In the statement signed by its WA Branch Secretary, Mr. Chris Cain, and his assistants, the Australian union considered its concerns “legitimate as the phosphate mined in Western Sahara and subsequently shipped to the Fermantle Ports do not belong to the beneficiaries of the trade but is a resource belonging to the Saharawi people, not the foreign occupiers of Western Sahara”, referring to Morocco.
The text recalled that the Moroccan exploitation of Saharawi phosphate and other resources, with the complicity of some international companies and countries, “has been condemned in many international forums, principally in the UN”.
Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa, is still awaiting for the UN to fulfil its “mandate to organise a referendum of the Saharawis to determine the future of their land and resources”, MUA considered.
Consequently, MUA estimated that “trading in phosphate before such a plebiscite jeopardises its results and, further, places into question future trading relations with companies complicit in the current trading arrangements”.
On the other hand, MUA expressed concerns about the human rights violations “carried out by the Moroccan government since its occupation of Western Sahara since 1975”.
The statement further incriminated “the forceful separation of the Saharawis by Morocco’s construction of a military wall dividing the territory and physically separating the inhabitants”.
Such abomination, “is witness to the contempt the Moroccan government has towards the indigenous inhabitants” of Western Sahara, MUA said.
MUA, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the statement indicated are lobbying the Australian government to convince it carry out he policies adopted on Western Sahara by the Australian Labour Party in three previous National Conference.
It is also campaigning against the Australian companies that export Saharawi phosphate to convince them give up these dubious trade.
MUA, finally, declared it will keep on campaigning and raising awareness about the question of Western Sahara “until the Saharawis can determine” their future and the future of their resources.
Melbourne plays host to African Studies conference
Cate Lewis, AWSA
Many scholars from around Australia and abroad attended the “31st annual conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific” (AFSAAP) hosted by Monash University. It was held in the centre of Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria’s conference centre 26-28 December 2008, and entitled Building a common future, Africa and Australasia, see http://www.meetings.com.au/africa/.
The Australia Western Sahara Association held an information stall about Western Sahara and had the opportunity to talk with many conference-goers from Australia and overseas.
It was useful to raise the profile of Western Sahara in a few cases where people confessed ignorance of the conflict. However, most congratulated us on our presence. Many greeted the stall warmly, being familiar with the issue over many years. A man from Somalia said it was high time Western Sahara achieved its independence.
The conference recognises that Australia-Pacific region’s growing economic, political, social and cultural ties with Africa provide an opportunity not only to explore our communalities further but also to work together on shared issues, such as climate change, education, health and security, to develop sustainable, mutually beneficial solutions.
Since 1978, the annual African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) conference has been bringing together Africa-focused scholars, students, government and diplomatic staff, business, industry and individuals to discuss Africa and the issues, challenges and opportunities which the continent faces.