The first public meeting of 2015 will focus on self-determination in Western Sahara. It may be safe to say that most New Zealanders have never heard of the last colony in Africa. That place is Western Sahara. Assigned to Spain at the Berlin conference in 1885 and still under the rule of another state. No longer Spain but for the last forty years under the occupation of its neighbour Morocco. At first glance you would be forgiven for asking what is its relevance to New Zealand. Sadly much of New Zealand’s farm land is scattered with, literally, tiny particles of Western Sahara. New Zealand despite a 2002 United Nations legal ruling continues to import phosphate, labelled as ‘from Morocco’, but plundered by the Moroccan occupiers from huge mines at Bou Craa in Western Sahara. A large part of New Zealand’s agricultural income remains wedded to the these continuing imports. These phosphates fertilise New Zealand pastures. Over ninety per cent of the ‘Moroccan’ phosphate arriving in New Zealand is from Western Sahara.
The majority of the Sahrawi population no longer live in Western Sahara but in refugee camps across the border in Algeria. Most of the refugees have been in these camps for forty years. Between them and their homeland is not only a political barrier but a physical barrier in the shape of a wall. Western Sahara is divided by the second longest wall in the world (after the Great Wall of China).
Campaigners in New Zealand have struggled to gather attention to the issue. By contrast in 2007 a shipload of Western Saharan phosphate arriving in New Zealand lead the news on Norwegian television. The most recent Parliamentary attention to the issue was a series of questions put to the, then, government in 2005. However, over the next few weeks another attempt is being made to draw some attention to the issue. The Waiwhetu-Lower Hutt Peace Group is having a public presentation on the 10th of March at the Waiwhetu Uniting Church, 7.30pm. The Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) spokesperson Erik Hagen is visiting, from Norway, and will speak at Saint Andrews on The Terrace on the morning of Monday the 16th of March at 9.30am.
29th April – following up.
Following on from the meeting above Theo Fink, the Peace Group Chair, went with Mike Barton to attend a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). As New Zealand currently sits on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) they went to lobby MFAT for the inclusion of a human rights monitoring component in the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). MINURSO is mandated to keep the peace but not to monitor human rights. Morocco is particularly harsh in its repression of Sahrawis living in the region it occupies. Even as recently as three weeks ago Moroccan security were filmed attacking a group of Sahrawi women who had been brave enough to protest in Laayoune, the region’s capital. Mike and Theo said they were well received but they left feeling a little dissatisfied. Indeed as this written (29th of April) we know that the UNSC have voted unanimously to further the MINURSO mandate but WITHOUT any human rights component.
This is the adopted resolution.