Sahara’s desert rebels get support

March 4, 2011
Sam Wainwright, second from right.

The conflict in Western Sahara, little known in Australia, is at last starting to get some prominence.

Unionists held a protest outside the Moroccan embassy in Canberra on February 9. This coincided with a visit to the Western Saharan capital, El Aaiun, by eight European trade unions to investigate the attack on striking phosphate workers by Moroccan police in August 2010.

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975, in defiance of international law and UN resolutions calling for a referendum on self-determination.

The US and European governments have mostly turned a blind eye to the situation. Western corporations have benefited from access to Western Sahara’s resources provided by the autocratic, pro-Western regime of Morocco’s King Hassan II.

Australia also has a very direct stake in the occupation. It is one of the biggest importers of Western Saharan phosphate, which fertilises our fields.

In a message of support to the Canberra rally, Maritime Union of Australia assistant national secretary Ian Bray said: "ALP policy recognises the right of Western Saharan self-determination. For this policy to have any meaning the federal government must ban the importation into Australia of Western Saharan phosphate.

“To continue to import this phosphate rewards and condones the very forces responsible for violating Western Sahara's sovereignty and abusing the human rights of its people.”

In February, ALP MP Janelle Saffin moved a resolution in the federal parliament calling on Morocco to respect and facilitate a UN supervised referendum.

Fremantle MP Melissa Parke spoke to the issue in parliament on February 24, naming and shaming the three Australian companies that profit from the purchase of the stolen phosphate: Wesfarmers CSBP, Incitec Pivot and Impact Fertilisers.

Parke said the importation of Western Saharan phosphate into Australia, “effectively condone[s] the circumstances in which the Saharawi people are deprived of the income from their own natural resources” and implied “Australia is in some way condoning the current Moroccan occupation”.

To lift the profile of the issue and the claims of the Saharawi people, a number of local governments and other organisations raised the Western Sahara flag on February 25, including Fremantle, Leichhardt and Yarra city councils.

In May, Saharawi human rights activist Aicha Dahane will visit Australia. She received political asylum in Britain in 2002 after intense harassment by the Moroccan regime for activities while she was a law student in Rabat, Morocco.

With increasing recognition and pro-democracy protests rocking Morocco itself, now is the time to press harder for a resolution to the Western Saharan conflict that respects the wishes of the Saharawi people.

[Sam Wainwright is a councillor at the City of Fremantle. At its February meeting, the council voted to support the visit to Australia by Aicha Dahane. For more details, visit ]


WOW,go on supporting pro-kadhafi mercenaries,good job leftist aussie! polisario is fighting to help kaddafi against his people,so bravo green leftist,always on the marge of history
All the claims I've seen about Polisario supposedly fighting for Ghaddafi come directly from the Moroccan government or the press agencies and websites in its pocket. On the Sahara Press Service website the SADR government spokesperson categorically denies any involvement in Libya and condemns the Moroccan government for its smear campaign:
Yeah, and of course, you do believe what SADR said ! Sahara Press Service and all Polisario are hosted by Algeria. They are based on algerian soil, a "spokesperson" writing a note under on his camel in the desert, i would not believe that. Lets also mention Al Qaeda, and Polisario support in that region, we (moroccans) are fighting and pushing terrorists out of our borders, protecting ourselves, and making Europe a great favour. Everybody should be thankful.
Viva Western Sahara and yes for referendum and freedom .....and Morocco OUT
For those who are not aware of the Western Sahara conflict, Morocco illegally colonised Western Sahara in 1975, a fact recognised by the United Nations and international law. The International Court of Justice rejected Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara in 1975 and Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara has been declared illegal by over 100 resolutions in the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. The Charter of the United Nations furthermore states that those nations who are responsible for non-self-governing states, such as Western Sahara, must protect the citizens of such states and take account of their political aspirations, none of which Morocco is doing. MOROCCO GET OUT OF WESTERN SAHARA ASAP. I will continue to boycott your nation untill Western Sahara is free

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