The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held a solidarity conference with Western Sahara from 25 to 26 March 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. Western Sahara remains the last colony on the African continent, illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco.
This is a situation which bears a stark resemblance to the illegal occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa, which came to an end on 21 March 1990 as a result of aggressive military, diplomatic and international solidarity efforts.
The National Youth Council of Namibia (NYC) was represented by five delegates: NYC executive chairperson Mandela Kapere, Hallo Angala, Ndahafa Hapulile, Patience Masua and Vita Angula.
The gathering consisted of SADC member states, civil society, political parties and various heads of state of the international community, who came to lend support to the cause of Saharawi independence from Moroccan occupation.
The solidarity conference commenced with a working group discussion "on charting the way forward by outlining the role of the international community in ensuring the implementation of all United Nations resolutions and African Union decisions on Western Sahara, which include the strengthening of measures against the exploitation of the country's natural resources."
As National Youth Council of Namibia representative, I highlighted Namibia's own historical circumstances as a precursor to utilising the African Youth Charter, the Constitutive Act of the AU and implementation of UN resolution 2229-xxi in building a strong case for Sahawari independence and self-determination.
The African Youth Charter recognises the rights of African youth to freedom of expression, movement and democratic participation. The youth of Western Sahara are denied these civil liberties, as provided for in article 2 of the youth charter.
Censorship and the blocking of internet websites have been highlighted by Reporters Without Borders as a tactic used by the Kingdom of Morocco in limiting the Saharawi youth's access to information and political participation in their country of birth.
Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU makes pertinent the sovereign equality and interdependence among member states of the African Union, of which Western Sahara and Morocco are both members.
It is in light of this act that the youth of Namibia are vocal about the need for a 'peaceful resolution of the conflict' between the two member states of the AU, and a 'promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development'. The economic development of Western Sahara is undermined by the exploitation of the country's natural fisheries and phosphate resources by the Kingdom of Morocco for the benefit of the sultan of Morocco. Instead, the rightful heirs to the territory's riches are confined to refugee camps, and are dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 35% of children living in refugee camps along the Algerian border with Western Sahara are chronically malnourished. This is an unacceptable human rights violation that flies in the face of the UN sustainable development goal to end global hunger in all its forms and manifestations.
UN Resolution 2229-xxi provides for the decolonisation of Western Sahara through a referendum on self-determination. The referendum on self-determination, which was proposed in 1966, is yet to be enforced 53 years later, and should take place without further delay in order for the Saharawi to exercise their freedom of choice in their right to self-determination. Sovereign rights of all member states of the UN and AU should not continue to be undermined by Morocco.
Namibia as a member of the international community will not rest until the people of Western Sahara have acquired the right to self-determination. The youth of Namibia stand in solidarity with the youth of Western Sahara in highlighting gross human rights violations in the territory by calling for the "reinforcement of the mandate to appoint former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano as high representative of the AU for Western Sahara to facilitate direct talks" between Morocco and Western Sahara.
It is our moral and political imperative to bring to the forefront of national and international discourse the case of Western Sahara in order to ensure that the last colony in Africa, Western Sahara, is liberated from the yoke of colonial oppression at the hands of the Kingdom of Morocco.
It is only 29 years ago that Namibia gained independence from apartheid South Africa through the efforts of international solidarity by the international community and the Frontline states.
It is through international solidarity that Namibia and its youth will ensure Western Sahara's inalienable right to self-determination, independence and decolonisation.
- Patience Masua is speaker of the University of Namibia Students' Union Parliament, and a delegate of the National Youth Council to the SADC Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara.