Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Sahrawi Slam US Oil Exploration in Western Sahara
Activists warn Kosmos Energy's plans to explore for oil in Western Saharan waters will “put the final nail in the coffin of the Sahrawi people.” Sahrawi activists have clammed Texas oil company Kosmos Energy for plans to explore for oil off the coast of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. “By starting oil drilling operations off Cape Bojador, your company would damage world peace, and hurt the Saharwis and their just cause,” the Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication (SCMC) said in a letter to the company. A copy of the letter was obtained by teleSUR on Wednesday. Kosmos is expected to begin drilling off the Western Saharan coast later this year, according to Reuters. The company claims its exploration is legal under international law. “Kosmos' activities are focused on exploration and do not involve the removal of resources; and have yet to provide conclusive evidence as to whether hydrocarbon resources, sufficient to justify development, are present,” the company has stated. On its website, Kosmos states it is “working with the Kingdom of Morocco” to “ensure that if commercial deposits were to be discovered offshore Western Sahara, they could be developed in a manner that both reflects international best practices on resource management and transparency as well as complies with international law.” However, according to the SCMC, Kosmos' dealings with Morocco are at the heart of the problem. “All your negotiations and deals were conducted with the Moroccan authorities and not the Sahrawis. This can only mean lack of respect for the rights of the people,” the activist group told the company. Kosmos was granted exploration rights by Morocco's natural resources and mines ministry, while the Sahrawi say they have been left in the cold. “It is illegal for international companies to operate in the land and coastal waters of Western Sahara without the consent of its people and without them being consulted and benefiting from these business operations,” the letter asserted. "The Sahrawi people, living under the brutal yoke of the Moroccan occupation and their exiled relatives living in Algerian refugee camps, oppose Kosmos' plans. They fear that if oil is found in their occupied homeland, Morocco will never abandon its unfounded claim on their country." However, according to an article from the Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), the company appears to be pressing ahead with drilling. The WSRW reported on Tuesday the oil rig commissioned by Kosmos to drill off Western Sahara's coast is “now slowly making its way to the occupied waters.” “In a few weeks time, the rig may permanently damage the Saharawi people's aspirations to freedom and independence, as it commences unethical and illegal oil drilling in Africa's last colony,” WSRW warned. Kosmos is the first company to drill for oil in Western Sahara. "The Sahrawi people, living under the brutal yoke of the Moroccan occupation and their exiled relatives living in Algerian refugee camps, oppose Kosmos' plans. They fear that if oil is found in their occupied homeland, Morocco will never abandon its unfounded claim on their country," WSRW has warned. The term “colony” refers to Western Sahara's legal status as the last non-self-governing territory in Africa. Most of Western Sahara has been subject to a Moroccan occupation since 1975, when Rabat launched a military invasion. Morocco claims Western Sahara is an integral part of its own territory – though this is disputed by the Sahrawi independence movement, the Polisario. Although the Polisario has historically enjoyed overwhelming support of the indigenous inhabitants of Western Sahara – the Sahrawi – it only controls a thin strip of the country's eastern desert. Morocco holds the coast, and all of the territory's major settlements. Moroccan security forces in Western Sahara have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including repressing Sahrawi culture and freedom of speech. Activist groups including the SCMC say international investment in the occupied west provide Morocco with an economic incentive to resist Sahrawi calls for a referendum of self-determination. “By joining hands with Morocco, you are consolidating its sovereignty over Western Sahara,” the SCMC told Kosmos. “This is exactly what Morocco needs to put the final nail in the coffin of the Sahrawi people,” they warned.