By Victoria Ojeme
The Ambassador of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic to Nigeria, Brahim Salem Buseif, has condemned what he described as Morocco’s “military illegal occupation” of Western Sahara.
Often referred to as Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara has come to the forefront of world news multiple times in the past few months, most recently with the announcement by the Trump administration that the United States will recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over it.
The announcement came as part of a US-brokered normalisation deal between Morocco and Israel.
In an interview with Vanguard yesterday, Buseif said Morocco’s “historical” claims of the territory were rebutted and denied by the International Court of Justice on the 16th of October 1975.
He said court’s advisory opinion regarding Moroccan pretensions was unequivocal and quotes the International Court of Justice as saying:
“The materials and information presented to it [the Court] do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity. Thus the Court has not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonisation of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.”
He said that despite that clear ruling, Morocco invaded parts of Western Sahara on the 31st of October 1975 in total contempt for International Law.
“King Hassan, the then Morocco’s king, vowed to wind up our resistance to their occupation in a few weeks. We proved him wrong, and after sixteen years of war, he realized that it was impossible to impose the fait accompli militarily, that why he agreed to the ceasefire brokered by the UN and the OAU, accepted the settlement plan which provides for a referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people and, also, accepted to negotiate with the Polisario Front.
“During those years of war the United Nations General Assembly, in various resolutions, besides reaffirming the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence, deplored and condemned the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.
He condemned the United Nations inaction on the matter saying the UN has not lived up to expectations in addressing the annexation Western Sahara by Morocco.
“The Settlement Plan, jointly elaborated by the UN and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1990 and agreed upon by the two parties to the conflict – the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front – promised us a free and fair referendum to settle the dispute. That is why we accepted the ceasefire. However, after 29 years of endurance and suffering awaiting the referendum, Morocco renounced its commitments, refusing the agreed plebiscite, and saying he is only ready to offer autonomy for the Saharawi people under his sovereignty.
“Just imagine how much would be your frustration and anger if, after gunmen had entered your home abducting your family, you denounce them to the justice, they refuse to withdraw and declare that the only thing they could do is to rent you a room of your own home and, after all that, the judge tells you to try finding a “compromise” with the aggressors! That is how we see the Moroccan proposed autonomy and how the UN, lately, is addressing the occupation.
“If the UN fails to remain consistent with its purposes and reneges the principles enshrined in its charter, allowing the law of the jungle to prevail in the world, we will not be easy to swallow, we will defend ourselves, resist and fight back the aggressor, let be no doubt about that.
“Since day one of their invasion, the Moroccan occupying forces committed massacres against defenseless civilians, whose mass graves were discovered, identified and documented by European forensics teams, they bombarded entire villages with napalm and white phosphorus and, since then, there have been hundreds of missing people who just disappeared after being detained by the police.
“Nowadays, violations and human rights abuses are rife in the occupied territories, torture and imprisonment of human rights defenders. Journalists and International observers are not allowed to visit the territory.
“Concerning the illegal explotación of economic resources, it is common knowledge that Morocco is plundering natural resources in the occupied territories such as phosphates, fisheries and farm products in total contravention of international law. And, in order to have accomplices, seeking some kind of “legitimacy”, is attracting foreign companies with advantageous offers.
“Despite the ruthless repression, the Saharawi in the besieged cities continue challenging and refusing the occupation through demonstration, sittings and forms of civilian protest.
“We warned foreigners not to participate in the theft of our natural resources, not to incur in illegal transactions for which they can be sued in court.The NGO Western Sahara Resource Watch is doing great efforts in this regard.
“We are very grateful to Africa. Because they have suffered and endured the colonial yoke, the African peoples understood our quest for freedom and supported our rights for self determination and independence. The Saharawi Republic was admitted to the former continental organization ( OAU) being the support of Nigeria crucial to that end, and currently is a founding member of the African Union.
“In its last 14th Extraordinary Summit, after the violation of the ceasefire carried out by the Moroccan army and the resumption of the war, the AU requested the Peace and Security Council “to engage the two parties, both of whom are Member states of the AU, to address the unfolding situation in order to prepare conditions for a new ceasefire and reach a just and durable solution for the conflict”
“I believe that the AU should do more than that: to exert pressure on Morocco compelling it to respect and abide by the charter of the AU, or, otherwise, to impose sanctions,” the Ambassador said.
Western Sahara is often described as Africa’s last major colony. It is a former Spanish colony on the Atlantic coast of Africa between Morocco and Mauritania.
Spain withdrew from the territory in 1975, the final year of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s life, handing over administrative control of two-thirds of the territory to Morocco, while Mauritania received a third – a move not recognised by international law.
The Polisario Front, an independence movement in Western Sahara, saw Spain’s decision as an affront to their self-determination and clashed with both Morocco and Mauritania over control.
In 1975, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was established and claimed control over the entire region. Eventually, Mauritania conceded its administrative control to the Sahrawi people, but clashes with Morocco continued until 1991, when a ceasefire was signed.
The ceasefire allowed Moroccan forces to remain on the western side of a 1,700-kilometre sand wall built by Rabat, where they administer control over most of the territory, including its significant mineral resources and offshore oil reserves.
In addition to a ceasefire, a UN peacekeeping force (MINURUSO) was established. The ceasefire also set up the promise of a UN-supervised referendum, but this vote has been stifled by Morocco for three decades.