Front Polisario Khat al-Shahid
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Front Polisario Khat al-Shahid (Khat al-Shahid, often w. Spanish transliteration as Jat Chahid, is Arabic for Line of the Martyr) is a minor faction within the Front Polisario. It is based in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria, but also claims to have supporters and members in the Sahrawi diaspora in Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, France and various European countries, as well as in the Moroccan-controlled part of Western Sahara.
Creation and relation to the Polisario Front
The organization announced its existence on 4 July 2004, issuing a communiqué named "Call to All the Sahrawi Nationalists". It accused the POLISARIO leadership of "incapacity to confront the invasor" and to "make successive concessions in the mark of the Peace Plan", also blaming the UN of the "dismal failure to implement its resolutions", and Morocco of "intransigence, systematic destruction of the Peace Plan" and "rejecting any hint of a solution out of their sovereignty over Western Sahara". The document noted what Khat al-Shahid (until 2005 known as "Front Polisario El Uali") consider the greatest failures of the Polisario Front direction:
- Use of a fatalist, defensive & negative instead of a brave, offensive & positive one.
- The weakness to the UN & to the enemy by offering this one possibilities to continue with its intransigence.
- The lack of initiative has made us lag behind developments, while in the past, with our sacrifice and the blood of our martyrs, we were the protagonists of these initiatives.
- No positive decision has been made since the cease-fire.
- Lack of political will to include new people from the younger generations of scholars in favor of our national cause.
- The gradual discarding of many individuals, both graduates and combat veterans leaders, protagonists of our national glories.
- Scheduled destruction of military force, even though it is the crucial element in ending the conflict.
- Humiliation of the war victims and families of martyrs, leaving them alone in an uncertain and difficult circumstances.
- The General Popular Congresses have become a piece of theatre, whose objective is the consolidation of the actual leadership in power, and the opposition to any sharing of the management of the affairs of the state and the citizens.
- Fraudulent use by some members of the leadership of their positions of responsibility, for their personal affairs in the absence of any control or inspection.
The POLISARIO refused to respond or recognize the organization, insisting that differences be solved within the established system. However, there have been no reports of police intervention against members. Its activities at this stage do not seem to go beyond publishing pamphlets against the present Polisario Front leadership, and while it may affect internal Sahrawi politics, it is of minimal or no significance to the Western Sahara conflict.
Its relation to POLISARIO remains slightly tense. Khat al-Shahid considers itself as a reformist movement inside the Polisario Front, and recognizes it as the only legitimate representative of the Sahrawis, until the end of the conflict. Its Tindouf-based members remain active in the SADR administration and armed forces.
Politics and ideology
The Khat al-Shahid uses the slogan "No hero but the people, no leader but the martyr", referring to El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed, the first Secretary-General of Polisario, who was killed in action in Mauritania 1976. It says it wants to restore El-Ouali legacy ("the line of the Martyr").
The movement has no explicit ideology, apart from seeking Western Sahara's independence, the essential objective at the foundation of the Polisario Front on 20 May 1973. A typical statement is its communiqué of 20 May 2005 (the 32nd anniversary of Polisario's first strikes against Spanish colonization), where the group demanded the "end to an occupation, and the raising of the flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic over the totality of its national territory". However, marking a difference with the POLISARIO, in its statements, the group emphasizes militancy and revolutionary action. It accuses the present leadership of weakness (decrying its "incapacity to bring the struggle against the invader to a close"), of caving in to Moroccan and UN pressures, and of being undemocratic and corrupt.
The Muhammad Abdelaziz leadership is accused of:
- "propagating corruption, clientelism, tribalism, and for bargaining with the sufferings of the Sahrawi people and the martyrs' blood".
- having no strategies to face the international developments.
- being unable to conduct internal reforms.
- having no contact with the population in the Moroccan-controlled part of Western Sahara, and with mediatically expoliting their "intifada".
- for refusing to hold the national congress demanded by Khat al-Shahid, where the Polisario leadership would be held to accountability for its policy, seeing this as a sign of the undemocratic leadership of the Polisario Front.
Furthermore, Khat Al-Shahid movement has called on the Polisario Front to spare the budget allocated for celebrations of the 31st anniversary of the Sahrawi republic, and to use it for the benefit of the refugee population. It considers the calls by Abdelaziz to the international community for help as begging. It demanded that persons involved in misuse, traffic, and spoiling of humanitarian aid be judged.
