North Africa’s Invisible Refugees

by Alice Wilson
published in MER278

It is December 2014, and on a chilly desert night in a refugee camp, a family sits in a circle inside their tent. Each family member wraps as much of his or her person as possible in a shared blanket. The mother, Almuadala, is making tea on a charcoal furnace. All are listening to Mohamad Fadel, the father, who is telling the story of how he identified the body of his father, who was killed in the conflict that caused thousands of families like this one to become refugees forty years ago. Mohamad Fadel was taken to an unmarked collective grave, just discovered in 2013. There he was able to recognize his father from the clothes he had been wearing the last time that Mohamad Fadel saw him alive.

Hodges, Western Sahara

by Tami Hultman
published in MER127

Tony Hodges, Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983).

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Western Sahara Conflict Impedes Maghrib Unity

by Yahia Zoubir
published in MER163

In early 1989, the movement toward Maghribi integration, coupled with signs of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara, generated a great deal of optimism. The reality a year later is far less rosy. The major factor is Morocco’s procrastination in moving forward with the UN peace plan which it, along with the Sahrawi independence movement, Polisario, agreed to in August 1988.

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UN Impasse in the Western Sahara

by Fatemeh Ziai
published in MER199

In his January 1996 report on the UN operation in the Western Sahara, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali expressed the Security Council’s “frustration...at the absence of even a reasonably clear indication of when the [referendum] process might come to an end.” This was one of Boutros-Ghali’s most candid official statements about an operation that, by most accounts, has gone awry. With a mandate to organize and conduct a referendum asking Sahrawis to choose either independence or integration into Morocco, the most important issue now confronting the UN mission is whether the referendum process, which began in September 1991, has already been so compromised that it no longer offers a realistic means for resolving the conflict.

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Middle East Reform: Right Idea, Wrong Plan

by Maren Milligan , Jillian Schwedler | published June 20, 2004

Democratic reforms in the Middle East and North Africa are both warranted and wanted—not only among the leaders who gathered earlier this month on Sea Island for the G8 Summit but also by the majority of the region’s citizens.

While there is little agreement on what form change should take, the most shocking dimension of the Bush plan for regional reform, The Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, or BMEI, is the administration’s continued partnership with authoritarian regimes and the exclusion of democratic reformers.

Western Sahara Poser for UN

by Jacob Mundy | published April 28, 2009

Morocco serves as the backdrop for such Hollywood blockbusters as Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Body of Lies. The country’s breathtaking landscapes and gritty urban neighbourhoods are the perfect setting for Hollywood’s imagination.

Unbeknown to most filmgoers, however, is that Morocco is embroiled in one of Africa’s oldest conflicts—the dispute over Western Sahara. This month the UN Security Council is expected to take up the dispute once more, providing US President Barack Obama with an opportunity to assert genuine leadership in resolving this conflict. But there’s no sign that the new administration is paying adequate attention.

Western Sahara Between Autonomy and Intifada

by Jacob Mundy | published March 16, 2007

In late February 2007, Western Saharan nationalists celebrated the thirty-first anniversary of their government, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic. The official ceremonies did not take place in Laayoune, the declared capital of Western Sahara, but in the small outpost of Tifariti near the Algerian border. This is because most of Western Sahara is under the administration and military occupation of Morocco, which claims the desert land as its own.