Africa's last colony still exploited
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Australians are receiving, without knowing it, 'stolen' goods from Western Sahara, Africa's last colony. Opinion by Melainin Lakhal in Australian newspaper Geelong Advertiser.

Published 20 June 2007

(Photo: Cate Lewis)

Geelong Advertiser
20 Jun 2007

Three Australian fertiliser companies, Incitec Pivot, CSBP and Impact, are importing phosphate from Western Sahara, a Non-Self-Governing Territory listed in the UN's decolonisation agenda since 1964.

The exploitation of the natural resources of colonised territories - Western Sahara in particular - was declared illegal in an opinion issued in 2002 by UN Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell.

In 1975 Spain withdrew from Western Sahara without decolonising it and handed it over, via the Madrid Accords, to Morocco.

Morocco then invaded Western Sahara in the teeth of the International Court of Justice's decision that Morocco did not have sovereignty over Western Sahara. As a matter of international law Western Sahara remains a colony of Spain and thus a UN Non-Self-Governing Territory.

The POLISARIO Front, the Saharawi people's liberation movement, waged an armed struggle against the Spanish and Moroccan colonial powers. After 16 years of guerilla warfare with Morocco, the UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991. A crucial part of the peace plan was for the Saharawis to decide their future through a UN supervised referendum on self-determination.

The referendum has not yet taken place. The UN is still attempting to bring about a principled settlement between the two parties to the conflict, Morocco and POLISARIO Front.

International human rights organisations have constantly reported that Morocco has been committing flagrant human rights abuses against the people of Western Sahara.

Morocco has been plundering the fisheries and other natural resources of the phosphate-rich Western Sahara against the will of its legitimate owners, the Saharawi people. Spain and the European Union are complicit and either consciously or unconsciously helping many international companies, including the Australian companies already mentioned, in exploiting these resources.

Thanks to international support, the Saharawis in their campaign against the exploitation of their natural resources have succeeded in forcing American Oil Company, Kerr McGee, and French Total Fina Elfe, to stop exploration activities offshore.

The exploitation of Western Sahara's phosphate goes back to 1975. Australian companies are buying stolen goods and are indirectly funding Morocco's brutal and illegal occupation of the last colony of Africa.

* Malainin Lakhal is a member of the Saharawi Journalists' & Writers' Union.

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