Eritrea – ‘No Peace, No War’

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The Eritrean diaspora remains crucial for the survival of political opposition, as human rights abuses continue and many are choosing to flee the country 

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki heads a one-party state through the only legal political grouping, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); constitutional decrees have never been implemented, press freedom is some of the world’s worst and all independent political activity is banned. A recent report by UK-based the Guardian explores the current situation.

Afwerki came to power as the leader of the  ruling Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in 1991 following a 30-year independence struggle with Ethiopia. During the conflict, ideological differences amongst the political and military leaders  led to a civil war within the country; by 1980 the EPLF had driven the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) into Sudan. Since independence the EPLF have remained the sole party, although renaming themselves the PFDJ in 1994.

The Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict flared again in 1998 in the border village of Badme; during this period many Eritrean officials accused Afwerki of mishandling the war. These dissenters, known as the G-15, were rounded up in September 2001 and remain imprisoned. A peace treaty was signed in May 2000 although today repression and divisions linger in the the country.

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Earlier in March this year a four month United Nations (UN) investigation concluded that there had been”very clear patterns” of violations and abuses. According to Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea Mike Smith, the investigations involved testimonies from over 500 members of the Eritrean diaspora, reported the UN News Service.

One particular measure justified by the regime as necessary due to the “existential threat” from Ethiopia, is compulsory national service of indefinite duration from the age of 17. The “no war, no peace” situation with Ethiopia that has become a “pretext for almost all the states actions that generate and perpetuate human rights violations…the entire society has been militarised, the Constitution has never been implemented and there is no rule of law” said Smith.

According to another recent report by the Guardian, citing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),  Canadian company, Nevsun Resources have been accused of using  conscription labour since 1998 on the only active mine in the country, the Bisha copper and gold mine.

Three Eritreans had filed a lawsuit against the company in December 2014 but Nevsun denied all allegations; CEO Cliff Davis said that “we are confident that the allegations are unfounded…we are committed to ensuring that the Bisha Mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner”. The Eritrean government also responded saying that the report was “devoid of all merit”.

The Eritrean economy has become increasingly dependent on mining revenues; such revenues provide financing for a regime hindered by international sanctions, which were implemented after a report accused Afwerki of training and funding the al-Shabaab militant group, although these allegations were denied.

Canadian company Sunridge Gold is due to start gold output on a mine in Asmara this year, and Australian Danakali is expected to announce potash production at its Colluli mine. The African Development Bank (AfDB), in light of recent investments revised forecast economic growth to 2.1%, up from 1.3% in 2013.

Soviet military equipment abandoned by retreating Ethiopian troops in 1991 can still be seen along many roads in northern Eritrea. This tank is just east of Keren.

The Mail & Guardian Online reported the story of Daniel Mekonnen, an exiled lawyer and activist who has been repeatedly targeted by the Eritrean regime after he founded the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR). Mekonnen referred the regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC), prompting wide-ranging threats that forced him to be placed under temporary police protection.

Victoria Bernal, an academic who has charted the Eritrean diaspora’s history commented that the internet has emerged as a crucial space for the diaspora to engage with the country.  Initially during the 1998-200 war with Ethiopia, to promote nationalist sentiment, today the internet is used to mobilise communities abroad and for remittances.

Recently Eritrean has also made international headlines as many tens of thousands are embarking on a journey through Sudan and Libya, or Egypt and Israel, in attempts to reach European soil; with an estimated 5000 leaving every month according to the Guardian. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) commented that they were dealing with 357,406 Eritrean refugees as of 2014, making that the second largest group after Syrians attempting to enter Europe.

Annette Weber, a Senior Fellow of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), commented in a recent report that in this context, “reintegrating the country in regional structures could build trust and neutralise the Eritrean narrative of Ethiopian aggression and international conspiracy”.

