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Mohammed Abdelaziz

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Mohammed Abdelaziz

For the Mauritanian president, see Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. For the Algerian footballer, see Mohamed Abdelaziz Tchikou.
Mohamed Abdelaziz
محمد عبد العزيز
President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Incumbent
Assumed office
30 August 1976
Prime Minister Mohamed Lamine Ould Ahmed
Mahfoud Ali Beiba
Mohamed Lamine Ould Ahmed
Mahfoud Ali Beiba
Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoun
Mahfoud Ali Beiba
Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoun
Abdelkader Taleb Omar
Preceded by Mahfoud Ali Beiba
Personal details
Born (1947-08-17) August 17, 1947 (age 66)
Marrakesh, French Morocco or Smara, Spanish Sahara
Political party Polisario Front
Spouse(s) Khadija Hamdi
Alma mater Mohammed V University
Religion Sunni Islam

Mohamed Abdelaziz (Arabic: محمد عبد العزيز‎; born 17 August 1947) is the 3rd and current Secretary General of the Polisario Front and President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic since 1976. He speaks Arabic and French.[1]

Biography

Abdelaziz was born in Marrakesh, Morocco (then under French protectorate)[2][1][3] or in Smara, Western Sahara (then under Spanish rule)[4][5][6] comes from a Sahrawi family of an eastern Reguibat subtribe, migrating between Western Sahara, Mauritania, western Algeria and southern Morocco. He is the son of Khalili Ben Mohamed Al-Bachir Rguibi; who was a member of the Moroccan Liberation Army and the Royal Moroccan Army. [7][8] Abdelaziz's father lives in Morocco with a part of his family and has always supported Moroccan claims on Western Sahara[8][7] and is a member of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs. When Abdelaziz was asked during an interview about his father's position he said: "Everybody has the right to have his own opinions"[9]

His brother is Mohamed Lahbib Rguibi,[10] lawyer of many Sahrawi human rights defenders as Aminatou Haidar or Naama Asfari, and former "disappeared" in Moroccan prisons between 1976 and 1991.[11][12]

As a student in the Mohammed V University of Rabat,[7] he gravitated towards Sahrawi nationalism, and became one of the founding members of the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi independence movement in Western Sahara with strong Arab socialist ideas which launched a few attacks against Spanish colonialism in the Spanish Sahara in 1973, but that is more notable for fighting against Mauritania and Morocco.

Since 1976 he is Secretary-General of the organization, replacing Mahfoud Ali Beiba, who had taken the post as interim Secretary-General after El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed was killed in action in Mauritania. Since that time he is also the president of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), whose first constitution he was involved in drafting. He lives in exile in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Tindouf Province of western Algeria.

According to some former members of Polisario now aligned with Morocco, Abdelaziz was "chosen" by Algeria at the top of the organization although he did not belong to the very closed circle of the organization's founders and "he always considered himself to be their man.".[13]

In April 2000, the Moroccan weekly newspaper Le Journal Hebdomadaire "crossed a political redline" by printing an interview with Abdelaziz, and was briefly banned from publishing.[14] The Moroccan Ministry of Communications responded by banning both Le Journal and Assahifa Al Ousbouia, though the latter had not run the interview in question. A Ministry spokesperson stated that the reasons for the papers' banning were "excesses in [their] editorial line concerning the question of Morocco’s territorial integrity" and "collusion with foreign interests".[15]

Political profile

He is considered a secular nationalist[16] and has steered the Polisario and the Sahrawi republic towards political compromise, notably in backing the United Nations' Baker Plan in 2003. Under his leadership, Polisario also abandoned its early Arab socialist orientation, in favor of a Western Sahara organized along liberal democratic lines. He is, however, the 2nd longest ruling non-royal leader as he has been president of Sahrawi Republic for nearly 35 years.

The Organization of African Unity seated Western Sahara for the first time in 1982, despite Morocco's vehement objections. In 1985, Abdelaziz was elected as Vice-President of the OAU at its 21st summit, effectively signalling that the Sahrawi Repbulic would be a permanent OAU member despite the controversy.[17] In 2002, he was elected as vice-president of the African Union, at its first summit.

There is some criticism against him from within the Polisario for preventing reforms inside the movement, and for insisting on a diplomatic course that has so far gained few concessions from Morocco, rather than re-launching the armed struggle favored by many within the movement. The only, supposedly opposition group, is the Front Polisario Khat al-Shahid, which states that it wants to restore the legacy of his predecessor, El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed. Abdelaziz, specifically denied the existence of such a group;[9] he maintains that only the Polisario exists in the camps. Others consider that, despite his militant rhetoric, Abdelaziz cannot order a resumption of fighting without the approval of the Algerian government.

Abdelaziz has condemned terrorism, insisting the POLISARIO's guerrilla war is to be a "clean struggle" (that is, not targeting private citizens' safety or property); he however acknowledged mistreatment to Moroccan prisoners of war as well as attacking civilian populations in Moroccan cities[9] by the polisario, justifying this as necessary evils in times of war and that the Polisario had to use every mean in order to defend the Sahrawi population from the enemy.[9]

He sent formal condolences to the afflicted governments after the terrorist attacks in New York City,[18] Madrid,[19] London,[20] Kampala[21]

Also, as head of the SADR, he has signed the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism at the 36th summit in Algiers, July 14, 1999,[22] the Dakar Declaration against Terrorism in October 2001 & the additional Protocol to the previous OAU's Convention on Terrorism at the 3rd session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, July 8, 2004.[23]

Awards and nominations

In 2001, he was reportedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize[24][25]

In December 2005, as leader of the Polisario Front, he received Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España's "Human Rights International Prize".[26]

References

External links

  • Mohamed Abdelaziz: Carta abierta al rey de Marruecos (1999) (Spanish)
  • President of the SADR photo gallery
Political offices
Preceded by
Mahfoud Ali Beiba
President of the Sahrawi Republic
1976–present
Incumbent
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