Dakar hosted the 2nd International Conference on the Sahara for Dialogue and Peace, organised by the Saharawis Movement for Peace with a concrete proposal of contents for autonomy under the sovereignty of Morocco

Western Sahara needs a compromise solution where there are no winners and no losers

Hach Ahmed Bericalla
photo_camera Hach Ahmed Bericalla

Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is hosting the 2nd International Conference on the Sahara for Dialogue and Peace. It is a conference organised by the Sahrawis Movement for Peace and the message is clear, looking especially to the future, it is about giving hope to the Sahrawi people with a negotiation that must have its content, and, above all, an improvement in the way of life and political, human and social relations of the Sahrawi people.

A scenario that would unblock the Western Sahara dispute in the United Nations so that the parties can negotiate with a view to achieving a whole series of demands, from family reunification to political rights, housing, education, security and health for the Saharawi people, in this sense, with Morocco proposing autonomy for the Saharawi territory, but demanding that Morocco give substance to this autonomy.

The first conference took place in Las Palmas, Spain, and this 2nd International Conference on the Sahara for Dialogue and Peace in Dakar offers answers and also demands to a whole series of people.

Atalayar was able to talk to the first secretary of the Saharawis Peace Movement, Hach Ahmed Bericalla, to discuss all these questions.

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Hach Ahmed Bericalla, first secretary of the Saharawi Peace Movement

What are the objectives of this 2nd International Conference for Dialogue and Peace?

The objectives of this conference have taken the form of this series of speeches, resolutions and approaches that have to do with the proposal defended by the Sahrawi Peace Movement for a peaceful solution, a compromise solution that will put an end to this journey to nowhere that we have been on for half a century. 

The proposal that we have put forward on this occasion, which we launched at the Canary Islands Conference last year, has been further expanded and I believe that it contains, in a way, a comprehensive plan for resolving the problem, which is worth considering by the parties, Morocco, Algeria, the Polisario Front and the influential countries, of course, Spain, the United States and France, because it could be the magic formula for resolving this problem once and for all. 

Obviously, it starts from the need for a compromise solution in which there are neither winners nor losers, but it enters into very specific content in which it tests Morocco's willingness to seek a solution. It proposes autonomy, but it proposes it in broad terms if we want to provoke the Moroccan authority so that it knows how far it wants to go. 

It is therefore a question of testing the breadth, the elasticity of this proposal and how far it can go. We are prepared to explore this proposal down to the last detail and we have the proposed solution and we want it to take up in general terms the demands of the Saharawi people in a comprehensive way, but at the same time respecting Morocco's strategic interests in the territory. 

Hach Ahmed Bericalla

It must be said that, from one year to the next, the Sahrawi Movement for Peace has been growing and is presenting itself as a real alternative for representing the Sahrawi people, which has always been monopolised by the Polisario Front, and that now the proposals and demands they put on the table have popular support and legitimacy and, above all, they have the courage to give content and provide solutions to the problem. 

In two years we have made a qualitative leap in terms of the movement's presence at the international level. This conference has representatives from all continents, with political leaders from Mauritania, from all African countries, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal; a good number of African countries and also from Latin America. And it is proof that the Saharawi movement is arousing interest with its message and proposed solution. 

The fact that it is committed to a peaceful solution, the fact that it is opposed to violence and therefore calls for an end to the war, has generated this confidence in many parts of the world and this is obviously a good credential to show the current one. And then it is true that the United Nations has been trying to find a solution for thirty years.

Intervention by Hach Ahmed Bericalla in Dakar

Now there is the 12th special envoy, who is Mr Staffan de Mistura, who is trying to mediate a little bit to move the political process forward. I am afraid that he has not had the audacity to step out of the script left to him by previous special envoys, all of whom have failed, including the heavyweights of international diplomacy, and that is why we advise him to step out a little, to look for meanders, to look for paths that can lead to a solution. 

And we think that what should be done is to broaden the format of the political process, to allow other political currents to participate. This is no longer the time of single parties and single representations. We are in the 21st century, in the third decade of this century, and we also believe that it is very important that we have the opinion of the traditional authority, the only legitimate authority that exists, which is the tribal chiefs. And their presence with us at this conference is proof that we are on the right track. 

We are also talking about Spanish representation, because Spain has a role to play. There have been important Spanish political leaders who have shown their support for the initiatives of the Sahrawi Peace Movement. Spain is there, and I do not want to focus only on the support of the PSOE, because here we should also include the Popular Party, which I do not know whether or not it will be able to in the more or less near future, but this issue should be a State issue, a foreign policy agreed upon by the two major Spanish parties.

