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Spanish businesses condemned for 'whitewashing' Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara

CAMPAIGNERS have condemned Spanish businesses for taking part in an investment forum that started in the Moroccan-occupied town of Dakhla in Western Sahara today. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the Moroccan Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the regional council of Dakhla-Oued Eddahad, an administrative body established by Rabat.  

“We condemn Spanish businesses and investors taking part in this forum that has the singular objective of whitewashing an illegal occupation,” chairwoman of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) Sylvia Valentin said. 

“Participating firms should be aware that they are but small pawns in a bigger ploy designed to benefit an occupying regime, not the interested firms: there is no legal framework in place that can be invoked to secure investments in the territory that do not have the consent of the sovereign people of the territory: the Saharawis,” she added. 

The occupation of Dakhla and Western Sahara has been condemned by the United Nations general assembly which insists that a referendum on independence must take place. 

Today’s forum was announced on June 1 and came soon after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to recognise Rabat’s autonomy plan which maintained Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. 

The agreement brought an end to a 15-month diplomatic row over Madrid’s perceived support for the separatist Polisario Front whose leader Brahim Ghali received medical treatment in Spain last year. 

It is alleged that Spain had been offered lucrative contracts allowing it to exploit Western Saharan resources in return for its support for Morocco’s “brutal military occupation” of the territory. 

This is reported to include contracts for wind energy companies, a huge industrial terrain in Dakhla to facilitate export of products from Spain to Africa, licences to Spanish fisheries companies and hydrocarbon exploration contracts.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 after the defeat of Spanish colonisers.

The two nations signed the Madrid Accords with dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 — a week before he died.

The Polisario Front proclaimed the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with a government in exile located in Algeria.

Mauritania withdrew its forces in 1979, but Morocco refused to give up its claim on the land, insisting that Western Sahara was an integral part of the country.

But a United Nations commission of inquiry found that “the majority of the population within the Spanish Sahara was manifestly in favour of independence.”

And the International Court of Justice delivered a damning verdict rejecting Morocco’s claim of precolonial historical sovereignty.

In 1991, the UN brokered a ceasefire on the basis that Morocco would hold a referendum on independence.

But Morocco reneged on the agreement and later promises, instead offering regional autonomy to Africa’s last colony.

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