President of Republic, Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, stressed that a greater sense of urgency needs to be injected into the United Nations process.
In a message to the International Conference on Western Sahara Women’s Right for Resistance, held in Windhoek, Namibia, 2-4 November 2015, delivered by Mr. Mhamed Khadad, Member of the Polisario Front leadership, President Mohamed Abdelaziz underlined “the conflict cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. The current UN framework is not working. A greater sense of urgency needs to be injected into the UN process. There is a growing frustration among the Sahrawi in Western Sahara and the refugee camps at the lack of progress towards a process of self-determination”.
Below is the full text of the message:
“Message from H.E Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Sahrawi Republic, and Secretary-General of Polisario Front to the International Conference on Western Sahara Women’s Right for Resistance. Windhoek (02-04 November 2015)
(Delivered by Mr. Mhamed Khadad, Member of the leadership of Polisario Front)
It is a great honor to be in your company and to bring to you a message from the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic:
Allow me to express on behalf of the Sahrawi government, the POLISARIO Front and the people of Western Sahara our gratitude to the Pan-African Women’s Organization-SARO for hosting this timely and important conference, and to extend gratitude and respect to Namibia, our host, whose peoples have a long history of solidarity with Western Sahara, a commitment exemplified by our shared struggle for independence and our shared opposition to colonialism. And we welcome the presence of the Africa Union, which has committed itself to ending colonialism on the African continent, fostering peace and stability, and, above all, making the African people the masters of their own futures.
My country, Western Sahara, is the last colony in Africa. The International Court of Justice confirmed in 1975 that there are no sovereign ties between Morocco and Western Sahara, and no country in the world recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over any part of Western Sahara. We await a referendum to exercise our right to self-determination, a right given to us under international law, and a referendum promised to us by the international community through UN Security Council resolutions.
In spite of this, for almost 25 years UN efforts to resolve the question of Western Sahara remain blocked due to Morocco’s growing intransigence and the UN Security Council’s abdication of its responsibilities, largely because of France’s deliberate obstruction tactics for the benefit of Morocco. France, a leading voice for democracy, refuses for the Sahrawi to vote freely. France, a leading voice for human rights, refuses to defend the human rights of the Sahrawi, consistently acting against the very principles it purports to uphold. This hypocrisy has contributed to the suffering of my country.
We are at a crisis. The conflict cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. The current UN framework is not working. A greater sense of urgency needs to be injected into the UN process. There is a growing frustration among the Sahrawi in Western Sahara and the refugee camps at the lack of progress towards a process of self-determination.
40 years have passed since the illegal invasion and partial occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. For all this time, the Sahrawi, who fled Western Sahara during the war, continue to live in tented refugee camps in harsh conditions. It is a humanitarian tragedy that generations of Saharawi have grown up in these refugees camps. Despite our conviction, it pains me to say that the recent humanitarian crisis, brought about by torrential rainfall and flooding, has destroyed and damaged the refugee in wilayas of Dajla, Smara, Auserd, Bojador and ElAaiun. The basics for our survival—food, water, sanitation—are lacking, and dispensaries, hospitals, schools, shops, and livestock sheds have been completely destroyed. As a result, the already-suffering Saharawi people now face even greater challenges.
In the Moroccan-occupied territory, authorities habitually violate the basic human rights of the Sahrawi. Moroccan security forces have created a climate of fear and suffering. Disappearances, torture, intimidations, arrests, detainments, abuse in captivity, grotesque sentences, and denial of fair trials are the order of the day. Women have been arrested over and over again—beaten and held in secret prisons.
They join the thousands whose human rights have been violated over the last decades by Morocco, including those arrested in 2010 and handed heavy sentences when Morocco forcibly dismantled the Gdeim Izik protest camp. Hundreds of detainees remain unaccounted for, having disappeared in the secret prisons of Morocco. The only crime these activists committed, now and in the past, has been the peaceful demand for the right to vote on the future of our country. Furthermore, Morocco has spear headed the effort to prevent a human rights monitoring mechanism within MINURSO, the only UN peacekeeping mission without a human rights monitoring component.
Despite our suffering at the hands of our Moroccan occupiers, the Sahrawi spirit remains strong as ever. At the forefront of this resistance are the Sahrawi women who are involved in every aspect of our struggle. In the refugee camps and liberated part of the Sahrawi Republic, women play a leading role. They are our caregivers and caretakers. I am proud to say that the women stand not behind the Saharawi men, but side-by-side in our fight against occupation. With clenched fists, they protest the occupation of their country, chanting calls for freedom and independence.
When Moroccan security forces violate human rights, the women are there to resist. When Morocco exploits our natural resources, the women are there to resist. Saharawi women do not merely have a role in our resistance against occupation, they, in many ways, are the foundation of our societies. This is clearly depicted in the work and mandate of the National Union of the Sahrawi Women—established in 1974 and a member of the Pan African Women’s Organization since 1980—an organization that works to significantly improve the lives of women by contributing to their empowerment in Sahrawi Republic, participation in the political decision-making processes, as well as setting agendas for our social, health, family, education and cultural life. The call for freedom from our women is often louder than the calls from our men. And our women look to you, and to conferences like these, to embolden their spirit.
Self-determination and independence for Western Sahara are not only Sahrawi goals, they are part of a common struggle for all Africans, a struggle against inequality and exploitation and a struggle to rid this great continent of the last vestige of colonialism.
We thank you, our fellow Africans, for the support you have already given us, and we call on you to support us more than ever today and tomorrow. We look toward the AU to continue in its resolute efforts to rid our continent of the scars of colonialism and exploitation, and we applaud the decision of AU Heads of State during the recent Summit in Johannesburg that called on the UNGA to determine a date for the referendum of self-determination of Western Sahara.
When you stand in support of Western Sahara, you are standing in support of all others who have fought to end colonialism on our great continent. There is no difference between Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela would spend 18 of his 27 years in prison, and the prisons run by the Kingdom of Morocco, where dozens of Sahrawi are currently languishing without reason and due process. There is no difference between the pain, sweat and tears that the Namibians under the leadership of SWAPO had shed in pursuit of their freedom and the pain, sweat and tears that the Sahrawi people now shed.
Western Sahara is South Africa, Western Sahara is Namibia, Western Sahara is Algeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya, and Ghana. Western Sahara is Africa. Our struggle against colonialism cannot be separated from the rest of African history. Ending Moroccan occupation is a struggle for all Africans—one that affects us all.
And in the spirit of African leaders such as Sam Nujoma, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and many others, together we will prevail.
I thank you”