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By Nizar K. Visram
February 27, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — At the 28th Summit meeting of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 30 January 2017, Morocco's readmission to the continental body generated heated discussion. At the end of the day the Kingdom of Morocco managed to win over sufficient member states on its side and it was allowed to join the fold unconditionally.
Morocco left the Organization of African Unity (OAU), precursor to the AU, in 1984 after the OAU recognized the right to self-determination and independence for the people of the Western Sahara and admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) that was proclaimed in 1976 by the Sahrawi people's Polisario Front.
It was in keeping with the OAU principle not to recognize the occupation of any part of the continent that it admitted the SADR to its membership. While SADR claimed sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory, Morocco saw it as an integral part of its own territory. Thus, rather than accept SADR's independence, Morocco left the OAU.
Since then Morocco has refused to join the AU unless the organization withdraws the membership of SADR.
By Hassan Abenay
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim and Laura Gilbie
March 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- After two decades of political deadlock, Africa’s oldest refugee population is losing faith in UN mandated peace negotiations.
“No one will give us our freedom — we must take it!,” Sahrawi journalist Embarka Elmehdi Said told Green Left Weekly. Said sees little hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped Western Sahara since its independence from Spain in the 1970s.
A child when her family fled the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara in 1975, Said has spent most of her life in the Polisario run refugee camps on the Western Sahar-Algeria border.
Her two sons, aged 12 and three, have spent all their lives in the camps.
Tagiyou Aslama. Photo by Alan Bain.
Tony Iltis interviews Tagiyou Aslama
March 20, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- Western Sahara is the last country in Africa awaiting decolonisation. Invaded by Spain in the late 19th century, in the early 1970s mass mobilisations heralded the birth of the modern independence movement. In 1973, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) was established to wage an armed independence struggle.
By 1975, the dying days of the Franco dictatorship, the Spain had been fought to a standstill. However, rather than allow independence, Spain made an agreement with neighbouring countries, Morocco and Mauritania, whereby these countries would occupy Western Sahara while Madrid would retain access to its maritime resources.
Many Saharawi fled to refugee camps on the border with Algeria. However, most of the men returned to fight for independence. On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front declared the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
March 11, 2010 -- A meeting of the Popular African Movement of Solidarity with the Saharawi People was held on the eve of the 34th anniversary of the proclamation of SADR (Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic), in Algiers, on the 26thSouth Africa, Algeria and Nigeria. An important delegation from the SADR was present at this meeting. of February 2010. It grouped civil and political movements from
The delegates included representatives of Movements of National Liberation, parliamentarians and political figures, Trade Unionists, representatives from different associations dealing with Women, Peasants, Youth and Students, Lawyers, Sports and Culture. In keeping with their commitment and convictions, and faithfulness to their history, they resolved to support the Sahrawi people, and their sole legitimate representative, the POLISARIO Front and its state, the SADR, a founder member of the African Union.
On this joyous occasion, the gathering formed a single, common delegation to take part in the official celebration of the 34th anniversary of the proclamation of the RASD on the 27th February 2010 in Bir Lehlu (a Liberated Territory of the SADR).
By the Polisario Front
1. Western Sahara (the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic) is located in northwest Africa and covers an area of 266,000 square kilometres. It is bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast and Mauritania to the East and southeast and has a 1,200-kilometre-long Atlantic Ocean coastline. The Saharawi Republic was proclaimed on 27 February 1976; its capital is El Aaiún.
2. In the pre-colonial times, the Saharawis lived as one independent community and developed their own cultural forms of expression and socio-political organisations; it was these idiosyncratic elements that constituted the distinctiveness of the Saharawi society over the centuries. The Saharawi are known for being a tolerant, open and peaceful society that has never been involved in any form of political or religious extremism.
By the Bolivarian News Agency
September 21, 2009 -- The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, expressed his solidarity to the people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to reach their independence from Morocco.
