Home World A new generation of Sahrawis in the ranks of the armed struggle

A new generation of Sahrawis in the ranks of the armed struggle

Mohamed Nafi (L) and Brahim Gali (R), veteran and rookie of the armed wing of the Polisario Front, respectively, pose for the BLAZETRENDS news agency in one of the Saharawi refugee camps in Algerian territory.

Laura Fernandez Palomo |

Saharawi camps in Tindouf (Algeria), May 23 (BLAZETRENDS).- With the same name as the leader of the Polisario Front, the thirty-year-old Brahim Gali, who renounced orders and hierarchies and opted to graduate in management, has now put on the uniform, like many young Sahrawis, for the armed struggle in the independence movement because “this long exile is enough”.

The number of combatants with higher education has increased significantly since the end of the truce with Morocco in 2020, which has contributed to “professionalizing” the contest in front of the Western Sahara wall against a “regular, prepared Army” and in clear weapons superiority: with drones, testifies to BLAZETRENDS.

Tens of kilometers from the front, in the camps set up almost five decades ago in the Algerian desert, the refugees are already talking about a “second war”. The previous one, first against Spain (1973-1976) and then against Morocco (1976-1991), was appeased with the ceasefire promoted by the UN that encouraged, with the proposal of a referendum, some hopes frustrated today.

“We Sahrawis see war as the Arab saying goes: not because we want to, but because we are obliged. We did not aspire to reach this level with the Moroccan brothers. And here I am not talking about the regime but about the people who are affected by this tragedy and by a hoax”, considers Limam Shrif, who studied journalism and today puts on his boots.

rookies and veterans

When Gali was studying management and administration at an Algerian university, he came into conflict with his identity, lacking a nationality with which to identify himself to his foreign colleagues: Syrians, Yemenis or Palestinians. “We are forgotten,” he felt.

Since he never accepted orders, he had ruled out enlistment, unlike Mohamed Nafi, 34, who in his twenties joined the armed wing of the Polisario out of “moral conviction”, even more intense with the return to the confrontation on November 13. of 2020.

That date, -when after a Moroccan military operation in the buffer zone of Guerguerat, near Mauritania, the Polisario declared the ceasefire of 1991 broken the next day- was also a turning point for Gali and Shrif.

The recruitment fervor spread through the camps to the point that the Polisario had to hold back the youth for fear that the institutions of the proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) would be emptied of trained employees.

“We came from the university in different specialties, international relations, chemistry and even doctors that we can contribute to the Army,” Gali assesses about the “new elite” military. He has specialized in artillery.

The long wait in the inhospitable exile of the camps, with the only horizon of an ungrateful and infinite desert, has led a new generation of Sahrawis to once again believe in armed struggle as the only way.

By and in Western Sahara

The three of them are now on the “battlefield”, aware of the notable differences with the more than superior Moroccan Army, but consider that, as in the first confrontation, with “simple” guerrilla forms, they are standing up to the drones.

“What differentiates us from the Moroccan army is that they are a regular army, they have orders not to evacuate the wall (which separates the Western Sahara controlled by Morocco -80%- with that of the Polisario -20%)-, and we have preference to move from one place to another from where we can attack them at any time”, describes Nafi, the little they leave him for confidentiality, on the strategic line.

He is confident that the new affiliations of young people with a high level of education have benefited from “a lot of information that was missing” and, together with the veterans, plan ambushes with greater knowledge or build their own weapons, all mobile to avoid being targets of counteroffensives.

Their military objective, they say, is to attack and cause the greatest material damage possible on the Moroccan side, and they have assumed the human cost that it causes. The politician, pressing for a referendum that includes the independence of all of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

The new front, which the Polisario claims and to which Morocco remains silent, has forced thousands of Sahrawis who remained on the edge of the Sahara to now take refuge in the camps in southern Algeria, where these young people warn: “We are not willing to spend 20 more years here.”

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