Exacerbated tensions

Western Sahara: Polisario destabilised by tribal conflicts?

By Nina Kozlowski, Rym Bousmid

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Posted on March 17, 2022 18:05

 © Sahrawi refugee camp, near Tindouf, southwestern Algeria. REUTERS/Dani Cardona
Sahrawi refugee camp, near Tindouf, southwestern Algeria. REUTERS/Dani Cardona

Recent celebrations of the 46th anniversary of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) have taken on a guerrilla feel, raising the veil on clashes between tribes within the Tindouf camps, as they fight for control of the smuggling ring.

An anniversary that turns into a drama. On 27 February, in the Tindouf camps, the 46th anniversary ceremony of the SADR was cut short after clashes broke out so violently that they forced the Polisario to exfiltrate the foreign guests.

The cause? A tribal conflict, which degenerated into a bloody shootout, involving different groups of the Reguibat tribe – one of the largest tribes in the Sahara, to which SADR President Brahim Ghali belongs (of the Ouled Taleb) – and the Polisario Front forces.

Sharp tensions have thus pitted members of the demographically dominant Ouled Moussa and Bouihat tribes, who both belong to the large Reguibat family, against each other. These two groups, already in conflict over land plots in 2019, clashed again in mid-February.

It all started with a brawl between the two clans, during which a member of the Bouihat had his vehicle stolen. It was later found at

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