Khat al-Shahid has repeatedly decried the failure of the United Nations-backed peace process. It accuses the Polisario leadership of "defeatist reasoning" and of caving in to pressures (especially in accepting the Baker Plan), claiming that it benefits from the political stagnation caused by the cease fire. It stresses the gains made during the war years (1975–91) and claims the Abdelaziz government has let the Sahrawi army decay during the cease fire, and ignored the plight of veterans and war widows. It also severely criticizes the UN's Minurso mission for being biased in favor of Morocco. For these reasons, Khat al-Shahid has argued that the guerrilla war against Morocco should resume. There seems to exist significant support for this position in the refugee camps, but it is not known if the Khat al-Shahid has successfully managed to exploit that. Overall, support for the organization seems to remain very small.
Supporters of the present POLISARIO leadership have accused Khat al-Shahid of working for, or being exploited by, the Moroccan government. In a statement on 28 August 2004, the movement hailed the position of "the peoples and government of Algeria" for their "unconditional support to our people in its fair fight", the Moroccan political movement Annahj Addimocrati, for their "respect of the right of our people to self-determination" and the US, for "not recognizing the legitimacy of the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara", most likely in a reference to the Moroccan-American Free Trade Agreement, which excluded Moroccan-held Western Sahara from the areas judged to be under Moroccan sovereignty.
Mahjoub Salek affair
In 2006, at an interview with the Moroccan weekly TelQuel, the supposed Khat al-Shahid leader, Mahjoub Salek, declared that negotiations were the only way to resolve the conflict, and that all it needs was a signal from King Mohamed VI. He further called on the Moroccan king Mohamed VI to open the doors of his palace to Sahrawis and listen to them, to end the conflict.
The Coordination Commission of Khat al-Shahid first reacted issuing a communiqué explaining that Salek was not the spokesman of the movement, and that the ideas he brought forth in the TelQuel interview did not represent Khat al-Shahid. It later issued another communiqué, proceeding to expel Salek, saying that he had repeatedly broken the internal rules of the organization, despite from the advisories he had received. It decried what it called the "berserker" media campaigns of the Moroccan regime, and reaffirmed that, even if it seeks reforms of its practices, Khat al-Shahid still considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people.
Despite his expulsion from Khat al-Shahid, Mahjoub Salek (who resides in Mauritania) had continued to act as the spokesperson of the movement on different interviews, mostly on Moroccan media, reiterating his declarations in favor of the dialogue with Morocco and against the POLISARIO. This had split Khat al-Shahid in two factions, with two different webpages. The official Coordination Commission of Khat al-Shahid had denounced Salek as a puppet of the secret services of the Moroccan regime, that tried to divert the movement. The communiqué stated that Salek's web isn't a Khat al-Shahid webpage and its content only concerns Salek, remembered the expulsion of Salek from the movement in 2006 and his posterior acting as spokesman, leader or founder of the movement, despite the expulsion. It also accused Salek of appropriating by theft the name, symbols, programmes of Khat al-Shahid, and of negotiating himself the Moroccan proposal, trying to supplant the Polisario Front. Finally, the communique reiterated that despite the "weakness, incompetence or corruption" of the Polisario Front leadership, Khat al-Shadid remain as a reformist movement within POLISARIO.
In 2011, Mahjoub Salek made a call to the Sahrawi refugees to boycott the XIII POLISARIO General Congress, inviting them to "express their solidarity with the "Libyan revolution" and their firm support to the NTC", criticized the absence of mentions to Libya's situation by the POLISARIO leadership, and reaffirming his support to the Moroccan autonomy plan.
- "Appel à tous les Nationalistes Sahraoui(e)s" (in French). ARSO (F.P. El Uali). 4 July 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- "Aclaración" (PDF) (in Spanish). ARSO (Jat Chahid). 3 March 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- "Sahrawis awake to government opposition". Afrol News. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "Bayane – Comunicado Comisión preparatoria" (in Spanish). ARSO (F.P. El Uali). 28 August 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- Interview Mahjoub Salek : "Le Maroc n’a rien compris au Sahara" Tel Quel nº 243. (French)
- Mr Mahjoub Salek -Al Jafaf- est exclu du Comité de coordination, et ne fait plus partie de Khat Achahid (Arabic)(French)(Spanish)
- POLISARIO: Dissidences internes Maroc Hebdo nº 880. (French)
- Ali Haidar (22 September 2011). "The dissident movement khat Achahid calls for the boycotting of the next Polisario congress". www.sahara-news.org. Retrieved 19 November 2011.