A maverick interrogator uncovers a plot to release an unstoppable virus across North Africa and Europe.
Some history and explanation: In 1975 Franco withdrew from Spanish Sahara and Morocco invaded. The indigenous population, The Saharawi, then waged a 16 year long war for independence against Morocco. In 1981 King Hassan II of Morocco built The Berm – a 2700km wall, guarded by 5 million landmines, annexing the Saharawi in the most western region. The Berm is considered to be one of the greatest functional military barriers in the world. In 1991 the UN negotiated a ceasefire, promising a referendum for the Saharawi’s right to self-determination. This referendum has not materialised as Morocco refuses to engage in the democratic process and is deliberately obstructive. As a result, The Saharawi have lived in refugee camps for forty years. They are the last colony of Africa.
In 2007 I travelled from Oran by convoy, with a group of soldiers and journalists, to the Saharawi refugee camps on the border of Algeria. The trip was organised by Land Mine Action in order to take de-mining equipment into the territory. I was there with another agenda: to meet the The Polisario (political representatives of the Saharawi) to discuss my idea of building their parliament from re-cycled shipping containers and to make a documentary about the experience. My hope was to turn the world media’s head to Western Sahara.
I had a famous architect, a president, a legal team working pro bono, film-makers – it looked ‘do-able’ for around 200,000 pounds. The Polisario were warm, enthusiastic and open but carried a look in their eyes I came to know as – ‘Many have tried to help, let’s see how long you last’.
Having failed to even begin building the parliament, I now understand that look. The Saharawi face a covert war of attrition. Morocco refuses to leave the territory and the UN is powerless to enforce its mandate. World politics complicate the matter, as Morocco is seen as a stabilizing force in the region. The west use Morocco as a ‘black site’ and for rendition flights. Oil, mineral resources and fishing subsidies make the territory exceedingly valuable.
The Saharawi number only 200,000, they are neatly contained in refugee camps, adhering to the UN’s ceasefire – easy to ignore.
COERCION is based on a reoccurring problematic thought I have regarding Western Sahara: ‘When do a diplomatic people stop believing their freedom will come without violence? If the UN does not enforce its promise, forty years in refugee camps leaves the door open for extremist groups to radicalise a disaffected, Muslim, Saharawi youth. Who could blame them for abandoning a diplomacy which has only brought containment and castration?’
Coercion is a work of fiction surrounded by facts. Maybe a piece of entertainment can bring the plight of The Saharawi to the media’s attention.
“Western Sahara has significant implications for the stability of the region as well as the credibility of the Security Council and United Nations peacekeeping worldwide.” Ban Ki-moon warning of potential