Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sahara: a silent war


By now, we have read more about the events that have taken place just days ago near Laayoune, the only major city of the Western Sahara. A gathering of Saharaoui demanding an improvement in their situation had grown into a 5000 tents’ camp. Not only had organizational problems arisen, but political activists from the Polisario had mingled among the crowd and fired up the sentiments, preventing a return of sympathizing citizens towards Laayoune. The Moroccan army could no longer stand by and watch and raided the camp. Afterwards, several casualties were reported during riots in Laayoune. An armada of Spanish journalists, siding with the Saharaoui/Polisario, was expelled from the Western Sahara, since Moroccan officials felt that their reports on the situation were not balanced and fair. None of all this was visible while we were riding through Laayoune, just 5 days later. In a way, this is reassuring, but creepy at once: while biting away the awful distances, we have completely missed what was going on in the region… Nevertheless, upon entering the no-man’s land between Morocco and Mauritania, we rode through a row of military and a group of young men who had just arrived in a green army coach. The latter were sitting and hanging around a pile of old furniture. Later, we learned that they were Saharaoui, thrown out of their own country because of their involvement in the events in Laayoune. Good background information on this subject can be found at www.jeuneafrique.com.

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