The UN mediator for the Sahara, Christopher Ross, started on Wednesday a three day visit to Laayoune, chief town of the Western Sahara. This is his first visit to Morocco’s southern provinces since his appointment in 2009 as personal envoy of the UN Secretary General.
During his current tour in the Maghreb, Ross decided to listen not only to officials but also to civil society activists who are closely following up the Sahara issue.
The UN envoy arrived in Rabat on Saturday. He was received by King Mohammed VI and had a series of meetings with a number of officials and politicians, including the head of the government, several cabinet members, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and leaders of some political parties. He also met civil society militants as well as a senior Polisario dissident Mohamed Ali Al-Admi, aka Omar Hadrami, who currently holds the position of Wali in charge of national development at the Interior Ministry.
The two men know each other since the 70s, when Hadrami was a Polisario high ranking military and member of the Front’s leadership in Tindouf and Christopher Ross was U.S. ambassador to Algiers.
During his visit to Laayoune, Ross is scheduled to meet local authorities, the head of the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), Sahrawi tribe leaders as well as representatives of both pro-Morocco and pro-Polisario associations.
At the end of his visit to Laayoune Saturday, the UN mediator will go to the camps of Tindouf, where the Polisario leadership ordered its security services and armed militias to comb all the camps and to impose a night curfew to avoid any unexpected actions or demonstrations by the opponents to the Polisario theses.
The Polisario launched over the past few days a campaign of arrests that targeted the Front’s opponents and the supporters of the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara, most of them member of the movement of the Revolutionary Sahrawi Youth (JRS).
Despite the strengthening of the security deployment in the Sahrawi refugee camps, leaflets calling for demonstrations on the occasion of Ross’s visit were secretly distributed by young Sahrawi activists and Polisario opponents.