RUNDU – Namibia’s position is that the people of Western Sahara, currently annexed by Morocco, should be given the chance to have a referendum on the issue of self-determination, said Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Rosalia Nghidinwa, during a Ministerial Lecture on the African Agenda 2063 at Rundu last week. October 31 marked exactly 37 years since Morocco sent its army into Western Sahara to attack the resident nationalist movement the Polisario Front.
Local analysts and academics support Nghidinwa’s sentiments with Dr Hoze Riruako saying President Hifikepunye Pohamba must use the AU to enlist other African statesmen to push for a referendum in Western Sahara. “Morocco’s interference in Western Sahara is unwarranted and uncalled for. The continent has rid itself of the colonial tentacles, hence the people of Western Sahara also deserve the right to self-governance,” said Riruako.
University academic, Phanuel Kaapama, said there is a need for the people of Western Sahara to be given a chance to express themselves through means of a referendum in order to “sort out this issue once and for all”. The vice-rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Dr Andrew Niikondo, said “what is happening in Western Sahara is pure colonialism.”
“There is only one outstanding case of colonial occupation by an African country, namely the Kingdom of Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara. We as Africans should continue to call for the people of Western Sahara to be given an opportunity through a referendum to express their will,” Nghidinwa said last week at the lecture.
Nghidinwa said the African Union’s predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) provided a political platform where African leaders converged to multiply efforts towards “the total liberation we all know”, adding that the OAU largely achieved its fundamental objective of liberating the African continent.
The UN Security Council has on many occasions passed resolutions that the people of Western Sahara must be given a chance to vote on their independence. Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara continues to cost the country the chance of rejoining the African Union.
Morocco was part of the OAU until it left in 1984 in protest against the OAU’s decision to recognize the Sahwari Arab Democratic Republic, through the Polisario Front, as the legitimate government of Western Sahara. On the several attempts by Morocco to return to the AU, Kaapama said: “Would they return and accept that Western Sahara is a sovereign state or do they continue governing the people of that country?”
Kaapama opines that Morocco is making it difficult for it to rejoin the AU by continuing to undermine the policies of the AU. “The UN has proposed a referendum on several occasions but Morocco is not willing to comply,” he said.
Kaapama further said admitting Morocco to the AU “will simply cause complications unless they stop undermining the sovereignty of the people of Western Sahara.”
Riruako said the question that needs asking is “whether Morocco really has the interest of the people of Western Sahara at heart or are they just occupying that country for their own gain. People of Western Sahara have suffered and at the same time been exploited for years, hence I believe it is time for them to express themselves through a referendum. They have suffered long enough and have gone through a lot, it is high time that they are given a chance to govern themselves.”
Niikondo said Morocco “does not have the interest of those (Western Saharians) people at heart – they are just there for their own interest and that of their allies from the west such as Spain and Italy.” Niikondo opined that Moroccans are under the impression that they are not Africans because of their skin color, adding: “That is why they are not part of the African political club, they want to be with their western friends.”
By Mathias Haufiku