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The Polisario Front, seeking to obtain the right to self-determination in Western Sahara, re-elected Ibrahim Ghali as its leader, at the conclusion of its general conference held in Algeria several days ago.

Ghali, 73, was re-elected for a new three-year term after obtaining 1,253 votes out of a total of 2,097, ahead of his rival, Bashir Mustafa, who won only 563 votes.

Last Friday, the Polisario Front began its 16th conference to renew its leadership, in the context of severe tensions between its ally Algeria and Morocco, which controls 80 percent of this region.

The conference was held in the presence of more than 2,200 members of the Front, and 370 foreign guests, 175 km south of the Algerian city of Tindouf, in the Dakhla refugee camp, which bears the name of a coastal town in Western Sahara, an area rich in phosphates and fisheries at the heart of an ongoing conflict for half a century.

A decades-old conflict has been taking place over Western Sahara, which Morocco controls most of its soil and considers it an integral part of its territory, proposing to grant it autonomy under its sovereignty, while the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, is demanding its independence.

It is a major cause of tension in relations between the two Maghreb countries, as Algeria cut off diplomatic relations with Rabat since the summer of 2021.

A ceasefire decision in effect since 1991 was violated, in mid-November 2020, after Moroccan forces deployed in the far south of the region to expel Polisario fighters who were blocking the only road leading to Mauritania and considered it illegal because it was not present when the agreement was reached with Rabat.

Since then, the Polisario Front says it is “at war in self-defense” and has declared “a war zone, the entire territory of the Sahrawi Republic, including land, sea and air.”

The 16th conference was organized under the slogan “Escalating Fighting to Expel the Occupation and Complete Sovereignty.”

Ghali has led the Polisario Front since July 2016, succeeding its historical leader, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, who died a few weeks ago. Ghali is also the president of the “Sahrawi Arab Republic”, declared unilaterally in 1976.

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