Call for freedom for Western Sahara
NOT MANY South Africans know of the existence of the Sahrawi Republic in northwest Africa, let alone how its people have struggled for political liberation for more than 40 years, said a representative of the Sahrawi Women’s Union yesterday.
Fatma Mehdi, the union’s secretary general, was speaking at the District 6 Homecoming Centre as a guest of the World March of Women in Southern Africa.
She said she wanted to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Sahrawi Republic, also known as Western Sahara.
The country had been a Spanish colony between 1884 and 1975, before being occupied by Moroccan and Mauritanian forces, Mehdi said.
Although Sahrawi was recognised as a republic by the AU, and Mauritania had signed a peace deal in 1991, Morocco wanted either to claim the people of the country as its own, or for the area to become autonomous under Morocco.
“According to Morocco, we do not deserve independence. We are too few a people to be a nation and we do not deserve Western Sahara,” Mehdi said. “That is why Morocco is not part of the African Union.”
At least 200 000 people lived in refugee camps as they had been forced out of most of their country. The total population is about one million people.
“The conditions in the camps are bad, but I have learnt to adapt. We have basic services like schools and hospitals. I know this is how my life is but I do not want my children to live like this.
“Our pressing need is not hunger, but political freedom and dignity,” she said.
DIGNITY: Fatma Mehdi.