The "Bayia", a symbol of loyalty to the Sultan

La “Bayia”, símbolo de fidelidad al sultán

One of the elements of symbolic language is the metaphor, which is nothing more than the "translation of the straight meaning of a voice into a figurative one" (DRAE), which expresses in a single word many intentions of the same object called symbol. The act of Bayia in Arabic, Allégeance in French or fidelity, is a symbolic action that enunciates the loyalty of a people to their king, governor or leader. Moreover, in the case of Morocco's Khirifian sultanate, it is steeped in religious spirituality.

Moroccan sovereignty over Wad Eddahab or Rio de Oro has been suspended for 91 years (1884-1975) and that of Sakia al Hamra (El Ayoun region) for 71 years (1904-1975). However, the Bayia or the bonds of loyalty remained in force between the Saharawi tribes and the Kingdom of Morocco. Many were the Chiujs or chiefs of Saharawi tribes who swore allegiance to successive sultans of the Kingdom despite Spain's attempts at acculturation.

Pre-colonial Morocco was a state structured on a tribal system based on lineages, with the sultan as the symbol of unity and the Makhzen or authority as the central figure of power. The subordination of the subjects, in a symbolic act of obeisance, legitimised the sultan's domination over his domain. Once the Bayia is established, it remains intact and constitutes a compromise between the sultan and his people.

Marruecos y España, tiempo muerto

Valuable documentation exists that proves the presence of the Bayia between the sultans of Morocco and the Chiujs or chiefs of the Saharawi tribes before, during and after the colonisation of the Sahara. Some are Dahirs or decrees that promulgated the appointment of public posts in the Saharawi institutions, such as that of Caid (delegate) or Cadi (judge). Sultan Mulay Abderraman (1822-1859) already had ties of loyalty that continued with his son Mulay Mohammed IV (1859-1873), ties that linked the sultan to Saharawi notables such as the Reguibat, Chenguit, Uled Dlim, Tidrarine, Uled Bou Sba, Tekna, Izerguiyen, etc. In Marrakesh, the sultan received several acts of allegiance, notably the one performed by the Cadi or judge Bachir Al Berbouchi Reguibi before leaving on pilgrimage to Mecca. This judge implemented a customary legal system on behalf of the sultan, thus exercising authority on his behalf.

The Sahara was occupied during the reign of Sultan Mulay Hassan I (1873-1894), who had already visited the territories of Tarfaya and the Sahara. This sultan appointed Sidi Ahmed ben Mohamed Laamach Cadi or judge of Tayakant, according to the official document dated and sealed on 28 May 1886. For his part, Sultan Mulay Abdelaziz (1894-1908) appointed Mohamed Lamin Ben Ali Takni of the tribe of Uled Tidrarine as delegate of the Kabyles of Uled Musa, Uled Ali and Leebibat on 15 January 1899. His delegate, Shaykh Ma El Ainain, visited him up to 5 times in the years before the occupation of Tarfaya and Sakia al Hamra (El Ayoun region).

The enthronement of Mohammed V (1927-1961) was the beginning of the end of Spanish and French imperialism after almost 50 years. Now it was time to recover the territorial integrity that had been torn apart. Mohammed V also received acts of loyalty from Brahim Uld Abdalahi Uld Sidi Yusef, chief of the Izerguiyen tribe. This remarkable Saharawi is the grandfather of Ali Beiba Uld Duihi Uld Sidi Yusef (Alias Ali Beiba Mahfud) who, from 1975, would occupy important positions within the Polisario and would come to fill the vacant post of secretary general of the band and prime minister.

On 25 February 1958, just two years after independence (1956), with Western Sahara still under Spanish administration, King Mohammed V made his speech in M'Hamid El Guizlaine, stating that "We will continue our work with all our might to recover the Sahara and all that belongs to the Kingdom". It was also around this time that the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), together with elements of the Moroccan Liberation Army (ALM), began their incursions into the north and east of the Sahara, which led to the joint Franco-Spanish operation "Ecouvillon" or "Teide" in order to stop the Moroccan offensive.

During the Spanish occupation, attempts have been made to implement techniques of acculturation of the Saharawis in order to detach them from the Kingdom of Morocco, thus breaking the existing "ties of loyalty". A secret document of the High General Staff entitled "The Spanish Sahara and the neighbouring territories", dated 1960, deposited in the archives of the "Francisco Franco Foundation", under number 1186, considered the "dangerousness" of Moroccan claims because of the alleged support they could have from the Saharawis. He therefore proposed "to remove our Sahrawis from the influence of Mauritanians and Moroccans" and to carry out "an anti-Moroccan policy".

For his part, Hassan II met General Franco at Barajas airport on 1 July 1963, where the two agreed to discuss a peaceful solution to decolonisation. In 1970, the Spanish Minister of Industry, Gregorio López Bravo, visited Rabat, proposing the abandonment of the Sahara in exchange for joint exploitation of the phosphates of Boucra. So Spain was already preparing to decolonise. And in a last-ditch attempt to save the situation, Franco tried to create cabildos in the Sahara, in the image of the Canaries, simulating a kind of puppet autonomy of Franco's regime. An initiative that was to fail just the same.

Marruecos y España, tiempo muerto

It was in October 1975 that Hassan II launched the "Green March" to rescue the Sahara. At the same time, he received several acts of "loyalty" from Sahrawi notables such as Khali Henna Ould Errachid (today president of the Moroccan Consultative Council), Shaykh Ahmed Ould Bachir (former vice-president of the Sahrawi Assembly and, at the time, a member of Franco's Cortes) and, most notably, the notable of the Reguibat tribe (president of the Sahrawi Assembly and also, at the time, a member of Franco's Cortes), Khatri Yumani. The latter, on 6 November 1975, sent a letter to the President of the UN Security Council, in the name of the Assembly, expressing his will and that of the Sahrawi people to definitively bind the fate of the Sahara to the Kingdom of Morocco, thus considering the Bayia as a duty of all Sahrawis. Once the territory was recovered, Hassan II travelled to M'Hamid El Guizlaine on 11 April 1981, where he confirmed the fulfilment of the promise made by his late father, Mohammed V.

Under Mohammed VI, all the Bayias have been renewed. The Moroccan ownership of the Sahara has also been consolidated, using the historical reason and diplomatic strength of a wise state that has existed for 12 centuries. Sovereignty over the Sahara is irreversible, and as Mohammed VI said, "Morocco will remain in its Sahara and the Sahara in its Morocco, until God inherits the Universe and its contents".

The Bayia has never been interrupted, neither in time nor in space. Fidelity symbolises permanence even in the absence of the symbol itself, and therein lies its strength and legitimacy. This is how it was done then and now. So much so that, during the period of the Spanish protectorate, Tetouan was the real capital of the Moroccan Sahara and from where the kaïdes (delegates) and cadis (judges) were appointed for Tarfaya, El Ayoun and Dakhla, which formed part of the judicial party of the Kingdom.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague recognised, in its judgement of 16 October 1975, that neither Rio de Oro (1884) nor Sakia al-Hamra (1904) were territories without ownership, terra nullius, and that there were legal ties of loyalty between the Sultans of Morocco and the Saharawi tribes. The Court also added that "self-determination", a post-Bayia principle established in 1945 in the founding charter of a UN controlled by the same European colonialists, was the free expression of the will of the peoples. This undermines the free will of the Berber population, also Saharawi, and its authentic natural projection to the South of the Sultanate, whose sovereignty is also framed in the free, legitimate and ancestral expression of the "Bayia".