Demonstrations have followed one another in Laayoune, Smara, Boujdour and Dakhla since late April, leading in some cases to violent clashes between Sahrawi pro-independence activists and the Moroccan security forces. The largest rally demanding self-determination was reported on May 4 in Laayoune, the capital of the Rabat-controlled Western Sahara territory. Though the Moroccan government restricts access to the area in times of tension like these, the arrival of foreign observers or journalists (such as that of six American and British journalists of the International Women’s Media Foundation starting on April 28) has allowed for a sense of protection and has encouraged and empowered protesters. Meanwhile, the Moroccan government response to these protests has revealed contradiction and miscommunication: the Moroccan minister of communication claimed that calm and normality prevail in the “provinces of the South”, while his foreign affairs and interior colleagues blamed “external parties,” namely Algeria and the Polisario Front, for plotting to destabilize this area.
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