The media headlines are prominently declaring Morocco has made sporting history by becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
There has, however, been very little news coverage over the conflict between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) which is aspiring for independence for Western Sahara. Morocco had tried to annex the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara in 1975 and a bloody civil war ensued. An UN-brokered ceasefire has been in place since 1991 with a planned referendum left in limbo leaving the conflict unresolved. Much of the population has been expelled by force, with many tens of thousands living in refugee camps in the desert. Morocco’s occupation is against international law, which accords the Saharawi people the right to self-determination. Over 100 UN resolutions have called for this right to self-determination. Furthermore, the International Court of Justice has stated that there are no ties of sovereignty between Morocco and Western Sahara,
Morocco has become one of the Arab League countries to agree to normalise relations with Israel. In return, the USA under Trump recognised Morocco's claim over the disputed Western Sahara territory. Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. government would maintain that Morocco has sovereignty over Western Sahara and is one of only a few Western countries to recognise Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Africa’s wealth is being appropriated by foreign interests whose operations are leaving a devastating trail of social, environmental and human rights abuses in their wake and mineral-rich Western Sahara is a key example.
Despite the Sahrawi people’s claim to self-determination and for control of the resources and international criticism, foreign nations are signing trade deals with Morocco. Nations are being allowed to fish in the territorial waters of the Sahrawi Republic. Oil companies are receiving permits to drill on Sahrawi land.
More important, is the presence of phosphates which along with nitrogen, makes synthetic fertilizer for farming. This gives Morocco a powerful influence over world food production. There is no doubt that the occupation of Western Sahara is largely about the presence of natural resources—especially phosphates.
Another neglected aspect is the future renewable green energy potential of the region.
There is a planned £18bn project to provide 8% of Britain’s energy supplies through a 2,360-mile undersea cable linking a vast wind and solar farm in the Sahara with the UK, powering 7m homes by 2030. The solar and wind site will be in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region which is located in a part of the disputed area of Western Sahara claimed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Perhaps, the Moroccan national football team will go on to make even more World Cup history. But the media will persist in its ignorance and hypocrisy of relegating the struggle of the Sahrawi people to irrelevance.
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