Morocco’s role as Western Sahara’s “first investor, the first employer, and the first contributor to its GDP” is “undeniable,” the expert said.
Rabat – Dr. Firmin C. Kinzounza, one of 10 experts in charge of the African Union’s (AU) Recruitment and Selection System, has said Morocco’s development projects in Western Sahara comply with international law and benefit the local population.
The 11th episode of “Sahara Debate,” an online talk show that aims to shed light on the territorial dispute, featured the Congolese expert and university professor on June 25.
The international consultant said Morocco’s development of natural resources in Western Sahara, such as phosphates, is primarily based on the interests of the region’s inhabitants. The approach is in accordance with the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN General Assembly’s Declaration on the Right to Development.
Kinzounza referenced the UN Legal Counsel of February 12, 2002, to support his point.
The UN Security Council requested in 2002 the under-secretary-general for legal affairs’ opinion on “the legality … of actions allegedly taken by the Moroccan authorities consisting in the offering and signing of contracts with foreign companies for the exploration of mineral resources in Western Sahara.”
In response, the legal counsel affirmed that Morocco’s development of natural resources in Western Sahara complies with international law if it is done for the benefit of the region’s inhabitants, on their behalf or in consultation with their representatives.
“It is this approach that the Kingdom of Morocco follows in its policy of valuing the natural resources of the Moroccan Sahara,” said the Congolese academic.
A shared approach
The consent of Western Sahara’s inhabitants to Morocco’s development projects, he continued, is evidenced in the high participation rates in the regional elections in 2015 (79% voter turnout) and 2016 (75%).
Kinzounza said the legality of the matter was “clearly confirmed” by both the European Parliament and the Commission of the European Union. He underlined “the overwhelming majority” by which the European Parliament renewed the Morocco-EU Agricultural Agreement on January 17, 2019, and the Morocco-EU Fisheries Agreement on February 12, 2019.
The expert then stressed “the preponderant share of Morocco’s budget in the financing of development projects in the Moroccan Sahara.” To illustrate his point, he referenced King Mohammed VI’s speech on November 6, 2014, during which the monarch said, “For every single dirham of revenue from the Sahara, the state invests seven dirhams there.”
Morocco’s alignment with international development principles
The 2015 development model for the southern provinces, Kinzounza continued, is grounded in the principle of local participation in development policies, plans, and projects.
This model, he said, is based on strengthening the economic and social rights of the region’s population. The model has ushered in the implementation of major financing projects in the fields of health, infrastructure, training, industry, agriculture, renewable energy, and sea fishing, he added.
Kinzounza concluded by saying that Morocco’s role as Western Sahara’s “first investor, the first employer, and the first contributor to its GDP” is “undeniable.”
The Congolese expert’s statements echo those of Former British ministers Mark Field and Derek Conway, who participated in the “Sahara Debate” on June 23.
The ministers said the reforms and development projects King Mohammed VI launched in Morocco’s southern regions have built an atmosphere of stability, democracy, and prosperity.
The population enjoys full political, economic, and social rights, Conway stressed while advocating for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan.
Like Kinzounza, Conway commended the investments Morocco has made in the region: “Far from exploiting the region as it is often alleged, it is quite clear that the Moroccan government is putting a great deal of investments in that part of the world.”