the Disillusioned kid: Happy Independence Day
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Independence Day

As Will points out, today (February 27) is Western Sahara Independence Day. This marks the 31st anniversary of the declaration of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Bir Lehlou. Celebrations within the territories controlled by Polisario (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro) are to include a march, a solidarity conference, a meeting of towns twinned with Saharawi towns and a "super-marathon" between Bir Lahlou and Tifariti, SADR's temporary capital.

(Map of Western Sahara from New Internationalist)

Western Sahara's history is not one which has provided many opportunities for celebration. Polisario was originally formed in 1973 its mission was to drive out the Spanish, who had controlled the territory since 1884, and indeed when Franco was lying on his death bed he did rescind Spanish control, but handed it over to Morocco and Mauritania rather than to the Saharawi themselves. Polisario were able to drive out Mauritania by 1979, but the more powerful Moroccan military proved a tougher prospect. To a large extent things haven't changed all that much since then. A ceasefire in 1991 appears to have remained in force, although human rights abuses by Moroccan authorities persist and there was a limited intifada in 2005. While talks continue, genuine independence still appears to be a distant prospect.

Regular readers may recall that I've written about Western Sahara previously, but those of you looking to discover more about Africa's last colony, which remains little-known despite that status, would do well to check out Will's blog, Western Sahara online and/or the Western Sahara Campaign.


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