A Push for Western Sahara’s Decolonization Featured

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For over forty years now, the people of the Saharawi Republic, which has been recognized by the AU and over 80 countries of the world, have lived under the colonial subjugation of the Kingdom of Morocco and its Western allies, prompting various campaigns for the decolonization, self-determination and successful independence of the Arab Maghreb nation

 

As part of its contribution to the struggle for the self-determination and successful independence of the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic, (SDAR), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), organized a 3-day international conference under the theme: “Towards the Liberation of Africa’s Last Colony” in Abuja, the Nigerian capital recently. The conference featured wide range of discussions on the Saharawi question, bringing together scholars, journalists and diplomats from across the world including France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, East Timor and the United States of America. Others were from Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, and Cuba.

 

The opening ceremony for the conference had in attendance, amongst others, representatives of the chairperson of the African Union, President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Robert Gabriel Mugabe as well as the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Her Excellency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who were represented by Mr Lovemore Mazemo, the Zimbabwean ambassador to Nigeria and Dr Aisha Abdullahi, AU’s commissioner for political affairs, respectively. Other dignitaries included the Prime Minister of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, His Excellency Abdelkader Teleb Omar and the Saharawi Arab Republic’s ambassador in Nigeria, Ambassador Oudi Bachir as well as Prof Ibrahim Gambari, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

 

While delivering his opening remarks, the chairperson of the conference, Prof Adele Jinadu of Babcock University, Nigeria urged committed African intellectuals to keep up the tradition of earlier generation of radical but progressive African nationalists and intellectuals like Cabral, Fanon and Nkrumah who he said viewed and analyzed decolonization not as simply a political process but also as cultural, economic, psychological and social decolonization, who therefore engaged imperialism and globalization from “radically disabused eyes.

 

“It means we should view decolonization, and the question of sovereignty it raises, as inextricably linked with overcoming modern imperialism and the new ‘scramble’ for Africa. In other words, we need to see decolonization in more than local terms and go beyond it to focus as well as on the democratization of the domestic and global political economies on the basis of mutuality, recognition and reciprocity.”

 

Prof Jinadu added that the conference will address the liberation of the Western Sahara from a “multidisciplinary, comparative and world systems perspectives” and then congratulated ASUU, the convener as well as members of the organizing committee of the conference for what he described as “remarkable efforts in putting a well-thought out programme for the conference”.

 

While delivering his welcome address, Dr Nasir F. Isa, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said they had earlier organized a protest march at the Moroccan embassy in Abuja, adding that ASUU was organizing the conference as a follow up to a similar one organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 2013.  “In 2015,” he vowed “Western Sahara must be liberated; a new approach that will make input to the AU and UN discussion on their independence will be introduced. I want to express my appreciation to all and sundry who accepted our invitation.”

 

In his address titled: “Nigeria, Africa and the Saharawi Question” the keynote speaker, Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari described the theme of the  conference as “timely”  adding that it had come at a time when Nigeria had gone through a successful poll and achieved an “uncommon feat”. He stated that, since independence, successive Nigerian governments had always considered Africa as the centre-piece of the country’s foreign policy and external relations. “This is to say Nigeria should identify with and defend the legitimate interest of Africa. Therefore, Africa serves as the hub from which radiates the spokes of Nigeria’s foreign policy,” he said.

 

Prof Gambari then delved into the history of the Western Sahara and the struggle for its liberation stating that: “The Spanish colony of Spanish Sahara is a disputed territory claimed by both the Kingdom of Morocco and Polisario. It is listed in the United Nations List of Non-Self Governing Territories. Since the Madrid Accords of 1975, a part of Western Sahara has been administered by the Polisario Front as the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic (SADR). Mauritania administers temporarily the western half of the Ras Noudhbou Peninsula. A UN monitored ceasefire has been in effect since September 1991. Underlining the Saharawi question is the debate about Sovereignty.”

 

Gambari, who was Nigeria’s foreign minister at the time, spoke about the “pivotal role” Nigeria played in the recognition of the SADR by the OAU/AU as well as its successful admission into the AU, as a member state. “The position Nigeria took and the role Nigeria played in the Saharawi quest for self-determination cannot be discussed in isolation. In other words, the position Nigeria took was not really different from that of the Organization of African Unity and its successor African Union,” he said.

