Mixing Occupation and Oil in Western Sahara

Kerr-McGee Corporation tries to drill into a powder keg

| July 28, 2005

For thirty years, Morocco has been doing its darnedest as a colonizer, subjugating Western Sahara, its neighbor to the south. And yet, not a single country nor international body presently gives Morocco credit for a legitimate occupation. Such a consensus is due primarily to the fact that the UN-arbitrated dispute between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara remains unresolved after three decades.

During this protracted diplomatic stalemate, a guerrilla war has been waged, tens of thousands of refugees have fled the country, and Morocco has managed to pin Western Sahara under its heel. And while the political community may not recognize Morocco's claim to power, some foreign companies looking to set up shop in the disputed territory do. So when the Kerr-McGee Corporation caught wind of potential crude deposits off the shores of Western Sahara, the American oil and natural gas company approached Moroccan officials for a 'Reconnaissance Permit' allowing it to explore the possibility of drilling.

Writing in CorpWatch, Jacob Mundy charges that Kerr-McGee is irresponsibly inserting 'another volatile element' into current negotiations for a lasting peace. Along with Mundy, the Norwegian government is up in arms. Ronny Hansen, spokesperson for the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, contends 'Kerr-McGee offers political legitimization to the Moroccan occupation and contributes in escalating the conflict.' The company claims its dealings have not raised the political stakes and have had only a benign effect.
-- Archie Ingersoll

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