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Polisario Front: There Is No Military Presence by Any Foreign Power in Western Sahara

Al-Manar | May 2, 2018

The Polisario Front denied on Wednesday there was military presence by any foreign power in Western Sahara, a day after Morocco cut ties with Iran, accusing the Islamic Republic of providing support to the Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement.

UNews news agency reported that the Polisario Front hit back at Moroccan move to cut ties with Iran, stressing that the movement’s fighters are alone operating in the Western Sahara.

Meanwhile, Mehr news agency reported that the Front spokesman has dismissed the Moroccan government accusations against Iran as baseless and fabricated.

According to the Polisario Front’s website Hespress, the Front’s spokesman Muhammed Haddad has asked the Moroccan government to release any previously alleged evidence showing the links between Iran the Western Saharan movement.

Haddad added “through these maneuvers and accusations, Rabat seeks to refrain from negotiation on the desert, which the United Nations has called for.”

On Tuesday, Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, Nasser Bourita, claimed that Rabat had evidence showing Iranian government had provided financial as well as logistical support to Polisario through its embassy in Algiers.

The Morracan government has announced it will cut diplomatic ties with Iran over the accusations.

The Polisario Front is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement aiming to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. It is an observer member of the Socialist International. The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination. The Polisario Front is outlawed in the parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control, and it is illegal to raise its party flag (often called the Sahrawi flag) there.

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Canadian companies caught with hands in African colonial cookie jar

By Yves Engler · May 23, 2017

The recent seizure of phosphate from a Moroccan state company in South Africa and Panama is a blow to corporate Canada and a victory for national independence struggles. It should also embarrass the Canadian media.

This month courts in Port Elizabeth and Panama City okayed requests by the POLISARIO Front asking South Africa and Panama to seize two cargo ships with 100,000 tonnes of phosphate from Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory in north-western Africa occupied by Morocco. Ruled by Spain until 1975, Moroccan troops moved in when the Spanish departed and a bloody 15-year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighbouring Algeria, where they still live in camps.

No country officially recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The UN calls it “occupied” and the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the Rome Statute prohibit an occupying power from exploiting the resources of territories they control unless it’s in the interest of, and according to, the wishes of the local population. In 2002 the UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell described the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources as a “violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Saskatoon’s PotashCorp and Calgary’s Agrium, which are merging, have a partnership with Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s OCP Group to export phosphate mined in Western Sahara. The two Canadian companies buy half of Western Sahara phosphates and it was an Agrium shipment that was seized in Panama.

To deflect from its complicity in violating international law, PotashCorp says OCP’s operations benefit the Sahrawi people. A 2014 PotashCorp statement claimed: “OCP has established a proactive affirmative action campaign to the benefit of the local people and, importantly, is making significant economic and social contributions to the entire region. As a result, we believe those who choose to make a political statement about OCP are effectively penalizing Saharawi workers, their families and communities.”

International solidarity activists have called on businesses to stop exploiting Western Sahara’s resources, which has led the Ethical Fund of Vancity credit union, four pension funds in Sweden and Norway’s $800 billion pension fund to divest from PotashCorp. A number of fertilizer companies have also severed ties to OCP, Morocco’s largest industrial company. The POLISARIO Front national liberation movement and African Union claim deals with OCP to export Western Sahara phosphate contravene international law and prop up Morocco’s control.

While only preliminary, the recent court decisions are important for national independence struggles. The South Africa case is thought to be the first time an independence movement has won legal action to intercept the export of state property.

Aside from a handful of stories in the business press, the Canadian media has basically ignored PotashCorp and Agrium’s role in violating international law. In the lead-up to the 2015 Saskatoon launch of Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation I submitted a piece about PotashCorp’s role in buying the non-renewable resources of Africa’s last remaining colony. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix opinion editor, who I’d communicated with on a few occasions when writing op-eds for a union, told me he was considering it and then responded a week later. “Hi Yves, Thanks, but I will pass on your op-ed. This issue has been on our pages in the past, with both sides of the debate making their points.” But when I searched the Star Phoenix database for articles on the largest publicly traded company in Saskatoon ties to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara there was a single 264-word letter to the editor criticizing PotashCorp’s policy two and a half years earlier (and a rebuttal from a company representative). Apparently, the Saskatoon business titan’s role in violating international law only warrants 264 words.

