Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Western Sahara

On the west coast of Africa, immediately south of Morocco, which claims it, and actually controls most of it. 

Algeria also claims it, or at least the Algerian Polisario Front does, though it isn't obvious from the map why an Algerian claim would be valid; the answer is that the Algerian Polisario Front is really the Southern Saharan Front, but based in Algeria, where hundreds of thousands of Saharan people, known as Saharawis, fled in the early 1970s. 

Mauritania, which borders it to the south and east, also once claimed it, though this was rejected in 1975 by the International Court of Justice. 

What it did not reject – indeed the opposite – was the right of the Saharawis to self-determination, a decision which the King of Morocco decided not simply to ignore; he gathered three hundred thousand Moroccans together, and staged a "Green March" into their territory (Green as the colour of Islam, not of Ecology), effectively annexing it. This led to the Madrid Agreement, through which Morocco took control of the entire north and northern centre of the Spanish Sahara, amounting to two-thirds of the whole, while Mauritania seized the remainder, and the exiled Saharawis remained, where they still remain today, in refugee camps in Algeria, or else they joined the Polisario Front to fight to get their land back.

The so-called civil war (properly it is only a civil war when fighting within a country’s borders is between people who belong inside those borders; this was a war by the natives against the foreign occupiers) ended in 1991 with a theoretical peace deal, but the King of Morocco was no more interested in keeping to this than he had been interested in keeping to the ICJ’s verdict sixteen years earlier. Instead, he erected a seventeen hundred mile sand wall the length of the country, behind which his troops remain amassed, and the UN-recommended referendum on the future status of the country has simply never happened – and why would it, when it would require Morocco to administer it, and Morocco does not want the result that will inevitably consequence.

Just for the detail, Morocco’s interest, like Mauritania’s, is not the land, which is mostly uninhabitable desert as the country’s name suggests, or at best desert inhabited by the nomadic Saharawis. The interest is in the rich deposits of phosphates, and the rumours of offshore oil. Plus ça change. Or كلما يتغير as they say in Arabic (type "plus ça change" into Google Translate and you can hear how this is said in Arabic; kulameyatareyira is about as near as I can get in English letters).

Marks for: 2

Marks against: 3

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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