Western Sahara

NRC report on Western Sahara: Occupied country, displaced people, issue 2/2008

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In the new issue of NRC Thematic Reports, the focus is on the conflict in Western Sahara, Africa's last colony. While the Sahrawis, the original population of the country, suffer oppression and displacement, the international community has chosen to look the other way.

For over 30 years more than half of the Sahrawis, the indigenous people of Western Sahara, have lived in four isolated refugee camps in Algeria. Their homeland is divided along a Moroccan-built wall, and electronic surveillance, land mines and soldiers keep the population in the occupied areas in and shut the refugees out. Families have been separated for decades, and new generations grow up in the camps without ever having seen their homeland. In the occupied territories there are now more Moroccans than Sharawis.

The UN has defined Western Sahara as a decolonisation question and in 1975 the International Court of Justice in The Hague rejected Morocco's alleged 'historical claim' on Western Sahara. The African Union has recognised Western Sahara and accepted it as a member country, having defined the question of Western Sahara as the right to self-determination. However, what use is it to have the support of the UN and the AU when powerful countries such as France, the US and Spain are either indifferent or actively oppose the legitimate rights of the Sahrawis?

You can read more about this conflict, the historical and political background as well as articles and analysis of the current situation, in the NRC Report 'Western Sahara: Occupied Country, Displaced People.'