Mohamed Abdelaziz (born 1947 in Smara) has served as the Secretary General of the Polisario Front since 1976 and President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic since 1982. He speaks French, Arabic, and Spanish.
Abdelaziz comes from a Sahrawi bedouin family, members of an eastern Reguibat subtribe, migrating between Spanish Sahara, Mauritania, Algeria and southern Morocco. His father lives in Morocco with a part of his family and is a member of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs.
As a student in Moroccan universities in the 1970s, he gravitated towards Sahrawi nationalism, and became one of the founding members of the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi independence movement in Western Sahara which launched an armed struggle against Spanish colonialism in 1973.
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 1982 he is 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.
He is considered a secular nationalist 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, including expressly committing it to multi-party democracy and a market economy. He has consistently sought backing from Western states, notably the United States of America and the European Union, but so far with little success.
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 vicepresident of the OAU at its 21st summit, effectively signalling that Western Sahara would be a permanent OAU member in spite of the controversy. In 2002, he was elected as vicepresident of the African Union, at it's 1st 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 most prominent of these opposition groups is the Polisario Front - Khat al-Shahid, which states that it wants to restore the legacy of his predecessor, El Ouali. 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 sent formal condolences to the afflicted governments after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Madrid, London and notably also to the Moroccan kingdom after the attacks in Casablanca.
Articles by Mohamed Abdelaziz at Tlaxcala