Today the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under the leadership of Abdulwaheed Omar opens a three-day conference on the Solidarity with the People of Western Sahara holding from 28th – 30th October, 2013 at Yar ‘Adua Conference Centre in Abuja.
For some Nigerians, a conference on the disputed territory of the Western Sahara might look distant. After all, a significant number of independent states out of some 53 different countries and islands that make up the continent of Africa can hardly face the rigour of failed states index. What then about independence some, will ask? Not few independent African states had totally failed. Such is Somalia which got independence from Britain on the 1st of July 1960 but which 53 years after has become a nest of armed gangs of various persuasions, certainly not home of development which was the promise of independence. Libya is also almost becoming a chaotic state. Sudan was one of the earliest independent countries. It got independence from Britain/Egypt on the 1 January 1956. Once regarded as the largest country in Africa, Sudan broke up into two on July, 9, 2011, after decades of conflicts between the North and the South. Back home, independent Nigeria reportedly loses as many as some 400,000 thousands barrels per day to oil thieves with the Federal government helplessly relying on foreign “partners” (who actually are the very buyers of these stolen barrels) to
“help” stop the thievery. The late Samora Machel, former President of Mozambique once observed that “Colonialism has meant selling our ore and being left with the holes”. What does independence mean when we in Nigeria cannot independently halt the theft of our own resources? With neo-colonialism rampaging the continent, a conference on decolonization may look like a luxury talk for some.
However despite these post colonial misgivings and frustrations, the importance of independence cannot be overemphasised. Indeed the cited cases of the failed independent African states only increased the noise level of independence. It means independence must necessarily deliver prosperity and not poverty and further oppression. Development is freedom and freedom comes only with independence.
Many thanks therefore to the NLC for drawing a global attention to the plight of the people of Western Sahara the only remaining colony in Africa under the yoke of a sister African Country, Morocco. Century long Spanish colonialism in Western Sahara was bad enough. But brother-colonialsm by Morocco is clearly immoral and unaccepatable. It violates the AU charter and the ruling of international court of Justice.
It will be recalled that Spain unceremoniously withdrew from Western Sahara in February 1975. But subsequently Morocco illegally invaded and occupied the territory in October, 1975 in clear violation of numerous UN resolutions and advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The area today referred to as Western Sahara, remains according to the United Nations one of the world’s last remaining major non-self governing territories. Morocco controls most of the territory as its Southern Provinces, but the illegally. Indeed it has been disputed militarily by the Polisario Front, the liberation movement claiming
independence for the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). “Since 1991, there is a cease-fire between Morocco and Polisario, but disturbances in Moroccan-held territories as well as the ongoing dispute over the legal status of the territory, guarantees continued United Nations involvement and occasional
international attention to the issue”.
NLC conference is quite timely. “The purpose of this conference is to bring to the limelight, the urgent need to end colonialism in Western Sahara”. The conference is also consistent with the trade union’s fundamental principle of an injury to one, is an injury to all. NLC (and indeed the Federal government of Nigeria) has rich traditions of supporting the struggles of the oppressed peoples worldwide, from Angola to Mozambique, from Zimbabwe to South Africa. This conference is a continuation of this culture of solidarity with the oppressed worldwide.
The conference which opens today and expected to be attended by 18 in addition to two parliamentary delegations from EU and Spain) must make the point that colonialism in Africa in the 21st century is unacceptable and that People of Western Sahara must be granted full independence. It must also come out loudly to decry the severe, brutal violations, abuses, and crimes against humanity committed by Moroccan military and security forces since the beginning of Western Sahara conflict. This conference will further reinforce the recent endorsement of Nigeria as a member of UN Security Council and make the point that Nigerian membership of the UN Security is a victory for African peoples especially the oppressed such as the Saharawis..
ISSA AREMU mni