Western Saharan phosphate workers’ protest stifled
January 20, 2011 1 Comment
Saharawi phosphate workers from the Fosboucraa (Bou Craa) phosphate mine were yesterday, January 19th, denied a meeting with the Authenticity and Modernity Party by the Moroccan authorities in Aaiun (Laayoune) in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, according to Secretary General of the Union Confederation of Saharawi Workers in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara (CSTS), Sidi Ahmed Eddia. The workers and CSTS were also prevented from planned protests against the conditions in the mine.
In August 2010, a general strike was broken up by Moroccan police, who injured 14 people in the process. The general strike was held in front of the Department of Mines and Energy in Aaiun, also to protest the conditions in Fosboucraa, and the CSTS have repeatedly expressed their discontent of the conditions in the phosphate mines of occupied Western Sahara.
The Fosboucraa mine employs over 2000 people, only approximately 100 of these being Saharawi, the latter employing mainly low-paid manual jobs. Morocco is the world’s largest exporter of phosphate, including phosphate from Fosboucraa in occupied Western Sahara, and phosphates are one of Morocco’s main sources of income. Phosphate production from Western Sahara is believed to amount to around a third of Morocco’s total production. Securing the large phosphate deposits of the Fosboucraa mine in Western Sahara are therefore believed to have played a large role in prompting the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara in 1975.
Phosphate is the primary raw material used for producing fertilizer and is therefore an important part of achieving higher yields and thus improved food security.
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. As an occupying force, Morocco has no right to sell Western Sahara’s natural resources or violate the human rights of its citizens, but must instead work towards the self-determination of Western Sahara. The Charter of the United Nations (article 73) clearly states that those nations who are “responsible” for non-self-governing states such as Western Sahara must ensure “ensure … their just treatment, and their protection against abuses,” “take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples,” “promote constructive measures of development,” and “transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes,” none of which Morocco can be said to be doing presently.
The International Court of Justice rejected Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara when they occupied the country in 1975, and the illegality of Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara has been maintained by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly in over 100 resolutions. Additionally, former Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell’s UN Opinion from 2002 concluded that the selling of Western Saharan resources was only legal if the population of Western Sahara agrees to and benefits from it, something a European Parliament Legal Opinion from 2009 concluded they do not. Corell recently reiterated this point, in an interview with Swedish radio, saying that he believed that the European Commission had misinterpreted his opinion. Corell also restated his argument from the Legal Opinion in saying that “if the agreement is not signed with the interest of the people of Western Sahara, or after consultation with them, and the benefits do not go to the people of the territory, then it would be in violation of international law. I am afraid we have this situation in this case now.”