The US oil company Kosmos Energy and the Scottish company Cairn Energy will drill for oil offshore Western Sahara. It is clearly in violation of international law, according to the UN - and it destroys the UN peace efforts. Here is what you need to know.
- Read our October 2014 report on Kosmos Energy, A Platform for Conflict.
- Find Kosmos Energy's controversial agreement with the Moroccan government on page 1063 in this document.
-Find high resolution images and videos of the drillship here - free of use.
In November, the rig ‘Atwood Achiever’ will be anchoring off the coast of Western Sahara
, a territory largely under Moroccan occupation. In waters about 2135 meters deep, it will commence the first drilling operation in Western Sahara's history under Moroccan occupation. Drilling will start in December 2014.
The rig is chartered by the US oil company Kosmos Energy Ltd which operates on a licence granted by the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM, in partnership with Scottish company Cairn Energy PLC
Exploration of oil offshore occupied Western Sahara presents a significant problem.
Such activities are considered to be in violation of international law. In 2002, the UN Legal Office stated that oil exploration or exploitation in Western Sahara to be illegal if undertaken ”in disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara
The people of Western Sahara, the Saharawi people, and their representatives
have unequivocally stated their opposition to Kosmos’ plans in their occupied native land’s waters. The Saharawis are also on record as noting that they will not tangibly benefit from oil production – rather the contrary; they fear that the petroleum may not be available to them in the future, and that the industrial and economic activity to result from oil production will only entrench an illegal and violent occupation. Half the people of Western Sahara today live in refugee camps in the harshest parts of the Algerian desert, surviving on dwindling humanitarian aid and facing malnutrition. They don’t stand to benefit at all.
As such, Morocco’s oil programme in Western Sahara presents a key obstacle to the resolution of this long-standing conflict, as it severely undermines the Saharawi people’s confidence in the UN-led peace talks and in the United Nations as the custodian of international law.
By engaging in oil production in Western Sahara through a deal with the Moroccan government, Kosmos and Cairn contribute to supporting Morocco’s unfounded claims to sovereignty over the territory and disrespect the wishes of the indigenous Saharawi people. No state in the world recognises the Moroccan self-proclaimed sovereignty over the territory.
Neither Kosmos, Cairn, nor the owner of the drillship, Atwood Oceanics have ever sought the consent of the people of the territory, the Saharawi people. Instead, the involved companies carried out a duplicitous consultation process whereby they met pro-Moroccan groups to support its plans
Carrying out protests against the planned drilling implies a risk to the safety and freedom of the people involved
. In recent years, Saharawi activists have been handed lifetime sentences in a Moroccan military court for protesting against the plunder
, and severely beaten by police for peacefully expressing opposition to Kosmos
Numerous companies that have worked for Kosmos Energy on the Western Sahara licence have regretted their involvement, such as the seismic survey companies and the builders of the drillship
The drilling programme in Western Sahara is unique. It will be the first time since 1999 that drilling will take place offshore an occupied part of a Non-Self-Governing Territory will take place. When that happened last time, under Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, the activities were widely condemned and universally acknowledged as illegal.
Fore more information, use the search engine on the website of www.wsrw.org.