The Algerian government is intrigued by the continuous flights of Sahrawis from the Tindouf camps to Morocco. The Algerian military intelligence service (DRS) recently commissioned a study in order to understand why an increasing number of Sahrawi refugees flee from the Tindouf camps to the Moroccan southern provinces.
The DRS, which has been pressuring over the past three years the Polisario leadership to tarnish Morocco’s image over alleged violations of human rights in the Western Sahara, is now trying to understand why its tactics have failed and why the number of people escaping Tindouf is increasing.
This phenomenon has been accentuated with the UNHCR-sponsored family visit exchange program between Morocco and the Tindouf camps. Many visitors from Tindouf seize the opportunity of the trips organized part of this program to settle permanently in Morocco, whereas up to date, no Sahrawi from Morocco’s southern provinces decided to switch sides and to settle in Tindouf.
Even the Polisario representative to the United Nations in New York, Ahmed Boukhari, has acknowledged in an interview with a Sahrawi website in Arabic that Morocco’s human rights violations and oppression in the Western Sahara are a mere invention of the Polisario and the DRS. The purpose of this maneuver is to discredit Morocco abroad and try to isolate it on the international arena, he told the wesbsite.
The repeated flights of Sahrawi refugees from the Tindouf camps embarrassed the Algerian government to such an extent that the DRS has repeatedly ordered the Polisario to stop the family exchange visits regularly organized by the UNHCR.
The study commissioned by the DRS revealed that despite its marginalization, the Rguibat Lebihate tribe remains predominant in the Tindouf camps and that most refugees who chose to leave the camps and join Morocco are from this very same tribe.
The Rguibat Lebihate tribe, which is the tribe of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, currently exiled in Mauritania, is not in the good graces of the Algerian government. This tribe had actually spearheaded the anti-Polisario uprising of 1988 in Tindouf.
The Algerian government therefore bets on minorities that are not native of the Western Sahara forcing them to show loyalty to Algeria and to serve its hegemonic and propagandist interests. A seemingly good manoeuvre but which ultimately proved unrewarding.