"It is said that every new nation or groups making claims to nationhood needs to have a national football team, otherwise you may as well not exist in the first place. The late historian Eric Hobsbawm once declared: “The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people. The individual, even the one who only cheers, becomes a symbol of his nation himself.” So, in the absence of recognition by formal political bodies, recognition by the Fédération Internationale de Football Associated (FIFA)—which is larger than the United Nations—can be a boon in struggles for political self-determination." Now Western Sahara is trying some football diplomacy of their own.
Photojournalist Micah Albert and I made the 1,000-mile journey from the Algerian capital, Algiers, to Rabouni to see if we could find evidence of this purported hotbed of extremism in the Polisario-controlled camps. After months of investigation, including two weeks spent in the camps last September, we didn’t uncover a wellspring of terrorists in the desert. Instead, we found a SADR government desperate to maintain its claim over the shores of the Western Sahara and whatever resources might lie there — like the rich fisheries and the mines that provide most of the world’s phosphate. We found a population, inclusive of the Polisario army, that the U.S. government is indirectly, and perhaps unknowingly, spending millions of dollars each year to feed through a multimillion-dollar aid package provided by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace.For Foreign Policy David Conrad reports about the forty year struggle for independence in the Western Sahara and the impact the War on Terror, not to mention the threatened discovery of oil have had on the Sahrawi and their struggle.
The Music of Group Doueh. Doueh is a guitar genius from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. [more inside]
Western Sahara has the dubious distinction of being the subject of probably the most forgotten-about post-colonial conflict in the world. Until 1975, the Spanish government considered Western Sahara a Spanish province, just as much an integral part of its territory as any of its provinces in the Iberian peninsula. However, at the beginning of the 70s, a burgeoning pro-independence movement, and increasing appetites of its Northern and Southern neighbours, Marocco and Mauritania, led to a UN visiting mission in early 1975, which found that "there was an overwhelming consensus among Saharans within the Territory in favour of independence and opposing integration with any neighbouring country". This finding was given additional support by an opinion by the International Court of Justice supporting the Sahrawis right to self-determination against the claims of neighbouring nations. [more inside]