Far too often Moroccans overreact to Algeria’s provocations. Aminatou Haidar upcoming visit to Washington is a typical instance when a lecture by a pro-Algerian Sahrawi separatist turns into a diplomatic predicament.
Ms. Haidar was invited to a “rented” conference room on Capitol Hill (AKA U.S. Congress) by an Algerian funded American non-governmental organization (NGO) to present Algeria’s positions in the “Western Sahara” conflict. Moroccans should be “proud” that a Moroccan citizen (Ms. Haidar) is free to travel with a Moroccan passport to such meeting. Haidar’s activities in Washington clearly assert the level of freedom the few Saharan separatists enjoy in the Southern Provinces.
This is not the first time the Defense Forum Foundation (DFF) invites a Polisario sympathizer to visit Capitol Hill. In 1994, I attended a meeting on the Hill where DFF invited Polisario’s chief Mohamed Abdelaziz.
As during the 1994 visit, DFF outreach events will have “no impact” on the American positions in the “western Sahara”. Both the White House and the U.S. Congress, with few exceptions at the House level, continue to support the Moroccan Local Autonomy Plan” as a final resolution to the conflict.
While no one should dismiss the Moroccan reactions as irrelevant to Rabat’s efforts to expose Algeria’s outsized diplomatic support for the Polisario, DFF meeting remains a public exercise in the freedom of expression.
For some observers, Ms. Haidar’s visit is a desperate and a futile Algerian counter-attack to offset King Mohammed VI recent diplomatic success in Washington.
Moroccan diplomats and activists should “market” this event to showcase the fact that, unlike the brave souls who oppose the Polisario in the Algerian controlled Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf who are barred from exercising their basic civil rights, Haidar and her supporters are free to travel, express their views and hold meeting at will in the Sahara and overseas.
Moroccan diplomats ought to revisit Algeria’s role in barring Sahrawi activist opposed to the current Polisario leadership from forming civic associations, traveling outside the Tindouf region and talking to human rights organizations. If Algeria’s aim in paying for Haidar speaking engagement is to tarnish the image of the Kingdom, Moroccan activists should turn the tables and invite supporters of the Movement for the autonomy of Kabylie in Algeria (MAK) to visit Washington.
Furthermore, North African human rights activists should refocus the world attention on the dire situation in Ghardaia, situated in the Algerian Sahara, where sectarian violence is raging under the nose of Algerian security forces who are reportedly siding with the “Arab minority”.
Ms. Haidar’s ability to attend a meeting financed by a foe government projects a more open image of Morocco. By contrast, the Algerian Military controlled refugee camps remain inaccessible to independent observers exposing Algeria’s double standard
In this case, as in the past, the facts get in the way of a good story. The Moroccan press should use Haidar’s American visit as an opportunity to remind the world that the Southern Provinces are open to fair minded and non-partisan human rights activists.