Updated

Now you see them…the case of the disappearing dissidents – J. Abinader

By Jean AbiNader (Washington, DC, Dec. 28, 2011) — In the run-up to the 13th Congress of the very undemocratic Polisario Front in Tifariti 15-21 December, something akin to an Arab Awakening occurred to interrupt 30+ year reign of the General Secretary Mohamed Abdelaziz. It has been reported in intelligence press reports that young people are calling for a change to the Polisario’s Politburo-like behavior.

The congress refused to consider any limitations to the number of terms of office the General Secretary or members of the National Secretariat can hold. Mohamed Abdelaziz has now been elected, unopposed, as General Secretary of the Polisario Front and therefore President of the self-styled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) for the 11th successive time, with 21 out of 48 members of the outgoing National Secretariat staying on. That would give Fidel Castro a run for the title now that Qaddafi is gone!

More intriguing was the fate of young activists protesting against the Congress, who complained about the lack of fresh ideas and inclusion of diverse opinions, as well as the marginalization of young people.

Of specific concern is the intelligence press report is that scores of young protestors, who had camped out in front of the house of the Secretary General before the congress, were arrested and have not been released. This occurred despite a statement from the Polisario Front’s youth and student wing, UJSARIO, calling for the opportunity for opponents of the current leadership to air their views before the delegates to the congress. This, of course, did not happen; in fact, it was further reported that dissidents were barred from entering the conference hall.

An independent journalist who attended the Tifariti congress characterized the “no” response from the Front’s leadership as: NO to changing the make-up of the leadership; NO to change the decision-making process; and NO changes in policy.

Next door, in Morocco, the popularly elected representatives from four political parties were involved in negotiations under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) to form a new government, under a new constitution, that enshrines human rights and an independent judiciary. It will be interesting to see how the group of Polisario nay-sayers concoct their outreach to the new government in Morocco, which received strong voter support in the South, home to the majority of Sahrawis on Morocco.

Jean AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

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