The statement was issued by President Chavez during his talk with Mohamed Saui, who studies in Cuba and is now visiting Venezuela together with a delegation of young African students who are to take part on the Third Cultural Festival of the People of Africa, from September 20 to 25, on the way to the Summit of Presidents Africa-South America.
“As Fidel [Castro] told you, I tell you on behalf of Venezuela: We support and we will always support the cause of your people, the cause of the freedom of the Sahrawi people”, Chavez expressed.
Moreover, he reaffirmed his commitment of eventually visiting the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and he categorically affirmed that “it is necessary that we have more awareness and solidarity with the Sahrawi people”.
The Venezuelan president expressed as well that the Bolivarian government has travelled up to the country located in the western Sahara. “Minister Ramirez was there; there are some students from here; and we have been modestly cooperating.”
A documentary on Western Sahara refugees marks a low point, Kamal Fadel writes.
July 1, 2009 -- Last month in Sydney, the notion of democracy took a pounding. The launch of the documentary Stolen at the Sydney Film Festival marked a low point in local film culture, and signified the tenuous grip on truth we now have in contemporary society. That such a film should be financed with about A$350,000 of public money –- through Screen Australia -– and accepted by the prestigious festival raises questions about the nature of reality and on how it is depicted in mainstream media, such as through the medium of the film documentary.
The film purports, in a sensationalistic way, to reveal widespread evidence of racially based slavery in the Saharawi refugee camps on the Western Sahara-Algeria border. Central to the apparent scoop is an interview with Fetim Sallem, a 36-year-old mother of four. She was in Australia to explain her story, which is significantly at odds with the film's take on it (so much so that Fetim requested unsuccessfully to have her interviews removed from the film).
27 February refugee camp, south-west Algeria
November 29, 2008 -- In October, a three-member delegation of Australian trade unionists visited the Saharawi (Western Saharan) refugee camps in the Hamada desert, south-west Algeria. Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.Green Left Weekly/Links’ Margarita Windisch spoke with Sid’Ahmed Tayeb, the minister of public health for the exiled Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, when she visited the 27 February refugee camp.
The Saharawi refugee camps have now existed for close to 33 years in extremely inhumane surroundings. What has led to the Saharawis becoming refugees and what are the challenges facing the Saharawi people?
First, I would like to thank you very much for your visit. It shows us that we are not alone. This is important support that international community can give us.
to mark 35th anniversary of the Polisario Front. Photo by EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA.
By Margarita Windisch
[Read more on the Western Saharan people's struggle HERE.]
Spain colonised Western Sahara and its mostly nomadic people in 1884 claiming it as a protectorate of the Spanish Crown. Spanish rule over Western Sahara was codified in Berlin in 1885, where Africa was carved up among the European powers. The period of Spanish rule was marked by ongoing resistance, revolts and armed clashes with the indigenous population, with its liberation movements being brutally repressed by the Spanish authorities.
A 1966 UN resolution called for Saharawi people’s right to self-determination to be exercised via a referendum which never eventuated. The lack of political developments led to the formation of Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (the Polisario Front) in 1973. Polisario was conceived as a nationalist front with the aim of achieving independence, and encompassed all Saharawi political trends.
UGTSARIO congress delegates
By Margarita Windisch
The 6th Congress of the Western Sahara General Union of Saguia El Hamra and Rio de Oro Workers (UGTSARIO) took place from October 19-21, 2008, in El Aaiun, one of four Saharawi refugee camps in the Hamada desert in south-west Algeria.
The brutally harsh Hamada desert, justifiably termed the most inhospitable place on Earth, has become the home away from home for more than 160,000 Saharawi refugees since Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara in 1975.
Three Australian trade unionists (two from the Australian Workers Union --AWU -- and one from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance -- MEAA) travelled thousands of kilometres to attend the congress and participate in the 4th International Trade Union Conference in Solidarity with the Western Saharan Workers, which was convened as part of the 6th UGTSARIO congress. All three were also members of the Australian Western Sahara Association.