Interference in the Sahel: Unlikely Legacy of a Kennedy

Kerry Kennedy carries a torch for her father, Robert F. Kennedy’s, legacy across the globe as the President of his namesake human rights organization, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The organization, like many civil society and non-governmental organizations, has laudable goals and issues reports on the situation in countries with less than optimal status for its citizens.

Kennedy’s most forceful advocacy is reserved for those with whom she shares the closest friendship, kinship even. In August, she reinforced her ties to Aminatou Haidar with a controversial trip to Morocco, the Western Sahara, and Algeria’s “refugee camps” in Tindouf. After taking meetings with Moroccan officials and being granted permission to travel the country and the Western Sahara (a disputed territory) freely, Kennedy began a campaign touting separatists with affiliations to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, AQIM, the Polisario Front.

It defies logic that a human rights advocate would see people imprisoned on Algerian soil, trapped in the refugee camps in Tindouf, as victims of a nation that wishes to grant them autonomy. Across the Sahel region, the documentation of the Polisario Front’s growing closeness with AQIM is documented. Agence France Press has noted the influx of fighters from the Polisario and Algeria’s camps in Tindouf. Kennedy refuses to acknowledge this, and has found a partner in the US Congress, Virginia’s Frank Wolf (R) who recently submitted her findings into the Official Record. The position of the United States Government, under Republican and Democratic administrations, has been to support the autonomy proposal offered by the Kingdom of Morocco. Freedom must include freedom of movement. Morocco wishes to grant it. Algeria and the Polisario Front deny it, affiliate themselves with celebrities like Javier Bardem and Aminatou Haidar, hoping to earn empathy and sympathy via documentary movies shown at film festivals.

If celebrity is the vehicle for awareness rather than policy, diplomatic work, and inter-governmental cooperation, there can be no peace. No credibility.

With the recent murder of the US Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi, Libya, AQIM’s agenda and reach is clear across the Sahel and the Sahara. Kennedy’s defense of an AQIM ally, the Polisario Front, is an affront and disappointment.

  1. Devereaux

    This is no less an affront than pretty much everything the left stands for – a conglomeration of touchy-feely dysfunctional thoughts wholly disconnected from any facts or reality.

  2. Crow

    An all too familiar story, alas. How it is that so many human rights activists can overlook such associations is anyone’s guess (the self-forgetting of modern idealism, perhaps?), but its not the first time such a person has ended up working at cross purposes with their stated aims out of blue-eyed naivety.

    Morocco’s regime, meanwhile, is one that we should generally be supportive of–and their policy on this question is reasonable. In a region in crisis and civil war, Morocco is a largely stable monarchy that has shown willingness to offer liberalizing reforms, is non-tyrannical, has been reasonably friendly to the West, and has a better rights record than most of its neighbors.

  3. Indaba

    Great post.  Well meaning Westerners do not realize that they are being used for image. Why not? After all these years?

  4. James Gawron

    Elizabeth,

    Great heads up post.  I think Andrew McCarthy’s “Spring Fever” is a definitive take on the stupidity of the Obama Mid East policy.  

    Iranian Green Protest Ignored.

    Libyan Crusade Unnessary.

    Egytian Destabilization Foolish.

    Syrian Apology Immoral.

    Iranian Nuclear Imminence Unspeakable.

    We don’t need to add to this list.  Stay on the case Liz, thank you.

    Regards,

    Jim

  5. flownover

    Never be disappointed in a Kennedy , you don’t have enough time.

    They love despots and dictators. Uncle Teddy reached out to Yuri Andropov in 1983,  Joe Kennedy II gets oodles of money from Hugo Chavez , and his grandfather Joe thought Hitler was the right man for the job.  He was said to be the Third Reich’s “best friend in America” .

    Nice bunch- don’t be disappointed in them . Avoidance is the best therapy. 

  6. Trace

    Elizabeth — I’ve heard this charged leveled against Kennedy before. Has she ever answered it? What explanation does she offer? Or is she never asked about this issue.