Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nick Brooks emerges from the belly of the autonomy beast

Nick Brooks, Western Sahara's archaeologist about town, went to the launch and book signing of Sahara Conflict, a pro-autonomy book. He ran into the civil kind of occupation proponent, which is nicer to talk with but less fun to see lie their teeth:
However, he then went on to say (I’m paraphrasing, but this is a pretty faithful rendition) “You’re talking about the ‘Liberated Territories’ - this is a myth. Polisario has never liberated any of this land. It is a buffer zone set up by Morocco.” Needless to say I pointed out to him that I run a research project in these very territories, and work with the Polisario in this context. Having travelled extensively in the Polisario-controlled areas (Lajuad, Mijek, Tifariti, Zug, you name it), I’m fully aware that the “buffer zone” is a face-saving Moroccan flim-flam, a story concocted to conceal the reality that Western Sahara is in fact already partitioned between the two warring parties.
The author gave Nick a copy of the book, so we can all look forward to a review (my attempt ata review copy has been ignored). Nick also found out that the Moroccan embassy is familiar with his blog--good deal! Why can't those embassy personnel be bothered to comment on blogs in response?


  1. Saharawi Student8:05 PM

    Congratulations Nick. It's not always easy to survive the claws and teeth of the Moroccan PR beast.

    Nick, You're likely now to receive an invitation to visit the beautiful and exotic Morocco and even stay at the legendary La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech.

    This hotel has played a vital role in the propaganda war to win the hearts, minds, stomachs, and other parts of many foreigners including high ranking UN officials, US administration officials and more recently Sarkozi and his wife who spent Easter holidays there.

    Nick, be careful because the Moroccan couscous, hashish, girls and boys are dangerous tool that are difficult to resist.

    But I am not concerned about you because you have shown that you have principles and that you're unlikely to sell your soul to the Moroccan PR evil, unlike others such as Edward Gabriel.

    Nick, as you know, a visit to the liberated areas of Western Sahara, breathing the air of freedom, contemplating the quietness of the desert and mesmerising views as well as enjoying time with honest Saharawis is much better than spending time at La Mamounia hotel.

  2. Nick it was a great job either in the liberated zone or in UK with the moroccan OUALI's new book and the embassy staff i think the duality of moroccans speech became clear, also your efforts with UNESCO is also noticable

  3. Thanks for the support guys. I don't really see much point in going to Morocco - like you say, what could it achieve? And with my wheat allergy I need to avoid the couscous ;-)

    Also, I'm not exactly anyone's representative, and am not mandated to negotiate for anyone, so the only possible outcome (as far as the Moroccans would be hoping for), would be that I was persuaded of their "cause". And I can't believe they see me or my blog as so important that it would be worth the effort of wooing me.

    In any case, no amount of hospitality can persuade me that a lie is actually the truth. As we say here, you can't polish a turd. And I've already enjoyed some of the delights of Marrakech (although these didn't involve luxury hotels, girls or boys, or, heaven forfend, hashish). Lovely architecture, mostly. Agadir was quite nice, in it's way, although I didn't think much of Casablanca. Taroudant was pretty interesting though, and I spent a nice few days in the beginnings of the desert (the nearest Morocco gets to the real Sahara) around Ouarzarzate and the Draa Valley. All this was before I became properly aware of the Western Sahara issue, and ignorantly headed off to Morocco to fulfill the tourist's desire for the accessible exotic.

    In any case, I'd take a trip to unoccupied Tiris over one to the glories of Moroccan civilisation any day, hanging out at stunning Lajuad or charming Dugej, or bouncing over the dunes to Taziwelt or the ancient lake bed at Muyalhet Awaadi.

    By the way, do either of you chaps know of any (potential) Sahrawi archaeology students with good English? It's early days and everything depends on funding, but we're hoping to find good people to work with who could perhaps put in some training at a UK university, to help ensure that Sahrawi are trained to do the work that we're currently doing, and don't have to rely on foreigners to interpret their archaeological heritage. They'd need good English. We'll go through the usual channels, but you may have ideas of people in the expatriate community. Just a thought.

