Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid, guest of "Liqa' Al Yaoum" program broadcasted by Al Jazira Channel, stated that the autonomy project will allow Sahrawis "to attain their historical dreams by obtaining their requests and achieve the condition of well-being in their country" and it will also allow Morocco to achieve its sovereignty without discussion".
He also stated that the autonomy project is the project of "all Sahrawis" who will decide about it emphasizing that Sahrawis, including those living in Tindouf camps, are looking for "a final and quick solution for their conditions as well as for the region."
After having stressed that the Sahara conflict " was unfruitful for the Sahrawis, for the Arab Maghreb and for the African continent", Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid stated that this conflict "has delayed the Arab Maghreb development and divided the African continent" adding that it also constitutes" a conflict point in the region which should to be eradicated".
Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid asked the Polisario leaders to be endowed with "realism, rationalism and patience" and not to be an obstacle in front of the proud return of our children and families to their country".
He added that the autonomy project gives the opportunity to the Polisario Front in order to achieve all their demands summed up in "achieving a respected personality for the Sahrawis within the Moroccan Kingdom and to achieve the historical demands in the political, economic, social and cultural fields" emphasizing that the autonomy project meets all these demands.
Mr. Khalihenna Ould Errachid stated that citizens living in Tindouf camps (South of Algeria) complain from the bad treatment of the security forces and from their living in inhuman conditions which can not be accepted and which are not in conformity with human dignity" stating that those citizens "who are fed up with obscurity" want to return back to their country and families.
He also showed how afraid he was that disputes became worse in the camps if the Polisario leaders do not enter into quick negotiations which will put and end to this conflict via the autonomy plan."
On the other hand, Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid said that the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs is carrying out dialogue with the Sahrawi prisoners who benefited recently from the Royal amnesty "in order to take the best solution to achieve their goals embodied in the dialogue and practice of the civilized political action far from the unfruitful violence."
Within this context, he made it clear that the Council's mission is a "reconciliating" mission which aims at achieving "an important project of which the people of the regions have been dreaming since the 50's" , that is the dream of building an Arab Maghreb based on "a new future, new hopes and meeting of love feelings".
Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid reminded about the first session relating to the autonomy project, recently held by the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs, making it clear that during this session, the Council's members presented the "proposals they thought to be the best way to achieve a credible project including all their ideas about the subject”.
He also emphasized that Sahrawis discussed during this historical session and for the first time, the autonomy plan from all its aspects before distributing the prerogatives and electing the main bodies necessary for the autonomy plan management as well as the legislative and executive institutions and constituents of the autonomy plan recognized on the international level.
Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid indicated that the debate in this session was characterized by "democracy and openness, and it allowed all the members to present their ideas without any kind of pressure or instructions", making it clear that the interventions around the autonomy plan were made within the international norms as regard to autonomy and within the sovereignty principles.
He added that Sahrawis became, through this debate, sure that "there is a historical aspect changing in Morocco and in the region as a whole."
Here is the full text of the interview:
Hassan Rachdi: Good evening, greetings from Rabat. The Moroccan Sovereign Mohammed VI nominated recently a Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs. The mission of this Council is to study the Moroccan proposal relating to the granting of autonomy to the Southern Sahrawi regions. He also appointed Mr.Khalihenna Ould Errachid President of the Council. Mr Khalihenna, we would like, first of all, to ask you about the ideas of the Council's Saharawi members concerning the current proposal of the autonomy project in the Sahara. Where are you now?
KOE : We have started the first three days session about the autonomy project, during which all the Council's members intervened and made proposals about the best mean, they thought, would enable to reach a credible project when talking about autonomy. It was indeed a historical session as it was the first time Sahrawis discussed in Rabat a subject as such. The interventions dealt with all the issues like prerogatives dispatching, autonomy institutions, kind of institutions and elections of the main bodies necessary for the autonomy management. In brief, the constituents of the so-called autonomy, meaning the sharing of authority with the central State and the bodies, kind of legislative and executive bodies and others constituting the heart of autonomy. They also discussed the amendment of the Constitution.
H.R: Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid, it's the first time, as far as I know, that Sahrawis discuss, somehow officially, this issue. Are you free in presenting all your thoughts?I mean, I know that the Council's members are 141, are all these members free in presenting their ideas since the Council is not elected but appointed, is there any kind of administrative pressure so that the process will be unified and specified?
