Western Sahara: an albatross on African Union’s conscience

Western Sahara

We are pleased to publish an article on Western Sahara and the African Union, which we have received from Nizar Visram, a free-lance writer from Tanzania (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). This article is published for discussion and education, and is prefaced by a short introduction, giving the background to the struggle.

In 1975, following Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's death, the Spanish state abandoned its last large colony on Africa, Rio de Oro and Saguia el-Hamra - modern-day Western Sahara. However, instead of becoming independent, it was handed over to Morocco and Mauritania, which claimed the territory. The national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, unilaterally claimed the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and fought back with Soviet and Algerian aid. Polisario was able to defeat Mauritania, with whom it has good relations today. However, Morocco was able to drive out all armed resistance from the strategic locations and major towns. It did so thanks to the consistent military aid from Western Europe and the US. Also, the Moroccan state colonised the Western Sahara with civilians, outnumbering the natives, and built a wall for every area that it secured. The longest is now the ceasefire line, set in 1991 by the UN. About half of the Sahrawi population, around 200,000, lives in Western Algeria in refugee camps, where Polisario's headquarters are based.

Western Sahara is mostly desert, but is rich in various resources. Its coast has become an important source of tuna for Europe. In the interior, there are large phosphate mines and its soil is being tested for oil and natural gas. The Western Sahara's profitability is increased even further as the Moroccan king is, jointly with European companies such as Siemens, building renewable energy sources and farming areas. King Mohammed VI personally owns strategic sectors such as electricity, giving him an increased motivation to continue the occupation.


Western Sahara: an albatross on African Union’s conscience

At the 28th Summit meeting of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa on 30 January 2017, Morocco’s readmission to the continental body generated heated discussion. At the end of the day the Kingdom of Morocco managed to win over sufficient member states on its side and it was allowed to join the fold unconditionally.

 

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Plundering Africa: British imperialism 2016

Africa gold

A recent report by War on Want, The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources, underlines the continued role of Britain as one of the world’s dominant imperialist powers.1 Researcher Mark Curtis has once again produced a vital report providing a savage indictment of the capitalist system. The report exposes the naked plunder by British extractive companies of African resources, ripping minerals, oil and gas out of the ground without concern for the human, social, and environmental cost. All this wealth is then transferred out of Africa through the City of London and tax havens. The report provides ammunition for revolutionaries in the fight against imperialism, in solidarity with African resistance to the plunder and destruction of their countries.

 

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Angola: 40 years of independence, from revolution to neo-colony

Agostinho Neto and Fidel Castro

On 11 November 2015, Angola celebrated 40 years of independence from its former colonial master; Portugal. The occasion is a significant milestone for the country's ruling party; Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), which has enjoyed 40 years of uninterrupted rule. Looking at the greedy, corrupt, self-serving clique at the top of the MPLA, it is impossible not to question how a once truly revolutionary organisation, that led the heroic struggle for national liberation, which all Angolans may take pride in, has become an enemy of all that the heroes of the liberation struggle fought for.

The future of the MPLA is increasingly uncertain. Falling oil prices have hit Angola’s heavily oil dependent economy very hard (crude oil makes up 90% of Angola’s exports), forcing the government to implement budget cuts, including the removal of fuel subsidies, which had been one of the most popular policies of President José Eduardo Dos Santos’ increasingly unpopular government. In June, 17 young people, members of a book club, were arrested, and accused of reading books about non-violent protest. Initially charged with plotting a coup, they are now on trial for rebellion against the state.

 

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The Great African Robbery

Africa is an extremely resource rich continent, yet, despite its natural wealth, Sub-Saharan Africa is at the bottom of the Human Development Index, with 50% of people living in extreme poverty. The Overseas Development Institute estimates that $30bn of aid goes into the continent each year, but huge parts of the African population remain in poverty. A report by 15 charities, Honest Accounts? The true story of Africa’s billion dollar losses* sheds light on why this might be.

