Breaking the Stalemate

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I would like to thank Naomi James for her review of my book on the Western Sahara (SR, June 2005) but may I make one correction and one important clarification?

As explained in the book, Mauritania pulled out of the Western Sahara in 1979 under military pressure from Polisario, leaving Morocco as the sole occupying power. The clarification (and I hoped this came over in the book) is that my book was the first to draw on the experiences and political project of nationalist Sahrawis living under Moroccan occupation. Previous work has concentrated on the refugee camps and Polisario's organisation there. I set out to report the situation in the occupied territories and that is why relatively little of the book deals with the camps. The decision was political.

My contention is that, rather like in Palestine in 1988, the largely autonomous activity of the people under occupation has the potential to break a diplomatic and military stalemate. An uprising last week in the occupied Sahrawi territories and southern Morocco has rather made my point, upping the ante at a point at which activity in the UN had atrophied.

Toby Shelley
Hertfordshire