Weber explains that fleeing conscription is “tantamount to treason”, and “because it is more or less impossible to leave the country legally, a dense network of organised traffickers has arisen… A string of beneficiaries, including members of the border police and the Eritrean and Sudanese armed forces, members of nomadic groups in eastern Sudan and the Sinai, and trans-African trafficking networks, profit enormously from Eritrean asylum seekers, whose journey and ransom cost upwards of $10,000”.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

ERITREA: Horrific Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20610A–20611A

ERITREA: UN Monitoring Group Report
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olitical, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20369C–20370C

ERITREA – ETHIOPIA: Rising Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.49, Issue,3, Pp.19187C–19188B

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Africa – Malaria Vaccine Approved

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Malaria ‘vaccine’ given the go ahead by European regulators, but some warn of difficult decisions with its implementation on the ground

European drug regulators have given the green light for a ‘Malaria vaccine’, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, set to be the first such vaccine for the mosquito-born disease,which resulted in an estimated 584,000 deaths in 2013, of which 90% were in the African region and mostly children under five.

The vaccine was developed by British GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It works by triggering the immune system to defend against the first stages of infection by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite after it enters the bloodstream.

Andrew Witty, GSK CEO, cited by Al-Jazeera, said the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) positive recommendation was a further important step towards making the world’s first malaria vaccine available for young children.

“While Mosquirix on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most,” he said in a statement.

A GSK Scientist involved in the Mosquirix process since 1987, Joe Cohen, said that he had no doubt the vaccine could be significantly reduce the toll of sickness and death caused by the malaria; “I have absolutely no reservations in terms of rolling this vaccine out”, reported Al-Jazeera.

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CC, Radio Okapi

However the vaccine does not offer any final solution; trial data released in 2011 and 2012 showed that it only reduced the prevalence of malaria in babies aged 6-12 weeks by 27%, and around 46% in children aged 5-17 months.

Some medical experts and analysts have expressed concern at the complexities and potential costs of deploying this first vaccine, particularly as it only provides partial protection, making it less attractive and heightening risk.

However CEO of the GAVI Alliance Dr Seth Berkley and CEO of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr Mark Dybul, speaking in a report by the GAVI Alliance, said that the decision to supply the vaccine is not straightforward.

“None are 100% effective. So in the cold light of day, for most countries it comes down to a complex calculation based on the cost effectiveness, lives saved, illness avoided and the availability of other effective interventions”, they said

“Clinical trial data suggests that Mosquirix offers only partial protection, preventing one in three cases of clinical malaria, a relatively low success rate compared to other approved vaccines…What’s more, the clinical trials were carried out with the vaccine used in conjunction with high use of other interventions, such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed-nets and anti-malarial drugs”.

“So we don’t really know how effective the vaccine is by itself or how well it would perform outside the controlled setting of a clinical trial. The problem is…Mosquirix is about five to 10 years ahead of any other candidate malaria vaccines, and there’s no guarantee any of them will be better”, the report stated.

According to an article from the BBC, while GSK have not released a price for the vaccine, they have pledged not to make a profit. But it is the effectiveness of the vaccine, that is under the most scrutiny, as it wanes over time making a booster shot essential.

The vaccine will now move on to the World Health Organisation (WHO) who will decided how and where it will be used; facing tough decisions, considering that the vaccine was not nearly as effective as scientists hoped but also the urgency and lack of comparable alternatives in the fight against the disease.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Health: Malaria
Political, Social  Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.7, Pp.20660A-20661C

Health: New Malaria Drug
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.44, Issue.2, Pp.16992A–16993A

Health: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.9, Pp.20298A–20300A

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Sudan – Gold Mining and the Darfur Conflict

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‘Unprecedented’ developments for Sudanese gold, but critics warn of the links between the mineral and the deadly conflict in the country

On July 29th the Sudanese government and Russian counterparts signed an “unprecedented” gold exploration agreement between the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals and the Russian Siberian Mining Company Limited. The contract covers nine blocks in Red Sea and River Nile states, which will equate to some 8,000 ton of Gold;  “these quantities will contribute to an economic boom and change the status of the country,” said Minister of Minerals Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Sadiq al-Karouri, reported Radio Dabanga (30/7).

Al-Karouri explained that the agreement would give the Sudanese government 75% of the production while the company would take 25%. Gold extraction has been one of the important economic alternatives for Sudan after losing oil revenues by South Sudanese secession and the new deals are hoped to contribute further to this; Sudan currently stands third behind South Africa and Ghana in African gold production.

