ALGIERS (AFP) – Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz said on Friday Morocco’s “policy of fear and terror” in the Western Sahara had failed and that victory was in sight.
Abdelaziz, the self-styled Sahrawi president, was speaking on the 40th anniversary of the rebel group’s formation.
“The policy of fear and terror practiced by the Moroccan state has failed. The time when this policy was practiced behind closed doors is definitively over,” he said, quoted by Algeria’s national news agency.
“The signs of victory are visible on the horizon (after) 40 years of hard struggle, marked by tragedies and suffering as well as gains and victory,” Abdelaziz added.
Morocco annexed the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, in a move never recognised by the international community.
It has proposed broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the phosphate-rich region. This is rejected by the Polisario Front, who first took up arms to fight for an independent state two years before the Spanish withdrawal, and continued their guerrilla war against Morocco until a UN-negotiated ceasefire in 1991.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution last month extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission for another year but omitting a US-backed plan to task it with human rights monitoring after Morocco lobbied furiously to have the proposal dropped.
Tensions have since been running high in the disputed territory. Some of the biggest protests in decades were seen last weekend, when hundreds of pro-independence activists marched in the main cities of Laayoune and Smara.
Abdelaziz said the May 4 protests “expressed the sentiment of all Sahrawis,” and sent a “strong message” to Morocco that the people of the Western Sahara were “firmly attached” to the principle of independence.
He also repeated the Algeria-backed group’s insistence on the right of Sahrawis to a UN-monitored referendum on independence.
“It is time for the international community and Morocco to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations so that the Sahrawi people can achieve their right to self-determination,” he was quoted as saying.