My latest in The Huffington Post has led to some, shall we say, interesting emails. While most of the response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive, a few folks seem to be under the impression that Algeria and the Polisario are benevolent. The truth is that tens of thousands of innocent Saharawi are trapped in the Tindouf Refugee camps. Their freedom lies just beyond the gates. Algeria and the Polisario Front insist on holding them hostage until their demands are met – nevermind the Saharawis they use as objects to barter.
Under the Autonomy plan, supported by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, the Saharawi could return to their homelands. By definition, having Autonomy would give them the ability to conduct a census and hold free, fair elections. Under the Polisario Front and Algeria, there is little likelihood they would feel free to CHOOSE anything.
I support freedom. Without it, without the opportunity to return to their homelands, there is nothing but continued bondage.
The sheer enormity of the African continent defies understanding. The whole of China, India, Japan, the United States and all of Europe would comfortably fit on the land mass of Africa, with room to breathe around the edges. Despite the diversity of people, culture, and history, there is no one-step easy solution for managing the multiple crises on the continent. The famine and denial of humanitarian aid across the Horn of Africa is well known, and a devastating situation. Mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide continue unabated in Sudan and South Sudan history at the hands of Omar al Bashir.
North Africa has seen refugees and revolution from Egypt to Tunisia. But, as one looks to the Western Sahara, Algeria and Morocco are deadlocked over resolution. In Algeria, protesters concerned about housing and employment have committed suicide via self-immolation. Algeria has stood firm, promised reform and yet their dirtiest little secret is leaking out. All is not well with the Saharawi refugees, or more apt, hostages. Life in Tindouf is one of despair. Algeria’s notoriously heavy hand is off the wheel, they look away as their Polisario Front handmaidens increase suffering in the refugee camps. Hostages on Algerian soil, micromanaged by the Polisario, is quickly becoming an untenable situation.