Moroccan PR campaigner to write Kosmos Energy controversy assessment
A Moroccan national who dedicates her life to campaign the Moroccan position of the Western Sahara conflict is working on the upcoming “Social Impact Assessment” of Kosmos Energy. Drilling in the occupied territory to begin in November.
Her name is Naima Korchi. On dozens of occasions she has travelled to international events presenting a position identical to that of the Moroccan government. She denies the existence of refugees from Western Sahara.
WSRW does not know the terms of reference of her work, nor the time of publication of the upcoming report. However, WSRW has had confirmed from numerous sources that Korchi has been commissioned by Kosmos Energy in the work of writing or researching for the company’s Social Impact Assessment report regarding the exploration programme in the occupied territory. Kosmos Energy is in November going to drill in Western Sahara, for the first time ever. WSRW expects the report to be issued before drilling commences.
Korchi is a well-known figure in the Saharawi community due to her extensive travels internationally. where she presents the Moroccan position. She introduces herself as "international law expert" and says that the Western Sahara work is her main activity. Beginning of July, Korchi was seen visiting the occupied territory with an inhouse analyst of Kosmos Energy.
It is hard to know how the advice of Korchi would come in useful. It is of Korchi's opinion that Western Sahara is part of Morocco, that the refugees are not refugees, but kidnapped Moroccans (!) and that Polisario is a "separatist movement". Korchi refuses the existence of a Saharawi people, but describes all the people of Western Sahara as "Moroccans". See a series of controversial statements from Korchi below.
“Based on Kosmos Energy’s approach so far, and the knowledge of the preparations that the company has undertaken in its production of its Social Impact Assessment, we have serious doubts that the rights of the people of Western Sahara will be reflected at all in the report”, stated Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).
"Commissioning anyone of Korchi's nature for carrying out the Social Impact Assessment illustrates Kosmos Energy's approach to the conflict. It is the same approach as has been taken in the so-called "Joint-Declaration" with the Moroccan state oil company: Kosmos Energy's licence and dialogue take place with the occupation government and puppet organisations only, and not with the people of the territory", stated Hagen.
WSRW calls on attentive readers of the upcoming Social Impact Assessment to see if any of the following points have been included: - Any reference to any opinions of any Saharawi groups that support the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. - Any reference to any consultation with the part of the Western Sahara people which fled the territory following the Moroccan occupation of the territory in 1975, and who now reside in refugee camps in western Algeria. - Any reference to Morocco’s rejection in the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 of respecting minimum standards of registering civil society organisations. - Any reference to the demonstrations having taken place so far against Kosmos Energy’s oil plans in the territory, and any reference or interviews with the Saharawis injured so far by the Moroccan police in such protests, and any risk assessment as to how the security or human rights situation might deteriorate as Moroccan authorities try to prevent the Saharawis from defending their legitimate rights over their own resources in a context where freedom to demonstration and organisation is absent. - Any reference to the conclusion of the UN legal opinion of 2002, where the UN Legal Counsel states " if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories". -Any reference as to how the UN peace process might be negatively affected as Morocco's incentives to accept a process of self-determination will decrease as consequences of a potential oil find. -Any reference to how Morocco is in a position to sign a licence for a seabed territory over which it has no sovereignty and over which it has never even laid a maritime claim, and how it views Frente Polisario's statement in 2001 of Morocco's first issuing of the Boujdour licence in those waters was considered a violation of the ceasefire.
All information known so far of Kosmos Energy’s contacts on the ground in Western Sahara, point to the fact that only “puppet NGOs” identified by the Moroccan government have been contacted in the making of this report. WSRW wrote 29 June that Kosmos had been given list of claimed "NGOs" from the Moroccan administration in Western Sahara. WSRW knows of not a single Saharawi group having been contacted by Kosmos Energy, ever.
Korchi’s view of the conflict:
1. She is a pronounced defender of the Moroccan plan to integrate Western Sahara into the Moroccan kingdom: "It will assure to maintain the stability of the Kingdom", she said. Korchi expresses "deep admiration for our late King" (Mohammed V).
