After voluntarily checking herself into the hospital on Thursday morning, Haidar was allowed to return home to Laayoune in the Western Sahara Thursday evening.
The BBC reported Today that “It now appears that frantic multi-country talks were under way to seek a resolution … [but ] details of how a deal was finally reached were not known … The Spanish foreign ministry said only that it was the result of a co-ordinated effort between Spain, France and the US to persuade Morocco that it would be ‘preferable’ to allow Mrs Haidar back to Western Sahara. A spokesperson told the BBC no conditions were attached and Spain had issued ‘salvoconducto‘ (safe-conduct) documents to make travel possible …The independence activist launched her very public protest after the Moroccan authorities confiscated her passport and denied her entry to Laayoune, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. She had refused to declare her nationality as Moroccan on an official form – as usual – but this time she was expelled from the territory”.
The Financial Times reported that Morocco relented, after international diplomacy went into high gear. Unfortunately, as so often happens when diplomacy goes into high gear, it was at the expense of a political concession: “Earlier this week, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, called for accelerated negotiations to help save Ms Haidar’s life. Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, helped broker a deal with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to allow Ms Haidar’s return. As part of the agreement, both France and Spain – Morocco’s most important European allies – have issued conciliatory official statements recognising the de facto application of Moroccan law in the Western Sahara until the conflict is resolved. Human rights activists believe that western governments are cynically ignoring the legitimate demands of Sahrawis to protect their commercial and strategic interests (which include countering the influence of both China and al-Qaeda in Africa) through their relations with Morocco”.
The FT said that “Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who advises on international affairs and admires Ms Haidar, has blamed Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, for inadvertently encouraging the Moroccan authorities to crack down on Sahrawi activists when she praised the country’s human rights record and its plans for the Western Sahara in an interview before her recent visit to Morocco … Mr Ross, who advises Polisario, said in an e-mailed message to the media on Thursday shortly before Ms Haidar returned home to El Ayoun that her plight was ‘the real price of the EU’s cosying-up to Morocco, including negotiating an enhanced partnership with the EU, and paying Morocco for EU boats illegally to fish the Western Saharan waters’.”
As the FT explained: “Morocco annexed the Western Sahara as Spain abandoned it in 1975, and the territory is sometimes called Africa’s last remaining colony. The Polisario Front, based in neighbouring Algeria, waged a guerrilla war for independence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire deal that provided for a referendum. But the vote has yet to be held and Morocco says that the most it will grant is autonomy … According to Mr Ross, seven other Sahrawi activists face military trials for treason and could be sentenced to death if found guilty”. This FT story can be read in full here.
In an interesting article signed by AHMED T.B., showing artful reporting combining praise and constructive criticism (plus, of course the facts) in an difficult and tendentious atmosphere, posted on the MoroccoBoard website, the author writes: “Morocco’s actions against Haider gave credence to her claims of abuse against the Sahrawi; claims that were partially discredited on account of the fact that she lived in Morocco and was free of her movement and expression. The United States, France, and the Arab governments (minus Algeria,) thus far, bask in a stolid insularity. Could Morocco have handled Haidar’s issue internally? Absolutely yes! She is, after all, Moroccan. The removal of a Moroccan’s citizenship is by Royal decree (there are exceptions and Haidar’s case is not one.) That authority is not delegated to the King’s prosecutor. The Moroccan legal system has established a set procedure to be adhered to. A Moroccan cannot just surrender her passport, and renounce her citizenship, nor should the government deprive a Moroccan of her citizenship without due process. If Aminatou Haidar decided to submit a request to the King to forfeit her Moroccan citizenship, and such request was approved, only then could she be handed over to MINURSO officials for transport to the refugee camps in Tindouf. The Aminatou Haider incident exposes the flaws of Morocco’s policies and the inefficiency of its security posture vis-à-vis its Southern Provinces. Perhaps emboldened by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s expressed commitment to support Morocco’s agenda (after all, Christopher Ross is a career U.S. Foreign Service Officer,) Mohammed VI, in his speech commemorating the 34th anniversary of the “Green March,” delivered a stern message to the Sahrawis signaling that the democratic process afterglow had waned. The King presented the Sahrawi population with an ultimatum a la George W. Bush – ‘you are either patriots or traitors’. The execution of his directives was immediate. Security forces rounded up dozens of activists accusing them of providing material and/or ideological support to the Polisario Front; they reinforced their presence in southern cities and the routes connecting them. If Haider is indeed a subversive member of the Polisario, as Morocco’s Foreign Minister Taeib Fassi-Fihri claimed today in Brussels, the Moroccan authorities should have arrested her, presented their evidence, and tried her. Much like Ahmed Alansari, Brahim Dahane, Yahdih Ettarouzi, Saleh Labihi, Dakja Lashgar, Rachid Sghir and Ali Salem Tamek, all arrested on October 8th in Casablanca, Haider was known to Morocco’s intelligence services since 1987 when she was ‘disappeared’ for four years for joining a local underground pro-polisario support group. After the passing of Hassan II and seizing on the permissiveness of the transitional spirit that characterized Mohammed VI’s political outlook then, Haider overtly campaigned for the independence of ‘Western Sahara’. When riots broke out in El Aayoun in 2005, she was, once again, arrested and detained for seven months. Morocco’s counterintelligence office had an opportunity to launch an offensive intelligence operation to deny Algeria the initiative. Haider and other Sahrawi dissenters could have been recruited as sources considering their tremendous placement and access allowing them to answer some of Morocco’s priority intelligence requirements. Granted that they lacked the motivation to support what they regard as a colonizer, but the Moroccan government should have embraced them, involved them in the political process and provided them with a controlled venue to express their frustrations. From an intelligence perspective, Aminatou Haider is an utter failure. It is clear that Morocco’s strategy, as it stands, is counterintuitive. The King’s rigid approach will greatly compromise Morocco’s long-run political prospect and tax its security forces by driving the opposition underground forcing it to devise a stealth modus operandi and making it suitable for exploitation by foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations. A calibrated strategy with depth and forethought would seek to foster an environment of debate and a culture of transparency that does not revolve around passionate rallies of mindless patriotism. Instead of threats, the government should bring arguments to the fore. Instead of echoing gauzy statements to cover up its mistakes, it should take responsibility”. This posting can be read in full
here. [Its website says that “Morocco Board News Service is the Moroccan American Community News source for American-North African Affairs. Its content is distributed to Moroccan Americans, to general market media and to a broad range of the general Public. The topics are not usually covered by the English language media. MoroccoBoard reaches a new audience with a new focus. It is a podium for different voices and opinions; it sheds the light on America’s relation with Morocco and North Africa“.]