Despite his plea, it is hard to see the door opening anytime soon. Charles Dunbar, a Boston University lecturer who spent fom 1997 to 1999 living in Laayoune as a UN diplomat and trying to move the referendum forward, said that if a vote had been held back then, the Sahrawis would have won their independence. He blames the long deadlock on UN inaction.
“The true blame lies with the UN Security Council. It is the unwillingness of the council to take decisive action that has caused this mission to be seemingly, permanently stalemated,” Dunbar said.
About the prospects for the Sahrawis to gain their own country today, he considers himself a pessimist. “The world,” he said, “just has other priorities.”
Jenn Abelson is an investigative reporter with the Globe’s Spotlight team. She traveled to Western Sahara and Morocco with the support of the International Women’s Media Foundation. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.