Western Sahara was annexed with Morocco
in 1976 and about half of the native population fled to Algeria where most of them still reside in five specially created refugee camps. No countries have officially recognized the country. „A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire; a UN-organized referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. In April 2007, Morocco
presented an autonomy plan for the territory to the UN, which the U.S. considers serious and credible. The Polisario also presented a plan to the UN in 2007. Since June 2007, representatives from the Government of Morocco
and the Polisario Front have met four times to negotiate the status of Western Sahara.” (cia.org)
According to official information, the population of Western Sahara is nearly 400 000. However, the exact number is not known, according to one local source, the number might go up to 2 million. Moroccan people have been relocated to Western Sahara and given benefits to run their businesses there. Both sides probably lie about the exact number of people there just to present themselves as a bit bigger side. The UN-sponsored voter identification campaign has not yet completed, so no exact numbers are available at this point. All are estimations and the way I see it, they can be far off the truth.
The bus from Agadir to Laayoune takes anywhere between 10-13 hours so we decided to take the night bus at 19.30. As the usual situation with transportation in Morocco
is, the bus was around one and a half hours late. So we reached Laayoune at about 7.30am. The bus stop was next to a big square were about 50 people were playing football. It was Saturday morning.
During the night the bus was cold as hell. And to give the bus drivers a bit time to rest and freshen up and passengers the chance to eat a bit, there was at least three 30-minute stops on the way. Did I tell you already that the bus was cold as hell? And during the stops it was even colder. I don’t know if they are used to it or what’s the idea of it, but there don’t seem to be any warmth inside the buses in Morocco
and even during the nights, the cafeterias hold their doors (or walls, if possible) open, making it cold even inside the cafeterias in the stops. And some of those stops were really in the middle of the desert where it’s cold during the night. Oh yes, it was cold. Don’t mind me mentioning it that much but that’s one of the main thing I remember from the bus trip.
The closer we got to Laayoune, the more police bunkers we saw and the more we were stopped by the police. And of course, couple of times me and my friend (as the only foreign people in the bus) were asked for our passports for 10 minutes to check them. And again, the usual questions were asked – where do we come from and what’s our occupation – and our answers were always Agadir and student.
When we finally reached the suburbs of Laayoune I started thinking if this really was a good idea to go there. The reason for that was the view outside the bus window. For 10 minutes the only people we saw on the streets were soldiers or policemen. Or UN workers. It was 7.30am Saturday morning when the bus stopped, we looked at each other and asked if that’s the correct place. It turned out it was…
Continued in next post...