KOE: What I can confirm is that the discussions held in Rabat were straight forward and democratic and allowed all the members to present their ideas without any kind of pressure or instruction. In fact, they were surprised as there were no draft or headlines from the State concerning this project as this the first time Sahrawis discussed freely, but within the international known norms regarding autonomy, i.e. sovereignty and all that concerns it is well known for everybody. They try to follow other examples of autonomy in democratic countries such as Spain, Italy, Belgium and the European Union countries. It was a historical debate through which Sahrawis became sure that there is a change in the region, and in Morocco as a whole. The autonomy is something to be practised and carried out by the concerned persons, meaning the 141 members appointed by His Majesty but...
H.R.: volunteers too...
KOE : Volunteers but they represent the Sahrawi society in pursuant with the norms agreed upon by the Sahrawi society, i.e. they represent the tribes and all the society including men, women, young people, ancient emprisoners and old people. They truly express the ideas of the Sahrawis...
H.R.: Mr President, there are some information taken from the press which say that Morocco is ready to present this project to the international scene and especially to the United Nations next October. Is your mission now determined within a schedule, meaning, when are you going to finish this mission and present your document to the Sovereign?
KOE : Yes, really, there is a date which is next October when the Moroccan Kingdom will present its project to the Security Council. We, during this period before October, should present our project to His Majesty. It should be ready before October of course and we are working on this matter.
H.R.: Let us talk about the other aspect, recently Mohammed Abdelaziz, leader of the Polisario Front declared, via this program, his total refusal of the autonomy project proposed by Morocco. In case, the Polisario Front refused this project, would it be an obstacle before finding a solution to this issue and to this conflict having lasted for more than thirty years now?
KOE: Yes, our brother, Mohammed Abdelaziz can refuse what he wants but I dont believe in this refusal as this project concerns Sahrawis, all the Sahrawis, who will decide about it, including those living in Tindouf camps who are looking for a final and quick solution to their situation and that of the region. Let us stop this useless conflict which has lasted 30 years. A conflict which did not bring anything positive neither to Sahrawis nor to the Arab Maghreb nor to the African Continent. This conflict has delayed the development of the Arab Maghreb and has divided the unity of the African Continent. It is the source of conflict in the region which should be eradicated definitely. I am calling Mohammed Abdelaziz to be more realistic, he knows that people living in the camps would like to return back home but in a way that would preserve their dignity and would respect all what they fought for. The autonomy plan proposed by His Majesty for these provinces meets all these demands. So, I m asking Mohammed not to be an obstacle in front of the proud return of our children and families back home.
H.R: Mr. President, when you say proud, what would be the destiny for the Polisario Front? In case the autonomy project succeedes what will be the fate of the Polisario Front, would they return proudly to Morocco?
KOE: If they accept, negociate, sign and were realistic like all the organizations, and if they are aware they did not achieve any of the goals they came into being for, till today, they did not win the war and the referendum war, so, why should they exist, we should find another solution which is the autonomy. The Polisario Front has all the opportunities to achieve its dream which is achieving a respectful Sahrawi personality within the Moroccan Kingdom, achieving all the historical demands in the political, economic, social and cultural fields and ensuring management if they succeed in the elections of the next autonomy project...
H.R: I will say Mr. President, if they succeed in the elections meaning they can return to Morocco and constitute a political party for example?
KOE: Yes, of course, and the management of autonomy affairs if they succeed as I said.
H.R.: But the law regulating the parties, adopted now in Morocco, does not allow parties based on tribal or racial aspect, meaning the law governing the parties in Morocco won’t allow them to return as a political party.
KOE: It's not obligatory they constitute a tribal or racial or national party, they would accomplish their tasks in the Sahara within the next autonomy.
H.R.: and this...
KOE: It's possible
H.E.: it's possible?
KOE: Yes, it's possible, and Mohammed can be the First President of the local government in the Sahara under the sovereignty of Morocco. The only problem is the extreme and non-objective position of Mohammed, a position which does not take into consideration the aspirations of our families in the camps and in the region, a position which is not founded on the reality of 30 years of conflict. I don’t understand why Mohammed wants to hinder the building of the Maghreb and to hinder the achievement of the historical Sahrawi demands.
