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The Sahrawi Movement for Peace Advocates in South America

The Sahrawi Movement for Peace

The Sahrawi Movement for Peace, as part of the activities conducted by its delegation in Argentina, saw its First Secretary, Haj Ahmed Barikallah, and the MSP’s Head of International Relations as guests on the Argentine radio show “Picaditas del Sábado,” hosted by Maria Esther Álvarez, on Saturday, May 18, 2024.

During this encounter, Haj Ahmed had the opportunity to present the Sahrawi Movement for Peace as a peaceful opposition to the Polisario. He called on the conflicting parties to engage in constructive political dialogue to end the suffering of the Sahrawi population in Tindouf.

On Wednesday, May 14, the conference “Promoting Peace Projects in Conflict Zones” was held at the National Gendarmerie Circle, with the participation of Sahrawi leader Haj Ahmed Barikallah.

The Sahrawi Movement for Peace in Argentina

The Sahrawi Movement for Peace

From 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM, the National Gendarmerie Circle hosted the conference “Promoting Peace Projects in Conflict Zones,” organized by the International Committee for Dialogue and Peace. The event featured Mr. Haj Ahmed Barikallah,, First Secretary of the Sahrawi Movement for Peace (MSP), Dr. Graciela L. Cosentino, President of the International Committee for Dialogue and Peace, and Dr. Adalberto C. Agozino, coordinating secretary of the sponsoring NGO.

The main points of Mr. Barikallah’s presentation, titled “The Sahrawi Movement for Peace: A Popular Outcry and a Situational Demand,” highlighted several key aspects:

He began by noting that all members of the Sahrawi Movement for Peace were formerly part of the Polisario Front, sharing the initial ideals of establishing an independent, democratic, and progressive society in Sahara. However, these ideals have unfortunately been lost and distorted over time due to international changes.

He mentioned that after breaking away from the Polisario Front, he moved to Madrid and has never been to Morocco, despite being born in the Moroccan city of Dakhla.

Barikallah explained that the Sahrawi Movement for Peace, now four years old, was founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to break the deadlock in the conflict. The movement has garnered support from tribal notables, some of whom attended the Dakar Conference in October 2023.

He defined the Sahara conflict as a dispute between the two major powers in North Africa, explaining that the MSP aims to extricate the Sahrawis from this conflict and provide a new and superior alternative. “We are a third way building a new and superior alternative to this conflict,” he said.

Barikallah criticized the notion of war advocated by the Polisario Front, deeming it a mistake because defeating Morocco on the battlefield is impossible. He argued that sacrificing the Sahrawis to make a martyrdom statement is not the solution.

He also opposed all forms of violence, pointing out the effectiveness of Moroccan drones, which are too precise and lethal against young Sahrawis. This reality, he said, is difficult for Polisario leaders to grasp. Moreover, the Sahrawi population is just over 200,000, while Morocco has 37 million inhabitants.

Therefore, the MSP’s First Secretary advocated for a just solution that considers both Morocco’s interests and the Sahrawis’ rights.

He also criticized the idea of a one-party political regime, labeling it an anachronism maintained only by states like North Korea and a few others.

Barikallah emphasized the need to offer an alternative to people living in camps under harsh conditions in one of the world’s worst deserts.

In conclusion, he reaffirmed the MSP’s acceptance of Morocco’s Autonomy Proposal as a possible solution and called for a roadmap to establish a Sahrawi autonomous government with executive, legislative, and judicial powers under Moroccan sovereignty within approximately three years.

“We desire,” Barikallah said, “negotiations within the framework of the United Nations or direct negotiations.” He expressed belief that the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sahara, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, should convene a dialogue table meeting, which has been stalled since 2019. If this is not possible, the MSP is ready for direct negotiations with Morocco, he concluded.

The MSP’s First Secretary concluded by asserting that more Sahrawis support the MSP each day as a valid and superior alternative to the Sahara conflict.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Cosentino emphasized, “Dialogue involves much more than a mere exchange of ideas; it is a tool to promote peace and build realities. It mobilizes international community efforts to promote peace and trust between nations through inclusive dialogue, negotiations, and cooperation, achieving sustainable peace and harmony in a world marked by violence, causing the suffering of millions.”

This message, promoted by Mr. Haj Ahmed Barikallah, contributes to resolving a conflict that has stagnated for over fifty years, affecting thousands forced to live in harsh conditions in southern Algeria’s camps.

Dr. Agozino, discussing “Changes in North Africa,” stated, “The Maghreb comprises five states: Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania, covering 42% of the Arab world’s area and 30% of its population. It is also the least densely populated region in Africa, with 11.1 inhabitants per square kilometer, 47.58% of which is urban. The Maghreb states have unsuccessfully tried to integrate politically and economically through the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), hindered by geopolitical rivalries between Morocco and Algeria. The battleground for these interests is Sahara.”

Algeria, which has kept its 1,900 km land border with Morocco closed, also shut its airspace to Moroccan aircraft in 2022, even to planes from other countries with planned stops in Morocco. Additionally, it withdrew its ambassador from Rabat and sparked an arms race in North Africa. In 2023, Algeria allocated $18.3 billion to its armed forces, a 76% increase from 2022. Morocco, on the other hand, reduced its defense budget by 2.5% to $5.2 billion in 2023.

Overall, the Maghreb’s military spending in 2023 was $28 billion, 38% more than in 2022. Morocco and Algeria represent 82% of the Maghreb’s military spending and 45% of Africa’s total spending of $51.6 billion. Algeria’s arms purchases are almost exclusively from Russia, indirectly financing the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Hence, fostering dialogue and seeking new alternatives to end the confrontation climate in North Africa, halting the arms race, is crucial. The birth of the Sahrawi Movement for Peace (MSP), led by Hach Ahmed Bericalla as an opposition to the Polisario Front, represents a segment of the Sahrawi population not aligned with the Polisario’s political project. The MSP advocates for inclusive dialogue involving all components of Sahrawi society, traditional authorities, tribal notables, and civil society. Its presence here aligns with the MSP’s efforts to establish itself as a “third way” in seeking a peaceful solution to the Sahara issue and ending the tragedy affecting Sahrawis for half a century.

The event was attended by about fifty people, including local press representatives, and concluded with refreshments for the attendees.

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