“The conflict in Western Sahara is the last case of decolonization in Africa”: Malainin Lakhal

By Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following an
important interview with the Saharawi journalist and political activist Malainin
Lakhal. We talked about his biography, his fight for the Western Sahara, about
Moroccan colonialism, and about the importance of poetry and political struggle
for the forgotten Saharawi people living in the last colony in Africa.
Tell us the most important steps of your life-fight
for the Western Sahara.
Like most of Saharawi youth in my generation I lived
the first days of the Moroccan occupation and oppression in Western Sahara, and
I had to adapt to it, to learn how to fight against it instead of submitting to
this colonial will.
I studied in Moroccan colonial schools, but I
succeeded to keep my identity and escape all Moroccan attempts to brainwash me,
as they did with their own people. The Moroccan regime came to Western Sahara
with a whole policy of colonization. It didn’t only target resisting militants,
killing them, imprisoning them and torturing them, these colonial policies
targeted the normal citizens, even those Saharawis who were less engaged
politically. And of course, children and students were the main targets of a
complete educational policy that aimed at isolating a whole generation from its
history, culture and of course from any possible political tendencies in favor
of freedom. But, as all colonial powers, these very policies also trigger
suspicion and resistance among us, the youth. We succeeded to identify the
Moroccan propaganda and lies, and we succeeded in exposing them with very
simple means. This is in general the environment where I grew up. An environment
of colonization, oppression but also resistance with dignity.
Like thousands Saharawis, I was victim also to forced
disappearance, imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment. Just the exact
treatment that all colonized people suffered from to create a resisting
generation. I was active as a student in the Saharawi secret movement since the
late eighties, then I was active as a member in the movement of unemployed
graduates in the mid-nineties, to opt finally for a more direct and open
resistance against the occupied starting from 1997. My weapons were raising
awareness, writing and demonstrating peaceful, organizing demonstrations and
recruiting militants to join the movement. IN 2000 I had to flee my occupied
territory and join the Saharawi refugee camps because the Moroccan police
persecution was getting too dangerous for my safety and physical integrity. IN
the camps I engaged in a career of journalism and I also served as member in
various Saharawi civil society organizations especially AFAPREDESA (Human rights),
Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union (UPES), Saharawi Trade Union (UGTSARIO)
and Saharawi Natural Resources Observatory, among others. I am still fighting
for the freedom of my country, using my pen and my voice to draw attention to
the cause. I write in various national and international Medias outlets.
Why is it so important to talk about the Western
Sahara around the world?
It is not only important! It is a matter of life and
death for the whole international legal and political system. The conflict in
Western Sahara is the last case of decolonization in Africa where the colonial
power, Morocco, backed by the old colonial power, France, is trying to deny a
whole nation its basic and fundamental right to self-determination. This is a
case of violation against the international law. It is a case of attempt to
impose the expansion of the Moroccan territory to include another territory by
force. It is a case of denial of the most fundamental rights of freedom,
expression, movement, cultural rights and economic rights. It is a case where a
colonizer is simply denying a colonized people all their rights and still get
away with it because France and maybe few other governments believe that
peoples’ and human rights do not matter, what matters for them are their
interest and their ability to exploit the natural resources of a colonized
nation in total impunity. And these governments, by the way, are the same ones
that lecture about human rights and pretend to defend them everywhere.
Unbelievable hypocrisy.
Why is Moroccan colonialism still there? What are the
main reasons?
