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The African Union position on Western Sahara is getting stronger day after day, but it also reveals all the weaknesses of Africa when it comes to imposing its own decisions and positions on critical issues.

The 25th Summit of the African Union, meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 14 and 15 June 2015, adopted a new Decision on the Conflict in Western Sahara asking the UN General Assembly “to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara”.

In this respect, the AU Summit, while “recalling the advisory opinion given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 16 October 1975, calls on the UN General Assembly to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara and protect the integrity of the Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory from any act which may undermine it.”

It “urges the Security Council to fully assume its responsibilities, as well as effectively address the issues of the respect of human rights and the illegal exploitation of the Territory’s natural resources.”

The new Decision noted “with deep concern the continued impasse in the search for a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara”, and underlines “the urgent need for renewed international efforts to facilitate an early resolution of the conflict.”

The AU leaders encourage the Chairperson of the Commission to pursue her efforts, based on international legality, and calls on Member States to avail the necessary capacity-building support to the people of Western Sahara.

The AU Summit is following an increasing pace of treatment of the conflict in Western Sahara, following the adoption last March 27 of a very strong decision by the AU Peace and Security Council, and the appointment by the Chairperson of the AUC of a Special Envoy for the Western Sahara in the person of Former President, Joaquim Chissano.

It should be recalled that the AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has sent a letter last April to the UN Security Council asking the members to give an opportunity to her Special Envoy to address the Council, but she received no positive answer on the matter.

This attitude shows how the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council are still reluctant to give a voice to the African countries and especially not to the African Union Commission, not only in the question of Western Sahara, but in various other African issues.

In April 2015, the UN Security Council failed again to respond to the growing requests and demands by various international actors, including countries and NGOs, to resolve this last vestige of direct colonialism in Africa. It has even been unable to positively answer the demands for constant promotion and protection of the Saharawi people’s human rights, and for ending the illegal exploitation of the colonized country’s resources by Morocco and other actors, such as the European Union, Spain, France and many others.

Western Sahara’s colonization remains a very hard challenge not only to the UN, but especially to the AU, which has always adopted a favorable position in favor of its total decolonization.

In fact, Africans, with marginal exception, have been sound in favor of the freedom of their brothers and sisters Saharawis. The founding fathers of the Organization of the African Unity tried hard to convince the late King Hassan II of Morocco to put an end to the colonization of Western Sahara and accept their mediation for an African solution to the conflict. But Hassan II refused; relying on the support he was getting mainly from France to maintain its occupation of Western Sahara.

In reaction, the African leaders accepted the Saharawi Republic, led by POLISARIO Front, as a full-fledged member State of the OAU, and Morocco immediately left the African organization in 1984 and has even tried to join the European Union in the mid-eighties with no success of course.

Now, after almost four decades, the situation still remains explosive and is getting even worse because of the failure by the “international community” to honor all the promises it made to the Saharawis since the seventies.

The Saharawi Liberation movement, POLISARIO, had led a very successful guerrilla war against the Spanish then the Moroccan invasions for more than 18 years. It was recognized as one of the strongest liberation movements worldwide because of the resounding victories it used to achieve against the Moroccan army. Then, it adhered to peace and to the political solution in response to African and UN requests and mediations. Yet, all the promises and guarantees given to it then proved to be vain and void now.

Saharawis often say that it seems that Morocco and the world has forgotten how bad war was, especially for the Moroccan troops, and instead of building peace as hoped, it seems that everyone is pushing the Saharawis again to resume war.

Others say that if Saharawis go back to war, that would be an open declaration of the failure of the UN system and the so-called International Law that is only applied against the weak, while the strongest nations can do all the wrongs imaginable and still enjoy impunity.

The African Union position on Western Sahara is getting stronger day after day, but it also reveals all the weaknesses of African when it comes to imposing its own decisions and positions on such issues. Worse, even inside the AU, some African countries are voicing Moroccan position and defending its colonial presence in Western Sahara.

They usually say that that’s just a position and a point of view! As if siding with colonialism is just a matter of points of view! They forget maybe that if that position was adopted in the early fifties and sixties a lot of African country would have never existed. To these few countries under Moroccan and French influence one can only say as the Arabic proverb: “If you don’t feel shame from doing wrongs, do whatever you want, none would care”.

* Malainin Lakhal is a Saharawi journalist and human rights defender.



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