Shortly after Texas-based Kosmos Energy announced its plans to start exploratory drilling in occupied Western Sahara later this year, WSRW got in touch with the company.
In its letter, dated 14 March 2014, WSRW asked what Kosmos has done to seek the consent of the Saharawi people for its plans. In its position paper issued earlier in 2014, the company had already made it clear that it is happy to accept the Moroccan government as a spokesperson for the Saharawi people it so brutally oppresses.
"It is not up to Kosmos to determine whether or not its activities would be beneficial, or in the interest or the wishes of the Saharawi people, nor is it for Moroccan King, government or any of the institutional bodies to make such assertions. It is the Saharawi people, the sole and original inhabitants of Western Sahara, who have the right to self-determination over their territory and its natural resources. The wishes of the Saharawi people cannot be ignored, and are a key-point to understanding the entire concept of self-determination", WSRW wrote to Kosmos.
On 17 April 2014 - for the first time in years - Kosmos Energy replied to a letter by WSRW. In its letter, the company downplays its political role in the conflict while heralding its own responsible corporate citizenship. The company is convinced that its current exploratory actions, and its plans to start exploiting oil if commercially viable deposits are discovered, are completely in line with the UN Charter and the 2002 UN Legal Opinion on resource development in Western Sahara.
Said opinion, issued at the request of the UN Security Council in 2002 following big oil's interest in occupied Western Sahara on the exact same block where Kosmos is now operating, concluded that any exploration or exploitation is in violation of international law if failing to take into account the wishes and the interests of the people of Western Sahara - the Saharawi people. Precisely the people Kosmos choses to ignore when teaming up with the Moroccan government for oil activities in occupied Western Sahara.
WSRW has now replied to the company. While expressing its hope for continued dialogue, WSRW underscored that "the occupying state, Morocco, has no right or title to the seabed or its resources on the coast of Western Sahara" ... "The absence of any right or historical-factual nexus to ground the licensing of petroleum exploration makes out the Saharawi position, and opens the door to future reparations claims".
WSRW furthermore urged the company to stop referring to the UN legal opinion to legitimise its operations.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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Big oil’s interest in occupied Western Sahara has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Some companies are now drilling, in complete disregard of international law and the Saharawi people’s rights. Here’s what you need to know.