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Saturday, February 04, 2023
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The Secretary General of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs, Mr. Maouelainin Maouelainin Ben Khalihenna gave an interview to “Telquel” weekly on April 15th, 2006.

full text of the interview:


"Telquel: few hours only following its designation, the CORCAS was criticised by many Sahrawis of being non democratic (all its members are appointed) and not representative (some tribes feel injured). Did you expect such a disappointment?


 Maouelainin Maouelainin Ben Khalihenna: it is not astonishing that people are so interested in the Council. This entire hubbub shows the importance of such an institution. Without pretentiousness, we can talk about an era preceding March 25th and an era following it (CORCAS was created on March 25, 2006). The Council witnesses a kind of tribal equilibrium; it is a patchwork of local elected members, representatives of civil society, youth, women, etc. I want the Council be judged upon what it will carry out. All royal councils were designated. They are people who will be working with the king; therefore, it is he who should choose them.

What did the King tell you when he received you with Khalihenna Ould Errachid in Laayoune?

I cannot divulge what the king told us without his permission. Having said this, HM clearly talked about the future of this region and the enlarged autonomy project.

A Social Development Agency, a Development Agency of the Southern Provinces, elected bodies and today an advisory sahrawi council… why should we believe that you will do better than the bodies already existing in the Sahara?

Because the Council is directly linked to the king. We do not interfere in the daily management; we are not present in the physical realization of projects. 30 years after stagnation, the king chose autonomy. The Council is an important step towards studying and producing proposals to achieve this goal.

As time passes by, we tend to think that the Council has simply come to fill the gap caused by an autonomy project, long-awaited but not ready yet…
The project is not ready yet, otherwise, it would have been made public. The Council does not fill a gap. It is radical method change. 

The king held consultations with political parties and allow local inhabitants, a big first, to give their views via the Council.

Algeria and Polisario have already expressed their refusal of the project to the UN. What does this change in your procedure?

They have refused some thing that they do not know. Algeria is a friendly country and the Polisario does not represent all Sahrawis. Their refusal is conjunctural. Above all, they are our brothers and our mission is to convince them of the utility of autonomy. Parents of all Polisario officials pledged allegiance to Morocco’s kings. Only an âaq (cursed son) would break this allegiance.

But It is not through Ridat Al Walidine that Morocco will definitively regain the Sahara as well…
It is an important cultural element. Our mission is to hold talks with all the inhabitants of the southern zone, wherever they are, in order to allow them to come back to homeland.

Are you empowered to negotiate autonomy with Polisario?
It even stated in the royal decree. We have to work on the coming back the inhabitants of the southern Sahara. Therefore, we have to communicate with them and with Polisario whether in Tindouf camps or elsewhere.

Which Polisario are you talking about? Have you contacted a particular movement?
We will contact anyone doubtful about the morocanity of the Sahara. We will use all means (media, TV, etc.) to win citizens hearts.

Do you think that this territory (Western Sahara) is sufficiently prepared at present for the implementation of an enlarged autonomy?
I am not very familiar with the reality of the land since I have been working in Laarache for the last years. However, the Council takes the required time to clear land and prepare autonomy. Few years do not mean much in the progress of states.

Would it be a coming back to the strategy of resolving the problem through prolonging the statu quo?
We have lost 30 years. The Council should carry out a great work. If it succeeds in two years, it is a good rhythm. Churchill said to his driver who sped up: slow down, I am in a hurry.

This is to confirm that Morocco will present no autonomy project to the UN in April…
HM has not consulted us yet. It is commonly said that the Sahara is the main problem of Moroccans while the overwhelming majority ignores the conflict. We should, therefore, start by explaining the conflict bases. Today, we want the Sahara issue to concern everybody with full transparency.  Every family has undergone mourning because of the Sahara. Every family has scarified its blood and daily bread for this region and for this cause.

You are betting on the existence of a passive “unionist majority” in the Sahara against an active minority which claims independence. How will you wake up the former to counter the latter?
Concerning the unionist front, which constitutes the majority, the spokesman was the administration. They were never asked to protest. This front let the management of manifestations claiming independence to the administration which has unfortunately failed. All protesters are not obligatory supporting independence. Most of the time, they are dissatisfied people used by the separatist machine. Laayoune is a large city. Its surface equates those of both Larache and Ksar Al Kebir. Accordingly, it has its own problems and its own social manifestations, as is the case elsewhere except that they are used here for political ends.

This leads us to say that the main rival of the Council is the local movement claiming independence …
You are giving too much importance to a minority. Generally, internal separatists protest against things individually lived with the local administration. For them, separatism is a refuge, a punishment against the administration which would have humiliated or ill-treated them.

 However, Human rights infringements in the Sahara continue (until today) to feed Polisarios’ propagandist machine. Do you have any authority to put and end to these infringements?
  We study each case individually and submit recommendations to the sovereign. There is some delay at the communication level. While Polisario propaganda feeds thousans of websites, we do not know what is going on in Tindouf. We do not know about the exactions committed there. At the same time, we would have gained if we had communicated them and made them public.

Do you believe that independence movement will take into account freedom of speech?
Defend what you like without assaulting people, without destroying the state’s bases.

Let us imagine that you have in front of you a young of 19 years old who believes in the front’s theses, who has just been released from prison and whom you want to convince of the moroccanity of the Sahara. What would say to him?
‘Let’s imagine nothing since I have already talked to similar youth. Half of the cases show that the local administration, in one way or another has committed a serious mistake towards this young. But at no moment, I have felt irreversibility in behaviour. The youth live under the propaganda charm. I say to them: see those who came back. Some movement founders like Ayoub who scared children and one of the movement’s great ideologists such as El Admi.

He will tell you that they have duly negotiated their coming back…
And what about 7.000 people who came back? The problem resides in the fact that we were not able to use all these people to explain to youth the reality of the movement that can attracts them. There is a lack of explanation as is the case with northern Moroccans.
Nice speech… how are going to implement it?
We formulate our recommendations to the state’s higher authority. Is not this a good guarantee for success?

Are there any red lines?
None. HM has opened all doors for us. They are not even half-open. We can tackle all problems of the region. I think that the Council’s members can make innovating proposals.

Finally, is the Sahara a problem of poverty, identity or dignity?
Economically speaking, the Sahara nowadays is totally different from that of 1975. This is evidence. The state has done everything. It should only win people’s heart. This is what Hassan II said several years ago: “We have regained the territory, not hearts yet”.

How did Morocco loose the heart of a young person born in Morocco in the 80s and who has lived neither the military invasion nor secret detention centers etc.?
Consider this image. Every time a student gets a bad mark in school, he goes to draw Polisario flag in his book. This is a sign of dissatisfaction. So far, we have not treated Sahrawis like everyone, by simply respecting the local culture and habits and by letting in propaganda and training coming from the east.

Are you denying the existence people defending Saharan cause?
No, but they are a minority. Independence movement is a creation of the local administration which has badly treated this issue.

 It seems that you have forgotten the military offensive of the central authority, Agdz, M’gouna centers etc.?

I do not deny this, but I consider that this has been regulated by the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) at the national level, even if there are some incomplete cases which we should treat as well.


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