Only hours before Morocco and the Polisario Front were to begin their third round of talks in manhasset, N.Y., hours after Mohammed VI had given a censorious speech reprehending Algeria’s grave human rights violations in the camps of Tindouf where it is said that Polisario holds hundreds of unwitting Sahraouis in cruel conditions, an insurrection erupted in the Gadaym Izik camp outside Laayoune. It sheltered, according to some accounts, over ten thousand people.
The violence was triggered when a battalion-size security force descended on the camp in the early hours of Monday in an attempt to raze it and disperse its residents using tear gas and water cannons. The protests seeped into Laayoune and resulted in substantial material damage and loss of life as a group of the camp’s residents that an official Ministry of Interior statement described as wanted criminals and subversive agents clashed with the security forces. Black smoke bellowed over the city and debris littered its arteries. The number of people injured and killed could not yet be confirmed. According to the BBC, about seventy people have been injured and over ten have died.
The Gadaym Izik camp stood up a month ago by discontented Sahraouis aiming to draw attention to their straitened economic circumstances. Others saw it as a protest against Morocco’s rule over Western Sahara. The tension intensified two week earlier when Moroccan police fired at a vehicle entering the camp; the incident resulted in the death of a fourteen year old boy. Moroccan authorities claimed the vehicle was carrying explosives and weapons.
The Moroccan government, fully cognizant that the situation could easily be manipulated by Algeria, the Polisario, and Spain, deployed considerable assets to the region and sought to mitigate the crisis by taking the uncharacteristic step of granting real estate lots, social aid cards, and employment. Local critics of the initiative reported that only a select few received lots and benefited from the social aids and employment opportunities; government officials and local personalities misappropriated the grants. The plan failed, disastrously upset by corruption; the Gadaym Izik camp persisted. The problem required more than vacuous promises and a media campaign.
I don’t discount the possibility that the riots could have been instigated by fomenters doing the bidding of the Spanish secret service in response to the unrest in Melilla, or the Algerian/Polisario security services as a retaliation to the Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud affair which in turn was Morocco’s counter for the Aminatou Haydar fiasco. So it seems Morocco, Spain, and Algeria ‘secret services are playing tic for tac.
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A. T. B. © 2010