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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Written Press

Khalihenna: Aminatou Haidar is the only responsible for her situation

Spanish Newspaper La Gaceta published full interview with Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid, chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs concerning the issue of the separatist Aminatou Haider, the fate of the negotiations on the Sahara, and the future of the region and Polisario Front within autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.



 

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid expressed in this interview held in Rabat, his pessimism about the current progress of negotiations because of the Algerian ambiguity, and because of the absence of a partner in this country that can encourage dialogue. 

 

La Gaceta: More than three weeks passed now and Aminatou Haider still on a hunger strike at the Lanzarote Airport asking Morocco to give her passport back and return to her family in the city of Laayoune. How do you evaluate the protests and demands of the Sahrawi activist?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Ms. Aminatou Haidar voluntarily put herself in this unfortunate situation that could have been avoided. She enjoyed her free live in Laayoune, used to travel abroad and return, without anyone disturbing her or interfering in her work as a defender of human rights. Therefore, we were surprised by these events, especially the politicization of her situation, though it was her who chose it. This led, with the support of Polisario Front and Algeria, "Polisario Front duplicate", and Spanish associations that support the separatist organization that are more extremist than the Polisario Front itself.

La Gaceta: Why the politicization of the Aminatou Haider case, which you referred to?
 
Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: It is due to Polisario’s desire, backed by Algeria, to change the direction of direct negotiations with Morocco, by using the case of Aminatou Haidar. Polisario seeks to evade its responsibilities in the ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations. Aminatou Haidar’s strike is a political fraud and clear deceit of Spanish and  international public opinion. It seeks to drive things back, at a time when we have achieved tangible progress in negotiations, which would contribute to their updating and making them fruitful. The conclusions made by the former Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Peter Van Walsum, did not please it at all Polisario, especially as he said that in order to reach a solution, the front must give up the independence claim. These conclusions completely confused them. Now, they have decided to direct the file towards human rights to avoid negotiations. As usual, they want to deceive international public opinion; therefore, what happens to Aminatou Haidar is, quite simply, a political scam.

La Gaceta: reaching this point, and after all what was said, including the speculation that took place, particularly in Spain, the return of Aminatou Haidar to Laayoune is based on what?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: It depends upon her and on her only. To date, Aminatou Haider was travelling with Moroccan passport holding her nationality.  Through this document, she applied for many visas that allowed her to travel all over the world. She has always been Moroccan, and therefore we do not know why she now wants to deny it. 


In addition, she has never belonged to the Sahara, former Spanish colony, since she is not originally from Laayoune but from Tan Tan, which is a Saharan town, but not part of the disputed territories, and has always been a Moroccan land. She is responsible alone for this unfortunate situation. Any country placed in front of this position, and in strict compliance with legality, can not accept this. It is up to her to return to her family. From the moment she recognizes her Moroccan nationality, she can return to Laayoune, and without any problem.

La Gaceta: Following protests of Aminatou Haider in Spain, we are about alleged instability in Western Sahara, it is reported that in this region the Moroccan state does not respect the basic human rights of its population. What is the current situation in the Saharan territories?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: the situation is very normal. Never the Sahara has been experiencing a quiet and environment as it did in the past four years, particularly since the people understood the value and scope of the autonomy project that King Mohammed VI wants to grant to the region. Since then, we have never seen such peace and stability. Even those who live in the camps of the Polisario Front and Sahrawi workers in Spain or in Mauritania understood that it is better to implement autonomy. The situation is stable because of this optimism by Sahrawis waiting for the implementation of this historic project. This hope cannot be changed either by Aminatou Haidar, or by anyone else.


La Gaceta: Although the idea widely disseminated in Spain is the fact that the Sahara community is pluralistic, with many variations and trends within it. What do you think of the weight of the independence movement at the present time in the Sahara?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: the independence movement has little weight today among Sahrawis. We should not forget that there is an element that prevents a proper analysis of the situation, the Polisario Front, is a political-military movement which militarily controls Sahrawis living in camps, which does not allow them to determine the value of things in their right perspective. Within the Sahara land, the importance of independence is very limited. People like Aminatou Haider and others who defend the Polisario thesis are a minority, I would say that there are only few hundreds people. Sahrawis experienced war and all types of policies, to no avail. The referendum could not be completed at all, because it is impossible, and what Sahrawis want is to live quietly like most people. Autonomy is the best remedy for this situation, a project that brings hope and optimism, and wanted by the absolute majority of Sahrawis, including those living in the camps. They consider autonomy the best solution.


La Gaceta: you said that the referendum on self-determination, the only way recognized by the Polisario Front, is impossible. On what basis you say that?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: It is not possible, because the borders that exist today do not match with the Sahrawi population. Colonization changed the natural borders of our population, divided between Spain, which controlled a part, the Western Sahara, and France, which controlled the other four parts, one in Morocco and another in Algeria, Mali and Mauritania.  