Earlier last February, Sudan granted nine Russian companies permission to explore gold and other minerals. Many other foreign companies are engaged in the gold investment field; the Ministry of Minerals recently signed an agreement with the French Gold Mines Company for a block in Al-Burgaig locality in the Northern state, reported the Sudan News Agency on July 27th.

Until 2012, 74% of the country’s proven gold reserves were being managed through two companies: the CanadianEgyptian-Sudanese joint venture Ariab 10 and the Moroccan-Sudanese venture Managem. While these mines attracted criticism for poor labour conditions and environmental adversities, the gold production was less connected with internal and regional wars.

In 2012 the situation changed with the discovery of deposits in North Darfur; in Jebel Amer locality the discoveries attracted at least 100,000 artisanal miners to the area; artisanal gold has since surpassed industrial production. With the loss of oil revenues from the South Sudanese secession, gold has become the lifeline for foreign exchange and efforts to rebuild and stabilise the economy; President Omar al-Bashir himself saying “we lost oil, we got gold.”

However a recent report by ‘the Enough Project‘, entitled ‘Fools Gold: The case for scrutinising the Sudanese conflict gold trade‘ (available here), provides a critical analysis of the gold industry in Sudan, highlighting how it is helping to destabilize Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan; often mining areas see significant rates of violence and revenues that benefit rebel groups such as the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan.

In Darfur, revenues in the Jebel Amer region are benefiting Musa Hilal, a Janjaweed leader blacklisted by both the United Nations (UN) and United States; the report recommends that this should be used as a precedent to investigate the role of the gold trade in driving violence in the region; however it also recognises that it is almost impossible to distinguish between gold from conflict areas and from other legitimate sources.

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CC Julien Harneis 2011

 

Over the last three years multiple gold rushes have taken place  and Sudan’s Central Bank pays more than gold is worth on the world market to spur production – which currently accounts for 70% of exports and is worth US$ 2.5 billion. With the gold trade came criminals carrying “arms of every calibre,” a unnamed local said that  “you could find any weapon in Jebel Amir, as well as imported alcohol, drugs, prostitutes.”, reported the International Crisis Group (ICG) last year.

On July 23rd Radio Dabanga reported that the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC), headed by Musa Hilal had declared that it was in control of the mining area of Jebel Amer in North Darfur. Hilal established the RAC, together with North Darfuri tribal leaders, at the beginning of 2014 and in December last year, the RAC announced the formation of a new management board for the Jebel ‘Amer gold mining area.

In January 2013, a dig in Jebel Amir — where “each bag of 50 kg of sand contained 1 kg of gold,” according to miners — became the source of fighting between members of the Beni Husein tribe, which has held the land since colonial times, and the Rizeigat tribe, which is made up of nomads without traditional land rights in North Darfur who have increasingly started to settle on others’ territory. Both tribes have members in the Haras-al-Hodud (Border Guard), a government paramilitary body initially designed to patrol Sudan’s frontiers, explained the ICG.

Officially, Sudan has deployed 30,000 army troops and 20,000 Haras-al-Hodud to Darfur although there is difficulty in telling how many of those troops are still fighting in their official role rather than according to their tribal affiliations; there are presumed to be as many as 200,000 militiamen in Darfur.

“More than a decade into the Darfur conflict, it would be reductive to simply blame the government’s militia strategy. There is plenty of blame to go around. The government, the rebels, and all the other players need to work together to stop the violence in all Sudan’s peripheries. Uneasy concessions are needed. The government will have to send clear signals that it is bringing to an end an increasingly costly counterinsurgency strategy and that it will start allocating resources to peaceful activities instead. And rebels will have to show that they are loyal to more than their own tribes”, said the ICG report.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Sudan: Gold Rush Leads to Disaster
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.4, Pp. 19935A-19936C

Sudan: Darfur Mines Battle
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.1, Pp. 19841B-19841C

Gold: Sudan
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.48, Issue.10, Pp.19320A-19320B

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Central African Republic: European Timber Firms Fuel Conflict

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Report highlights how European timber companies are funding rebel groups in the Central African Republic, discrediting the multi-million Euro EU illegal timber agenda. 

