A photo from the current sit-in
* Khalil Asmar is a Saharawi writer and blogger. Follow him on twitter at @Sahara_Voice
On why the #Saharawis are organising a sit-in camp in El Gargarat areahttps://t.co/33XamIcdKA #WesternSahara #Polisario #Morocco #Saharawi_republic #Algeria @StateDept @EUCourtPress @EU_Commission @franceonu @BBCAfrica @CNNAfrica @AFP @WesternSaharaNZ @ChangeAgentSA @Limam_MASB— Khalil Asmar (@Sahara_Voice) September 28, 2020
In recent days, many Saharawi civil society organisations have launched a campaign to organise a sit-in in the Gargarat area to denounce Morocco’s incessant violations of the peace plan in occupied Western Sahara and calling to halt Morocco’s plunder and trade of the Saharawi natural resources that end up sold down to African countries through an illegal loophole done by the Moroccan colonial authorities to ease road traffic down to Mauritania borders and then to the rest of African countries.
A loophole and not a crossing border
The Gargarat is a small geographical area in the occupied Western Sahara located approximately 11 km long across the border with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and 5 km away from the Atlantic Ocean. It is around 05 km between Morocco military sand wall and the Mauritanian borders.
This area stands at the extreme south western end of the Moroccan heavily mined berm built during the eighties of the last century, prior to the announcement of a ceasefire between the Polisario, UN recognised Western Sahara liberation movement and the occupation power, the Kingdom of Morocco. This wall extends from the suburbs of Mahbas in the east to Agargar in the southwest to separate the occupied and liberated parts of the Saharawi people’s lands covering a range of 2700 km; the largest wall on earth after the Chinese wall and littered by around 10 million land mine.
Cunningly seizing the ceasefire that was signed in 1991 after a 16 years war, Morocco dug an illegal loophole in the wall behind which its armies are entrenched and considered it a border crossing between it and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, with a control point for the Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie that later turned into a frontline customs duty. Between Mauritania and this illegal check point stands this buffer zone supervised by the Polisario army in addition to continuous monitoring by the Minurso; the UN mission to organize the referendum in occupied Western Sahara.
A sit-in to stop the illegal plunder
The loophole has long become a focus of tension due to its illegitimacy, as well as its role in facilitating the depletion and plunder of the wealth of the Sahrawi people illegally exported on a regular basis to neighbouring countries while the peace plan remains stalled because of Morocco’s intransigence against the will of the international community.
Notwithstanding, the Gargarat area often witnessed several sit-ins made by Saharawi civilians as a form of protest against the ongoing Moroccan occupation resulting into this illegal crossing border’s frequent shut downs; a means to draw the attention of the international community to the illegal loophole that breaches the cease fire agreement and also to the dire situation of human rights abused on a regular basis in occupied Western Sahara territories.
A passage to Morocco’s narcotics trafficking
Even worse, the loophole that has turned into an illegal crossing border has become, since its inception in 2001, not only a transit to Morocco’s goods but also a passage to its cannabis drugs whose income forms quarter of Morocco state annual GDP.
According to the latest UN report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2374 (2017) on Mali and renewed pursuant to resolution 2484 (2019) and that was released in 2020, Morocco remains the biggest exporter of the cannabis drugs and its derivatives. The report stresses that “the most regular and stable narcotics flow through Mali remains cannabis resin, or hashish, from Morocco, moving via Mauritania and Mali through the Niger to Libya”.
Though this Moroccan illegal duty customs is equipped with modern scanners and professional sniffing dogs, the cannabis shipments cross the borders through all kinds of vehicles including “shipments transported in cooling trucks” as stated in at least one occasion in the UN report.
The Moroccan state-based narcotics trafficking remains one the biggest sources that finance the terrorist groups roaming the vast Sahara desert and causing mayhem in many African countries. By empowering the terrorist groups, Morocco through its narcotics trafficking aims at destabilizing Algeria, the main supporter of Polisario and the harbour of the Saharawi refugee camps.