Youth in Tindouf refugee camps call for protest against Polisario leadership tomorrow, March 5
Washington, DC (March 4)—At the National Press Club today, Libya’s former Minister of State for Immigration & Expatriates, Dr. Ali Errishi—the first Libyan official to call on Muammar Qadhafi to step down—condemned members of the Polisario Front for their “hypocrisy” in claiming to fight for freedom and progressive ideals, but joining the mercenary army that Qadhafi is paying to attack Libyan protesters and cling to power.
“I appeal to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be a good neighbor,” said Errishi, “and stop these people from crossing Algeria into Libya” to join Qadhafi’s mercenary army. “The hypocrisy of members of the Polisario who speak of their ideals and progressive values, yet participate in such a viscous enterprise is disheartening,” said Errishi, who resigned two weeks ago from a regime he no longer considers legitimate. He served as Minister for Immigration & Expatriates since 2006, and is well known among Libyans as a human rights activist.
Recent news reports allege that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi has recruited up to 25,000 mercenaries, including Tuareg separatist fighters from Niger, Mali, Algeria, and Burkina Faso, to suppress the popular uprising against his regime, in which, it is estimated, up to 6,000 people have been killed in the deadliest violence yet in the unrest sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.
Dr. Errishi confirmed that well-armed members of the Polisario Front, a separatist organization based near Tindouf in southwest Algeria, which for decades has challenged Morocco for control of the Western Sahara, are among the mercenaries Qadhafi has recruited to prop up his regime, a move which has brought international condemnation.
Tomorrow, March 5, the Polisario leaders face their own protests, as youth in the Tindouf refugee camps that serve are the Polisario’s base have called for demonstrations against corruption in the Polisario leadership. The Polisario has maintained the same leaders for more than three decades, as conditions in the camps for refugees have grown steadily worse. The Polisario has continued to refuse serious negotiations on Morocco’s compromise autonomy solution for the Western Sahara, which has gained wide backing in the international community, majorities in both houses of the US Congress, and the past three US administrations.
“I sincerely hope Sahrawi refugees who continue to be stranded in the camps in Tindouf send a strong message to their leadership tomorrow,” said Robert Holley, executive director, Moroccan American Center for Policy. “It is outrageous that members of the Polisario are likely part of the mercenaries Qadhafi has organized to suppress and kill his own people. The international community should heed Dr. Errishi’s call for blockading transit for these hired guns through Algeria and elsewhere. As Dr. Errishi notes, the hypocrisy is disheartening—and a challenge to regional stability.”
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