As part of writing this story, I searched Canadian Newsstream for coverage of PotashCorp and Agrium’s ties to Western Sahara. I found eight articles (a couple appeared in more than one paper) in major dailies on the subject, as well as three letters to the editor, over the past six years. Yet, as if violating international law is only of interest to those making investment decisions, all but one of the articles appeared in the business pages. When the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland brought a resolution to PotashCorp’s 2015 shareholder meeting about Western Sahara, the Canadian Press reported on it but only a few news outlets picked up the wire story.

While the Sahrawi struggle is unfamiliar to Canadians, it is widely known in African intellectual circles. An international solidarity campaign, with a group in Victoria, has long highlighted corporate Canada’s ties to the Moroccan occupation. I wrote about it briefly in my Canada in Africa and in an article for a number of left websites. In September 2015 Briarpatch did a cover story titled A Very Fertile Occupation: PotashCorp’s role in occupied Western Sahara and last week OurSask.ca published a long article titled Why a Segment of Saskatchewan’s Economy, and Our Ethical Compass, Hinges on an Undeveloped, War-Torn African Nation. An activist in Regina has been crowd funding for a documentary project titled Sirocco: Winds of Resistance: How the will to resist a brutal occupation has been passed on to two women by their grandmothers.

As my experience with the Star Phoenix suggest, the mainstream media is not unaware of the subject. Rather, there is a deeply held bias in favour of the corporate perspective and unless activists politicize the issue editors will ignore corporate Canada’s complicity in entrenching colonialism in Africa.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

Protests in Western Sahara against solar and wind plant construction

MEMO |November 8, 2016

Protests erupted yesterday in the Western Sahara over the construction of renewable energy plants without the permission of the Sahrawi people.

The protests, which took place in the capital Laayoune, coincided with the United Nation’s COP22 conference on climate change yesterday in Marrakech.

Siemens and Enel are building solar and wind plants in the region

“Siemens should not back Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara through energy infrastructure,” the Western Sahara Resource Watch (WRSW) said on social media.

Siemens has constructed 22 new renewable energy plants in the Western Sahara, which power over 95 per cent of mineral extraction plants in the Sahrawi region.

The World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the European Union have previously refused to finance development projects in Western Sahara.

“If we support those investments, it would look like we are supporting the Moroccan position. We are neutral regarding that conflict,” a banker told Reuters.

The contested region has recently been engrossed in tensions between Morocco and the Sahrawi Polisario Front which has been ongoing since 1975.

November 9, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Europe Complicit in the Plundering of Western Sahara?

By Johannes Hautaviita | teleSUR | September 17, 2015

Western Sahara, formerly a Spanish colony, has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. Although the decolonization of Western Sahara has been on the U.N.’s agenda for 40 years, Morocco (together with its allies) has managed to freeze this process, while further entrenching its hold of the occupied territory.

One of the reasons behind Morocco’s aggression and annexation was Western Sahara’s abundance of natural resources, and ever since the occupation began, Morocco has plundered these resources for economic profit. Western Sahara has one of the largest phosphate reserves in the world and is famous for its rich fishing waters, perhaps the richest along the African coast. Furthermore, the prospects for locating oil and gas deposits has attracted exploration in the territory.

In a recent development, which is all too familiar, an Irish oil company San Leon Energy began drilling south of Morocco’s border, on the north-western coast of occupied Western Sahara. For the oil drilling – and other resource extraction – to have legal validity, however, it ought to be carried out with the consent and in the interest of the occupied population. But not only has the local population of Western Sahara not been consulted, the Sahrawi people have explicitly stated their opposition to San Leon’s activities.

In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) Mohamed Abdelaziz stated, “We urgently request that the Secretary-General condemn these activities, which are in clear violation of international law, and call on Morocco and complicit foreign companies to stop the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara.”

The SADR’s position echoes that of the U.N. and the international community. In 2002, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell wrote, that if the exploitation of natural resources “were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Contradicting countless U.N. resolutions and the clearly stated position of the SADR, San Leon claims that its “operations are in keeping with our obligations under international law and work for the betterment of all persons in the Southern Provinces of Morocco.” “Southern Provinces” is the term that the Moroccan government uses for Western Sahara.

San Leon is far from the only foreign actor engaged in legally dubious economic activity in occupied Western Sahara. The most profitable economic activity for Morocco in the occupied territory is the phosphate industry. A recent study by the watchdog organization Western Sahara Resource Watch identified nine companies that imported phosphate originating in Western Sahara in 2014 alone. The major importers were companies based in Canada and Lithuania.

