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The Ambassador of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) to Nigeria, Brahim Salem Buseif, has called on the United Nations(UN) the European Union(EU), the African Union (AU) and international institutions to prevail on Morocco to stop the aggression and occupation of his country and respect international law regarding the rights of the Saharawi to determine their independence through a referendum. In this interview with a select group of journalists, the envoy praised the EU Court that annulled trade agreements between Morocco and EU Commission over resources of Western Sahara. He also called on Nigerian government to take the lead in imposing the law to protect his nation from Morocco’s occupation. INNOCENT ODOH was there. Excerpts:
What is your impression about the European Union Court ruling of Wednesday September 29, which annulled the agreements between Morocco and the European Union on exporting fishing and agricultural products from Western Sahara?
We are very satisfied with the ruling of the European Court of last Wednesday, which ruled against two agreements between Morocco and European Commission which included Western Saharawi. This same court had already ruled in 2016 and 2018 that Western Saharawi is a distinct and separate territory from Morocco and that Morocco has no right to include Western Sahara in any agreement of any kind. But in spite this very clear ruling, the European Commission tried to circumvent the law and in complicity with Morocco, they signed two agreements- one concerning farming products and one concerning sea shelf, which concerns Saharawi territorial waters.
Of course, we were convinced that those agreements were illegal and null according to international law, which considers Western Saharawi an autonomous territory and gives the right and sovereignty to the people of Western Saharawi concerning all their natural resources. The law also said that no agreement can be signed with forces of occupation without the consent of the people.
So, it is a very major setback for Morocco and a very big blow to their accomplice, the European Commission, which tried to circumvent the law. It is a very big blow for them especially for the government of France and Spain that were pushing for the signing of those agreements.
It is not only a legal victory for us, it is also a political victory because the government of Morocco, by the illegal proclamation of Donald Trump in recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over our land, was emboldened and asking the EU to follow this illegal proclamation.
The European Court of Justice after 46 years reaffirmed the position of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1975, which said that Morocco has no right or links of sovereignty with Western Saharawi prior to the Spanish colonization.
The court ruling also confirmed that the Polisario Front is the representative of Saharawi people and as such, has the right to plead for the interest of the Saharawi people before the court. The UN resolution also recognizes the Polisario Front as the only representative of the Saharawi people.
Prior to 1975, Morocco cannot provide any document, graveyards, buildings or documented proof that it had been in Western Sahara prior to its invasion and occupation in 1975.
There is a resolution of the United Nations of 1979 which clearly shows Morocco’s invasion and occupation.
So, after the court ruling, what is your appeal to the International Community?
After this clear ruling, our government is calling upon European governments, European institutions to abide by their own law and international law. That is what we are calling for.
Western Saharawi is at war with Morocco because since November 2020, it violated the 1991 UN and AU ceasefire agreement, and since then there is no ceasefire and we are saying that because the Saharawi Republic is not peaceful right now. We have issued notices to all governments and institutions that they are at risk if they commit themselves in some agreements and undertakings in Western Sahara. We are not responsible for what could happen to them.
Morocco is violating and incarcerating people and an example of that is the defender of human rights called Sultana Haiya who has been for months now under house arrest and the police are violating her and her sister. Right now, she is sick of Coronavirus because they made her inhale some products.
That lady has already lost one of her eyes because of the beating of the Moroccan police. She has been nominated in the European parliament for the Saharawi fight as human right defender.
Morocco has been very vehement with its claims over Western Sahara and issues of violation of human rights in occupied areas has also been thrown up, so how can the UN mission allow Morocco to be violating the rights of the people?
Yes, you made a very good point because since the ceasefire in 1991,the UN established the Mission for the Referendum of Western Sahara, which is called after its Spanish initials -the Mission of United Nations for the Referendum of Western Sahara, which is called MINURSO. That mission is supposed to take care of the ceasefire and to hold a referendum on self- determination.
But Morocco has managed to stop the referendum because it knows that if a referendum on self-determination is organised, the people will decide to be independent, so it tried to put obstacles, by bringing in settlers, saying that they should vote.
I was a member of the Polisario Front on the United Nations Identification mission, to identify possible voters in the referendum in Western Sahara but we discovered that Morocco brought thousands of settlers to Western Sahara. We even went to Morocco to identify possible voters who are Moroccan settlers who had nothing to do with Western Sahara. But the team of the United Nations identification Commission to Western Sahara were experts and they did not accept those people.
The MINURSO is not dealing with the issue of human rights because the mission has no prerogative of dealing with human rights and so human rights are violated before their eyes and they keep a blind eye to that. They cannot even report on that to the United Nations.
So, Morocco is refusing to abide by international law and it is being backed by France, a very strong member of the United Nations Security Council. Whenever people propose for the mission to have the prerogative of monitoring human rights, they will stop it. So, they have given Morocco the opportunity to violate human right and so nobody can report on this human right and they continue to do it.
It is an anomaly that a United Nations mission had no prerogative to monitor human rights, it is something that is unacceptable.
The issue of referendum is long overdue, but what do you think is holding the UN from being consistent and following through the resolutions and organizing the referendum?
When the identification of voters was taking place in 1991, King Hassan, the father of the current King, was the one who accepted the referendum after sixteen years of bitter war and promised to recognise the outcome.
But in 1999, when we were still working on the referendum, the king of Morocco died and after that, his son backtracked on the referendum and unfortunately, the UN is not imposing the resolution because Morocco has France, an accomplice and a very strong member of the Security Council.
Any special appeal to African Union?
Our special appeal to African Union is that the respect of our constitutional rights. That is all we want from Africans and if any member state is violating that right, then AU should put some sanctions as was with the case of the arrogant Apartheid regime in South Africa. Sanctions should be placed on such member state.
Since its constitution in 2000, the African Union is becoming strong and having very good personality internationally. This is not suitable for other foreign powers and they want to weaken Africa and unfortunately Morocco is being used as the Trojan horse to do that.
What are your expectations from Nigeria on this case?
Nigeria’s recognition and establishment of diplomatic relations with Western Saharan Republic was crucial in our struggle and we are very grateful for that support.
Nigeria by its history and size in Africa should have the last word and should be the referee in any dispute in Africa as the big brother to impose the law, the implementation and respect of the law and the respect for treaties.