Sunday Dispatch: Western Sahara’s fight for Self-Determination

May 12th 2022

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  • Kamal Fadel :: Interview

Each week on the Sunday Dispatch, Lindsay Riley talks with writers, activists and experts to better understand issues from all around the world. This week, he sat down with Kamal Fadel, representative from Polisario, the national liberation movement of Western Sahara.

From the late 1950s through to the 1970s, peoples and nations across Africa fought for and won their independence as nations from colonial rule. Western Sahara, located on the upper northwest coast of the continent, was the sole exception. Spain, its former colonial occupier, abandoned the colony in 1975, as the fascist Franco regime collapsed, passing over administrative control to Morocco and Mauritania, who invaded the territory.

Mauritania has since withdrawn claims over the country, but Morocco continues to occupy approximately 80 per cent of the territory. The other 20 per cent is controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, backed by Polisario – the national liberation movement of the indigenous Sahrawi people. Kamal talked about the human rights abuses that still continue under Morocco’s colonial occupation.

“The people who remain in the occupied areas face disappearances, pressure, oppression. They do not have any rights to express themselves – anyone who is suspected of sympathy to the liberation movement is put in jail. So the occupied areas is like a big prison.”

The United Nations has recognised the Saharawi peoples’ right to self-determination through more than 100 resolutions, and also considers Polisario to be the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people. Morocco has continued its regime in spite of this, due to its support from international business, particularly food and energy industries. 

Western Sahara possesses some of the world’s highest quality phosphate reserves (a key element used in fertiliser), other key mineral resources and fisheries. The exploitation of its land has allowed Morocco to prosper, building its military forces and political influence. Saharawi people have been locked out of potentially raising and developing their standards of living as a result of Morocco’s control over these industries. Also key to Morocco’s occupation, Kamal says, is its support from Western nations, namely Spain, France and the United States, who lobby for Morocco on the world stage.

“Allowing Morocco to get away with this has created a very dangerous precedent in international relations that a country could use force to obtain territory, which is against the UN Charter.”

Polisario and the Saharawi people are fighting still for freedom of self-determination from colonial rule despite overwhelming oppression. Kamal encourages Australians to support Sahrawis by getting involved with their local solidarity movement, the Australian Western Sahara Association.

“The determination of the Saharawi’s is still very strong, to continue their liberation struggle until they achieve full independence and sovereignty.”

Get involved and keep up to date with the Saharawi people’s liberation struggle with the Australian Western Sahara Association.

For more interviews like this, tune in to the Sunday Dispatch from 8:15am each week on the Sunday Overhang with Lindsay Riley. In the meantime, you can listen back to Lindsay’s full interview with Kamal Fadel up top.

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