Western Sahara’s status has not been fully forgotten by the international community, though. Christopher Ross, a former U.S. ambassador to Algeria and Syria, is now serving as the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy and has been engaged in active “shuttle diplomacy” in an effort to help resolve this long-standing dispute. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker preceded Mr. Ross in this effort, but neither have made much progress — and won’t — until and unless the president makes clear that the United States wants it resolved.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/20/ruddy-a-long-needed-resolution-to-western-saharas-/#ixzz2oKn43NYw
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In the remote desert land on the northwest side of Africa, a nomadic people see their homes taken from them by an imperial power. Hundreds of thousands are driven away and forced to live as refugees.
It sounds like a story—but it’s real. This happened in the Western Sahara, a colony of Spain, one of the last colonies in Africa. In 1975 the Moroccans moved in, saying they were reclaiming a territory that had always been theirs. It is an important story that almost no one pays attention to or has even ever heard of.
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POLISARIO CAMPS, Algeria — Rabab Deid has lived most of her life in an isolated camp in the windy, moonscape desert of western Algeria, alongside 150,000 other refugees.
The 43-year-old teacher is involved in one of the least-known, longest-running conflicts involving refugees, part of a decades-long dispute over a Colorado-sized strip of land in northern Africa called Western Sahara. On one side are the Sahrawi refugees led by a group known as the Polisario Front. On the other, the Moroccan government, which annexed Western Sahara after Spain’s colonial forces withdrew in 1976.
In the decades since, five Sahrawi refugee camps have sprouted up in Western Algeria’s barren Tindouf province. With their mud-brick and concrete buildings, and nomadic tents known as khaimas, they look more like towns. Pens hold goats and camels for meat and skins. Water is pumped from the ground.
This article is available in full on the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/10/the-37-year-old-refugee-situation-you-know-nothing-about.html
Dakhla refugee camp, southwestern Algeria—Tchlaz Bchere has visited Western Sahara, the land she calls her rightful home, only once. Born and raised in a refugee camp in the remote desert expanse of southwestern Algeria, the 30-year-old activist has always clung to the promise of an independent homeland, free from Moroccan control. Yet in the entwined contradictions of hope and despair that have shaped her life as a Sahrawi refugee, Bchere never wants to have children—to have them grow up like her, in a state of permanent displacement and consigned to a life of waiting in the harsh desert.
The full article is available on the website of The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/176968/letter-western-sahara-land-under-occupation#
There’s one state that has been left behind. Ignored by the international media, failed by the UN, its people in refugee camps for 38 years.
The state is called Western Sahara, the people are called Sahrawis, and this is their story.
First, some history: In the mid 20th century states in Africa began to be granted independence from their colonial powers. Today, all African states are considered sovereign and face the long struggle to reinstate their position in the international hierarchy.
All but one.
Western Sahara is situated on the northwest coastline of Africa, bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. Despite being mostly comprised of desert land and lacking sufficient rainfall for most agricultural activities, the country does have fish-rich waters and large amounts of phosphate. It also potentially possesses a large amount of oil.
Unlike most African states, which, upon withdrawal of their colonial powers were offered a referendum on independence, Western Sahara was immediately laid claim to by its neighboring countries of Morocco and Mauritania. Spain, its former colonizer, rather than handing independence to the Sahrawis cut a deal with Morocco and Mauritania by signing the “Madrid Agreement,” in which Spain split the territory between the neighboring countries. In doing so, Spain both avoided a messy colonial war with their Moroccan neighbor, and gained access to the fish and phosphate in return for their favor.
This article is available in full on the website of the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/readwave/africas-last-colony_b_4201749.html