 

He stated that the failure of Morocco to solve the Western Sahara problem through “referendum and aggressive diplomacy” was “undermining the solidarity of African states with the Saharawi people in their struggle for their right of self-determination”.

 

“In this regards, “he added “Some African states have retracted their recognition of SADR while some others are under pressure to reconsider their diplomatic relations of Western Sahara. Given the pivotal role Nigeria has played in the Western Saharan issue, the question is which way the country would go especially with the advent of the second coming of Muhammadu Buhari as the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

 

In his speech, the Prime Minister of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Abdelkader Taleb Omar called on the world to rise and condemn what he described as “the injustice against the Saharawi people”. He urged the world to put to an end the exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources. “All the countries of the world should follow the example of the African people and call on France to stop supporting and assisting Morocco and Spain to put its legal authority to effect. The monitoring of human right abuses should be part of the UN mission’s mandate in SADR; to stop the oppression of its people. I thank all the countries of the world that are supporting our cause,” he said.

 

In his remark, the AU chairman and president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, HE Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who was represented by the Zimbabwean ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Lovemore Mazemo, described the Western Saharan cause as one of “great concern” adding that “all efforts aimed at finding a solution have so far failed to achieve the expected results and that the prevailing stalemate not only heightens tension in the territory but also undermines efforts to promote integration in the Maghreb region.”

 

Mr Mazemo spoke about the ongoing exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara and described the issue of the Western Sahara as one that “raises a lot of concern and displeasure”. “As a non-self governing territory, Western Sahara ought to have its natural resources protected for the benefit of its own people. The international community should ensure that these resources are not exploited by Morocco,” he urged. “In this connection, we call upon Morocco and on all other foreign entities to halt the exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources and desist from entering into any agreements that would violate the Saharawi people’s permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.”

 

While delivering her goodwill message, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, who was represented by the Commissioner, Department of Political Affairs of the African Union, Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, said the AU was grateful to ASUU for the invitation to participate in “this very important conference on the decolonization of the Western Sahara”.

 

“We accord the issue of the self-determination of Western Sahara importance and the conference shows the determination of the African continent to end the colonization of Western Sahara. It is over 40 years since the struggle started and over 24 years since the ceasefire was signed. For how long will the people of Western Sahara wait to get their freedom?”

 

Dr Abdullahi said the UN mission in Western Sahara was the only UN mission in the world without human rights mandate and applauded the appointment of Ambassador Christopher Ross as the UN’s envoy to the Western Sahara by the then UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon as well as the appointment of the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, as the AU’s special envoy for Western Sahara, which she said gave “a lot of impetus to the Western Sahara question”. “I seize this opportunity to call on African states, member states of the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as the League of Arab States to recognize the Western Sahara as part of the African family,” she urged.

 

Delivering Nigeria’s goodwill message, Ambassador Rabiu Shehu, the representative of the permanent secretary, Nigeria’s ministry of foreign affairs said his ministry had always been an ardent supporter of liberation struggles particularly as it relates to the Western Sahara. “We will always be in the forefront of the advocacy for the liberation of Western Sahara; we will seek for the support of the National Assembly in aiding it. I wish to reiterate the support of Nigeria’s Foreign Service to this cardinal issue in our foreign policy.” He said

 

In his message to the conference, the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria’s minister of state, foreign affairs and international cooperation, His Excellency Ramtane Lamamra said convening the conference in Abuja demonstrated the “strong commitment of the people and the government of Nigeria to principles of liberty and justice as well as the right to self-determination”. “Colonialism has no place in today’s world and wherever its remnants subside, it must be brought to its end, in accordance with the principles set forth in the UN Charter and in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples through the exercise of the right to self-determination and independence by the populations of the remaining Non-Self Governing Territories, adopted by the General Assembly resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960,” his statement read.

 

 

Last modified on Sunday, 29 November 2015 06:03
Adam Alqali

Adam Alqali is an independent journalist whose stories have appeared
on africacheck.org, blueprint.ng andnewsdiaryonline.com. He can be
reached at aalqali@gmail.com