TINDOUF, Algeria, Feb 5 – The head of Western Sahara’s Polisario Front has said “all options are open” in its struggle for independence from Morocco, which re-joined the African Union this week.
Morocco quit what was then the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 after the bloc admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared by the Polisario at the height of a war over the territory.
But the kingdom’s return to the bloc does not fundamentally change the situation, Polisario head and SADR president Brahim Ghali told AFP.
“Moroccan procrastination and the failure of the (UN) Security Council to meet its responsibilities force us to consider the various means of recovering our rights,” he added.
“We always look for the peaceful way” to resolve the conflict, he told AFP at a Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria.
“But all options remain open.”
A ceasefire has been in force since 1991 in Western Sahara, a vast desert territory and former Spanish colony that has been under Moroccan control since 1975.
International peace efforts have borne little fruit.
A UN peacekeeping force, MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), was set up to monitor the ceasefire and organise a poll on the future of the territory.
The SADR, which remains a member of the AU, demands independence a UN-supervised referendum to resolve the conflict.
Morocco, which controls 90 percent of the territory including its three main towns, insists it is an integral part of the kingdom and that only autonomy is on the table.
A poll was planned for 1992 but aborted when Morocco objected to the proposed electoral register, saying it was biased in favour of independence.
Ghali, who took over as Polisario leader on the death of his predecessor Mohamed Abdelaziz in May 2016, called on Morocco to seek peaceful solutions.
“Now that the Moroccan kingdom is a member of the AU, it must respect its commitments and the international borders of the Sahrawi Republic,” Ghali said.
“We hope that Morocco will meet its commitments.”