Stoke to the Sahara


This video is a record filmed by Ray Johnson of the Rainbow Rovers aid convoy to the refugee camps of the Saharawi people in the Sahara Desert in Western Algeria – organised by the Saharawan Aid Trust in April/May 2002.

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was taken over by Morocco and Mauritania when Spain abandoned the territory in the mid 1970s. The people of Western Sahara – the Saharawi – resisted the occupation and Mauritania withdrew in 1979. But the Saharawi people were ousted over the border into the desert and hostilities eventually ceased in 1991. The Saharawi have been in four camps in the desert for thirty years. For full information on the history and current developments in the ongoing campaign to help the Saharawi, go to

Sixteen vehicles travelled for seven days to reach the Reception Centre of the camps at Rabouni. Immediately there wa a request for the convoy to ravel to the furthest camp – Dakhla – 160 kilometres into the desert. Dakhla had never received an aid convoy before.

The overwhelming welcome into the camp, the delivery of aid to specific destinations – schools, hospital, gardens etc – was a real and rewarding achievement, and is charted in detail here.

We hear comments and observations from convoy members, and investigate the problematic nature of ‘supply-only’ aid – and the need for follow-up maintenance and development.

The warmth, personality and commitment of this proud people – the Saharawi – comes across in the many interviews.