Tuesday, September 05, 2006

East Timor: the Western Sahara's future?

It's not particularly noteworthy to note the similarities between East Timor and the Western Sahara, but I'll do it anyway. Both were invaded in the mid-70s by stronger neighbors immediately after decolonization, and both suffered a bloody occupation. The biggest difference is that East Timor has been free since 2002.

Since it became self-determining, though, things haven't improved much for East Timor. While Indonesian troops no longer massacre dissidents or exploit the country's resources, since March East Timor has been engulfed in internal strife. Disbanded soldiers rioted through the streets and people were hacked to death. Since the Prime Minister's resignation things have gotten better, but East Timor has been savaged by the crisis.

It's banal to say that self-determination won't solve Western Sahara's problems, but East Timor provides sobering, concrete proof that a post-Morocco Western Sahara could be just another crisis.

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