The Global Witness report, entitled ‘Blood Timber-The Case of the Central African Republic‘ documents how European companies from France and Germany have paid in excess of US$4 million to Seleka armed groups and more recently smaller sums of around Euro 127,864 to anti-balaka groups in the south-western forested areas. Timber, the largest export for the Central African Republic (CAR), is poorly regulated allowing parts to be captured by armed groups and used to fund their activities.

The Seleka rebels, largely Muslim, rose against the then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, disposing him and installing Michel Djotodia until 2014 (detailed information on the conflict is available here). During this period Seleka rebels and the opposing mostly Christian anti-balaka rebels where responsible for widespread  human rights abuses. Recent developments in 2015 have seen reconciliation attempts, particularly the recent Bangui Forum, but the political and economic situation in the country remains factionalised, unregulated and corruption is rife.

The report states that “the EU and its member states hold a large degree of responsibility for the current situation. EU companies have been trading large quantities of CAR wood since the beginning of the conflict, by ignoring European legislation tailored to fight the illegal timber trade – the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR)“.

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Global Witness identify one particular company, Société d’Exploitation Forestière Centrafricaine (SEFCA), who were recently invited to the European Commission’s annual stocktaking event, despite a long record of illegal logging and paying “significant sums of money to armed groups… including a CFA Francs 250 million (€381,000) payment to the Seleka regime.”

SEFCA, currently the largest timber exporter in CAR, also attended the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) conference earlier in March, even though one of the pillars of the FLEGT initiative is combating the illegal timber trade; a logging company like SEFCA does not belong at an EU stakeholder conference. It belongs in a courtroom”, said Alexandra Pardal, campaign leader for Global Witness.

“Blood timber is just as harmful as blood diamonds. The EU’s multi-million euro illegal logging agenda risks becoming a rogues’ gallery and discredited if it legitimises companies like SEFCA. If the EU decides to pursue a commercial timber trade agreement with CAR’s failed state involving SEFCA, that’s exactly what it will be doing,” Pardal said.

Similarly in what would seem a counter-intuitive move the French Development Agency (AFD) has been financially supported logging companies in CAR and in turn funding armed groups and funding, in part, the conflict French troops were sent to contain, explained the report.

Global Witness provide an extensive and thorough analysis of the issue (available here)

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin:

Central African Republic: Timeline
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.50, Issue.4, Pp.19670B-19670C

Central African Republic: Agreements Between Armed Groups
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20536B-20537A

Timber: Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 45, Issue.5, Pp. 17859C-17860C

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Africa – UN Economic Development Report

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Report highlights the potential for the service sector to catalyse growth but the Greek crisis harks back to African IMF-imposed structural reforms and the continents’ continued indebtedness. 

The United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, ‘The Economic Development in Africa Report 2015: Unlocking the Potential of Africa´s Services Trade for Growth and Development’ (available here), launched on July 8th,  provides extensive analysis of different policy issues facing Africa’s service sector and recommendations to enhance regional integration and inclusive development on the continent.

Starting with the basis that the services sector is a “critical source of income and employment…and the most dominant sector” in 30 out of 53 African countries, contributing almost half of the country’s economic output and around a third of formal employment between 2009-2012.  The reports, however, also comments that such “dynamism…has failed to translate into structural transformation” necessary for developmental needs and is delivered at a high cost.

The report claims that the services sector has the “potential to become a significant driver of sustained economic growth and structural transformation” but that this would require policies to build bridges between the “services sector and other sectors of the economy, especially manufacturing”.

The report highlights some examples where African economies are tapping into opportunities in the services sector; examples of “emerging regional services” are financial and banking services industries in Mauritius and Nigeria, the commercial and cargo air transport industries in Ethiopia and South Africa, educational services industries in Uganda and Ghana, telecommunications services in Egypt and port service industries in Djibouti and Kenya.

