A splinter group in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria, has announced the formation of a military wing to counter what it said were attempts by the Polisario Front to abort it, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Friday.
The so-called “Youth Movement for Change” released a video accusing the Polisario Front’s leadership of corruption and called for improving the conditions of the Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf.
The movement also demanded the departure of the Front’s ageing figures, including its 66-year-old leader Mohammad Abdelaziz who has been in control since 1976.
The youth group, which was founded in February this year, accused Abdelaziz and his associates of “trading in the suffering of the Sahrawi refugees.”
“We have suffered from injustice for more than 40 years. We demand the departure of this corrupt leadership, which is the oldest the most corrupt leadership in the world,” said Mohammad Lamine, a spokesman for the youth group talking to Al Arabiya News Channel from the refugee camp in Tindouf.
“They have been stealing humanitarian aid provided by international organizations to the refugee camps and whenever we raise our voices against they accuse us of being agents of Morocco,” he added.
In a telephone interview with Al Arabiya News from Paris, Nafie Ahmed, a spokesman for the Polisario Front, denied the existence of the youth movement for change, saying that “any change for the Sahrawi refugees must end their suffering altogether.”
“There is no existence for such a movement to declare the formation of a military wing,” Ahmed added.
Last month, the London-based asharq-alawsat newspaper reported that several Polisario soldiers had defected to the opposition Youth Movement for Change.
The newspaper quoted the soldiers as saying in a video that they would engage in a “truth” campaign to expose alleged corruption within the Polisario leadership, which is seeking the independence of the Western Sahara region from Morocco.
Morocco has proposed autonomy under its sovereignty for the region, which has fewer than one million residents.
The U.N. Security Council is operating a peacekeeping mission in the region since 1991. A U.N. resolution extended the mission last month for a year without changes to its mandate.
The resolution encouraged the parties “to continue in their respective efforts to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps.”