    All the best guys.

  4. Anonymous3:22 AM

    (sahraoui student) yeap , tell me about it how many sahraoui boys and girls have been shifted to spain , algeria and cuba yearly and how are they been handled i mean (physically)you should know you use to be one of them.
    you seem to talk about exotic ,boys , PR ,are you one of those guys who feels different you know what i mean . and if you're out with it don't be shy .

    ginger :give him havana cigar

  5. Anonymous, is that the best you can do, calling someone a poof because they disagree with you? I have to admit I may have done the same, when I was, say 9 years old (these Moroccan intelligence operatives just get younger and younger).

    I see that neither you nor your fellow belligerents have had anything to say on my blog about the autonomy issue - are you incapable of finding anything intelligent to say in defense of the autonomy plan? Or are you too scared to engage in serious political debate, preferring to call people names?

    It seems that you feel the only way to make your weak point is to resort to childish personal attacks on people. And these personal attacks seem to be directed at Saharawi, not at foreigners like myself who have made it their business to challenge the occupation.

    Why do you feel more entitled to direct verbal abuse at the Sahrawi than at Europeans? Is it an issue of respect? Is it because you regard the Sahrawi as untermenschen? (Look it up). What with all this talk of how the Sahrawi need to embrace Morocco as a route to modernity it wouldn't surprise me - Morocco is using the language of 19th and early 20th century European colonialism, and I wonder if it shares the same views of those whose lands it is colonising.

    But keep it up - such puerile, offensive behaviour on your part can only help to undermine your cause.

    That's it from me for a while - other duties call.

  6. Saharawi Student4:19 AM

    Yes, I am one of the Saharawi students. I've studied abroad and I am now qualified to serve my people and country the Saharawi republic.

    Like thousands of other Saharawi students we have now obtained good education that has prepared us to rebuild our country that Morocco destroyed.

    There are now thousands of Saharawi architects, doctors, dentists, professors, accountants, agronomists, economists, computer programmers, engineers, journalists ...etc who are eager and ready to contribute to the future independent Western Sahara.

    There are also zoologists who will be willing to take care of your kind which missed the natural development of human beings and are still controlled by the DST that makes them bark when ever they want.

    But you can bark as long as you want while the independence caravan moves towards its eventual destination.

  7. my dear sahraoui student you are under some heavy propaganda, you studied in cuba ? that must it...
    well you say that "you are gonna construct what morocco destroys"
    that is just propaganda, sahara has become under morocco prosperous.
    you know that even dakhla export tomatoes (more than 20 thousand last year) look :

    morocco made the sahara a live go wash your brain from both abdelaziz
    propaganda, you are a moroccan

  8. Damn link :

  9. I just can't keep away....

    British-occupied Ireland exported tonnes of potatoes during the famine that led to the death and exile of millions.

    Tomatoes do not make a moral case for occupation.

  10. Saharawi Student6:15 AM

    Yes, Morocco destroyed our country.

    I shall outline few examples here.

    Moroccan Air Force bombarded and destroyed the towns of Houza, Ajdeiria, Mahbes and Guelta Zemmour to name only few.

    In order to build the Wall ( berm) the Moroccan army cut trees and either destroyed the traditional and historic water wells or poisoned them.

    The Wall (berm) has had a very negative impact on live in the territory. Because of the estimated 3 million land mines implanted all along the 2700km long Wall, people and animals have been killed and maimed.

    The way of life of Saharawi nomads has been affected as people can’t move freely in the traditional manner as sons of the clouds.

    Furthermore, Morocco allows fishing fleets to deplete the fishing resources of our country using internationally banned fishing nets.

    Boats travelling along the coast of our country empty their tanks polluting our shores with impunity.

    This is because Morocco does not care about the future of Western Sahara as it knows well that it will evetually gain its independnece.

    It's also worth mentioning the exploitation of the other resources such as phosphates and sand which have their negative impact.

