Monday, August 25, 2008

And the Maghreb Olympic winner is

Tunisia, with one gold. Unfortunately, the Olympics didn't help us decide if Morocco or Algeria is the better country, because they both got one silver and one bronze. Maybe in 2010.

Sorry about my terrible posting lately. I'm working on a really hot story for the Georgetown paper, but once that's done this week I'll start talking Western Sahara again. What do you want to hear about?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A video for you and a blogiversary for me

2 years ago today I launched this fine blog with a post about how I didn't know anything about Western Sahara. I've gotten a little more knowledgeable since then, and I've had a great time blogging.

Thanks to all the readers and commenters who made this a great place to talk Western Sahara, and thanks to the Sahrawis for keeping their humor in an awful situation. Most of all, though, thanks to the Together Foundation for being so incompetent that they put me on the map.

You didn't think I'd celebrate our blogiversary without giving you a gift, did you? I made this video earlier in the summer, and now's a perfect time to show it. It mashes up videos of Sahrawi protests and the Clash's "Rock the Casbah", and I think it'll delight you.

Stick around, because the third year is going to be even crazier.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mauritanian coup's effect on Western Sahara

I'd like to hear from people who know better (calling you out, Alle) what effect Mauritania's coup today will have on Western Sahara's chances for independence. I was getting the sense that Mauritania's president was moving closer towards Morocco than past leaders--will the coup leaders reverse this trend?

Same coup, second verse: military takes over in Mauritania

Mauritania's military overthrew its elected government in a coup today, arresting both the president and prime minister. Language and general ignorance collude to keep me uninformed on Mauritania, so I'll let Alle at Western Sahara Info take it away:
A tragedy for Mauritanian democracy, on the one hand, but that didn't stand much of a chance anyway; but more importantly, a giant setback for the country's broader chances of political development. While President Abdellahi and his cronies aren't exactly angels, Generals Ghazouani and Abdelaziz represent the very worst military-parasitic element of the Mauritanian regime, and their refusal to let the civilian side of the regime settle down in power threatens to undo it completely in the long run.

If the last coup, in August 2005, could be met with cautious understanding by the international community, having unseated President ould Tayaa, and eventually with praise as it led to a real transformation, this time around it is different. What happened in 2005 was that a military-personal-tribal dictatorship was overthrown and the chance arrived to replace it with a civilian semi-authoritarian structure that respected most democratic norms most of the time, and which made sensible moves towards national reconciliation, refugee return and economic development; not heaven, but infinitely better.

This change is now being reversed. The putschists -- even though they are some of the same people as acted in 2005 -- must be condemned and the result of the coup overturned if possible; Mauritania had a golden opportunity to break its vicious circle, and it is now slipping away.
Emphasis and paragraphing mine. Military coups of this sort--friction between civilian and military leaders, civilians try to take out the military, military responds with a coup--are much scarcer today than in 1960's Africa. It's too bad Mauritania had to suffer one.

The coup is good a time as any to share a favorite song of mine, The Loud Family's "Why We Don't Live in Mauritania". I like the song, but its reason for not living in Mauritania ("we like something else going on") seems pretty flimsy. Between coups, restive Sahrawis, and al-Qaeda, what more excitement do you need?