I believe that the reality, which has been reflected in these speeches by the senior leaders of the PSOE, defines a State policy that is valid for any party with a governmental vocation, and therefore also challenges the Popular Party, and we believe that it would be difficult for the Popular Party to adopt a different policy when it is in power. Another thing is the game played by the opposition. 

We are anxious to open this channel with the Popular Party and other political parties, including those closest to the Polisario Front, such as the left-wing and nationalist forces. We believe that it is good to listen to the other side, it is good to listen to a different opinion, and we believe that in the fact that we are demanding plurality, that we are demanding openness, that we are demanding multi-partyism, we are not demanding anything impossible.

We believe that we have the right to have an opinion on the question of Western Sahara. This does not diminish the Polisario's representativeness, but, in the end, representations are decided by the ballot box, not by weapons, not by the exercise of violence. 

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Hach Ahmed Bericalla at the Second International Conference on the Sahara in Dakar

And also to carry out a real census of the camps. You have denounced the very serious situation of repression experienced by the Sahrawis in the Tindouf camps. 

What I would like to know is the Polisario's fear of participating in an open public debate. We have invited for the second time senior Polisario leaders to take part in this Saharawi dialogue to listen to them and exchange views, and they have not dared to show up. In other words, they are capable of going to any forum, anywhere, no matter how insignificant, no matter how insignificant the parties promoting it may be, and they are not capable of sitting down with a very broad representation of Saharawi societies to discuss the future of the Sahara. This fear of open debate, I believe, will be, in a way, the beginning of the end of the Polisario as a political organisation. 

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II International Conference on the Sahara in Dakar

You spoke of Mr De Mistura's management, the United States, too, in the last few days, has been moving and suddenly the whole crisis in Israel has erupted. Do you think that this situation could have a negative influence on whether the Sahara issue can go forward in the United Nations, whether it will be raised... I don't know if this is beneficial or detrimental, I think it is detrimental because the focus is elsewhere. How you are approaching this situation and, above all, trying to unblock it once in the United Nations so that this can come to an end. 

Certainly, the situation in the Middle East caught the attention of the world and even put other questions that were on the back burner... even Ukraine. Therefore, I am not surprised that the Western Sahara issue is also overshadowed by these developments, although in two days' time there will be a Security Council meeting to renew the mandate of MINURSO and this is an opportunity to address this issue. 

I think the situation in the Middle East is temporary, at some point it will stop overshadowing the other issues and certainly the UN Special Envoy has to move. I worry that he will not be able to innovate, that he will not be bold enough to ask new questions and this worries me because, moreover, if he does not do so, in the end, he will get tired and throw in the towel. 

Bono Dakar MSP
José Bono at the II International Conference on the Sahara in Dakar

What is new and very positive is this new interest on the part of the US Administration to the extent that it has presented a political solution that it has presented to the Polisario, and it seems that the Polisario has not taken any notice of it. Moreover, we consider it positive, although we do not have many details about it, but the fact that it is a peaceful political solution that has international guarantees are the three key elements to be able to move towards a peaceful solution. And we believe that it would be useful to know more details, and of course, if it has the guarantees of a power like the United States, that is enough. 

Moreover, because the situation in the Sahel is also pulling too many dangerous strings born out of instability and with terrorist groups posing a serious threat, apart from the movements of Wagner's mercenaries and the influence of Russia. This also influences the need for a peaceful negotiated solution for the Sahara. 

Of course, the situation in the Sahel and the almost generalised crisis in that part of Africa involving countries is an element of concern. We want to see a solution to the Western Sahara conflict as soon as possible and we want to try to shield the whole of north-west Africa to some extent from the possibility of instability spreading in this area. And, of course, that is why we are in a hurry to move forward in our efforts towards a peaceful solution. 

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II International Conference on the Sahara in Dakar

I think we are asking for a meeting with Mr De Mistura neither in Algeria nor in Morocco because we consider ourselves to be a third way, we consider ourselves to have a greater margin of freedom if we see ourselves outside of these countries even though we have many militants in these many countries in the camps and in the territories controlled by Morocco, but we feel freer if we meet in Madrid, in Brussels or in Geneva and I do not know this fear that he has as a mediator of a country, of an influence if he is exerting on it so that he does not have freedom of action so that he can listen to all the voices, all the opinions. 

A mediator has to open up to everyone as other special envoys have done, even if this has meant nothing, but the fact that he is not able to take this step worries us in terms of his chances of moving towards a solution. I think his days are numbered if he is not able to innovate.

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