FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Canada Exploiting Last Colony in Africa

by

In violation of international law two major Canadian companies are buying the non-renewable resources of Africa’s last remaining colony.

Saskatoon’s PotashCorp and Calgary’s Agrium have partnered with Morocco’s state-owned OCP to export phosphate mined in Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory in northwestern Africa that was ruled by Spain until 1975. When the Spanish departed, Moroccan troops moved in and a bloody 15-year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighboring Algeria, where they still live in camps.

No country officially recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The UN calls it “occupied” and the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the Rome Statute prohibit an occupying power from exploiting the resources of territories they control unless it’s in the interest of, and according to, the wishes of the local population.

In 2002 the UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell described the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources as a “violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

Over the past few years PotashCorp has been the largest customer of Western Sahara phosphates, buying 750,000 tonnes of rock annually. To deflect from its complicity in violating international law, the company says OCP’s operations benefit the Sahrawi people. A 2014 PotashCorp statement claimed:

OCP has established a proactive affirmative action campaign to the benefit of the local people and, importantly, is making significant economic and social contributions to the entire region. As a result, we believe those who choose to make a political statement about OCP are effectively penalizing Saharawi workers, their families and communities.” For its part, the POLISARIO Front national liberation movement claims these deal with OCP contravene international law and prop up Morocco’s control. So does the African Union. An AU Summit last June denounced Morocco’s ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, specifically highlighting its “illegal exploitation of the Territory’s natural resources.”

International solidarity activists have called on businesses to stop exploiting Western Sahara’s resources. In response companies in Australia and Norway have agreed not to buy phosphate mined there. The Ethical Fund of Vancity, B.C.’s largest credit union, divested from PotashCorp in response to its refusal to stop purchasing Western Sahara phosphate. So have several European pension funds and banks.

When the Council on Ethics for Norway’s $800 billion pension fund decided to divest of PotashCorp in 2011 it explained:

This is not only due the fact that the local population is not receiving the benefits; the current manner of exploitation is also contributing to maintaining an unresolved situation and consequently, Morocco’s presence in a territory over which it does not have rightful sovereignty. In the view of the Council, there is a concrete, mutually beneficial relationship between OCP’s violations of norms and the companies purchasing phosphate from Western Sahara.” The world’s top exporter of the mineral, OCP is Morocco’s largest industrial company. King Mohammed VI oversees it.

Last May the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland and Meritus Mutual Funds submitted a motion to PotashCorp’s annual general meeting asking the company to initiate an independent assessment of its human rights responsibilities in Western Sahara and to make it public. The vote failed, but the issue is unlikely to go away.

PotashCorp and Agrium have a choice. They can further sully their reputations by contributing to Sahrawi oppression or stop purchasing the non-renewable resources of a people seeking self-rule.

Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail