The Polisario Front leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, seems to have disappeared since the return of the UN mediator for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, to Algeria, part of his second tour in the region since the beginning of the year.
According to persisting rumors in the Tindouf camps, Abdelaziz has disappeared because of a lung cancer that is now at an advanced stage.
However, a Sahrawi dissident who is well informed about what is going on in the corridors of the Polisario General Secretariat HQ in Rabouni said that Mohamed Abdelaziz was forced to inactivity by the Algerian military intelligence services (DRS) after he committed a blunder with Ross.
Abdelaziz has not been heard from since February 17, when he visited Algiers with his close aides and some notables of Sahrawi tribes. The Polisario delegation was summoned to Algiers to give explanations to the Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and his Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra, on their talks with the UN mediator.
Algerian leaders have seemingly been worried by rumors claiming that the Polisario had accepted the UN mediator’s proposal to resume peace negotiations on the basis of the Moroccan autonomy proposal.
According to the Sahrawi dissident from Rabouni, Mohamed Abdelaziz had previously been scolded by the DRS Officers for having accepted, without consulting them, the new proposals made by Christopher Ross during his previous visit to the Tindouf camps.
The Polisario leader had reportedly agreed to resume negotiations on the basis of the Morocco-proposed autonomy plan, an option that is rejected by the Algerian government.
The Algerian government actually upholds the independence of the disputed territory as such an option would give Algeria direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, and consequently enable it to reduce the transportation costs of its exported oil and gas.
According to the Sahrawi dissident, Mohamed Abdelaziz is temporarily kept away from the Tindouf camps management and was not involved in the military maneuvers held on March 29 – 30 in Tifariti buffer zone.
And of course, Abdelaziz’s long absence provides ample opportunity for speculation on his succession.