Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 21:20 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 21:20 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Western Sahara

9 June 2010 09:46

A response to Danielle Cave's recent post on the Western Sahara from Kamal Fadel, the representative to Australia of Polisario, the Western Sahara independence movement:

I was surprised to read Danielle Cave's recent article on Western Sahara. It was nice to see a fresh perspective on the plight of my country, a country that struggles to gain and maintain media attention in Australia, and in fact, the coverage it does receive is few and far between.

I recently attended a UN Seminar on Decolonisation for Territories discussing paving a way forward for those territories still stuck on the UN list of 'non-self governing territories'. While the representatives of small Pacific and Caribbean Islands such as Pitcairn, Tokelau and the Cayman Islands actively seek to maintain links with their Administering Powers, we argued fervently to liberate ourselves from Moroccan occupation as soon as possible.

Since 1991, the UN has overseen a ceasefire and has constructed a mandate to organise a referendum to allow the Saharawis to decide their own future. Yet, still this referendum has not been organized, because of major power indecision and Morocco's sleight-of-hand. The reason Western Sahara remains the 'outcast' on the UN agenda of decolonisation is due to a meek UN system that is seemingly unwilling or unable to deliver on its promise for a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawis.

In Australia, a significant portion of the commercial agriculture sector is reliant upon phosphate taken from Western Sahara. Revenue goes not to the Saharawis but to the occupying power, the absolute Moroccan Kingdom. It is clear that holding such trade interests undermines Australia's credibility, yet a just, fair and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara is good for Australia's credibility and economic interests.

Danielle Cave stated that 'Australia's lack of interest in the plight of Western Sahara is arguably warranted'. I disagree, and instead believe that Australia has an opportunity here to play an important role in this issue, given its experience, middle power agenda and UN Security Council membership ambitions.

Australia successfully took on such a role in Timor-Leste, a new state that bears striking similarities to my country. Western Sahara presents a similar opportunity for Australia to project its values, ethics and to promote its role as a responsible international citizen.

Western Sahara is currently lying atop the UN Security Council agenda, something Australia should be well aware of by now. My country enjoys substantial support worldwide, particularly in Africa where the Saharawi republic is a full-fledged member of the African Union, an organization that Australia is striving to form greater links with, evident by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's announcement on 25 May that, in recognition of the African Union's vital role and growing global influence, Australia will open a new embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Western Sahara is an untenable situation; a problem waiting a solution. There is a clear and obvious need for a middle power role. Australia is far enough removed from the situation, does not have strong allegiances to any of the parties involved and with a UN Security Council bid on the horizon Australia needs to take a visible and more proactive role in conflict resolution and peacemaking. Australia has a unique chance to present itself as an independent broker in Western Sahara and can assist in moving my country towards a lasting peace, prosperity and independence.