afrol News, 14 February - The Moroccan launch of an Economic Development Agency for its "Southern Provinces" (Western Sahara) is creating reactions. Morocco claims it is set to invest in this poor zone's development while those promoting Western Sahara's independence claim Morocco's true objective is to "delude international public opinion by reducing the Western Sahara conflict to a simple economic issue."
On a recent visit to Western Sahara, Moroccan King Mohammed VI officially opened the Economic Development Agency of the Southern Provinces in La'ayounne, the Moroccan capital of the occupied territories.
The King outlined the efforts of the agency, saying it should "equip these regions with basic infrastructure and equipment in terms of roads, ports, housing, electrification and drinking water supply, and also in order to enable these regions to achieve their social development."
The King also said these efforts would "cater for a dignified life for those who will return to Morocco," referring to the vast amount of Sahrawi refugees dwelling in Algerian camps since the Moroccan-Sahrawi conflict broke out 26 years ago.
- Only the Moroccan settlers make the most of the investments in the Sahrawi occupied territories, the Western Sahara (POLISARIO Front) Mission to the UK answered the royal initiative this week. Western Sahara was a political issue, "it is not an economic one," the group stated.
Morocco has set her eyes on the potential resources of the territory, the King especially mentioning "the region's natural assets in the mining industry, sea fishing, handicraft, tourism and trade." POLISARIO, the independence movement for Western Sahara, on the other hand accuses Morocco of wanting to plunder Sahrawi resources, including phosphorous, fish stocks, and offshore oil.
The UN recently ruled that Morocco was not the "administrative power" of Western Sahara, meaning it had no right to exploit the territory's resources. The case was accentuated as Morocco had signed two technical reconnaissance agreements with the US explorer Kerr-McGee and the French oil company TotalFinaElf. The two companies were to start prospecting for oil in Sahrawi waters. The UN however advised against the deal.
POLISARIO's "embassy" in Britain comments that "the so-called Moroccan money to be spent in Western Sahara is nothing but a tiny part of the huge capital collected illegally by means of systematic plundering of the Sahrawi natural resources. And only the Moroccan settlers make the most of it." POLISARIO urges foreign countries not to help funding the new Moroccan agency.
Sources: Based on POLISARIO, Morocco govt and afrol archives.