Perhaps the most controversial act of the EU with regard to Western Sahara was the re-signing of a fisheries agreement with Morocco in 2013. In 2011, the European Parliament had suspended the agreement. In his speech before the parliament, professor of international law Pål Wrange stated, that were the fisheries agreement extended “it will make the EU and its member states further liable for a violation of international law, namely as a recognition of and assistance to serious breaches of international law by Morocco.”

Under the renewed fisheries agreement Morocco, in return for an annual payment of US$62 million (€40 million), European fishing vessels are granted licenses to fish in its waters, including in Western Sahara. This is legally questionable – as noted by Wrange – because it indirectly accepts Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. In 2014, the representatives of the Sahrawi people demanded an annulment of the fisheries agreement and took their case to the European Court of Justice.

A somewhat similar dynamic is at play with regard to Israel’s settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While taking the position that Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank is “illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible”, the EU’s continued trade in settlement produce supports the sustenance of the settlements. Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq even maintains that, “Without the economic support generated by trade with international stakeholders, the very existence of settlements, in particular in the Jordan Valley area, would be seriously threatened.”

It seems that the EU continues to prioritize its economic and strategic interests over international law in its bilateral relations with Morocco. The EU’s and Morocco’s annual trade amounts to nearly US$46 billion (€30 billion), accounting for more than 50 percent of Moroccan trade altogether. In fact, the EU is the biggest trading partner of both Morocco and Israel. In both cases, the EU’s economic leverage is exceptional, and its ability to exert pressure on the occupying parties, if it so wanted, is considerable.

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Cuba Vows to Continue Supporting Sahrawi Education

Cuba has long supported SADR, including sponsoring education initiatives for refugees

A SADR-administered refugee camp in Western Sahara. Cuba has long supported SADR, including sponsoring education initiatives for refugees.

A SADR-administered refugee camp in Western Sahara | Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/ THKW
teleSUR – September 10, 2015

Cuba’s acting education minister Cira Pineiro Alonso met with Sahrawi ambassador Malainin Etgana Wednesday, and vowed to deepen education ties with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

The meeting in Havana, Cuba focused on Cuban investment in education in SADR, including the Simon Bolivar high school. Supported by both Cuba and Venezuela, the institution was the first high school to be constructed in SADR-administered Western Sahara.

According to SADR media, Piniero said Cuba remains willing to continue investing in the school, along with other joint projects in Western Sahara.

A sparsely inhabited territory in North Africa, most of Western Sahara has been occupied by the Moroccan military since 1975. A thin strip of the territory’s east is administered by the indigenous government, SADR. Most of SADR-administered Western Sahara is uninhabited desert, with the population almost entirely living in refugee camps huddled near the Algerian border. The Simon Bolivar school is located in one such camp.

Cuba has long supported Western Saharan independence from Morocco, and backed SADR as the legitimate government of the indigenous Sahrawi people.

Outside countries like Cuba, the drawn out political crisis in Western Sahara rarely hits international headlines, largely due to a media blackout in the disputed territory by Morocco’s occupation forces, which control around 80 percent of the territory.

September 10, 2015 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton’s Dirty Money

By ROBERT FANTINA | CounterPunch | May 8, 2015

As she bulldozes her way to the Democratic presidential nomination, former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving no gold nugget unturned as she finances her campaign. Having amassed a wide variety of very wealthy friends throughout the global community, she is in an excellent position to call in favors and promise new ones in return for their financial assistance, as she purchases a four-year lease on the most exclusive real estate in the world.

One recent donation, not directly to her campaign, that has raised some eyebrows, although not in Democratic circles, where Mrs. Clinton, who has done little right can do nothing wrong, is money the Clinton Foundation accepted from a company owned by the government of Morocco. One might ask what the problem with such a donation might be. Cannot a foreign government donate funds to a charitable organization based in the United States?

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as simple as that. This is not the American Red Cross we are talking about, but an organization operated by one of the most politically active and connected families in U.S. history. As late as 2011, when Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, the State Department accused the government of Morocco of ‘arbitrary arrests and corruption in all branches of government’. Now, we could discuss the concept of the kettle calling the pot black in terms of government corruption, but we’ll leave that for a later essay. Let’s look at some detail from the State Department report:

“The most significant, continuing human rights problems were the lack of citizens’ right to change the constitutional provisions establishing the country’s monarchical form of government, arbitrary arrests, and corruption in all branches of government.