    For a report on the effect on the biodiversity you may check

    Western Sahara: The destruction of biodiversity by modern colonialism

  11. hahaha do you believe in what you say? i'm pretty sure even if sahraoui vote for autonomy, you will continue your blabla....more sahraoui than sahraoui nick.
    tomatoe from sahara, just think about it...
    Morocco is developping its sahara and making it prosperous for its own citizens moroccan and sahraoui with no difference...
    To compare it with ireland...

  12. Laroussi6:38 AM

    tTomatoes do not make a moral case for occupation.

    Off course it does!!! The more you invest in a place, the more it becomes yours. That is why Morocco in reality belongs to France. ;)

    But sincerely speaking, I strongly doubt the figures presented in the video clip. The agricultural sector in Dakhla employs "almost 300.000 people".

    300.000 people working in vegetable plants in Dakhla? And how many people live in Western Sahara under Moroccan rule you said? ;D

    It is interesting that they manage to grow tomatoes and other vegetables in this region, but the propaganda numbers are hilarious.

  13. "Morocco is developping its sahara and making it prosperous for its own citizens moroccan and sahraoui with no difference..."

    But I thought Sahrawi WERE Moroccans, according to you? Now you're distinguishing between the two?

    From all the human rights reports, it seems that most Sahrawi living in the occupied territories are treated as second class citizens. If it's just one big happy family why are journalists and tourists alike not allowed free access, and why are they followed by security personnel? Why is the area so heavily militarised? Why is there so much more control here than elsehwere in Morocco? Why is Rabat (and why are you) worried that in the event of a referendum, the inhabitants of these areas might vote to be independent from Morocco?

    Maybe the tomatoes don't taste as good as you think.

    By the way, Libya grows pretty good tomatoes too, as well as cucumbers, lettuces, water melons, carrots, courgettes and a number of other water-intensive crops, all in the southern part of the country where rainfall is even less than in Western Sahara (you can see the irrigation circles on Google Earth, and I've eaten the results of the Libyans' labour in their desert). Perhaps that means we should invite Gadhafi to run the Sahara.

    Here's an idea. Let's have a pumpkin growing competition between all the heads of state of the Maghreb. The one who can grow the biggest pumpkin gets the Sahara!


  14. Nice idea, Nick. I think things will go well for Qaddafi and his ultra top-secret Project: Codename Miracle-Gro.

    It's pretty funny that the video says 300,000 people are employed in Dakhla's tomato production. That would be so many tomatoes and so many people.

    I want a weekend in the La Mamounia. Hit me up, DST. Until then, Moroccan commenters, try to actually answer topics in posts (in this case, autonomy) instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks.

  15. Another idea I had, which I put to Prof. El Ouali when he was complaining that they couldn't implement a fair and just solution to the conflict because Algeria wouldn't let them, was this.

    Why doesn't Rabat come out in support of Sahrawi independence, and start giving political and financial support to the Polisario in order to separate them from their Algerian backers. If Algeria is the problem, then cut it out of the equation. Make the Sahrawi appreciate Morocco's genuine support for their independence.

    Moroccan commentators are always insisting that Polisario are Algerian puppets - Morocco could cut the strings by giving the Polisario what they want and become its friend, stepping into Algeria's shoes.

    Then Morocco could build relations with an independent Western Sahara. Algeria wouldn't have anything to threaten Morocco with, and would have to behave. The cause of all the conflict would be gone, and the region could get on with economic integration.

    Eventually there might be a federal system in the Maghreb, and everyone would be tied together with open borders and free trade, and it wouldn't matter who owned what.

    Might need a change of government in Rabat - it would be like the post-Dergue government in Ethiopia giving Eritrea independence (not that that worked out so well, but there's no reason that sorry scenario would have to be repeated here).

    So, should I write a book proposing this radical alternative to the autonomy plan?

    Or do you think that Rabat might not go for it? That after all, it isn't just about Algeria being mean? Hmmm.

  16. Good idea, Nick. It is sad to think about how this is conflict is holding back a Maghreb Union, even though the creation of a Maghreb Union would make the whole fight unnecessary.

    Another idea: next time you go to the liberated territories, take a picture with yourself and the autonomy book.

