By Owei Lakemfa
MOROCCO is an ancient civilisation with an existing  17th Century monarchy. The current King Mohammed  VI  who is 45, celebrated his 10th year on the throne  from July 23, the exact date of his coronation, into early August, 2009.

As part of the festivities, he granted pardon to 24,865 prisoners, including 517 pregnant women and  women with children. He also pardoned 137 minors, 659 inmates of different nationalities, while commuting 32 death sentences.

In all these, the King conveniently  side- tracked the main issue of Morocco returning   stolen lands to the owners: the  Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), formerly known as Western Sahara.

The entire territory was stolen by powerful Morocco during the reign of King Hassan II, the incumbent’s father.

The territory was initially seized  by Spain after the 1885 Berlin Conference where European powers in sharing the booty of their stolen territories apportioned it to the Spaniards. But due to the tenacious resistance put up by the people, Spain could not take full possession until 1934 when the people were conquered with the aid of the French colonial army.

Neighbouring  Morocco’s independence  on March 2, 1956 revived anti-colonial agitations in the territory. The United Nations (UN) in 1966 as part of its decolonisation policy  asked for self- determination by the Sahrawi people. On May 11, 1967 Spain issued a decree accepting this.

That December, the UN asked the colonial power to organise a referendum on self-determination under UN auspices.

On June 17, 1970 following popular protests for independence, 40 Sahrawis were killed. That year Spain agreed to recognise the right of the people to independence. Morocco, the territory’s big brother  to the north enthusiastically welcomed this.

King Hassan held a press conference on July 30, 1970 where he enunciated a programme for the colony  and demanded “… the departure of  the non-Africans  (the colonialists)and allowing the people of the Sahara to choose between life under the Moroccan aegis, under their own aegis, or under any other aegis”.

In 1972 a major political feat was recorded when various political groups in the territory  established a  political movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguiet al- Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO).  Morocco,  obviously with an eye on the territory’s rich mineral phosphates and fishes, began to covet its neighbour’s riches by seeking to  seize the colony.

In laying its claims, Morocco went to the UN asking it to refer the ownership of the territory to the International Court of Justice(ICJ). This the world body did. But without waiting for the outcome, Morocco at the October 1974 Arab Summit in Rabat its capital,  enlisted another neighbour, Mauritania (which borders  the territory on the east and south) to jointly seize and share the colony.

The UN’s fact-finding Mission to the territory in its October 1975 Report  concluded that  the  people desire total independence like other former colonies and that their undisputed representative body is the POLISARIO.

The  ICJ on October 16, 1975 ruled by a 15 to 1 decision that the territory belonged to the Sahrawi people  before it became a colony and  therefore it belongs to the people not another sovereignty.

King Hassan rejected the ruling and ordered Moroccans to march on the colony in what became known as the “ Green March”. It was later stopped by Spain.

However on November 14, 1975 Spain the departing colonial power entered into a secret agreement with Morocco and Mauritania allowing the African countries to invade  the colony and share it; a replacement of European colonialism with African colonialism.

Spain on February 26, 1976 departed, handing over the territory to the new colonialists. But the OAU rejected this  and in 1982 admitted the newly born Republic as its 51st member. Morocco rejected the OAU decision and on November 12, 1982 withdrew from the body.

The two SADR neighbours found the riches of the  new country too tantalizing to let go, but through armed struggle, Mauritania was forced to withdraw and acknowledge the independence of the area. Rather than follow in the Mauritanian footsteps, the gluttonous Moroccan state decided to swallow the part Mauritania gave up.

In a renewed effort to peacefully resolve the conflict, the UN in its  1985 Resolution 4050 set out a plan with “.. the aim to organise a free and fair referendum on self-determination by which the people of Western Sahara will be able to choose between independence and integration with Morocco”.

Five years later, it established a UN Mission (MINURSO) with a mandate to organise the referendum which was scheduled for February 1992 but Morocco again was the stumbling block.

The UN Security Council requested the American  political leader James Baker  to work out a new plan. The Baker Plan   released in July 2003 proposed a  five-year autonomy under Moroccan rule followed by a referendum of self –determination  in which the SADR people and Moroccans in the territory will vote. While the POLISARIO accepted the plan, Morocco rejected it.

Morocco in 2007 launched its own plan of granting autonomy to the territory  under its rule. With the false  campaign that  an independent Saharawi will be a haven for  Al Qaida , the United States (US) and some of its allies bought the phoney programme. But the  Barack Obama administration has reportedly jettisoned this and wants the peoples independence to stand.

Morocco does not appear prepared to give up the territory it has stolen and has defied international opinion and resolutions especially by the UN because it has the backing of powerful countries, especially European.

It is not impossible that  as an independent nation , the Saharawi Republic may opt for a union with Morocco or any other country as Zanzibar did with Tangayika to found Tanzania. But that will be a decision by a sovereign people.

Decent humanity need to unite against this infamous theft; call Morocco to order and ensure that the Saharawis  like other  peoples who emerged from colonialism   live in an independent country free from external intimidation and violence.

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