H.R.: The Polisario Front says that if Morocco will not give up this project, they would be obliged to use arms once again. How do you deal with this kind of implicite threat? Would it be possible to have war again in the Sahara?
KOE: At all, the Polisario Front cannot call for war as it would be a useless war and if they do they would be committing suicide, because nobody would fight for sterile and useless aims. Why do we want to kill people? What is the objective? They lost the war when they were possessing arms and had aliens who provided them with arms. Now they do not have any mean to call for war, and who ever threatens with war is just crazy and wants to lose time or does not want Sahrawis to reach their objectives peacefully. This is why I am advising my brother not to talk again about war because he knows very well that he cannot shoot one bullet.
H.R.: Ladies and Gentlemen, back to our program and to our guest, Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid. Mr. President, you have recently interfered before the higher authorities in the country so that some Sahrawi emprisoners will be released. How would you classify them, are they real separatists supporting the Polisario Front or young people fed up with the dominant situation in the region? What's your opinion?
KOE: A mixture of both. There are those who are convinced with the Polisario's ideology spread over through internet, and those who are fed up with the dominant social and political situation in the region. His Majesty has granted them his pardon, and we are now trying to convince them to make them follow the best way to reach their objectives through dialogue and civilized political action, and to avoid useless means such as violence. These people are also following some sayings which I have also heard from Mohamed, that Morocco has colonized the Sahara. I want to correct something and say that there is no one document within the UN saying that Morocco has colonized the Sahara. This is a false idea. There is a conflict with the Polisario Front about the Sahara but the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, the USA, Asia and the majority of African countries do not consider that Morocco colonized the Sahara. There is a conflict with a political and military organization, the Polisario Front, to be solved via negotiations.
H.R.: We have received recently many releases from the Sahrawi regions in Morocco and from your Council talking about the difficult situation in Tindouf camps. What's new about this situation?
KOE: True, there were confrontations at the end of May, and the beginning of this month. They happened in the camps between the Polisario's security forces and the citizens who were complaining from the bad treatement of these forces in front of the office of my brother Mohammed Abdelaziz, the Polisario Secretary General. Citizens are fed up of staying in the camps without any hope in the future. They want to return to their country and to their homes. They don’t want to stay in bad conditions which are inhuman. They don’t want to stay in a land which is not theirs and being far from their families. So, if the Polisario Front refuses to go quickly on negotiations in order to end up this conflict through accepting the autonomy, the situation will be worse in the camps, than the events of the period from 29th May to 3rd June. Polisario is still facing these problems and people are still in Rabouni jail after these events, and the conflict is still going on.
H.R.: You talked about your visit to Algeria and meeting with the President Boutaflika to talk with him about the situation of the Western Sahara and the region. Are there any news about this visit and is it possible?
KOE: Yes, it can happen. As I said, I will ask the permission of His Majesty to go to Algeria and discuss the subjet with its President. Concerning the conflict, I really appreciate the President's initiative relating to the Algerian reconciliation which put an end to the domestic conflict. Thus, I would request from the President and the Algerian authorities to make endeavours in order to reconciliate between us and the Polisario Front as they have secret relations with Algeria and the Tindouf camps are on the Algerian territory. We would be grateful to Algeria when this conflict ends up.
H.R.: Don’t you think, Mr. President, that through this popular diplomacy, your are competing with the Minister of Foreign Affairs? I don’t want a response from you. But, I would like to know, within your visits to many regions, what are the results you obtained from explaining your affair, through this kind of popular diplomacy.
KOE: The aim of our visits to France and Spain was to explain the Council's mission and the autonomy project as a final solution for the Sahara conflict via dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation. We are requesting the help of anybody who can contribute in solving this conflict according to the international legitimacy as the autonomy is the best solution which goes hand in hand with the international law. It's time to end up this conflict with everybody’s consent. We will all be victorious. Our mission is thus a reconciliating one through which the dream of the Arab Maghreb will be achieved.
H.R.: With this optimistic tone and this wish to end up this old conflict, we end this meeting with Mr Khalihenna Ould Errachid, President of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs
This is Hassan Rachdi from Rabat