Tindouf: Is Algiers trying to replace the current head of the Polisario ?

The leadership of the Polisario could see profound changes. The new Algerian presidency is preparing a successor to Brahim Ghali, who is none other than the current Front representative in Algiers.

Abdelkader Taleb Oumar, the Polisario's representative in Algeria. / DR
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It was at the end of an extraordinary congress that Brahim Ghali was appointed head of the Polisario Front on July 9, 2016. He replaced Mohamed Abdelaziz, who had died a few weeks earlier after a long battle with disease. After four years as head of the separatist movement, has the time come for a change ?

In the Tindouf camps, the name of Abdelkader Taleb Oumar has been circulating as a possible successor to Ghali. The last meeting of the Polisario general secretariat, held from July 12 to 14, saw a remarkable presence of the current representative of the Front in the Algerian capital.

The latter is also the one who is now mandated to send direct messages to Morocco and the United Nations, from the Tindouf camps. Until now, these declarations were the prerogatives of Brahim Ghali or Khatri Addouh, head of the secretariat of the Polisario's political organization. A position that Ghali had occupied before he took control of the separatist entity in July 2016.

Taleb Oumar's campaign launched

After the meeting of the general secretariat, Taleb Oumar did not immediately return to the seat of the Front's representation in Algiers. He toured the Tindouf camps in order to «promote the conclusions of the last session of the general secretariat and to explain to the Sahrawi population the serious orientation of the Polisario policy towards the UN», indicates the press agency of the Front. «All that remains is the official swearing-in of Taleb Oumar as the new leader of the Polisario. He is already considered the number two of the Front», said an expert on the Sahrawi question.

The Algerian godfather would be behind this change of course, which reflects the changes the country had recently been through : a new president and the Hirak movement.

«This rise of Taleb Oumar is linked to the need of having a man capable of curbing the expansion of the smuggling and drug trafficking networks which fuel insecurity in the camps, as well as the influence of jihadist Islamist groups, in particular in the ranks of Saharawi youth», the expert said. «After four years of heading the movement, the new leaders in Algiers have seen the failure of Brahim Ghali to face these two threats and are ready to let go», he added.

This is, moreover, not the first time that Abdelkader Taleb Oumar has been considered for the position of «president» of the Polisario. His name was presented as the main opponent of Ghali at the 15th Congress, held in December 2019 in Tifariti. 

To exclude him from the race, Ghali had put forward the need of «experience in fighting» against the Royal Armed Forces for any contender for the post of Polisario chief. Abdelkader Taleb Oumar served before as the Front’s «prime minister» from 2003 to 2018.

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