Friday, February 27, 2015

The Last Colony

What many people don’t know is that Africa still has one last colonized country. Spain was the colonizer of Western Sahara until 40 years ago, and that’s when neighboring countries Morocco and Mauritania took control. Mauritania pulled out, thus it’s been just Morocco as the occupier/coloniser (in Polisario’s words) for the past four decades.

The people of Western Sahara waged a long and brutal guerilla war against the much larger and better financed Moroccan forces for years. However, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire agreement in 1991. Since that time, attempts to peacefully resolve the dispute have been unsuccessful.

At issue are the terms of holding a U.N.-monitored referendum that would allow the people of Western Sahara to decide their governance, with options such as complete Moroccan control, complete Saharawi independence or a limited autonomy for the Saharawi people and continued Moroccan control. Meanwhile, thousands of Saharawi people live in refugee camps in Algeria outside Tindouf and are almost completely dependent on foreign aid for even their most basic needs, such as food.

The Moroccan Wall, also known as “The Berm,” is approximately 1,670 miles long. The Moroccans began construction of the wall in the 1980s. The wall is patrolled by armed guards and effectively cuts off Saharawis from active mine workings and fisheries along the Atlantic coast. Western Sahara is rich with phosphates, which are used in the creation of energy sources. In addition to armed guards, Morocco has also buried millions of landmines. The exact figure varies by source, but it ranges between 5 million and 7 million. Furthermore, because this is the desert and sand shifts, the precise locations of the landmines change.

No comments: