The Western Sahara, also commonly referred to as the ‘Last Colony in Africa’, continues to be violated daily through the injustice taking place and being maintained by EU taxpayers, and the corporate involvement of multinationals who continue to trade and do business ‘illegally’ with Morocco on Sahrawi territory. These players are turning a blind eye to an occupation, and a people forgotten by the world.
One of the most recent cases are New Zealand-based fertilizer companies that continue to trade with Morocco. They are importing the phosphate rock of Western Sahara, also dubbed ‘blood phosphates’ by the Saharawi people. The trade of this natural resource, as well as fisheries, continues to fuel and fund the illegal occupation and oppression of the Saharawi people.
To date, more than 100 UN resolutions have called for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination to be respected. In the past 18 months, however, renewed efforts by the UN Special Envoy to Western Sahara to bring all stakeholders to the table in order to find common ground to finally resolve the conflict and occupation spanning more than forty years remain unsuccessful.
Why does Morocco maintain the occupation? The answer is simple: natural resources. The natural resources should have been used by the Saharawi people to build and develop their own economy, allowing them to take ownership of their own development and future. They should manage and have the right to trade, invest, harness and develop as they see fit.
In 2016 the European Union Court of Justice ruled that Morocco and Western Sahara are ‘separate and distinct’ territories, and that trade agreements with Morocco do not cover the territory of Western Sahara. Yet, over the past few years alone, Morocco has earned around US$200 million annually from the export of minerals from the territory. The exploitation of phosphates means that when the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people is realized there will be no more phosphate to mine, as Morocco will have already sold all of the high-quality phosphate.