Namibians rally behind Western Sahara

By Magreth Nunuhe

Windhoek – “Why isn’t Morocco fulfilling its obligation to the United Nations (UN) Security Council for the self-determination of Western Sahara?  Why are economic sanctions not being imposed on Morocco? Can we accept an African country being a coloniser of another? What is being done to put pressure on France and Spain, which are blocking the independence of Western Sahara? What are the pressure tactics Namibia can use to talk to the African Union (AU) for the independence of Western Sahara?”

These were some of the pressing questions posted to President Brahim Ghali of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) during a public lecture on the current political development in the SADR in Windhoek on Monday.

Namibians, who came to listen to the public lecture, made it known in no uncertain terms that they were in full solidarity of the Sahrawi’s struggle for independence from Morocco as they sang  liberation songs and chanted, “Down Morocco, down!”

Namibians are calling for the AU and the UN to end the colonisation of Western Sahara; they asserted that the UN resolutions are taking too long and it is time economic sanctions are imposed on Morocco; they also criticised the decision to admit Morocco into the AU without fulfilling its promise to grant independence to the SADR, as a gross mistake.

As the last two colonies left on the African continent to fight for their independence, the SADR and Namibia walked parallel roads in their quest for self-determination.

But Namibia obtained its independence in 1990 from former apartheid South Africa, while Western Sahara continues to fight for its right to self-determination from Morocco, even though the SADR was proclaimed on February 27, 1976. 

President Ghali said those who were against the independence of Namibia are having the same objectives and strategies to hinder or delay the independence of the SADR.

“Why is the UN not implementing what has been agreed upon? The UN and the AU are the guarantors that can impose sanctions on Morocco for not fulfilling its promise,” said Ghali.

He stressed that those who have been blocking the decision on the SADR to be granted independence have also pushed Morocco and Mauritania to invade Western Sahara.

“The problem is that some big powers in the UN Security Council are blocking the independence of Western Sahara because of foreign interests - just the same way that South Africa blocked Namibian independence,” he insisted.

The SADR president said that Western Sahara was one of the richest countries in Africa with an endowment of rich mineral deposits like diamonds, gold, iron, oil, fish and countries like France do not want to see a rich country like that becoming free.

He said last April, the UN Security Council sent a German envoy, Horst Kohler, to see to it that the two parties sit at the negotiating table, but Morocco played tactics.

“But we have a lot of solidarity, thanks to the leadership of Swapo; we recognise the Swapo Youth League,” he said, emphasising the need to work together with countries that are in solidarity with them.

“This is a fight between justice and injustice. We are fighting to regain our rights. We rely on your contribution – every single effort will be useful on how we succeed to put pressure on Morocco,” said Ghali.

He argued that Morocco did not come into the AU to build but to “dismantle”, given the fact that that country continues to undermine the AU-UN cooperation.

Namibia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah shared Ghali’s sentiments, saying, “We must remain vigilant and mobilise support and solidarity for the SADR”.

“Western Sahara has never been part of Morocco.

We cannot sleep while our sisters and brothers are under occupation. One day, we will celebrate your self-determination,” she said. 

Ghali, who was in Namibia on a three-day state visit from May 27 to 29, also held bilateral talks with President Hage Geingob, where the latter expressed similar sentiments in full solidarity of the SADR.

In a statement, Geingob said that Namibia’s position on the right to self-determination and independence of the people of Western Sahara has been clear and consistent.

“Our support for your right to self-determination and independence is a question of principle and not negotiable,” he said.

Geingob pointed out that Morocco, as a member of the AU, is expected to fully comply with the principles, values and obligations enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the AU and relevant UN resolutions.

“The UN referendum for the Western Sahara should be implemented unconditionally and without further delays or prevarications by Morocco. We call on the UN Security Council to live up to its obligation to compel Morocco to cooperate fully with the UN Secretary General’s personal envoy, Horst Kohler to implement with urgency the UN plan for Western Sahara,” he stressed.

Geingob has committed to work with the SADR towards strengthening relations and achieving a shared destiny.

“If Morocco cannot heed our call because we are old, let it listen to the young people,” he said.

Fast facts about the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR):

The SADR is located in northwest Africa and is bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to northeast and Mauritania to the east and south east.

The SADR was proclaimed on 27 February 1976.

The SADR has been on the UN’s agenda since 1963, when the territory known then as the Spanish Sahara was placed on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The liberation movement Frente POLISARIO was formed in 1973 to use armed struggle to achieve independence from colonial domination. It is still the dominant political force also recognised by the UN.

In 1974, Spain finally declared to organise a referendum for self-determination of the Western Sahara

Morocco violently interrupted the decolonisation of Western Sahara, invaded and occupied by force the territory in 1975, mainly driven by the expansionist ideology of the so-called “Greater Morocco”.

The AU has maintained over the years the inalienable right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination.

In 2015, the AU Assembly called on the UN General Assembly to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara.

Morocco’s admission to the AU in January 2017 was received with the expectation that it would contribute to finding a speedy solution to the decolonization conflict in Western Sahara, but Morocco has persisted in its illegal military occupation of parts of the territory.

The 30th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly on January 29, 2018, adopted the relaunching of the negotiation process between SADR and Morocco, but the latter has persisted in defiance and is opposed to any involvement of the AU in the peace process.

The UN Security Council has recently adopted resolution 2414 (2018) to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara for a period of six months. (SPS)