Hotspot Western Sahara

1 February 1976 | 9 min 48 s

In 1976, as a reporter for the ARD, Navina Sundaram had the opportunity to experience first-hand a moment of decolonisation in the former Spanish-Sahara. This resulted in a piece for the Tagesschau news programme and this longer report for Weltspiegel magazine. The film begins with the departure of the last Spanish soldiers: “A colony was abandoned,” Sundaram comments, “and as always, it was an exit without honour.” But two other armies are already in the country: Mauritania and Morocco have reached an agreement that Algeria doesn’t accept. In doing so, the Sahrawis’ right to autonomy is being disregarded. Although the Polisario Front is fighting for their rights with Algerian support, their top representatives are convinced that ‘brothers’ from Morocco in the north are the better choice. In reality, the conflict revolves around the phosphate mines in the desert with which Morocco wants to control global trade, while Algeria needs direct access to the Atlantic port of El Aaiun for its iron ore exports.