The fate of Western Sahara, under brutal occupation by Morocco and whose resources are plundered by this colonial power working in cahoots with Western and even some African governments, remains a big shame in Africa’s quest for total liberation and unity. Africa is not free as long as the Saharawi people remain under colonialism.
In his inaugural speech at the first Organisation of African Unity (OAU) conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963, the late President Kwame Nkrumah, founding father of African unity, said: “How, except by our united efforts, will the richest and still enslaved parts of our continent be freed from colonial occupation and become available to us for the total development of our continent? Every step in the decolonisation of our continent has brought greater resistance in those areas where colonial garrisons are available to colonialism. This is the great design of the imperialist interests that buttress colonialism and neo-colonialism, and we would be deceiving ourselves in the most cruel way were we to regard their individual actions as separate and unrelated.”
As African Heads of State gather in Sandton, South Africa, for the 25th African Union Summit, 52 years since the formation of the OAU, this assertion by Nkrumah is still relevant. Africa is still far from being freed from the yoke of foreign colonialism, neo-colonialism and barbarous exploitation, made even worse by the involvement and complicity in many cases of African collaborators acting on behalf of their old colonial masters that Frantz Fanon warned us of in his Magnus Opus ‘Wretched of the Earth’.
One of the most striking cases is the persistence of the colonial occupation of Western Sahara (officially known as the Saharawi Republic), a full-fledged member State of the former OAU since 1982 and a founding member of the African Union. This time the face of colonialism is no more the old European colonialism of Spain, but one maintained against all odds by a fellow African government, the Kingdom of Morocco.
Many eyes will get wide open, shocked maybe, to know that a fellow African nation is still fighting for freedom and full independence. Yet, they will even be more astounded to learn that the people of Western Sahara are still suffering brutal military occupation by another African Country, the Moroccan Kingdom.
Saharawis under the Moroccan occupation are indeed living a very similar type of military occupation and invasion as that endured by Palestinians, with all what it entails: Mass human rights violations, oppression of all forms against peaceful political struggle for independence, forced disappearance, imprisonment, torture, harassment and assassination of activists. Still, the perpetrators of these crimes are enjoying complete impunity, because they enjoy the protection of Western powers such as France.
Morocco is in fact enjoying unreserved support and protection from Paris since the beginning of its Western Sahara colonial adventure in October 1975; otherwise it wouldn’t have succeeded to sustain this illegal and brutal invasion and occupation. France even participated in the military confrontation between the Moroccan forces of occupation and the Saharawi liberation movement, POLISARIO Front, in 1976.
The Janus-faced French government, whilst pretending to be the champions of the respect of human rights worldwide with their famous slogan Liberté, égalité, fraternité, (French for "liberty, equality, fraternity), is, through the protection it is giving Rabat in the United Nations Security Council, tacitly supporting the Moroccan human rights violations in Western Sahara. France also shamefully opposes wide international calls to mandate the UN Mission in Western Sahara to monitor and report about the human rights situation in the territory under its occupation. It has repeatedly used its influence in the UN to protect its dauphin, Morocco, enabling it to ignore more than 67 Security Council’s resolutions and 52 UN General Assembly’s Resolutions, in addition to many AU and other regional organizations’ resolutions, calling for the exercise by the people of Western Sahara of their inalienable right to self-determination and freedom.
But Africa, or at least a great part of free and proud Africans, has always expressed support to their brothers and sisters freedom fighters in Western Sahara. Few prominent names must be mentioned here, like Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu from South Africa, but also the late African emblematic revolutionaries such as Thomas Sankara, Huari Boumedienne, Nkrumah, and many others.
The foregoing is evident in a speech given by Oliver Reginald Tambo, then President of the exiled-African National Congress, on a visit to the Western Sahara liberated zone in Tifariti, 22 July 1988, when he noted that “We…will continue to support your struggle by all means necessary, in order for both our just causes to triumph”.
Western Sahara is still colonized because it is rich in natural resources that became a sort of curse to the Saharawi people, and free stolen goods to those countries and governments exploiting it in complicity with Morocco. And the list of the guilty plunderers of this African country is huge. It comprises the European Union, Spain and France of course, in addition to multinational companies from dozens of countries from the five continents even from few African countries under the influence of France.
The only losers here are Africans. Their wealth is plundered in this North African territory as it is still plundered in other zones usually by the same suspects, in complete impunity, of course.
Even in the African Union, which has recently adopted a stronger position in favour of the full independence of the territory, there are still few countries who try every now and then to create divisions, speaking against freedom and full liberation of this colonized African nation, and in favour of a brutal and violent occupation to the last colony in Africa. They openly oppose all the principles and goals set forth by the founding father of the OAU and visionaries of Pan-Africanism.
But Africa has spoken since the 1980s in favour of the Saharawi struggle when African leaders admitted the Saharawi Republic as a member of the Pan-African organization, while Morocco withdrew from it. Morocco is in fact the only African country that is at present not a member of the AU, and it should stay that way until it finally acceptS to stop playing the role of usurper and set the Saharawis free from its colonization.
In fact, the African Union Peace and Security Council’s 496th meeting, held in Addis Ababa on 27 March 2015, openly: “(i) Appealed for an enhanced and coordinated international action towards the early organization of a referendum for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, in compliance with relevant OAU/AU decisions and UN resolutions; and (ii) Urged the UN Security Council to take all necessary decisions to ensure progress in the search for a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, acknowledging its critical role and primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Finally, one can but recognize that Africa still cannot be said to have entered a post-colonial phase as long as Western Sahara remains a colony and it will not be completely free unless it sovereignly controls its resources.
* Malainin Lakhal is a Saharawi journalist and human rights defender.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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