  17. Just saw that my last two comments start with calling your ideas nice/good. But they were.

  18. nick your comments are not very logicals and you compare some very differents things, i'am pretty sur you were not very good at math, confess to uncle saad my boy :))

    well i won't have much time in the future so i hope for friends of polisario a free sahara and for friends of (beautiful) morocco the autonomy.
    live happy my friends

  19. That's sweet, Saad. Your behavior, oscillating between avuncular and hostile, will be missed. Stick around!

  20. Saad - you miss the irony in my suggestions perhaps.

    Maths was never my strongest point, but I can't recall any number crunching in my arguments here. However, I did manage to get a degree in geophysics and a PhD in climate science - lots of programming and number crunching there.

    Maybe my maths isn't so bad after all.

  21. As for maths, I think Saad should be checking up on whoever is responsible for the claim that 300,000 people work in Dakhla's tomato production.

    Not sure how many settlers there are in WS now, but that sounds like all of them, plus the Sahrawi, and a few soldiers off the berm to boot. They must love those tomatoes.

    But economically it doesn't sound very efficient....

  22. Laroussi2:29 PM

    "Moroccan commenters, try to actually answer topics in posts (in this case, autonomy) instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks."

    Well, I am not Moroccan but I still will try to follow your call for autonomy posts... ;)

    Regarding Morocco's annexation proposals (they are two now) I recommend you to read the analyses by GEES. Their conclusion about the second and current proposal is that it is "even more regressive" than Morocco's first proposal.

    It might come as news to some readers, especially the Moroccan ones, that the enchanting kingdom actually presented an autonomy proposal to the UN already in 2003. The Swiss site ARSO as always has the document that you're looking for.

    GEES has written about the first Moroccan annexation proposal as well.

    The conclusion then was that proposal submitted by Morocco recognizes that the Moroccan constitution has to be reformed in order "make autonomy for Western Sahara possible.

    "Consequently, while Morocco does not carry out constitutional reforms any discourse or proposal about autonomy lacks credibility."

  23. Laroussi2:37 PM

    "It is sad to think about how this is conflict is holding back a Maghreb Union, even though the creation of a Maghreb Union would make the whole fight unnecessary."

    I sorry to say this, but I think that you are dead wrong Will. A Maghreb union would not make the conflict unnecessary. That is what Morocco's regime claims, and I am not with them in that line of thinking (either).

    Having a Maghreb union does in no way make national sovereignty obsolete. On the contrary. Such a union, just like the European Union, is built on sovereign national states.

  24. moroccan friends i think have never heard of such news about the educational situation in morocco when they talk about Cuba.

    Enseignement: Belfkih confirme la crise du système

    • Sur 100 inscrits au primaire, seuls 13 arrivent à décrocher le bac

    • Le Maroc dépense 2 fois moins que la Tunisie pour ses élèves

    • Un modèle d’écoles préscolaires lancé dès fin 2008

    • 0,1% du budget de l’Etat

    • Alors qu’il est prévu d’éradiquer le fléau en 2015

    • Un enfant sur trois et 43% des adultes ne savent aujourd’hui ni lire ni écrire.

    Tout le monde semble d’accord sur la question de l’enseignement au Maroc. Après le ministre de l’Education nationale, Ahmed Akhchichine, (, c’est au tour de Abdelaziz Meziane Belfkih, président délégué du Conseil supérieur de l’enseignement, de confirmer la «crise» que connaît le système éducatif national. «Contrairement aux années précédentes, aujourd’hui il y a une vraie prise de conscience des problèmes que connaît le système de l’enseignement», insiste Belfkih, lors de sa participation à la conférence sur «le système éducatif et les réformes qui s’imposent», organisée par HEM, jeudi dernier. «Sur le plan du développement humain, nous sommes classés par le Pnud 126e sur 177 pays. Et c’est la scolarité qui nous pénalise»

    i think Cuba who receive worldwide students shall never be classified 126e

  25. thank you Nick it is a good idea from you i will get in touch with you on your e-mail.

  26. On the Maghreb Union I think Laroussi is right when he said "Having a Maghreb union does in no way make national sovereignty obsolete. On the contrary. " Indeed the conflict on the sovereignty of WS can not simply be solved by forming a Maghreb Union, because RASD first has to join the club while Morocco does object to membership of RASD.

