HYPOCRISY is the stream on which international diplomacy runs. Some of the so-called super powers relish their expertise in the deceit that forms the wheels of diplomacy. They have succeeded for more than three decades with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR, also called Western Sahara, is known as Africa’s last remaining colony.
The present conflict over Western Sahara began 1975, when Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew and Morocco and Mauritania moved in and seized control over the territory. Morocco claims it is part of Morocco, but the United Nation, UN, classifies Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory.”
The Polisario Front, its independence movement, was at war with Morocco until 1991, when the UN brokered a ceasefire and an agreement to organise a referendum on self-determination for Western Saharawis.
The referendum has not held because Morocco rejects independence as an option and proposes to grant Western Sahara a measure of autonomy under Moroccan rule. The Polisario continues to insist on a referendum that is based on the 1974 census.
Why the reference to 1974 census? Polisario claims large numbers of Moroccans have settled in Western Sahara, where they now outnumber the Saharawis who are indigenous to the region. The strategy is to have enough Moroccans to vote against independence, in case it becomes an item in the referendum.
As the deadlocks continue, Morocco enjoys support, notably of France, which castrates efforts at the UN to organise a referendum in Western Sahara.
Western Sahara has great possibilities, with huge quantities of phosphate, off shore oil and gas and very rich fishing grounds. It has a population of less than a million people. SADR is a full member of the African Union, and in exile. Its liberated zones and refugee camps are in Southern Algeria.
On 24 October, Moroccan forces in occupied Western Sahara, killed 14-year-old Nagem El-Garhi, and injured seven others, near the Saharawi protest camp, outside the main city of Western Sahara, El Aaiun.
The victims were shot as they travelled to deliver food, water and medicine to friends and relatives among the thousands of protesting Saharawis. Days after, about 36 more Saharawis and members of the Moroccan forces, were also killed, while 700 were injured and the Moroccans detained 163 Saharawis, the Sahara Press Service reported.
Independent reports from the international media confirmed the attacks, including reports that Moroccan authorities limited international access to the scenes of the attacks.
The 20,000 people in the protest camp, located east of El Aaiun, were protesting marginalisation, lack of job opportunities, poor living conditions, human rights abuse, racism, resource theft and the continuous arrival of Moroccan settler-occupationists.
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in the US Congress, Congressman Donald M. Payne, stating he was “deeply saddened by the death of Nagem El-Garhi, a young Saharawi teenager who sought nothing but to join other Saharawis in a peaceful demonstration calling for better living conditions for himself and the people of Western Sahara. Morocco must know that the international community will not accept the killing and repression of peaceful demonstrators. The people of Western Sahara deserve freedom, peace and self-determination”.
Similarly, in the UN Security Council, Nigeria lead Uganda, Mexico, Austria and Great Britain to condemn the killings in El-Aaiun.
Will the world ignore the killings as it did during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda only to shed crocodile tears after? The UN should conduct the referendum, the first step to independence for Western Sahara.