2. She has Western Sahara campaigning as her main task - again from the point of departure of the Moroccan position. Here is a quote from an interview in 2013: "Which are the main causes which you defend and through which organ? The question of Sahara, more particularly the humanitarian issue, regarding the human rights violations against the populations kidnapped (sic) in Tindouf. This takes most of my time. I do this through my NGO or as invitee from other organisations. I have intervened most importantly in international human rights organisations, in parliaments (recently in South Africa, the Scandinavian countries, the European Parliament)."
3.She states Western Sahara is part of Morocco or the “Southern Provinces”, and that people in the refugee camps are "compatriotes" - a rather insulting term seen from the Saharawi people own's perspective, considering they are not.
On numerous occasions, Korchi follows the Moroccan narrative that the Saharawi people does not really exist, and that the people in the refugee camps are kidnapped Moroccans "held against their will", as stated here in a meeting in Paris in 2009.
Korchi questions whether they are actually "refugees" and says "so-called Saharawi people", as in this seminar in Rabat in 2009. These statements are fully in line with the Moroccan position.
In a statement given in 2012, she states that Morocco is the “country of origin” of the children in Tindouf, misrepresenting the fact that Western Sahara has never been part of Morocco: "For international jurist Naima Korchi and Anna Maria Stame from the Democratic International Center, the syllabi and materials used in the schools attended by the children of the camps of Tindouf are far from being conform to international standards. As practice goes, the culture of the country of origin is taught to displaced children so that they maintain ties with their homeland. Yet, in the Tindouf camps and for obvious reasons, the separatists prevent the children from having access to any facts or information on their country of origin, Morocco, and on Moroccan culture, the two human rights activists said."
In 2013, she labelled Frente Polisario a "separatist" group – which in theory would give meaning if Western Sahara tries to separate from Morocco - but that labelling of course gives no meaning considering Western Sahara has never been part of Morocco
4. Korchi repeatedly expresses concerns of human rights violations from the refugee camps which are not based on any serious report whatsoever nor supported by documentation. 2013, Geneva: "For her part, Naima Korchi, member of the International Agency for Development (AIDE), denounced the plight of women in the Tindouf camps and said these women “are left at the mercy of the separatist movement leaders who subject them to the heinous crime of forced pregnancy.”
5. In her campaigning Korchi attracts international visitors to the occupied territory, tying them to statements critical to Polisario. This is a strategy which WSRW often sees that the Moroccan government is applying.
In 2014, Korchi initiated a network calling itself the "African Women's Forum" – a meeting of that “forum” took place in the occupied city of Dakhla from 8 to 11 May 2014. Korchi was elected "director general" of the network. The meeting allegedly attracted women from 30 countries to Dakhla (This way of seeking international support to Morocco is seen often in Dakhla). The statement by Korchi's initiative calls the Saharawi refugees "Moroccan". In a story from MAP (Maghreb Arabe Press, the Moroccan govnt news agency), she is referred to as the "president" of AFW. See also here.
"Participants, who included ministers, MPS and experts from Africa, expressed solidarity with these women forcibly held in the Tindouf camps where they endure all types of abuses, including rape and separation from their children, deploring the media blackout imposed by the Polisario leaders to hide this tragic situation", it was stated.
5. Korchi - refered to as an expert of international law - fundamentally misinterprets the ICJ opinion in 1975, which is a key document in the understanding of the illegality of Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara. The ICJ states that the Moroccan sovereignty ties are baseless, and gives absolutely no credibility to Morocco’s and Mauritania’s claims. In a parenthesis, the ICJ mentions that "some, but only some of the nomadic people” and a certain tie to the sultan, but that these really were of no importance. See the ICJ opinion here.
However, Korchi – perfectly in line with the Moroccan position – misrepresents the ICJ : "Mme Korchi qui a, par ailleurs, rappelé dans son intervention l'avis rendu par la Cour internationale de Justice (CIJ) en 1975 confirmant le lien d'allégeance entre les tribus du Sahara et les souverains marocains."
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.