Africa has been bled dry over centuries by slavery, colonisation and imperialism, at an incalculable economic and human cost. Today this takes the form not of physical chains, but huge debts, debilitating theft of income and imposed policies that prevent the independence of nations. As Honest Accounts? explains:

 

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UN ignores sexual abuse in the Central African Republic

In April it was reported in The Guardian that 14 French soldiers sent to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of international ‘peacekeeping’ efforts after the state collapsed in December 2013, were involved in sexually abusing at least ten hungry and homeless children, some as young as nine, in exchange for food and money. The rape and sodomy took place at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) at M’Poko airport near the capital Bangui, between December 2013 and June 2014. Six children had testified against the soldiers, four were direct victims while two others witnessed the abuse. The kids fled the IDP camp in terror after the assault. France was made aware of the abuse in July 2014 and has belatedly agreed to ‘investigate’. The UN had tried to cover-up the abuse, and is busy persecuting the whistleblower, UN director of field operations Anders Kompass, who leaked the report to French authorities because his superiors had failed to take any action. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

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Burkina Faso needs a revolution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015

On 30 October President Blaise Compaoré was forced to flee Burkina Faso after four days of mass protests. Over his two decades in office, Compaoré plunged over half the country into poverty, reversed women’s rights and privatised natural resources. On 21 October he attempted to pass a new bill scrapping the presidential term limit, allowing him to stay in power for the foreseeable future. This sparked mass outrage.

The spectre of the ‘African Che’
Imperialism will not accept significant change in Burkina Faso easily. The country is central to French regional control as Compaoré brokered deals with Côte d’Ivoire and Mali. He was close to the US, allowing a military base to be built in Ouagadougou, the capital. Drones are used for the US spy network, flying over Mali and the Sahara.

 

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Ebola epidemic – Cuba sends doctors, imperialists send soldiers

The deadly and highly contagious ebola virus has been ravaging West Africa since December 2013. By the end of September, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that nearly 3,000 people had died. But the real figure is likely to be much higher, and the epidemic has spiralled out of control, with cases in Liberia, for example, reportedly doubling every 15 to 20 days. The lethally inadequate response by both the international community and the corrupt neo-colonial governments of the countries affected, whose frail health care systems are overwhelmed, have created a humanitarian crisis of appalling proportions.

 

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Scramble for energy in Africa

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

France’s rush to war in Mali demonstrates an intensification of the struggle for control of energy reserves between France and the US. France remains a top investor in Africa. In 2011 France and Britain led the way in attacking Libya. France also bombed Côte d’Ivoire that year. The French state maintains hundreds of troops in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad and Gabon and smaller numbers in its other former colonies. France is determined to defend its interests in Africa.

 

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Africa: US flexes its military muscle

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

The US is increasing its military presence in Africa, under cover of the so-called ‘war on terror’ or humanitarian pretexts. Recent events, including the 2011 bombings of Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, and the planned attack on Mali, confirm this increasing militarisation which reflects the imperialists’ determination to control strategic raw materials in Africa, a region endowed with significant amounts of fossil fuels and mineral resources.

 

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Kony 2012: a cover up – March 2012

The makers of the Kony 2012 film pose with Ugandan troops, who have been accused of the same crimes that Kony is charged with
Photo: The makers of the Kony 2012 film pose with members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

On 5 March 2012 the charity Invisible Children launched a social media campaign around a film, Kony 2012, about Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operating in East Africa. Invisible Children has received financial backing from right-wing Christian organizations including the Discovery Institute, Caster foundation and the National Christian Foundation. Invisible Children has been in operation since 2004, but received a boost after the US government deployed 100 military advisors – special forces - to Uganda in October 2011.

 

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Horn of Africa: aid charade follows predicted famine

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

In September 2011, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 13.3 million people in East Africa were in dire need of food aid, up from 11.3 million in July. Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti are worst affected, but Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan also face food crises. In Somalia, as many as 750,000 people in the southern regions face starvation by January 2012.