    But the process of unification of the Maghreb can be a substitute for another problem: the idea of a greater Morocco which is the cause of not only the conflict with WS but also with Algeria and Spain.
    Just as the EU the Maghreb Union is a process. A movement of aligned states towards a common future through diplomacy and economical co-operation. It is stalled. Why? Because of the Greater Moroccan ambitions which are not bad or illegimate in itself but unfortunately have taken the form of military action, and also unhuman and criminal acts.
    The process of forming a Maghreb Union could be a legitimate substitute for the struggle for Greater Moroccan Maghreb ambitions. That would make the ambitions respectable and.. could disarm those who carry this mission.
    That would be also of interest of those who do not want to see a Maghreb Union like greater Moroccans envision it. It is about moving the battlefield from the military to the economical and diplomatical arena.
    The only way I see to achieve a Greater Maghreb without military power and solving the problem of sovereignty of WS is transferring sovereignty to a greater Maghreb which in turn grants autonomy. So both Algeria and Morocco would be autonomous regions of the MU alongside with WS.

    It may sound euphoric - but hey what do you expect with all the haschisch here.. :-)

  27. Anonymous4:52 PM

    "So both Algeria and Morocco would be autonomous regions of the MU alongside with WS."

    Algeria and Morocco giving up national sovereignty? Not in this lifetime.

    It doesn't sound like you have smoked too much, more like you are on acid or some other hallucinogenic drug.

  28. Anonymous: Algeria and Morocco giving up national sovereignty? Not in this lifetime. Well. That's a sobering comment and most likely you're right. Because haschisch is not smoked by all those serious men in charge (maybe because it's all shipped overseas) and the maghrebian power of imagination is nowadays not boosted in the traditional way anymore with aboriginal medicine. :-)
    But seriously.
    It is not about giving up national sovereignty. It is about transferring some sovereignty partly; it's about re-defining of sovereignty. And I did'nt make it up, there are examples like the EU, WABI or L'UEMOA. Sovereignty is not simply defending fixed borders like the Berm, it's about dealing with and over borders. It is a huge topic all over the world. No cloud of smoke can hide it.

    No I'm not on acid, I'm on the internet.

  29. Laroussi8:58 AM

    "It is not about giving up national sovereignty. It is about transferring some sovereignty partly"

    I think that you are mixing things up here. The member states of the European Union are not autonomies, they are sovereign countries. You however suggested that "Algeria and Morocco would be autonomous regions of the MU alongside with WS."

    Now this is something completely different from the EU, WABI or L'UEMOA.

    In the mentioned organisations you could say that part of the member states' sovereignty has been transferred to the common organisation in cases of majority decisions.

    But, this does not turn the member states into autonomies. They are still sovereign countries.

  30. Laroussi, sure! You're absolutely right to say the member states of EU and L'UEMOA are still sovereign countries. This is clear.
    There is however something interesting going on with the perception of the sovereignity of Morocco / Maghreb.
    Moroccans call themself, in their own language, Maghrebians. The king of Morocco calls himself ruler of the Maghreb, an Arabic word for the West.
    So, naturally the Maghreb union has to be ruled by his court, or another word has to be invented.
    Ofcourse, for Algerians and Libians the Maghrebian court has to be managed very differently as it is used to be nowadays, for this to be acceptable at all, probably with only symbolic functions, but that's a detail for negotiations if this path is chosen.

    Western Sahara does not exist as an sovereign nation and the dispute about the territory prevents the forming of the Maghreb Union as a club of sovereign nations. And this is not going to change. So if regional co-operation has to be enhanced (it should) the problem of WS should no longer be brushed aside but be put in the center of all and every effort to join the Maghreb.

    In the Moroccan view the liberated territories are controlled by Algerian proxies. So if RASD territory has Algerian sovereignity, why not give it up to the higher goal of Maghrebian unity under a regional controlled court?

    Hopefully I wrote something sensible.. because I must admit, yes! I like to drink the beer too :-)