Children of the Sandstorms: Contemporary Western Saharan Poets

Bahia Awah & Zahra Hasnaui discuss Western Sahara, Sahrawi culture and life in exile. Awah and Hasnaui are founding members of The Friendship Generation (Generación de la Amistad Saharaui) a group of Saharawi exiled poets formed in 2005.

Monday, April 02, 2007
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
6th floor
UCLA campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Western Sahara is a territory in northwest Africa, which has been the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front. The area fell under Spanish rule in 1884, becoming a Spanish province in 1934. In 1975, the International Court of Justice recognized the Sahrawi’s right to self-determination, rejecting the territorial claims by Morocco and Mauritania. Spain agreed to organize a referendum. But in November 1975, Moroccan King Hassan II ordered a "Green March" of over 300,000 Moroccans into the territory. Spain backed down and a settlement with Morocco and Mauritania in 1975, known as the Madrid Agreement, partitioned the region between Morocco and Mauritania.

Polisario Front (Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia El-Hamra y Rio de Oro) was formed in 1973 and declared the territory as the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976. In 1978, Mauritania signed a peace deal with Polisario and renounced all territorial claims. Morocco moved to occupy areas allocated to Mauritania. Algeria in turn allowed refugees to settle in its southern town of Tindouf, where Polisario still has its main base. Polisario led a guerrilla war against Moroccan forces until 1991, when a UN-brokered ceasefire was declared. The peace plan provided for a transition period, leading to a referendum in January 1992. Western Saharans would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. While the ceasefire held, the mission was never fully deployed.

In 1997 and 2000, UN special envoy James Baker mediated talks between Polisario and Morocco. Agreements were reached on various issues, but not on voter eligibility. In a bid to break the deadlock, James Baker submitted a "Framework Agreement", known as the Third Way, in 2001. It provided for autonomy for Saharawis under Moroccan sovereignty, a referendum after a four-year transition period, and voting rights for Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara for over a year. This formula was rejected by Polisario and Algeria. Then in July 2003, the UN adopted a compromise resolution proposing that Western Sahara become a semi-autonomous region of Morocco for a transition period of up to five years. A referendum would then take place on independence, semi-autonomy or integration with Morocco. Polisario signaled its readiness to accept, but Morocco rejected the plan, citing security concerns. Envoy James Baker resigned in June 2004 and the UN process remains deadlocked.

Special Instructions

Parking is available in lot 3 for $8.

Cost : Free and open to the public

For more information please contact:

UCLA African Studies Center

Tel: 310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Globalization Research Center - Africa