However opportunities aside, many African countries are feeling serious economic and social strain; the Ebola-affected countries of West Africa, tourism-reliant countries such as Egypt and Tunisia suffering from recent terrorist attacks and mineral heavy economies affected by global price drops, alongside the many regional conflicts that are hampering economic and social development.

In Ghana, the Premium Times on July 3rd reported that sources were suggesting that public debt in the country could reach 70% of GDP by the end of this year, with the Ghana Cedi loosing 99% of its value against the US dollar and increasingly high inflation. Ghana has borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 26 times since 1966, leading to the imposition of more and more conditions for the repayment of loans. The article concludes that the IMF and World Bank with extensive privatisation, foreign direct investments (FDI) and deregulations, have led to debt traps that have further encumbered and disregarded the poorest. Recently on July 7th, Ghana gave signs that it may  consider renegotiating its bailout terms with the IMF, viewed by some economists as unrealistic.

A recent commentary by Radio France Internationale draws parallels between the recent Greek economic crisis in Europe and similar actions by the IMF during the 1980-1990s in Africa. Greece, defaulting on its 1.5bn loan repayment, has felt the imposition of strict capital controls and the country is heading towards an exit from the Eurozone.

François Ndengwe from the African Advisory Board explained that “what is happening to Greece, happened to Africa for over three decades”. Dr Samuel Nyambi, Executive director of CAPDEV, a development company commented that “for myself and many other Africans, we feel a lot of sympathy with the Greeks and the reforms they’re having to swallow, because we went through the same thing with the IMF’s structural adjustment programs.”

During the 1980s-90s the IMF and the World Bank imposed a stringent set of structural reforms to repay debts owed; these reforms have been critiqued by many economists as seriously hindering economic and social development on the continent. According to GlobalInsolvency, reforms centred on the repayment of loans led to lay-offs, privatisation, salary cuts and reduced spending, that made the pursuit of long-term development agendas impossible, resulting in further indebtedness and increased poverty in almost every African country where the IMF structural reforms were implemented.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Africa-IMF: Mission Visits and New Funding
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20852B-20855A

Africa: Competitiveness Report
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20841A-20842B

Africa -IMF/World Bank: Growth Remains Solid, but Slows
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20815C-20818A

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South Africa – Drive for Offshore Resources

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South Africa’s mineral heavy economy turns to the ocean in search of new economic opportunities, to the dismay of local communities

Coal recently overtook gold as the leading contributor to South African GDP;  in 2014 coal stood at South African Rand (R) 101.05bn (US$8.319bn), platinum group metals and iron ore at R58.7bn ($4.81bn) and gold at R46.8bn ($3.83bn). Xavier Prévost, Senior Coal Analyst at XMP Consulting, said “coal (is the most important commodity for the future of South Africa’s economy) because it is our source of energy. Without it the whole country will be paralysed”.

As part of the National Development Plan South Africa is planning to turn to its 3m sq km of oceans as a source of economic return, to create an estimated 1m jobs and R177bn worth of economic product. The plan focuses on a number of key areas; offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, marine transport and manufacture, and marine protection services, largely looking for large-scale industrial investment from the private sector, reported the Mail & Guardian Africa.

This new drive towards offshore resources is being catalysed by Operation Phakisa, which is heavily steered by the Government Mineral Resources Department and PetroSA, the national oil producer, who will be involved in granting mining and exploration licenses. With the recent expansion of the South African marine area from 370km to 650km from the shore, the government is now fast tracking 30 deep-water exploration wells, although to date from 300 wells drilled no significant reserves have been found.

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Offshore Drillship Deep Ocean Ascension off Cape Town. CC 2010

Phakisa, from the Sesotho word meaning “hurry up”, has been hailed to “fast track the implementation of solutions on critical development issues”. However for the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), which represents 100 communities through 70 organisation, the operation is just a “a fast tracking of the killings of our people and continued environmental destruction as it puts profit before the people”, reported South African community journalism network Groundup.

As a result of global shortages and rising national demand the focus on more ‘unconventional mining’ is increasing; in a recent National Biodiversity Assessment, the South African National Biodiversity Institute said that this type of mining is increasingly necessary and applications are growing. Ventures that carry particular risks include the awarding of three prospecting permits for offshore phosphate licenses, which uses machines to break up the ocean floor. A valuable insight into the developments and environmental hazards from offshore mining activities can be in this Greenpeace Technical Report.

