The transition towards a new Congress is underway. Democrats are beginning to assume leadership positions as a result of their gaining a House majority. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) should now have many issues to bring forward and one of them needs to be the Western Sahara.
Once upon a time the CBC was one of the most significant so-called mainstream players in the realm of U.S. foreign policy. In the 1970s and 1980s, the CBC was central to work against white minority rule in Southern Africa. Some of its members also pushed the envelope on the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Yet, over the years the voice of the CBC on U.S. foreign policy has become far more distant. Yes, they have paid attention to matters such as U.S. trade policy with Africa, but they have shied away from addressing conflicts in Africa, let alone other major international issues.
The question of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony illegally occupied by the Moroccan government, is one such conflict site that the CBC has spent precious little time addressing. It is not that they don’t care, at least from what I can tell. Former Congressman John Conyers, for instance, was the co-chair of a congressional committee on the Western Sahara. Yet, what has been missing is the passion and engagement that should be associated with resolving Africa’s last remaining colonial question.
The Western Sahara is not a matter on the tip of everyone’s tongue. In part because there has been a long-term truce between the Moroccan occupation forces and the national liberation movement known as POLISARIO, Morocco’s litany of human rights abuses and its denial of national self-determination to the Sahrawi population rarely gets into the headlines. Yet the potential for regional destabilization is ever present, particularly as Morocco ignores United Nations and African Union calls for the respect of national self-determination.
Quite obviously, the conflict in the Western Sahara is an inner-African struggle. This colonialism is carried out by one African country against another, rather than a struggle against European colonialism. Nevertheless, it represents a struggle over the future of Africa not only because it may explode once again but because it calls into question the terms under which peace and justice can truly emerge on a continent divided as it has been by boundaries originally established by European colonial powers.
The CBC can take an active role. It needs to put the pressure on the USA to pull back from its nearly unqualified support for the Moroccan monarchy and its illegal occupation of the Western Sahara. This can begin by the CBC making the Western Sahara a very public issue and showing the world the manner in which the Moroccan government is permitting the people of the Western Sahara to be robbed by foreign corporations in search of cheap natural resources.
The CBC truly needs its own foreign policy platform within which the Western Sahara should play a prominent role.
Fletcher, former president of TransAfrica Forum, is the author of the new thriller “The Man Who Fell From the Sky.” Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.