Monday, September 24, 2007

Building coalitions for Western Sahara

I just finished reading a biography of E.D. Morel, one of my heroes and the best proof I know of that a regular guy with passion can change an oppressive regime in Africa. He almost single-handedly freed the Congo, helped dismantle the Europe's secret diplomatic agreements, and was one of the loudest voices opposing World War I.

The part I found most relevant to Western Sahara was his effective building of coalitions between groups that were all interested in a just solution in the Congo. For example, he combined the efforts of Liverpool merchants, who wanted free trade on the Congo River, with missionary groups who wanted their converts protected.

I thought of a few groups with sometimes disparate aims that already have interests in Western Sahara and could be convinced to work together.
  • The Algerian government
  • Phosphate companies that've been shut out by Morocco
  • Christian groups like Be Their Voice
  • Other national liberation movements, like East Timor's ETAN
  • Human rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch
  • Left-wing Scandinavian political parties
  • Groups dedicated to the Western Saharan cause like ARSO and AWSA
This list is only a fraction of the possible coalitions that can be built to support a referendum in Western Sahara. What do you think are some others?

UPDATE: As Alle points out, support for Western Sahara doesn't have to be limited to leftist parties in Scandinavia, or anywhere for that matter. Western Sahara's appeal to all political persuasions bodes well for the future.


  1. I was just going to ask if you had read King Leopold's Ghost, then I followed the link. Great book.

    About Scandinavia, it's not just left-wing parties. Among the supporters of Sahrawi self-determination there are, for example, the Liberal* parties in all countries (Norwegian Venstre, Swedish Folkpartiet, Finnish Svenska Folkpartiet, Danish Radikale etc). The same applies in other countries, like Spain and the US, where those who support Sahrawi self-determination (few in the US, many in Spain) are as likely to come from the right as from the left. You have James Inhofe and Joseph Pitts among US republicans, and they are certainly no liberals; and in Spain, the rightist Partido Popular has been very outspoken. So you're right that coalitions should be broad, but that means they should certainly not be limited to the left.

    *) Lingustic note: "Liberal" doesn't mean the same in Europe, where it has retained the classical meaning of "pro-market democrats" (with some degree of Libertarian leanings), as it does in the US, where it means simply "lefty". Outside the US, "Socialist" and "Liberal" are contradictory terms, and most liberal parties are seen to belong to the right wing.

  2. As an example, this guy is from the Conservative party, and made his name as an anti-Communist stalwart during the cold war. Not your average left-winger.

  3. King Leopold's Ghost is great. The biography I just read, though, made Morel's motives seem more ambiguous and mixed in some personal ambition. All of which just makes for a better story, in my mind.

    Point taken! I knew that there were some Scandinavian conservatives supporting Western Sahara, but I wasn't sure how many there were. As you pointed out, though, it's not just in Scandinavia that the issue has wide support.

    James Inhofe is so crazy.

  4. Thanks for the clarification on liberal, by the way. I knew "liberal" had a different meaning outside the US, but I didn't realize it was so right-y. That explains why ED Morel left the Liberal Party in the huff.

  5. Laroussi5:11 PM

    "Outside the US, 'Socialist' and 'Liberal' are contradictory terms"

    Not necessarily true. To the large masses it might be, but have you never heard of libertarian socialists? :)

    Chomsky is one of today's most well-known ones...

  6. My loathing for Noam Chomsky knows no bounds, but the Libertarian Socialists I know are all pleasant people. And their Anarchist streak ensures that they will never be organized enough to seize power, so one doesn't have to worry about their loony political opinions either. Win-win for the dull centrist I am.

  7. No love for Noam, Alle? What's up with that?

  8. We appreciate the mention of ETAN, but want to clarify that we are a solidarity group mostly focused on U.S. policy, not East Timor's liberation movement. Since East Timor gained independence it has remained supportive of Polisario and the struggle for self-determination for W. Sahara. Alas when it comes to Asia its leaders have backtracked considerably. Last week the government spoke against Taiwan's application for membership to the UN.

  9. No, no love for Noam. He's whiny, dishonest, one-sided and anti-intellectual. He's to the American left what David Horowitz is to the American right.

  10. Laroussi7:16 PM

    Speaking of Americans, the honourable Mr George W Bush spoke at the UN's General Assembly on Tuesday.

    Among many other things he praised "the nations that have recently taken strides toward liberty" and mentioned Morocco as one of them.

    Now I can't help wondering what Bush was thinking of when he said that Morocco has taken "strides toward liberty". Suggestions anyone? Myself I have no clue.

  11. All of a sudden, everyone realized George W Bush was maybe not that good of a president.

    Yeah, that's ridiculous. But then, this is the man who said Nelson Mandela was dead.

  12. Laroussi7:24 AM

    Everyone makes mistakes on and off when speaking live to a public without a manuscript. But, Bush's speech in the UN was written beforehand by someone in the state department. And, I can't help wondering how they look upon the world and what the progress is that they are seeing in Morocco.

    Did they wake up one morning and read the latest bulletin from MAP?
    "Oh, wow! They held another election to a parliament that still has no real power. That's a leap forward".

    I hope this might at least inspire to another great cartoon.

    For you who are in the US, can't you contact your local media and try to get them to ask the state department what they really meant?

  13. Anonymous12:46 PM

    Building coalitions for Western Sahara what coalitions Scandinavian countries what a bunch of useless liberal
    you guys don't have much clue about how politic really works its easy you just need the fact
    and the fact are :
    morocco is in his land and there's no power on this planet to move morocco from his land
    during the 90s they were about 80 countries that recognise or have a diplomatic relation with polisario come 2007 barley 30 countries who have relation with polisario most of them are very poor countries mainly from africa
    as for morocco its just a big open construction site from tangier to alguira foreigners are flocking to buys homes in morocco tourism is booming
    so you guys keep backing the wrong horse or shall i say in this case the wrong donkey

  14. Laroussi6:03 AM

    It is curious how pragmatic some posters can be.

    Dear Anonymous, if a rich and strong man beats up your brother would you then back up the abuser?

    If a rich and strong man rapes your sister and mother would you then support the rapist?

    If a rich and strong man tries to steal your fathers possessions would you then back the thief?

    Free and righteous men are those who support and help others to gain their freedom as well.

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