The Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League of Canada denounce Morocco’s recent violations of the 1988 ceasefire between the Moroccan army and the Polisario Front, the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people. On November 13, the Moroccan army breached a roadblock in Guerguerat, in southwestern Western Sahara, that Sahrawi civilians had erected on October 20. The roadblock was to prevent Morocco from transporting fishery and agricultural products from the occupied Western Saharan territories to the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou.
The transportation route was built in 2001 and is considered illegal under international law. Its construction was immediately denounced by the United Nations, which recognizes that Guerguerat is part of a demilitarized zone under the current ceasefire agreements. As such, the Moroccan army is forbidden to enter the area, whose use for Moroccan commercial purposes is prohibited.
By launching military intervention in this designated buffer zone, the Moroccan army has forced the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (Polisario Front) to take necessary measures to protect local Sahrawi civilians – on November 17, the movement announced it was taking up arms as a form of self-defence.
The government of Morocco is clearly reaffirming its expansionist aspirations – the same ones that led to the 1963 Sand War with Algeria. The current assault against Western Sahara is particularly concerning since it risks war in a region that already faces instability and imperialist intervention.
A new war threatens the lives of 600,000 people in Western Sahara and millions more in the Sahelo-Saharan region. It also provides a pretext for imperialist powers to intervene politically and militarily, including by building new military bases, and for reactionary sectarian groups like Al-Queda to gain ground.
Western Sahara is the last colony of Africa. Virtually no country today recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Since 1975, when Spain, Mauritania and Morocco split the territory of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) without consulting the local population, the Sahrawi people have experienced colonial oppression. This includes looting its natural resources, territorial occupation and torture of those who fight against the established colonial order, such as the political prisoners of Gdeim Izik who have been imprisoned for 10 years.
Since 1991, the Polisario Front has renounced armed struggle and has instead called for a UN-organized referendum on the self-determination of Western Sahara. Bad faith on the part of Morocco, as well as a global balance of power – reflected in the UN – which generally favours imperialism, has meant that the referendum continues to be delayed.
The fact that, almost 30 years later, the United Nations has not been able to perform the only task entrusted to it is a statement of glaring failure. This, combined with the fact that other states in the region do not prioritize the issue of Western Sahara’s colonization, have contributed to the current crisis.
Imperialist powers are not allies of Western Sahara. Canada was one of the largest importers of “Moroccan” phosphate – which was in fact illegally extracted from Sahrawi territory – until diplomatic pressure recently forced companies to obtain these resources elsewhere. Canada is continuing negotiations on a free trade agreement with Morocco, without clarifying whether or not resources from Western Sahara are included. The European Union court has ruled several times that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara, yet it consistently turns a blind eye when it comes to fishing in waters off the coast of the occupied territories.
We call on the Canadian government to:
• Establish official diplomatic relations with the Polisario Front and recognize it as the sole legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with United Nations declarations;
• Publicly denounce Morocco’s illegal occupation of Sahrawi territory and demand the immediate withdrawal of Moroccan troops from Western Sahara;
• Put pressure on Morocco and the United Nations to organize the referendum on self-determination, which the Sahrawi people have awaited since 1991;
• Demand that Morocco immediately release all Sahrawi political prisoners of Gdeim Izik;
• Ban the import of goods, particularly phosphate, produced in the occupied territories, in accordance with international law;
• Refuse to sign any trade agreements with Morocco until the latter ceases its illegal occupation of Western Sahara.
We also call on the labour and progressive movements in Canada to adopt these demands and pressure the Canadian government to implement them.