• September 22nd, 2019

Namibia’s fight for Western Sahara: A worthy or lost cause?


With the United Nations General Assembly scheduled to take place in September, Namibia is ready to bring to the fore her humble role in the international arena, including on the plight of the people of Western Sahara whose struggle for self-determination Namibia is a huge proponent. The sovereign territory remains the last colony on the African continent under what is deemed an illegal occupation – by the Kingdom of Morocco since 1976.

Namibia’s support for Western Sahara dates back to decades ago. While based in the Algerian capital of Algiers as Swapo representative to North West Africa, former President Hifikepunye Pohamba came into contact with the Polisario Front, who are today still regarded by the United Nations and African Union as the sole representatives for the freedom and total independence of Western Sahara.

President Pohamba is credited with bringing to prominence the issue of Western Sahara amongst the Swapo leadership, which ultimately became the position of the government of Namibia at its independence in 1990. Since then the question of Western Sahara has become official Namibian government policy, with Cabinet as recently as May 16 adopting the recommendations from the declaration of the Sadc solidarity conference with Western Sahara. 

Freelance contributor Vitalio Angula spoke to the Executive Director of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation Selma Ashipala-Musavyi to seek clarity on what Namibians can look forward to in terms of its participation at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly later this year.
 
Vitalio Angula (VA): What is Namibia’s position and strategy going into the UN General Assembly in 2019 on the issue of Western Sahara?

Selma Ashipala-Musavyi (SAM): Namibia has been consistent in raising the issue of Western Sahara at all relevant multilateral fora since our independence in 1990. This year it will be no different and Namibia will call for solidarity with the colonised people of Western Sahara. At the UN the decolonisation of Western Sahara is dealt with at the 4th Committee.

VA: What is the 4th committee?

SAM: The 4th Committee is the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee of the UN. The question of Western Sahara is annually debated at this platform which is comprised of member states of the UN. The draft resolution, if any, emanating from this debate is then tabled at the U.N. General Assembly for adoption and subsequent implementation by member states.
It is worthwhile to note that the question of Namibia’s independence was also dealt with by the UN 4th Committee which also deals with a variety of subjects that include human rights violations in Palestine and the refugee crisis as a result thereof, mine action, peacekeeping, atomic radiation, etc.

VA: During your speech at the Sadc Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara you proposed an instrument similar to UN Decree No. 1 for the protection of Namibia’s natural resources to be applied for the protection of Western Sahara’s natural fisheries and phosphate resources. What does this entail?

SAM: In terms of Decree No. 1 for the protection of Namibia’s natural resources, this initiative was spearheaded by the United Nations Council for Namibia (UNCN) and gained a lot of traction through the work of Bernt Carlson as then assistant Secretary General of the UN and UN Commissioner for Namibia. What Namibia then proposed (at the solidarity conference) was for the friends of Western Sahara to explore the possibility of such a mechanism in order to safeguard the natural resources of Western Sahara. The declaration adopted at the Solidarity Conference applauded the ruling of the European Court in regard to the EU-Morocco agreement which states that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara’s fisheries resources, meaning that any agreement that Morocco has with the EU cannot include the resources which Morocco is siphoning from Western Sahara. It is therefore up to the friends of Western Sahara to mobilise support for a similar mechanism to Decree No. 1 for the protection of Saharawi resources.

VA: There seems to be a certain degree of apathy regarding Namibia’s diplomatic and solidarity efforts towards the freedom and independence of Western Sahara, with some members of President Geingob’s delegation to the Sadc conference feeling that it is a lost cause and not worth pursuing. What is your response in this regard?

SAM: First of all, I am not aware of such pessimism in our delegation. I will repeat that diplomacy is a process and not an event. Take Namibia for example. How many years did it take to implement Resolution 435 for UN-supervised elections in Namibia? Did the apartheid propaganda machine not conclude after the tragic events of Casinga that they had finally broken Swapo’s backbone? Did the doomsayers not repeatedly evoke feelings of dismay that Swapo is wasting its time and Namibia will not achieve independence? I think history speaks for itself when I say that Sadc and Namibia’s solidarity efforts towards the freedom of Western Sahara will be realised.

VA: How long will it take for this objective to be realised?

SAM: I am not in a position to take a mathematical guess because of the various facets and dimensions of conflict in this uni-polar world. No one can predict that. What is certain is that one day the people of the Kingdom of Morocco will live in peace with their brothers and sisters from the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic.

VA: What stance would Namibia take at the UN to further the cause for the independence of Western Sahara, and is Namibia considering accommodating autonomy for Western Sahara as opposed to full independence?

SAM: Namibia is supporting Western Sahara out of principle and in line with our foreign policy objectives. The Polisario leaders know what is best for their people. On the question of autonomy, I am not in a position to dictate or even suggest it as an alternative. There are two parties to the conflict emanating from the question of Western Sahara. These two parties are the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco. Namibia supports the freedom of Western Sahara through a referendum in line with UN Resolution 2229-XXI.


Staff Reporter
2019-06-17 11:50:56 3 months ago

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