Last Wednesday Arisa Mohamed visited my class and spoke about the Moroccan occupation, life in Algerian refugee camps, and the part of the UN in this conflict. She also talked about the Norwegian involvement in this forgotten crisis.
I had never heard about this conflict before this class, which is very strange since it has been going on for almost 50 years. It was then Spain left the colony and let Morocco and Mauritania practically walk in it all started. However, Mauritania left in 1979 because of the opposition in the people from Western Sahara, also called the Saharawi. All the other countries in Africa has been liberated except Western-Sahara. So why is this country still colonized? There are many factors which is making it almost impossible to achieve liberation of Western-Sahara. I will not be able to cover them all in my blog post, however I will try to mention the most important ones.
First and foremost, Morocco mean that the land belongs to them. That it is their right to own and rule this land. The Saharawi did not agree. Therefore, was a liberation movement, called Polisario, formed. They fought the Moroccan army for 16 years, reclaiming a small section of their country. In response Morocco built a 1,000-long wall, heavily fortified and mined, which divides the Saharawi refugees from those who still live in the occupied territories. In 1991, the United Nation brokered a ceasefire and agreed to organise a referendum in which the Saharawi people could vote on the future of Western Sahara. Yet more than 20 years later they are still waiting for the vote to take place1.
An Operation called MINURSO was created by the UN to monitor the ceasefire and ensure the implementation of the referendum. This operation is one of the very few UN forces in the world that is not allowed to report human rights abusers. It is Morocco’s close allied France who is making sure of this. They have a permanent place in the UN security council, and use this position to block any suggestions were the MINURSO operation can report human rights abusers1. This was one of the things that angered me the most. How can a civilized country support this kind of occupation?
Lastly, I want to mention the Norwegian involvement in the situation. The Norwegian government has been very clear and has recommended all Norwegian companies to stay out of the Western Sahara area and their sea. However, there are still companies who invest in these areas, and are in this way showing supporting and recognition towards the Moroccan government. For me who am a Norwegian citizen, think this is wrong and should stop at once.
You can compare the situation in western Sahara, with the situation in Catalonia in Spain. Here the government mean the referendum that was conducted was illegal. In western Sahara, they never got as close as the Catalonian people did. However, in both these countries the government is taking the democratic rights away from the people. A lot of people is outraged about the situation in Spain, why is no one paying attention to western Sahara? Some mean it is because there has been a truce for so long, and therefore are no juicy news for the new station around the world to write about.
In conclusion, I mean that the people in Western Sahara should be able and allowed to come back to their country and conduct their referendum about whether they want to be liberated or not. I believe the pressure should be on France. They could have made a difference long time ago. Its time they step up and take responsibility.