The main opponents to proposed offshore resources extraction are the hundreds of thousands of local fishing communities that rely on the South African waters as their primary livelihood, whose main concern is the threat to fishing stocks from pollution, disasters, increased traffic and other environmental disturbances. Commentators, critical of Operation Phakisa, have in the light of the often violent and destructive nature of the mining industry,  instead advocated Operation Bhekisisa – Sesotho for look closely.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Gold: South Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.2, Pp.20756C-20757A

South Africa: Shrinking Economy
Economic, Financial & Technical
Vol.51, Issue.5, Pp.20403A-20404c

South Africa: Platinum Strike Rumbles On
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.2, Pp.20309A-20310A

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Morocco – Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony?

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Occupation of the Western Sahara continues as international bodies urge for the self determination of Saharawi peoples

The resource-rich Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since the withdrawal of Spanish colonisers in 1975; an autonomy movement,  the People’s Liberation Front of Saguia al-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front), has expressed long-standing claims to an independent territory.

In 1976, after the Spanish exit, the Polisario Front declared the region as the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). However following negotiations with Spain, Morocco controversially decided to occupy the Western Sahara even though it contradicted recommendations from the International Court of Justice and United Nations (UN) Declarations on the Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples. A fifteen-year guerilla war followed, until a UN-brokered peace deal in 1991 and the establishment of the UN Mission for the Referendum of the Western Sahara (MINURSO).

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Currently up to 165,000 Saharawis, an ethnic grouping populating the Western Sahara and parts of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, live in refugee camps in the Algerian border region of Tindouf. Within the liberated zone of the Western Sahara, an area claimed by the Polisario Front, around 30,000 live in a stretch of land divided from the western Moroccan controlled region by the Berm, a 2,700km wall twelve times the length of the Berlin Wall, behind which is one of the world’s largest minefields and thousands of Moroccan soldiers.

Morocco has exploited the phosphate rich land, some of the world’s best fishing and has also exported sand from Western Sahara  to build up beaches on the Canary Islands.  Algerian Prime-minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, described the Western Sahara as a region that continues to suffer from the “horrors of colonialism from another age”, adding that “Africa’s decolonisation remains unfinished”, reported the official news agency of the SADR, the Sahara Press Service.

The UN recognises  the right to self determination for the Saharawi people, Morocco however only  offers the status of an autonomous region within its sovereignty; this has been rejected by Polisario who insist on the right to determine their own future in a UN-monitored referendum.

The Moroccan government has been accused of “unethical tactics” in a recent leaked UN report documenting how Moroccan authorities intercepted internal UN communications and made large donations to the UN Office for the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), lobbying to cancel fact-finding missions, reported UK-based the Guardian.

Earlier in 2015, despite comments from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the African Union (AU) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), the UN Security Council voted to renew the MINURSO mission without a human rights mandate, the only UN mission to do so, prompting widespread dismay. In response to allegations of human rights violations and cover ups, the Moroccan government has repeatedly reiterated its “long-standing commitment to human rights”, cited the Guardian

A statement by the President of the SADR and Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, called for the release of Saharawi prisoner Salah Lebsir, other political prisoners held in Moroccan prisons and accountability for at least 600 Saharawis missing since the beginning of the occupation; “we call on the UN to assume its full responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of the rights of Saharawi citizens in the occupied territories, and create an effective UN mechanism to monitor and report violations of human rights in Western Sahara”, reported the Sahara Press Service.

According to Issandr el-Amrani, North Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), cited by Al-Jazeera, “the risk of losing Western Sahara, let’s say by accepting a referendum for self-determination, is too great for the monarchy to take”. However no country in the world recognises Morocco’s territorial claim, and a significant number of countries now officially recognise the SADR.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Western Sahara: Renewed Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.47, Issue.11, Pp.18603A-18605C

Algeria-Morocco: War of Words
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.50, Issue.11, Pp.19911B-19912C

Algeria-Morocco: Bone of Contention
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20342A
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