Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Western Sahara

After writing about Somaliland the other day. I thought it would be good if I wrote about some other lesser known places in the world that have caught my attention.
Western Sahara has fascinated me for quite a while. If you look at a map, you can see it stretching down the West African coast from Morocco all the way down to Mauritania. It is enormous, but the population is only about 200 000 or so. Basically it is a desert and therefore is not the best place to run hydroponics. It was controlled by Spain until after WW2 when most countries decided that imperialism wasn't the way to go. I say most, a couple are still having a go... Morocco and Mauritania stepped in and took over. A group of freedom fighters (or terrorists, whatever) called Polisario got together and decided to fight a guerilla war against the occupying forces. They managed to come to an agreement with Mauritania, but as they left, Morocco moved in. The UN became involved and tried to broker an agreement. Both sides agreed on a vote on the future of the nation, what each side couldn't do was agree who would be eligible. Morocco says anyone living there should be able to vote. This is convenient for them as they have been moving a lot of Moroccans into the territory and so probably would have the vote in their favour. Of course Polisario do not agree with this and so there has been a stand off since the ceasefire agreement in 1991 until now. The UN still have peacekeepers there...
I am always keen on nations asserting their independence. This seems to me to be a case of Morocco trying to get more land and with the hint of oil off the coast, they will not want to give it up. Polisario have complained of human rights' abuses by the Moroccan military, which if true should have the world community coming down hard. I haven't found any independent evidence that this is true however. A major problem for Western Sahara is that they are Muslim. America, Britain and others know they have a friend in Morocco, but would not know where they would stand with a Polisario led government. The dreaded Al Qaida may even get involved. So for the time being status quo suits the movers and shakers of this world. If there is oil, then this big in size, small in population country could really make a go of independence, but if there isn't then they may have to accept that being part of Morocco may be the only way forward... I found an interesting article on the BBC website here.
For those of you who use CNN's website, don't. It just can't compare with BBC. I tried looking up Western Sahara and there was nothing. BBC gives you the most indepth information on everything, not just the flavour of the day.

San Nakji for President!

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