The Last Colony

Andrew McConnell

Andrew McConnell photographed Saharawis from all walks of life, creating a fascinating portrait of this still disputed region.Western Sahara is Africa's last open file at the United Nations Decolonisation Committee. Morocco invaded the territory in 1975 and forced colonial power Spain to withdraw without holding a UN sanctioned referendum on the future of the state. With Franco on his deathbed Spain had little desire for confrontation and so divided the land between Morocco and Mauritania, ignoring the pleas of the indigenous Saharawi people and a ruling by the International Court of Justice which found neither country had any sovereignty over the territory. ~~

A Saharawi rebel group, the Polisario Front, which had formed a few years earlier to fight the Spanish occupation, declared the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on 27 February 1976 and began an all out guerrilla war against the new occupiers. With heavy backing from Algeria the Polisario had a number of early successes, forcing the withdrawal of Mauritania in 1979. Morocco then took control of the entire country and the war continued into the 1980s. Thousands of Saharawis fled the invasion and set up refugee camps across the border in neighbouring Algeria where they remain to this day, their numbers having grown to some 170,000. ~~The Polisario's gains were hampered in the mid-1980s with the building of a heavily mined 1,600 kilometre sand wall by Morocco, dividing Western Sahara in two and keeping the Polisario mostly confined to the inland desert. A ceasefire was signed in 1991 with the agreement that a referendum on self-determination would be held the following year. But the results of the UN identification process on who could vote were not to Morocco's liking and almost twenty years later that referendum has yet to take place, while for the Saharawi people a sense of injustice, hopelessness, and anger grows ever stronger. ~~Click through the images for interviews by Andrew McConnell. An extended essay by Xan Rice is available.

 

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      MOROCCO

      Minatu Lanabas Suidat, 25 year old Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Mohamed Didi, 42 year old Saharawi Polisario Solider....

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Salek Labieb Basher, 23 year old Saharawi camel...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00117284

      MOROCCO

      Ralia Marof Labaihi, 7 year old Saharawi Bedouin...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Hamdi Jaafar Mohammed, 46, Soldier of the Polisario...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Djimi Elghalia, 48, vice president of the Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Ahmed Sbaai, 31, secretary-general of the Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Lahbieb Embarek Ahmed, 47 year old Saharawi camel...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Malainin Aomar, 66 year old Saharawi soldier of the...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Atiko Barrax, 36 year old Saharawi human rights...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Mariam Zaide Amar, 24 year old Saharawi de-miner....

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Balal Mohammed Lamin, 51 year old Saharawi Polisario...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Sidi Mohamed Dadach, 52 year old Saharawi, known as...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Mohamed Lamin Slot, 26 year old Saharawi ambulance...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00117283

      MOROCCO

      Name withheld, 26 year old Saharawi. Pictured at an...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116924

      MOROCCO

      Mohamed Lamin Mohamed Dadaia, 64 year old Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116922

      MOROCCO

      Brahim Mohamed Baih, 62 year old Saharawi Polisario...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116923

      MOROCCO

      Omar Tiyanie Mostafa, 36 year old Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Mainaha Brahim Bahaha, 64 year old Saharawi Bedouin...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      MOROCCO

      Name withheld, 26 year old Saharawi. Pictured at an...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116927

      ALGERIA

      Mohammen Sheikh Salek, 30 year old Saharawi petrol...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116929

      ALGERIA

      Ali Salem Salma, 41, statistician for the Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Salima Kedi Embarec, 20 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Nagla Mohamed Lamin, 20 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116932

      ALGERIA

      Saleh Mohamed Mulud Sidi, 35 year old Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Ihaka Sidahmad Embark, 34 year old Saharawi musician,...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Sana Zrog, 19 year old Saharawi student. Pictured...

      © Andrew McConnell

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      ALGERIA

      Brahim Salama Baaj, 38 year old Saharawi nurse....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116936

      ALGERIA

      Mohamed Salem Ali, 18 year old Saharawi refugee and...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116937

      ALGERIA

      Azmah Laulad, 18 year old Saharawi refugee. Pictured...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116938

      ALGERIA

      Josef Mohamed Galil, 14 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116939

      ALGERIA

      Yahdih Yahdih Mohamed, 28 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116940

      ALGERIA

      Senaha Sidi Omar Baba, 51 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116941

      ALGERIA

      Nabil Salek Salma, 8 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116942

      ALGERIA

      Khadjeton Brahim Baydati, 13 year old Saharawi...

      © Andrew McConnell

      00116943

      ALGERIA

      Brahim Mohamed Fadin, 17 year old Saharawi refugee....

      © Andrew McConnell

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