The main reasons of the persistence of the Moroccan
occupation are political, economic and geographical. Morocco needs to have an
international or regional conflict to divert the attention of its people from
their real problems, which are no more than the regime and its spears.  Another reason is economic. Morocco gains
billions of dollars every year from the occupation. One only need to follow the
hundreds of cargos that transport yearly stolen phosphate from the occupied
zones to have a sort of idea about the scale of the plunder. A good example is
the Cargo detained by the South African justice since the beginning of May in
Port Elizabeth. It is a 45000 tons worth about 4 to 5 million dollars. Imagine
how many million dollars Morocco is getting from more than 100 hundred Cargo
that were tracked back in 2008 for example by the Western Sahara Resource
Watch. Every year hundreds of ships leave the ports of Western Sahara full of
Phosphate, Fish, Sand, and lately we also found that the Moroccans are also
extracting Gold from the occupied zones and trafficking it to the Golf
Then comes also the geographical, and geostrategic
reasons that makes Morocco willing to sacrifice everything to maintain the
occupation. Morocco is a small country in terms of geography, especially that
more than 50 to 60% of its territory is made useless because of mountains and
arid regions. It doesn’t have any significant natural resources and it has more
than 30 million mouths to feed. So, the expansion of the territory in Western
Sahara will provide the Kingdom with 268.000 Km square, rich in minerals, and
inhabited by a small nation that doesn’t reach one million people. It will give
Morocco also 1400 km coast rich in fisheries, and a desert where all renewable
energy can be generated, because of its strong sun, wind and strong waves in
the coast. On the geostrategic level, Morocco is serving the plans and
strategies of the West, especially France, and this later cannot afford
allowing Algeria to be the regional power. Algeria is huge in terms of
geography, unlike Morocco, and unlike Morocco it is also very rich in
resources. So it has the needed ingredients to be a super power in Africa. This
is something that France will never allow to happen. These are some of the
reasons, there are many others I already mentioned in a previous interview
published in ( an Ethiopian-American website.
Tell us about the most important human rights
violations of Morocco against Saharawi people?
The main violation is of course the violation of the
right of all peoples to self-determination. The second is the expansion of its
territory by the use of force. Then comes a range of civil, political,
cultural, and economic rights. All these violation are well documented by all
international organizations that you can imagine, Amnesty, HRW, Frontline, and
Robert Kennedy Foundation to mention only these in addition to many reports by
UN Special rapporteurs, especially the Rapporteur on torture. But, have you
ever heard any sort of denunciation or condemnation by the UN to Morocco? Never.
I begin to believe that mentioning all these violations and trying to unveil
them is just a waste of time because the so-called international community is
absent and cares more about the reality-show programs on TVs than about the
real life and sufferings of the peoples everywhere because of the criminal
policies of regimes such as the Moroccan.
ProMosaik thinks that political poetry can send an
important message of solidarity for the Saharawi people. What do you think
about it?
I am a poet myself; at least I used to be because it
has been a long time since I had the desire to write poetry about my feelings.
It is emotionally very heavy to write poetry especially when the audience of
poetry is getting smaller and smaller everywhere, including in my country that
is otherwise famous with its traditional poets who were able to move the
population better than any politician can.
Yet, I agree that poetry can be a good means to convey
the story, the message and the feelings that Western Sahara as a nation, people
and individuals hold. I also know that there is a huge heritage of political
poetry in the Saharawi refugee camps produced by few iconic poets that merit to
be exposed to a wider audience.
What have you reached until now with your writings and
what is your dream for the future?
I opened the eyes of thousands of students, young
women and men, students and researchers whom I met once, or who read some of my
writings. I gave hundreds of lectures in various countries around the world
giving the opportunity to many people to know what the real problem is and what
is really at stake in this conflict. Because many people will think or say that
the struggle in Western Sahara doesn’t concern them, while they are totally
wrong. This conflict concerns any person anywhere in the world who care about
his or her own freedoms and liberties.  The
grabbing of the territory of Western Sahara is a test by Morocco and the powers
behind it. If it succeeds any other strong nation can grab any other weak one,
and impose its colonial fait accompli just like Morocco is willing to do. It
will be a precedent, and none can complain about colonization in the future.
This is how I conceive it. And it is funny that these days, another Arab
country, Qatar, is starting to suffer a slightly similar bullying from its neighbors.
I say to the Qataris who supported Morocco before: Welcome to our world!