Nigeria’s foremost human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana SAN has called on the African leaders to suspend the Kingdom of Morocco from the African Union over the illegal occupation of parts of the territory of Western Sahara. Mr. Falana who is the Legal Adviser of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic for Africa made the call at the just concluded international conference on Western Sahara which took place in Paris, France. He contended that the admission of Morocco to the African Union in January 2017 while occupying Western Sahara violated several provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
Mr. Falana opined that “Since South Africa under the apartheid regime was not qualified for membership of the defunct Organisation of African Unity the African Union ought to have allowed the Kingdom of Morocco to join the African Union while occupying the territory of Western Sahara, a member state of the continental body.” But having admitted Morocco to its fold the African Union is under a legal obligation to end the last vestige of colonialism in the continent. Mr. Falana stated that Morocco had proved wrong the African countries that had hoped that the membership of Morocco in the African Union would speed up the independence of Western Sahara. If Morocco remains intransigent she ought to be treated like military regimes which are usually suspended from the African Union.
According to the human rights lawyer, the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco is a negation of the 1975 Ruling of the International Court of Justice which found that the “materials and information presented to it do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity.” Mr. Falana opined that on the basis of the historic ruling of the ICJ “no country has recognised the fraudulent claim of Morocco that Western Sahara is an integral part of her territory while not less than 84 countries have accorded diplomatic recognition to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.” Mr. Falana said that “in
consolidating her hegemonic grip on western sahara Morocco has continued to frustrate the referendum scheduled to hold in Western Sahara under the aupices of the United Nations.”
Mr. Falana disclosed that the area of Western Sahara illegally occupied by Morocco is extremely rich in mineral resources. He accused Morocco and her allies in and outside Africa of exploiting such natural resources without the authority of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. However, Mr. Falana urged “the trading partners of the coloniser to abide by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which have annulled trade agreements between the Kingdom of Morocco and members of the European Union in respect of the exploitation of the mineral resources Western Sahara on the grounds that the Kingdom lacks the legal capacity to enter into such agreements without the authority of the Saharawi people.”
Mr. Falana drew the attention of member states of the African Union to article 21 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which has vested the ownership of the mineral resources in Western Sahara for the benefit of the Saharawi people. He recalled that in June 2017, a South African High Court had cause to impound and confiscate a vessel carrying a Moroccan cargo of 50,000 tonnes of stolen phosphates from Western Sahara to New Zealand. Mr. Falana who said that since this is a case of caveat emptor he urged African countries to desist from colluding with Morocco to steal the mineral resources of Western Sahara. He announced that arrangements had been concluded by the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic to sue the Moroccan government and its allies in municipal courts and international tribunals for trading illegally in the mineral resources of the people of Western Sahara.