“Other human rights problems reported during the year included police use of excessive force to quell peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of injuries and at least four deaths; torture and other abuses by the security forces; incommunicado detention; poor prison and detention conditions; political prisoners and detainees; infringement of freedom of the press; lack of freedom of assembly; lack of independence of the judiciary; discrimination against women and girls; trafficking in persons; and child labor, particularly in the informal sector.”

Following the announcement of the $1 million donation from the government-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), Mrs. Clinton announced that the money would be used to sponsor a conference for the Clinton Foundation in Marrakech. She called Morocco “a vital hub for economic and cultural exchange”, eliminating any mention of political prisoners, police violence or human trafficking. Might that sum of money have been sufficient to blind the former Secretary of State to facts she was aware of when she had that job?
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The donation was made, and the conference announced, prior to Mrs. Clinton’s long-expected declaration of candidacy for president. But still one wonders what possible benefit there could be for the OCP in making this donation? Is this anything more than a sincere desire to help those who might benefit from the Clinton Foundation largesse?

Well, yes, there may be another beneficiary. The OCP is involved in the extraction of mineral resources from the Western Sahara, disputed territory often referred to as the ‘last colony in Africa’, that Morocco controls. It is illegal under international law for an occupying or controlling power to extract for profit the natural resources of the country in dispute. The OCP is owned by the Moroccan government. The U.S. has a long history of allowing occupying powers to exploit, in violation of international law, the natural resources of their victims: note Israel’s extraction of resources from the Dead Sea. The money that the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) funnels to U.S. politicians is sufficient to cause the U.S. to look the other way; there is no equivalent lobby group representing Morocco, so perhaps this donation will suffice.

Money talks in U.S. governance. The same State Department report that detailed Moroccan abuses also commented on Israel. The influence of AIPAC is clear in these so-called ‘findings’:

* “The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions for all citizens.” This, despite the almost constant arrests without charge and detention of countless Palestinian men, women and children, both in Palestine and those living in Israel.

* “Criminal suspects are apprehended with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official. Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them.” See above.

* “Defendants enjoy the right to presumption of innocence and the right to consult with an attorney, or if indigent, to have one provided at public expense.” This, of course, does not apply to Palestinians.

* “Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence. The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions in practice.” Israel Defense Forces (IDF; read: Terrorists) break into Palestinian homes at any time of the day or night, search the homes, steal valuables and generally terrorize the residents. Palestinian homes are arbitrarily bulldozed to make room for illegal and internationally-condemned settlements.

The list goes on, but this should suffice to indicate the degree to which money runs roughshod over human rights in U.S. governance. One thinks that the executives of the OCP can now sleep peacefully, confident that there will be no U.S. interference in their rape of the Western Sahara.

What other foreign governments may see benefit to themselves in a future Hillary Clinton presidency? Since the U.S. is always ready to invade a nation that displeases it, often by some perceived threat to U.S. economic dominance, one would think that most nations will be running to Mrs. Clinton with checkbook in hand, wanting to please the fairy queen and appease the economic gods so worshiped by the U.S. Additionally, such homage would enable them to ignore human rights and exploit the poor for the benefit of the rich, without the U.S. complaining about such abuses. And who will the presumptive Democratic nominee turn away? Anyone? After all, with an alleged target of $2 billion dollars for her campaign, there really are no human rights abuses that can’t be overlooked. Perhaps Syria will make a substantial donation, and thus end U.S. aggression against it.

But are there not built-in protections against this sort of thing, government ‘watchdogs’, if you will, to assure that no such collusion exists? In an article published in The New York Times on May 3, Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairwoman Ann M. Ravel said that “…her organization is powerless to safeguard against misconduct in 2016 presidential campaign fundraising and spending”, mainly due to partisan gridlock. So no, there is nothing to stop Mrs. Clinton, and any and all other candidates, from taking donations from whomever and wherever those donations are offered. And it is unlikely that any of those proffering untold amounts of money have the best interest of the common U.S. citizen at heart. No, they will be foreign governments who wish to begin or continue the exploitation of oppressed people without interference from the U.S., or domestic corporations seeking to continue the vast profits their shareholders earn from war, or from manufacturing products with limited safety or environmental restrictions.

As each presidential election approaches, pundits from the right and left proclaim that this is the most important in the history of the U.S., and that the very survival of the country depends on the outcome. Yet following each election, the nation does not implode in a ball of flames, but continues on, mainly with business as usual. That business is war, disregard for human rights at home and abroad and the worship of the almighty dollar. Mrs. Clinton will usher in no change; her every action speaks volumes to that fact.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

May 8, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment