Friday, November 21, 2014

Western Sahara: A bitter reality smoothed by Orienteering

The Saharawi refugee camp, in Wilaya de Boyador, staged the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. An event that represents an important milestone in a growing project, showed here with the precious help of Alfonso Bustillo, its main mentor and worker.

Under the Artifariti 2014 - International Art and Human Rights Meeting in Western Sahara, the refugee camp of Wilaya de Boyador hold, the 8th november, the 1st Western Sahara Orienteering Championships. A very simple course, mass start by teams and 15 control points were the challenge to 80 Sahrawi children and a dozen adults of various nationalities.

Born at Logroño in 1979, graduated in Physical Education and Firefighter by profession, Alfonso Bustillo met Orienteering 16 years ago. He is the great worker of a project that is not just maps and flags and that has in the will of taking contact with the reality of the refugee camps its starting point. But this demand was not just on observation and knowledge. Bustillo wanted to carry something with him, something seen as valid and that could mean a heritage for the future: “If I were a doctor or engineer, I would certainly contribute with other things; but I'm an orienteer so I took them a little of what I know”, he says. For the journey's preparation - an initiative of the Friends of the Sahara Association, from Seville, looking to the participation in Artifariti 2014 - Alfonso Bustillo had the support of his club, the Club Riojano de Orientación en la Naturaleza, managing to grant the means that allowed to offer 20 flags, 20 compasses, some books and sports equipment and even some money that was donated to local institutions.

Goals achieved

Being part of the Artifariti 2014's program, Bustillo understood that the course shouldn't have only a playful character - a mix of art and sport. Hence he set a peculiar couse, like himself explains: “The teams had to find 15 flags, each one of it with the name of a Saharawi city or a Saharawi people friendly city; the idea was to simulate the Sahrawi nomads moving freely in their country, from city to city, without walls to divide them or antipersonnel mines threatening them.” In the end, the goals were fully achieved, stating Orienteering to Physical Education teachers, leaving to posterity a map and spreading the harsh reality of the Saharawi people, particularly among orienteers.

But this was only the beginning of the project and Bustillo's dream is to return next year: “The contacts with local sports authorities and teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts allowed me to understand the local peculiarities and I can be able to develop a more specific work and best suited to the project”, he says. To work with the interested teachers and finish the map of the whole camp (totalling 10 km2) are the next steps of Bustillo. With much work to do, knowledge to share and experiences to live, place to a wish: “I would like to see an Orienteering course every year, something like the Sahara Marathon, which brought life to the sport at the camps and that allowed to show to the world the unfair situation of Saharawi people”, Alfonso Bustillo says.

Finally, a very special thanks to Mohamed Bougleida, General-Director of Sports of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to the various teachers and monitors of Boyador Scouts, the entire staff of the Boyador School of Art, some artists of Artifariti 2014, as well as the host of the Saharawi people and to Suhaya y Esgaller, the "family" of Alfonso Bustillo during his African stay. And yet an image alive in his memory, “the mass departure of dozens of Sahrawi boys and girls, the future of this people running - nomads! - freely and carelessly in their own land.”

[Photo: Alfonso Bustillo /]

Joaquim Margarido


  1. Hi Martin:
    Please check,
    Joaquim Margarido

  2. Thanks Joaquim!! Peace for moroccan people. Peace and freedom for Saharawi people.