Friday, December 07, 2012

Final Post on Western Sahara for Now

Okay, I have now  finished the Shelley book and this is my last post organizing the tiny bit of new knowledge I have about the Western Sahara. I only have two final observations. First, that the Moroccans were quite ruthless in their suppression of the Sahrawis. The Moroccan security forces "disappeared" around 500 people, 57 prisoners are known to have died in captivity, and over 1,300 others have been detained for various lengths of time (Shelley, p. 100). If the total Sahrawi population in Western Sahara was only 90,000 in 2004 then more than 2% or one in fifty people either "disappeared" or spent time in Moroccan prisons. This is an incredibly high percentage and is equivalent to about six million people in the US.

Second, for all intents and purposes it appears that the UN spearheaded by the US, France, and UK has abandoned any pretense of pressuring Morocco to allow a referendum on independence for the Western Sahara. The Polisario is still observing the ceasefire, but the goal of an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in any substantial amount of the territory of Western Sahara keeps getting further away. It has become increasingly unlikely that Western Sahara will follow in the footsteps of East Timor. Given the massive settlement of Moroccans in Western Sahara it is likely that Rabat will be able to fully integrate the territory without having to make any concessions to Sahrawi autonomy.

Source: Toby Shelley, Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa's Last Colony? (London: Zed, 2004).

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