- The approximate 150,000 Saharawi refugees living in refugee camps in the Algerian desert today celebrate 30 years of armed liberation struggle. So long has the struggle been that Saharawi President Mohamed Abdelaziz yesterday could officially open the "War Museum". But the struggle goes on.
The President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Mohamed Abdelaziz, on Monday inaugurated of the War Museum of the Sahrawi Army (ALPS) in the presence of army staff and foreign delegations, reports the Saharawi news agency SPS.
According to SPS, an imposingly intact war arsenal was exposed at the new museum, "which testifies to the victory over the Moroccan armed forces at the time of the combat, when they were opposed by the ALPS from 1975 to 1991." Since 1991, there has been a UN-negotiated cease-fire between the two parties, which was to be followed up by a plan with the aim of leading the territory towards a referendum over self-determination.
The visitors had been invited to the festivities marking the 30th anniversary of the start of the armed struggle in Western Sahara under the direction of Polisario Front. The fight originally started against the Spanish colonial power in 1973, but has since 1976 been directed against the Moroccan occupying power, now holding almost all Saharawi territory.
Today's celebrations were however a forceful demonstration of the Sahrawi's will to take their territory back. An estimated ten thousand men and women marched through each of the five refugee camps in the inhospitable Algerian desert, showing their continued dedication to fight for the independence of Western Sahara.
The marchers on the camps were hailed by their political leader, President Abdelaziz. Many of the refugees also had brought their weapons, and were joined by military personnel and armed vehicles. It remained unclear whether the marchers wanted to show their dedication to return to the arms to the political leadership or to the Moroccan foe.
The Saharawi government and Polisario are currently negotiating with the UN to find a lasting solution to the decades of conflict over the Western Sahara territory. The UN leadership however has demonstrated an increased distance to its original promises of organising an independence referendum in Western Sahara, thus removing the ground for the 1991 cease-fire still respected.
Voices among Saharawi refugees and their political leadership for renewed military action are recently getting stronger. While the UN has not kept its 1991 promises, the Moroccan occupiers and a large number of settlers are stripping the territory off its natural resources. Saharawi civilians, meanwhile, have live almost three decades in utmost poverty in these Algerian camps. But they swear they'll come back.
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