 

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Corporate land grabs in Africa

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

The number of people suffering from hunger worldwide is currently estimated to be 1.02 billion: it is a criminal fact that the countries that are the most food insecure are selling off land in order to secure food for other countries, in what has been dubbed ‘the great land grab’. Sudan has agreed that investors can export 70% of the produce that will be created through land grab deals – yet Sudan is the recipient of the largest food-aid operation in the world. In Kenya, the Qatari government has agreed to fund the building of a coastal port in exchange for a lease of 40,000 hectares of land – despite the fact that an estimated 30% of Kenyans currently suffer food shortages.

 

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Anti-racist conference in Durban: Smash racism and smash capitalism

FRFI 163 October / November 2001

You cannot get rid of racism unless you are prepared to fight to get rid of capitalism, a social system that engenders inequality, class division and racial prejudice. This was the message from the Durban Social Forum, a coalition of organisations which came together for the biggest march held during the United Nations anti-racism conference held in Durban recently.

The march marked a turning point in South Africa. For the first time anti-imperialist forces were able, independently of the labour movement and the hegemonic ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance, to pull a crowd big enough to match the marches held during the anti-apartheid struggle in this country. Moreover on 1 September 2001, a day after the Durban Social Forum’s 20,000-strong march, the ruling ANC held its own pro-capitalist and pro-United Nations march with a much smaller turnout. This was a victory for the forces linked to the international anti-globalisation movement; they challenged the bourgeois nationalist ANC regime in the streets and won.

 

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Famine in Niger

IMF policies lead to starvation and death

Across the African continent, a food crisis of catastrophic proportions is again emerging, leaving 16.4 million across southern Africa and 17.9 million in the Horn of Africa in desperate and immediate need of food. In West Africa’s Sahel region, millions are also slowly starving to death. In Niger, the worst affected country, some 3.6 million people are threatened by famine, with 2.5 million, including 800,000 children, on the brink of starvation. The famine has been blamed on a severe drought and an invasion of desert locusts, the worst in 15 years, which devastated crops across the Sahel between August and October 2004. But the catastrophe that exists in Niger today is the creation of imperialism.

Cereal prices have risen sharply since 2000; millet, a staple grain, has doubled in price since last year. It is not food availability but food affordability that is at the root of the unfolding tragedy. There is enough food to feed the hungry in Niger, which exports grain to wealthier neighbours Nigeria and Ghana, but the poor cannot afford to buy it. Some 32,000 children are severely malnourished and with the outbreak of deadly diseases such as cholera, malaria and diarrhoea, children are dying even in feeding centres.

 

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Southern Africa: The rumbling of political discontent

FRFI 205 October / November 2008

On 20 September the African National Congress (ANC) Executive Committee forced the resignation of Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa. Mbeki’s fall marked the end of a long-running and labyrinthine dispute with Jacob Zuma, ANC President, and came soon after Mbeki’s ‘starring’ role as chief negotiator of a power-sharing deal in crisis-ridden neighbouring Zimbabwe between President Robert Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. By 25 September ANC Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, had been sworn in as a caretaker South African President until elections in 2009, when Zuma is expected to become President of South Africa as well as of the ANC. The rise and fall of national leaders in these southern African states reflects the political pressures building in the region.

South Africa is the largest and most powerful economy in Africa. Yet despite the radical pretensions of the ANC in the post-apartheid era, the majority of its black population is still impoverished. In 1996 the ANC government imposed a neo-liberal economic strategy, led by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, called Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) which espoused the free market and privatisation. Since then, despite annual economic growth, millions still live in dire poverty, unemployment, inflation and inequality have grown dramatically and most of the land is still owned by the white minority. These are the fundamental economic facts that underscore the unpopularity of President Mbeki’s administration and the decision of the ANC Executive that he must go.

 

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