understand what you mean…
Yet it is clear. I clearly said that the problem of the Sahara is an internal Moroccan problem which had caused international implications. And in these international ramifications,  Algeria has been involved. Because in the past we had a dispute with Algeria over borders. When the problem of the Sahara erupted, the border problem still existed. Besides, Algeria today is not the same. At that time, it was a one-party socialist country... This is no longer the case. Algeria has become pluralistic, democratic, with free media… Now, I have made a finding of what I see and what I hear.

First, the finding that the origin of this problem is a conflict between the various administrations and Sahrawis, whose origins date back to 1956. In fact, when Morocco regained its independence, Sahrawis were neglected. And when the first generation of Sahrawis started talking politics, in particular the events of Mohammed V University, there was the shock. This original "shock" created Polisario. At the beginning, it was a rebellion claiming justice. It was an SOS to attract attention.

Because of that context, marked by the Cold War and regional conflicts, we paid the price. And it is at this level where international implications exists, which was originally a purely internal problem. And this is exactly the same problem that His Majesty Mohammed VI resolved on March 25, 2006 in Laayoune. Maybe a lot of people do not understand this yet. The Sovereign has responded to this issue, because it is the very essence of this problem. Afterwards, we will deal with other problems that are, in my opinion, accessories.

As for Algeria, a neighbour, a friendly and brotherly state says it is not involved in this issue. Its officials say they have no claims on the Sahara, but they have sheltered Sahrawis because they came home… Therefore, I believe in what they say, and that is why I call them to help us reconciliate. What Polisario demanded what Sahrawis demanded is to have political, economic, social and cultural rights. It's over, there are guaranteed. This is the main objective of autonomy.

But Algeria's speech was ambiguous and contradictory. On the one hand, they argue that they are not involved but on the other hand we see them supporting separatists
… I bet on the positive part of the Algerian speech, I do not bet on the negative side…

Does it mean that we will have to rely on the positive aspect…
Absolutely. This is not only a necessity but a duty.  


You also stated that Abdelaziz can become president of the autonomous local government ...

Based on certain preconditions. Including allegiance to His Majesty, recognition of Moroccan sovereignty, and so on. If so, I see no downside to this possibility, I can even help.


Yet he has always used threats…  

But he is my brother, he is our brother. Mohamed Abdelaziz is a Moroccan like everybody else. Admittedly, a Moroccan with hare-brained ideas, but he is a brother like Fkih Basri or like all opponents who were sentenced to death who thereafter went around the world, but who are currently part of the Moroccan society. Of course, his opposition was armed, but, to me, Mohamed Abdelaziz, if he changes, is a Moroccan like everybody else, and can enjoy all rights as all others…

Some commentaries say that you exceed your prerogatives…

I speak of none other domain than that of the Sahara issue.

Is the Council entitled to large freedom over the issue?

The first CORCAS mission is to assist His Majesty the King to preserve the territorial integrity and national unity of the kingdom of Morocco. 

Concerning CORCAS, particularly its composition, there have been some protests by tribes on the representation issue ...
This is normal. The fact that everyone wants to be in the CORCAS gives it credibility. It gives me a very good sign of credibility.

Everybody is concerned, even though not everyone is inside ...
... Absolutely. Anyone who could add even a little to our mission is involved. We are going to seek help from anyone who might bring the smallest contribution to the consolidation of national unity.

How do you work?
Very Professionally
Precisely…
We have been working since March 25, in a quick, democratic and spontaneous way.

 

You have also surprised when you talked about catastrophic management, some have pointed out that you were minister, president of the municipal council of Laayoune… 
... It is because people do not have all data, do not know, or pretend not to know history. I was minister during the period of war. I was charged with two main tasks. First develop the Sahara which has bocome what it is now thanks to the efforts by the Moroccan state, since 1975. Indeed, we have transformed the Sahara, day after day, and during a difficult period. In short, my mission was to change the region to reach the rank of the rest of the kingdom. We managed to change a nomadic society into a sedentary society, we have changed the economy, we have prompted well-being …  

Furthermore, I was also responsible for other political implications, whether supporting all aspects of the then Moroccan battle and to the defence of all the missions entrusted to me by His Majesty King Hassan II at the national and international levels. During the war, we have solved all the problems that were involved. Morocco won the war. This battle was won in its military, political and internal aspects, including the region’s development. The problem appeared after cease-fire. I have not talked about catastrophic management, but of a huge slackening. This caused us loose all the gains that we have achieved before. 


But there was also the aspect of security management…

No. What is important not to forget is that there was a management which stemmed from a state of war. We cannot analyse a situation without context. The management was carried out in that context. I believe that the period of the war was well administered. The political and security problems took place after ceasefire.

Now, do you think that Morocco regained its south?
The south has always been regained. The question concerns mainly guidance that is now clearly indicated.

At the international level, what are your planned actions?
We will draw up an action plan covering all aspects of the Sahara issue, politically, economically, socially…


Some people also raised local management…
wrongly, it must be said. My answer is, first, I am not a businessman. I am not involved in anything. I am not concerned about anything. I filled out the tasks entrusted me by His Late Majesty King Hassan II and His Majesty King Mohammed VI. So, all I do is my job.

The rest…
Well, if they have something to criticize me about personally I’m ready! But these are only "we heard" and "it said." I am not in the sand or fishing industry. I’ve never had the slightest privilege from the state.


It is also a comeback of the politician Khalihenna Ould Errachid, after a crossing of the desert, if we dare to say…
I do not know if we can talk about crossing the desert. First, I am a nomad used to cross the desert. So, I am stronger than non nomads. This period was very important because it allowed me observe the national landscape, and at the same time I am committed to my town, the city of Laayoune. It is a work that fascinates me and involves me in the problems of a city, an urban centre. I stayed working and observing in my council. Without getting away from national problems.

You miss politics…
... Let's just say yes. I love politics, it's my chosen field…

With the new mission, how will Khalihenna Ould Errachid be?
In my life, we can not convince me of clichés. I always have ideas specific to me…

the fact of disturbing gives you personal satisfaction
... Not exactly. And I do not plan to disturb. I do what I do because I think it will bring something positive to the national cause. This is not by any desire to provoke, but out of conviction.

If you were asked to be identified …
It's very difficult. It is disturbing to talk about oneself. Indeed nomads do not talk about themselves. I am a Moroccan who belongs to the South, I was not educated in the north, but was quickly adapted to the national atmosphere as a whole. I try to give a path of the south. Because I think that we should be accustomed to something that is not always the north. Maybe this is the lacking aspect: we need to learn to listen to the South and the North.

 

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