- For the first time in decades, the deserted Western Sahara village of Tifariti is reawakening to life. Located in the strip of land close to the Mauritanian desert border that is under the control of the Sahrawi pro-independence movement Polisario, Tifariti today is hosting "more than 800 delegates" participating in an international solidarity conference.
Tifariti is an insignificant desert ex-settlement, which however has a highly symbolical value as the last village in the territory of Western Sahara controlled by the Polisario. It was the scene of many fierce battles during the Morocco-Polisario war between 1975 and 1991, and Moroccan bomb attacks caused the last semi-nomadic dwellers to desert the village. Its heavily mined surroundings have made a return too dangerous.
Nevertheless, Tifariti is the only village still marked on international maps that falls within the zone controlled by Western Sahara's otherwise exiled Polisario government. And indeed, the deserted village contains some infrastructure, including non-used hospitals and administrative buildings set up by foreign aid agencies.
Also, the regular "international conferences of solidarity with the Sahrawi people" and other events organised by Polisario usually are rather insignificant beyond the circle of the many activists defending Western Sahara's independence from occupying power Morocco. However, a rather large event organised in Tifariti, what Polisario calls the "liberated territories", is rather uncommon.
This has definitively been the intention of the Polisario organisers. "The conference, the first of its kin in the liberated territories, is organised in the zones where the Saharawi Republic exercises its sovereignty to show that the Sahrawi Republic is an irreversible reality", the organisers proudly announced.
The Prime Minister of the exiled Sahrawi government stressed that "through this highly symbolical act that is taking place in the liberated territories of the Sahrawi Republic, we want to give a proof that there is a people here, a liberated territory and a government that materialise the very essence of the state in addition to the wide international support to this state" the same source added.
This state, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), in fact is recognised by a large number of states - including South Africa - and is a full member of the African Union (AU). State functions, however, mostly are carried out in four refugee camps in the south-western desert of Algeria, close to the Algerian town of Tindouf and not very far from the "liberated village" of Tifariti.
But Sahrawi authorities now want to demonstrate that they indeed control their own territory, although mostly deserted. The conference "will also be an opportunity to show that the Sahrawi struggle "does not take place only from exile, but also from the liberated territories and the occupied zones through the peaceful intifada that is taking place there since May 2005", the Prime Minister stressed.
The conference mostly will gather persons involved in international campaigns to promote the independence of Western Sahara. Some 800 delegates were present at today's opening ceremony in Tifariti. According to organisers, the delegates "came to express their support and solidarity with the struggle of the Saharawi people for their right to self-determination and independence."
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