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Kavitha Dispatch

This land is my land, this land is your land part II

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phosphate - an organic compound that permits the release of useful energy
Polizario - the political group for the local people of the Sahara
enticing - to draw on by exciting hope or desire
prostrated- lying face down in the crowd, as in token of humility or adoration

The mighty's just a big pile of sand right? A never-ending, hot, dry, barren stretch of land. Why would anyone want to live there? How could anyone live there? Well, we learned that the Saharawi people live there. And we learned that the Moroccan government is enticing Moroccans to live there. So, what is the appeal? Well, The Western Sahara represents different things to different people. To some it represents a huge source of potential wealth with large phosphate reserves and untapped oil resources. To some it is a gateway to the ocean, access to trade and the rest of the world. And to others it is home.
Home sweet home, right? Not so, the people of the region are still awaiting the U.N referendum to decide the rightful owners of the land. Well, while we wait, let's put ourselves in their shoes and see what it is like to live in the Western Sahara.

I: The Moroccan Shoe: More of a trail running shoe, comfortable and wearable for miles and miles of walking through desert.

Step into the Moroccan shoe. You become proud of your country and always loyal to your beloved king. You remember with great pride the epic "Green March" when Moroccans joined together to release your fellow brothers in the Western Sahara who were held under Spanish rule. It was 1976 and his majesty King Hassan II had explained how Morocco would recover its property without any bloodshed. Instead Moroccans would march in peace, in memory of the great march undertaken by the Prophet Mohammed when he returned triumphantly to his homeland Mecca. You remember fondly the intense wave of enthusiasm and pride in the country as everyone united to greet your fellow Saharan brothers that had been separated all these years by an arbitrary frontier. You joined 350,000 other men and women from all backgrounds, and walked together across the frontier. Immediately upon reaching the side of your Saharan brothers you prostrated, as his majesty had recommended, to pray to God and thank him for allowing you the chance to partake in moments of such intense patriotic and religious import. Because of your commitment, the great powers of the world realized Morocco's right to the southwestern part of their nation. To the enthusiasm of your fellow countrymates and your reunited Saharan brethren, power was soon transferred from Spain back to Morocco.

You are angered by Mauritania, Algeria, and all the other countries that are now trying to vie for a claim to the Sahara. The Sahara has always been Moroccan and it always will be.

II. The Algerian Shoe: Tough, able to withstand all kinds of wear and tear.

Slide on into this pair. Makes you feel like an Algerian organizer enraged by Morocco's firm grip over the Western Sahara. This big neighbor of yours has constantly pulled the prize territories for economic gain, giving little back to its real inhabitants. Since it learned of the potential wealth behind the phosphate reserves in the desert it has been falsely claiming age-old bonds to the land and its people. Now that Morocco knows there are unexplored oil resources within the Sahara as well, they are strengthening their hold over the region. You see it as your role to empower the Polizario, the political group for the people of the Sahara--to mobilize them from under their oppression under Moroccan rule. You want to help the Polizario create their own independent nation, and the UN referendum could be the solution, but Moroccans are flooding the towns to skew the vote. If the new nation is established, it will be friendly with your interests. Perhaps Algeria will get an upper hand in tapping the Western Saharan resources. Perhaps the newly founded Western Saharan nation will grant Algeria easy access to the Atlantic ocean. Perhaps Algeria can enjoy some of the financial gain that Morocco has been hoarding.

III. The Saharawi Shoe: Adaptable, strong, long-lasting and familiar. The moment you puts these on you feel like a local of the desert. Your ancestors came through northern Africa from Yemen and have been living a nomadic lifestyle in the great Sahara for many generations. Members of your family are settled in the large cities like Al-Ion, Bu Kraa, and Bourat, but the majority of your family live outside with your livestock. Sometimes you travel over a hundred miles in a year grazing your camel and sheep as you transport trade between villages.

Over the past 20 years, you have noticed more strangers coming through your land. Some say they work for international organizations and have come to protect your rights. Some claim they are your brothers, that they all are of the same nation, but they look like no brothers of yours. Some work for large companies and bring large machines to take things from the ground. Some of your brothers have left the fields and the villages and have started holding meetings in the towns. They call themselves the Polizario and tell you that they will protect your way of life from the outsiders that have come to make money off your land. They tell you that you must stay near to the towns so that you can 'cast your vote' for independence, but you worry about the animals. Independence from the large nations would be nice, but you must take the animals to graze. Your fields must be tended. The international groups keep fighting and pushing back the date of the vote. Maybe you will be back near the city when the vote is held next year, but for now you must return to your nomadic ways--to the great Sahara you call home.

Not an easy choice, right? Makes you feel lucky you can just put on your sneakers without a second thought. But. it is a testament to how strongly each group feels about the Western Sahara. Who would have thought a dry and barren desert would hold this much value? And, whether the value is money, tradition or opposition, too many groups want to call the Western Sahara home sweet home. Until the UN gets the referendum going, unfortunately the tug of war will continue.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - Moulay Idriss: Morocco's Most Holy City
Jasmine - Morocco: A Developing Country with Potential
Team - Adios Morocco! We had a ball!

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