The UN Security Council’s decision to keep unchanged the prerogatives of the MINURSO has not deterred the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from continuing to play the human rights game in Western Sahara cities. Groups of dozens of youths seized last Saturday the opportunity of the arrival in Laayoune of eight women reporters to stage protest movements that sometimes turned violent as most of the protesters were armed with swords, axes, Molotov or gas cylinders. The goal sought by these young dissidents claiming backing to the Polisario is to trap law enforcement agents and force them to retaliate under the scrutiny of the international media, a tactic policemen are now used to.
In most cases, law enforcement forces do not intervene unless these young people start attacking public buildings, infrastructures and storefronts and windows. As long as the protesters do not become unleashed rioters smashing everything in their way, the two sides stare at one another like statutes. People who do not venture out of their homes before calm returns to the streets follow these scenes from their balconies. Several clashes opposed rioters and law enforcement forces since the adoption of the Security Council resolution on April 25. Frustrated with the decision made by the UN which deemed that the situation did not require the expansion of the MINURSO prerogatives to human rights monitoring, the Polisario decided to take action. From its headquarters based in Tindouf in southwest Algeria, the separatist Front has actually ordered its relays in the cities of Western Sahara, to stir protests and cause maximum damage. Their goal is to get protesters injured, ideally among women and children. The Polisario, which often lures people to take to the street by giving them money, will even be happier if some protesters are killed in the riots. The number of the separatist front’s followers is undoubtedly very small. But no worry, smart phone videos and photoshopped images will convey the effect sought.