Moroccan propaganda tries to muddle clear case for Western Saharan independence

“The Moroccan propaganda apparatus uses such myths as trying to link [Western Sahara’s liberation movement] Polisario to Al-Qaida in an attempt to defame, falsify and distort realities. This is done to discredit the struggle of the majority of the Saharawi people and their legitimate representative, the Polisario Front, that wants freedom for the last colony in Africa, Western Sahara.”

Abba Malainin, Polisario’s representative in Denmark, is speaking of the successful Moroccan campaign in the media that has seen hundreds of Moroccan propaganda websites, such as ‘Polisario Confidential,’  spring up and where hundreds of Moroccans comment on any and all anti-Moroccan or pro-Saharawi articles or blogs on the internet or attempt to discredit people who argue the cause of the Saharawis.

For those who are not aware of the Western Sahara conflict, Morocco illegally colonised Western Sahara in 1975, a fact recognised by the United Nations and international law. The International Court of Justice rejected Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara in 1975 and Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara has been declared illegal by over 100 resolutions in the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. The Charter of the United Nations furthermore states that those nations who are responsible for non-self-governing states, such as Western Sahara, must protect the citizens of such states and take account of their political aspirations, none of which Morocco is doing.

The Moroccan campaign has been successful due to its vast scale and the large sums that have been poured into it, especially in lobbying in the USA. According to Afrol News, the success of the campaign can be seen by the fact that many newspapers use information from the Maghreb Arabe Press, a news agency financed and controlled by the Moroccan Royal family, while the Polisario-controlled Sahara Press Service is less used.

But the many Moroccan claims are nothing but myths, and hypocritical ones at that, says Abba Malainin. “U.S Ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, affirmed in press conference last year that there no links between Al-Qaida and the Western Sahara,” he says, “and the same goes for the other myths.”

The human rights situation in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and Morocco has been criticized by an array of organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Even so, Morocco tries to smear the human rights record of the Polisario Front in the Saharawi-run Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, where over 150.000 Saharawi’s, who fled the advancing Moroccan troops in 1975, live. “Morocco should not give lessons in human rights to others, “says Abba Malainin. “Especially as Morocco’s own record of human rights gross violations is not honourable.”

As for the many other Moroccan myths, Abba Malainin insists that they are no more credible. For instance, Morocco often claims that the President of the Saharawi Democratic Republic in the Tindouf camps, Mohamed Abdelaziz, is in fact Moroccan – an attempt to render his presidency illegitimate. This is rubbish, says Abba Malainin, “Mr. Mohamed Abdelaziz is a Saharawi and was born in Western Sahara.”

The Moroccans also claim that corruption is widespread in the Tindouf camps in an attempt to indicate that Polisario is unfit to govern.  But this is also simply not true, says Abba Malainin. “Representatives from International organisations, such as UNHCR, the World Food Programme and various NGOs, have offices there on the ground and have never confirmed these Moroccan accusations. And over the years there is not a single refugee in the camps who has complained that he or she does not receive aid.” And the fact that Morocco is itself is ranked 85th on Transparency International’s Corruption Index, just below Malawi, makes this claim somewhat hypocritical.

Abba Malainin also scoffs at Moroccan claims that there is no freedom of speech in the Tindouf camps. “The Saharawi Refugee Camps are open to all independent observers and the international press,” he says. “Thousands of people and many NGOs visit the Camps every year and what they see there is the contrary to the Moroccan Propaganda.”

Freedom House gives Morocco a score of 7, or “not free,” the lowest possible score, for its handling of political rights in occupied Western Sahara and 5, or “partly free,” for Morocco itself, showing the hypocrisy of Morocco here as well. “The Saharawi flag is banned in Western Sahara, and speaking out for an independent state is illegal. Merely calling for human rights is enough to get you imprisoned,” says Abba Malainin.

The strength of the cause for Western Saharan independence is that it is both an issue of justice and a moral issue, he concludes. “Our cause cannot be overshadowed by false and distorted propaganda. Morocco should be realistic about this. They should know that they cannot convert Saharawis to be Moroccan or to be the Moroccan king’s subjects by force. The Saharawis want the right to live freely in their own sovereign and democratic country. Morocco should end its colonization, human rights violations and the plunder of the Western Sahara’s natural recourses and let them do so.”

Read more:

The case for Western Saharan independence

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