On 26 February 2015, Kosmos Energy launched the website www.westernsaharaoil.com apparently with the intention to defend its current drilling operation in Western Sahara.
The website is built on an argument that everything with oil exploration in Western Sahara is ok providing that the local people benefit.
The problem is that the entire argument is based on a lie.
The website refers to, and systematically misrepresents, a UN Legal Opinion regarding the legality of this oil exploration. This misrepresentation is in line with all other letters and statements from Kosmos Energy in the past.
"[The UN Legal Opinion in 2002] concluded that exploration and development of resources in non-self-governing territories are consistent with international law if they are in the best interests of people in those territories", the website argues.
Below is a picture what the conclusion of the UN opinion states. The conclusion is that oil exploration in Western Sahara only will be legal providing it is in accordance with the wishes and interests of the people territory. The conclusion of that opinion is, not surprisingly, to be found in the last paragraph of the legal opinion.
In other words, Kosmos has removed all references to the words "wishes" from its website. Nor are there any reference to the fact that the Saharawi people has a right to self-determination over their land and resources.
Or, as the author of the UN Legal Opinion himself stated in an op-ed in International Judicial Monitor this week, "The latest development with respect to natural resources is a contract between Morocco and two companies, Kosmos and Glencore, relating to oil exploration and exploitation in the Cap Boujdour area off the coast of Western Sahara. I can see from the web that the two companies maintain that this contract is in conformity with my 2002 legal opinion. Regrettably, it is not. Already signing an agreement in which Morocco refers to Western Sahara as “the southern provinces of the Kingdom of Morocco” is at variance with Corporate Social Responsibility and the principles Protect, Respect and Remedy"; Corell note.
By ignoring that the people do not wish Kosmos welcome in the first place, the website then proceeds to make reference to "benefits projects" which is "focused on stakeholder engagement and social investment, consistent with how we do business everywhere we operate".
"This reference to stakeholders illustrates the problem of Kosmos Energy's approach", states Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch regarding the new website. "The company has reduced the Saharawi people into a mere stakeholder. In fact they are the legitimate owner of the oil. The people of Western Sahara has not allowed the oil company to proceed with the oil drilling in partnership with the government of the neighbouring country of Morocco. It is highly arrogant and paternalistic of the company to claim to know how the Saharawis want the oil company's partnership with the occupier to take place", stated Hagen.
The development of the projects are made partially by High Atlas Foundation, a pro-Moroccan association which has the interests of the Moroccan population as main focus. From the website, it appears that Kosmos has done a Social Impact Assessment (SIA). The mandate of that assessment might well have been a good approach in any other context, but this is not the case in Western Sahara.
"The people don't wish Kosmos to be present, so the SIA carries no meaning. Leading opponents of the oil programme, which argue only in line with the wishes of the people of Western Sahara, are serving life sentences in jail. Half the Western Sahara people have fled following the invasion. A SIA mandate to consult with Moroccan government officials in Western Sahara is not worth the paper it is written on. A thief would seldom trespass someone else's property, telling the robbed how generous they are to leave some of the goods behind", stated Hagen.
No reference on the propaganda site is done to the fact that the Moroccan occupation of the territory is condemned by the UN and that no state recognise Morocco's presence there. No reference is made to the the refugees which have fled Western Sahara - or how this oil industry will prolong their exile. No reference is made to the more than 100 UN resolutions calling for the right to self-determination of the people of the territory.
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.