The last post was about Polisario sites on the web, provoked by the belated launching of an official Sahrawi Republic homepage. Now let's turn our attention to the other side.
Morocco, of course, has too many "Moroccan Sahara" sites to list. It is a nation of soon-to-be 35 million people, and even if web access for most will mean Internet cafés, of which there are plenty, that's still a fair bit better than the Tindouf camps' two or three study centers of donated old PCs in mudbrick sheds. So there's certainly no lack of privately run pro-annexationist Moroccan sites, even if most of them are just recycling government material. That's also the strategy of the government sites themselves. Mostly mirroring, copying and rewriting each others' content, and that of the Moroccan press, they work in a way not unlike Polisario's official media organs, who also act as an echo chamber to mobilize supporters (and Algeria will then in turn faithfully republish their news through its APS news agency, which is then picked up by the private Algerian press, which is read online by Moroccan reporters, who write angry rebuttals. Then finally it ends up on this blog).
A select few of the officially government-run Moroccan sites follow below:
- MAP (The government news agency. Gives ample proof of the country's debilitating pre-occupation with being pro-occupation. At the time of writing, 9 out of 12 headlines on its English-language Politics page were solely concerned with the Sahara, and of the three remaining, one was principally about it too, even if the word "Sahara" wasn't in the headline. Now, consider the fact that the Sahara, even if a hot issue, holds only some 0,6% of the country's total population ... don't you think the remaining 33 or so million may have a few problems of their own they'd like to see the government attend to? (The site itself is multilingual, looks nice, and for the most part works as promised -- far from its amazingly useless Algerian competitor.)
- Sahara Marocain (Web portal that gathers lots of anti-Polisario material from Moroccan & international media; in French.)
- CORCAS (The Sahrawi face of the Moroccan government; multilingual)
- The Moroccan Foreign Ministry (Staffers of which have now surpassed the US military as most frequent visitors to this blog, so ahlan wa sahlan to ya; in French, Arabic and, they claim, English.)
- Maroc.ma (The government portal; Arabic, French, English.)
- Sahara Online (Web portal launched by CORCAS recently; Spanish, French, Arabic, English.)
(Let me just pause for a moment to point out that this is classic Moroccan government. Rabat has been using these copycat tactics since 1975, when it followed Polisario's Ain Ben Tili & Guelta Zemmour gatherings of tribal sheikhs, by summoning its own congress of tribal bigwigs to proclaim allegiance to the King. Miraculously, both congresses, according to their sponsors, involved a majority of the Spanish Yemaa -- a puppet council stuffed with sheikhs. In Polisario's congress, that majority opted to dissolve the Yemaa in favor of the Sahrawi National Council (later to become SADR's parliament); but in Morocco's congress some days later, the not-at-all-dissolved Yemaa voted unanimously for annexing Western Sahara to Morocco... someone else smell a rat? Or two?)
Add to this a plethora of out-of-country target-audience sites and pet organizations run either by Morocco directly, or by Moroccan lobby groups (like the MACP in the US), who are financed by and for all practical purposes part of the Rabat government.
All in all, Morocco clearly has the upper hand in the Internet war, with nicer sites, and much more material in English. Even if Polisario seems to be picking up pace, with the relaunch of a nicer (if still not exactly stunning) SPS page and the above-mentioned SADR thingie, Morocco is accelerating much faster, having both web designers and money. The conclusion must be that Boutef's people are not doing their part here, if they seriously want their Sahrawi protégés to come out on top ... but, on the other hand, maybe it's all a clever ruse to convince us that Algeria is not really a party to the conflict.