Matthew Keevil’s report from Marrakesh entitled “Morocco’s OCP aims to dominate phosphate industry” (T.N.M., Oct. 12-18/15) is a fine, incisive article and one deserving of wide reading.
Canada enjoys an interesting connection to Western Sahara through the purchase of high quality phosphate mineral rock from that territory by Agrium Inc. and Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. In recent years, the two companies have accounted for the majority of the 2.2 million tonnes annually exported from Western Sahara; Agrium transporting it to Vancouver through the Panama Canal and PotashCorp to Geismar on the Mississippi River.
Most of Western Sahara, known as Spanish Sahara until 1975, remains illegally occupied by Morocco. Much has gone into the manufacturing of a claim to the territory and so it must be recalled that the International Court of Justice concluded in its October 1975 advisory opinion that Morocco had no basis for a territorial claim. (See paragraph 162 of the decision, online at: www.icj-cij.org)
Moreover, many resolutions of the UN General Assembly have declared Western Sahara to be occupied (a term with particular import in international law), Spanish criminal magistrates are presently investigating war crime and genocide allegations under the occupation, and the African Union has recently (March 27, 2015 and Oct. 14, 2015) demanded the Saharawi people be permitted to exercise their right of self-determination as Africa’s last colony. That right, well settled in international law and practice (for which see the recent cases of Namibia and East Timor) includes the option of independence, something not on offer in a so-called autonomy proposal advanced by Morocco in 2007.
It is said that “on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” So responsive posts are usefully treated with a degree of incredulity. Readers wanting useful, independent information about the problem of phosphate exports from occupied Western Sahara will find the October issue of the academic, peer reviewed journal Global Change, Peace & Security useful, as well as reports of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington.
Jeffrey J. Smith, Professor
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs