Students celebrate the occupation of Western Sahara
Proud colonizers and a 40 year old conflict gets new attention when SAIH today launches campaign about Africa's last colony.
French President Francois Hollande and King of Morocco Mohammed VI scout proudly beyond desert in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. On the new poster released by The Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH), Morocco is being hailed in true colonial master style. What have they managed that earlier colonizers never managed?
- Many people believe that the colonial period is over and have not heard of Western Sahara, Africa's last colony. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara for 40 years, even though both the UN and the international community recognize the Sahrawi people's right to self-determination, says Jørn Wichne Pedersen, President of SAIH.
From an imperialistic point of view, it may be seen as a stroke of genius. From every other perspective, however, the consequences for the local population of Western Sahara are tragic and brutal, SAIH says in its campaign. In the new SAIH report Acting With Impunity, a total of 256 human rights violations committed in Western Sahara during the last year have been revealed.
- With the ironic celebration SAIH wishes to provoke a debate about the responsibility of the international community to end the abuses in Western Sahara, says Emilie Larsen Ørnes, campaign manager and political Vice President of SAIH.
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France - Morocco's close ally
The UN's peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, is one of few in the world lacking a mandate to report on human rights violations. This is up for debate in the annual discussion in the UN on April 30th.
Therefore, in the campaign, SAIH has chosen to focus on the role of France in the Western Sahara conflict.
- France has never supported the international requirement for MINURSO's human rights mandate. There are also dense diplomatic and economic ties between Morocco and France. We believe that France has a particular responsibility in the Western Sahara conflict, said Larsen Ørnes.
Earlier this year the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, discussed the Western Sahara situation and the subject of human rights with France's Foreign Minister, and noted that Norway expects an extended MINURSO mandate.
- It is very positive that Brende has signaled this. SAIH demands, however, that Norway leads the way in efforts to recognize the Sahrawis people's right to self-determination and condemn the daily atrocities, says Wichne Pedersen.
Read more about SAIH's campaign - The Last Colony: 40 Years is Enough.