Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New blogs, Western Sahara-related and not

People hungry for North Africa news or journalism writing are in luck:
  • Alle, the great blogger behind Western Sahara Info, is refocusing his North Africa writing on a new group blog, Maghreb Politics Review. He kicked off his new empire with Algerian politics. While it'll let him share his expertise beyond Western Sahara (he knows a lot more about North Africa than that), he better not abandon WSI. It's an institution.
  • Meanwhile, I launched the cleverly-named Will Sommer, a blog about the changes affecting journalism as it moves online (and the cool stuff that move creates). Check it out!
Before I get on with the business of managing two blogs at once, though, an apology: I haven't been up on Western Sahara lately. I got disheartened with how nothing ever changed in Western Sahara, and how it looked like nothing ever would. Before you say, "Try living it for 30 years," I know.

Fortunately, I'm reinvigorated by studying abroad in Cairo and a potential visit to Morocco. Most of all, though, commenters and readers seem to have stuck around and still care about this issue. So let's get to it! Please leave any new Western Sahara blogs in the comments so I can catch up.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Christopher Ross demands self-determination

Beguiling Morocco with his grandfatherly appearance

Delightful news out of Western Sahara, where things have been relatively lately. The new UN envoy on Western Sahara, US diplomat Christopher Ross, isn't taking up last envoy Peter Van Walsum's weak stance on self-determination.

After visiting Morocco, he went to the Polisario-controlled part of Western Sahara to read a speech to Mohammed Abdelaziz and some soldiers. He won't accept any solution that doesn't have self-determination:

Negotiations must tend to "a solution that includes the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination," Ross said in speech he read in Arabic to the Saharawi president-in-exile and an assembly of ministers and chiefs from the nomadic tribes that make up Western Sahara.
Sweet! If he keeps up he'll earn the envoy theme song.

Alternately, this could mean nothing. Some people think self-determination includes autonomy, and he hasn't mentioned a referendum. But at least he isn't endorsing autonomy like Van Walsum.

UPDATE: Reading a comment from blogger Van Kaas makes me think it's a good sign that Ross went to a Polisario-controlled part of Western Sahara instead of the refugee camps in Tindouf.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rabab Amidane wins Student's Peace Prize

Rabab Amidane, the sister of imprisoned Sahrawi activist El-Ouali Amidane and an advocate for the rights of Sahrawis in her own right, has won the Student's Peace Prize for her work on Western Sahara:
Amidane travels abroad to tell the rest of the world about the conditions of the Sahrawis in Western Sahara. When she visited Norway in 2007, Amidane met the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and she asked the Norwegian state to support Western Sahara's demands for independence. By meeting political leaders and people with a lot of resources, Amidane could make the world recognize the conflict in Western Sahara. In cooperation with Norwegian youth's political parties and the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Amidane has been able to make the present conflict in Western Sahara relevant in Norway.
One of the members of the committee that awarded the prize used to be on the Nobel committee. I think this, and Aminatou Haidar's RFK Award, signal that the human rights community is moving towards awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to a Sahrawi.

Photo by Wikdmessenger