Question: Can you tell us how serious human rights violation is in the occupied part of Western Sahara?
Answer: Since the Moroccan invasion in 1975, the Saharawis were imprisoned by the thousands for their resistance and rejection of the occupation. Hundreds died in Moroccan jails due to torture and the horrible prison conditions. As of now, there are more than 500 civilians still missing and 151 prisoners of war.
They disappeared after they were taken by the Moroccans and nothing is known about their fate. Morocco imposes a news blackout in the occupied territory.
Journalists and international observers are not allowed in, therefore all those atrocities and violations are unknown to the outside world.
However, despite the policy of terror and repression, the resistance is growing. Most heartening is that it is carried out by young people, born under Moroccan occupation. The young generation simply refuses to be Moroccans and that is the biggest ammo of our struggle and signature to our legitimate demands.
The Spanish colonial authorities failed in their attempts to frighten and intimidate our people’s will to achieve freedom and independence. The Moroccans will never succeed either.
Q. Do you see fighting against Morocco resuming if the international community fails to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara problem?
A. We hope that the new envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to Western Sahara, Mr Christopher Ross will implement what has been decided by the Security Council in order to settle the conflict between the Moroccan government and the Saharawi people, that is to say: the holding of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and accomplish the decolonisation process.
In 1991, we accepted the ceasefire with Morocco in the hope and understanding that the international community would help us achieve a negotiated settlement. But, we will not stay arms folded and let the Moroccans oppress our people and plunder our country’s wealth.
Q. So you would resume fighting?
A. Of course. It is not our preferred path but if it is forced on us, we have no other choice.
Q. A spokesman of the Moroccan government has been quoted as saying the new UN Secretary General’s envoy to Western Sahara, Mr Christopher Ross, should start where his predecessor, Peter van Walsum left off. What exactly does that mean?
A. The Moroccans are afraid of the referendum. They fear anything democratic. The Moroccan government is merely attempting to create confusion. Mr Walsum once expressed a very personal opinion alluding to something like International Law "supports the claim by the Polisario Front. But, since the (UN) Security Council is not willing to put pressure on Morocco to leave the territory, then the Saharawis should accept what the Moroccans are offering."
That statement contradicts a cardinal UN principle, the right to self-determination. It also appeared to condone the illegal occupation of our country by Morocco, which is again against the UN Charter. The UN Secretary General rejected the careless proposal and Mr Walsum was actually dismissed in August last year because of that statement.
Q. Morocco proposes autonomy for Western Sahara. Would the Polisario Front accept that?
A. But that is a fallacy! Western Sahara has never been a part of Morocco or any other country in that part of Africa. What is meant by the so-called autonomy, analogically speaking, is similar to a robber who also occupies your home and when taken before a judge, he arrogantly says: "I am only ready to rent him a room at a reasonable price!!" And, that is the man who raped your daughters, killed your sons and humiliated both you and your wife?! No.
Autonomy is simply an attempt to hide the crimes that have been committed against our people. Only a free and fair referendum will end the conflict. Any other attempt to ignore the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination is doomed to fail.
Q. As journalists, we are interested in the fate of a fellow journalist, Mustapha Abd Daiem, who is held in Moroccan jails. What is the latest on efforts to have him released?
A. There is a campaign that has been launched by the US Branch of Amnesty International and other efforts by the Danish Support Committee for the Saharawi people to free him. Unfortunately, he is not the only one in jail. At present more than 50 human rights activists are in Moroccan prisons.
Q. Morocco clearly ignores all UN resolutions for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. What do you think gives it that audacity?
A: Unfortunately, the lack of pressure from the Security Council gives audacity to and encourages the Government of Morocco to continuously defy and ignore international law and opinion. That was the true spirit of Mr Peter Van Walsum’s argument although his conclusion was clearly wrong and repulsive to civilised conduct of international politics.
Q. What would you like Africa to do more to help the people of Western Sahara?
A. We are very proud of Africa. From the very beginning, African countries and our brothers and sisters on the continent, rejected the aggression of Morocco. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a member of the African Union.
Q: The whole world is excited about the new American leadership. What are your expectations from the Obama administration?
A: We expect those who’s dream has come true to help us also fulfill ours. And, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean just for the African-Americans.
I mean for all the American people because Dr Martin Luther King was a great American. All we are asking is the opportunity and freedom for our people to express their will. America can help make it happen because that is the American Dream.
We hope the new government will contribute to the strengthening of the United Nations capacity to resolve the problem.
Q: Any other comment?
Morocco’s expansionist policy jeopardises peace in Africa, something that the continent should be wary about.
At one time, Morocco also had had territorial claims against Mauritania, Algeria and Mali besides Western Sahara. It did that knowing it was a founding member of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which declared to hold as sacred borders inherited from colonial powers.
The founding fathers were very wise people. Otherwise, our beautiful continent would have been a boiling pot of troubles because the colonialists drew state boundaries arbitrarily. We believe Africa is one but for the time being, specific peoples have their specific corners, which should be respected.
North Africa needs peace and stability for the region to develop. Unfortunately, that will not happen until the Saharawi people are allowed to exercise their legitimate rights.
The Security Council of the United Nations should compel Morocco to abide by international law. One last thing is that the liberation of Africa has not been completed.
Unfortunately, one African country now occupies another, long after the liberation of South Africa in 1984, which ended internal minority rule. Morocco therefore, cannot be given kid’s gloves treatment as it continues to occupy our country.