Following Algeria’s support of "Polisario": Will Morocco recognize "MAK" after re-electing Mehenni as its president?

As the Polisario Front's leadership struggled to resolve its differences during its sixteenth congress, which ended with Brahim Ghali being re-elected as the separatist front's secretary-general, the Kabyle self-determination movement smoothly elected Ferhat Mehenni as its leader for a new term, and thus as head of the Kabyle government in exile, which was ignored by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune as he sent a congratulatory message to Ghali.

Tebboune continued his approach hostile to Morocco's territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Sahara. He delivered a message of congratulations after stating last week that his government "would not leave Western Sahara" and will continue to support "the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people" at the opening of the government-governors meeting in Algiers.

The message added, "I would also like to salute the resistance of the brotherly Sahrawi people, who expressed themselves by reaffirming, once again, their attachment to their legitimate, inalienable, and imprescriptible right to self-determination, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and the African Union."

Tabboune also said, "Please accept, Mr. President and dear brother, the expression of my high regard and affection, while reaffirming Algeria's consistent position and its principled support for the just Sahrawi cause."

The Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK) elected Ferhat Mehenni as its head during its 5th congress, which was held in France last week, a few days prior and in line with the Polisario conference. In his first speech following his election, he urged the Kabyles to protest and seek "independence" on April 20, 2023, for the right to self-determination.

When you look at Mehenni's speech in France and Ghali's speech in Tindouf, Algeria, you'll notice that they are very similar. Both call for "self-determination" to break away from Algeria and Morocco.

The main difference is that "MAK," which is getting ready to hold protests in Tizi Ouzou, Béjaïa, and other Kabyle areas, emphasizes peaceful dialogue, while Polisario hints at armed action through its militias, which are funded by the Algerian regime.

Tebboune's insistence on public support for the separatist front's hostilities, which claimed to be a liberation war against Morocco, raises many questions about Rabat's expected reaction, which is still hesitant to declare its support for the "MAK" despite its peaceful nature. So far, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not issued any official recognition of the so-called Kabyle Republic.

 In this regard, Morocco looks to be headed toward more public support for the Kabyle demands based on how it handled this situation. This was done officially for the first time in 2015, when Morocco requested, through Omar Rabie, a member of the permanent committee that represents Morocco in the UN, to help the Kabylie area achieve autonomy or independence.

At the time, Rabie said, "The Kabyle people must be heard and their demands met, and the international community must help them in that and accompany them in their political project, which should lead to autonomy or independence," noting that "the voices of 8 million people who lived in silence and invisibility for years must be heard," which was the starting point for greater diplomatic movement in this direction.

In July of the year 2021, immediately after Ramtane Lamamra was appointed to the post of Algerian Foreign Minister, the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, addressed him in a message addressed to the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that the Algerian minister "stands as a strong advocate for the right to self-determination, but denies the same right to the Kabyle people, one of the oldest peoples in Africa, who suffer from the longest foreign occupation." He added, "Self-determination is not a capricious principle, and that is why the brave Kabyle people deserve it more than any other people, the full right to self-determination."

This position has greatly angered Algeria, to the point of including it in the list of justifications that prompted it to sever relations with the Moroccan Kingdom in the same year. However, Omar Hilale, brought it up again at the United Nations in May 2022, when he spoke to his Algerian counterpart, saying, "You are calling for self-determination for 20,000 people you are holding in the Tindouf camps, but you are confiscating the rights of a population of 12 million."

In response to Algeria's renewed calls for a vote on self-determination in the Sahara, the Moroccan diplomat said at the time, "The Ottomans, the French, and now the Algerians have all ruled over the Kabyles."

He lamented that it was about the longest occupation in the history of Africa. He continued to ask, "Why doesn't Algeria allow the Kabyle people to choose their own self-determination, express themselves, and make their own decisions, as it does for Tindouf camp residents?"

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