This is what makes the historic lands of the 34 Saharan tribes to be divided by four countries, which would require, in order for the referendum to be fair, free and democratic, changing these borders, so that all Sahrawis can express their will. You see that this is impossible, and contrary to the Charter of the African Union, and unacceptable by any of the countries concerned. The United Nations itself came to the conclusion that the holding of this referendum is not possible technically and politically. If it is not possible to organize a referendum, the independence is no longer an option, and thus self-government is the only solution that seems possible.

La Gaceta: Do you really think that a Saharan autonomous entity can close such a complex file, which has lasted for more than three decades, and so far seems without tangible progress?
 

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Yes, we believe without doubt that it is the best solution. It is the means by which you, the Spanish, managed to solve your internal and historical problems democratically. No one doubts that Spain is today much stronger, thanks to absorbing autonomous regions. Similar problems have been resolved through self-government in Northern Ireland, Russia, China and many other countries. Autonomy is the best democratic way out, guarantor of stability and prosperity and interests of a particular community, in this case it is the Saharan community.

La Gaceta: What are the features of the Saharawi autonomy? How will it be? What will be its institutions and powers?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid:  autonomy will include all areas, except four, which are necessary and will remain under the supervision of the State, namely: defense, foreign affairs, currency and religious privileges of the King, in his capacity as Commander of the Faithful.

All other things, whether political and economic, or even in the field of internal security will be under the authority of the Sahrawi government and parliament. There will also be a judicial authority, and we will exercise control over our own budgets.

La Gaceta: Can Polisario Front take a part in this autonomy? What is the role that can be played by the separatist organization in the Sahara?


Mr. Ould Errachid: Absolutely, it is quite clear that Polisario can take a part in this autonomy. Autonomy is directed to Sahrawis and the Polisario Front is a part of them. For the role to be played by the Polisario, from the moment it will give its consent to self-government, it will be able to run the future of autonomy. Of course, this is always possible with people’s confidence through elections.

La Gaceta: After four failed rounds, and several attempts to pursue them, at which point stand currently direct negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations between Morocco and Polisario? 


Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: the negotiations are at a standstill because the Polisario Front and Algeria do not want to discuss the essence of the matter; they do not want to go straight to the substance of the issues. Progress can not be achieved in the negotiations if we do not agree that autonomy is the only solution. Polisario has the opportunity to negotiate the features of this autonomy.


The testimony of Peter Van Walsum is very useful in this regard since it tells Polisario to give up independence and separatism in order to reach a speedy settlement of the dispute. But to achieve this purpose, the Polisario Front is in need of substantial margins of autonomy which is not permitted by Algeria.

La Gaceta: It is clear that the Spanish state deals in a special way with this file for obvious reasons. What is the role played by Spain in resolving this conflict?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: Spain already plays a very important role. Since 2006, following the establishment of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs and the proposition of autonomy, Spain has changed dramatically regarding this issue. Public opinion, civil society, political parties and trade unions positively welcomed the autonomy proposal. There are parties that are still stubborn, but are not necessary to form the view of the Spanish government to help negotiations reach a solution.


La Gaceta: On the basis of reactions on the issue of Aminatou Haidar, don’t you think that the shadows did not stop in the Spanish public opinion? Don’t you think that we look at things in a somewhat stubborn way, as if it were a conflict between good and evil where you are representing the latter?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: I don’t think so. Yes, there is a misunderstanding of this issue, there are bad interpretations. Perhaps that Morocco did not present things as it should have to be. The idea that Sahrawis were all in the refugee camps was exploited, which is completely wrong.

Now I think we made it so clear that the absolute majority of our population, four-fifths of it live in the territory of the former Spanish Sahara colony, and that we are the real Sahrawis because we never left our land. Spain has changed a lot concerning its perception over the Sahara. The example of this is that the Aminatou Haidar case did not create a diplomatic crisis between the two countries; this case is isolated and accidental.

La Gaceta: In the light of the current situation and its relation with Western Sahara issue, are you optimistic about finding a fast solution?

Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid: yes to some extent, I expect to find a quick solution. On the other hand, I'm more pessimistic, especially in relation with the Algerian ambiguity. We have not yet found a partner in Algeria that encourages dialogue.


Algeria does not progress in the Maghreb, does not open its borders with Morocco, refuses to negotiate with Rabat, or even to negotiate on issues not related to the Sahara. The Sahara issue is used by Algeria to resolve its internal affairs, and therefore to constantly interfere. Whenever we were about to reach a mutual understanding, and when there is progress and optimism, Algeria reverses things. This is what is happening now with Aminatou Haidar’s case, which serves as Algerian brakes against the progress of negotiations.

 

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