Western Sahara: Polisario defectors join opposition youth group

A number of Polisario Front’s soldiers announced their were joining the Youth Movement for Change

Mustapha Ajbaili
Mustapha Ajbaili - Al Arabiya News
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A number of defected soldiers from the Algeria-based Polisario Front, which seeks the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, have announced that they were joining an opposition youth group that has risen against the Front’s leadership, according to a new video aired on Al Arabiya News Channel Wednesday.

The group of masked men read out a statement protesting “the heinous campaign and harassments carried out by the repressive services of the Polisario on the Youth Movement for Change to prevent them from pursuing reform.”

They said their goal was “to remove the corrupt leadership of the Polisario Front,” urging more soldiers from the 40-year-old movement to defect and join its ranks.

“We call upon the soldiers who belong to the corrupt military ranks of the Polisario Front to form free brigades to defend members of the Youth Movement for Change.”

Abdel-Fattah al-Balamchi, of the Maghreb Center for Parallel Diplomacy and Dialogue of Civilizations, said the youth group is seeking to attract international attention to the suffering of the Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf, which they blame on their leader Mohammed Abdulaziz.

“These masked men who appear on television and on social media websites speak about their humanitarian and social suffering and about cases of rape against women by Polisario leaders,” Balamchi said.

He added that the humanitarian conditions of refugees in Tindouf, located on the south west of Algeria, have been affected by a decline in international financial support.

The opposition youth accuse the Polisario leadership of embezzling funds sent by international donors to the refugees awaiting for decades in the North African desert for a settlement to the Western Sahara dispute.

Polisario Front spokesman Nafie Ahmed had denied the existence of the “Youth Movement for Change,” saying that “any change for the Sahrawi refugees must end their suffering altogether.”

“There is no existence for such a movement,” Ahmed told Al Arabiya News Channel in an interview last month.

Balamchi said the Youth for Change “do not clearly support the Moroccan proposal for a solution to the Western Sahara crisis, but they seek to attract international attention to the situation in Tindouf.”

“Who is responsible for security in Tindouf? We know that in reality, this region is Algerian territory. The refugee people in Tindouf have no jobs and no activity for over the past 30 years and this is a big suffering,” he added.

The youth group, which was founded in February this year, accuses Polisario leader Mohammad Abdelaziz and his associates of “trading in the suffering of the Sahrawi refugees.”

“We have suffered from injustice for more than 40 years. We demand the departure of this corrupt leadership, which is the oldest, most corrupt leadership in the world,” Mohammad Lamine, a spokesman for the nascent group, told Al Arabiya News Channel from the Tindouf refugee camp last month.

“They have been stealing humanitarian aid provided by international organizations to the refugee camps and whenever we raise our voices against [this] they accuse us of being agents of Morocco,” he added.

Morocco wants the Western Sahara region, which has fewer than one million residents, to be an autonomous part of the North African state.

The Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, seeks the independence of the region from kingdom.

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