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Letter to McDonald's

The Sahrawi Committee in the USA has written to the CEO of McDonald's to stop the franchising in Occupied Western Sahara.
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Dear Mr. James Skinner, CEO of MC Donald’s,

We are writing to you to let you know that we shocked by the news that your Corporate company gave the permission for a local franchisee in the city of El-Aaiun in Western Sahara which is a non-autonomous territory. You might be aware of the fact that a project to open a McDonald’s restaurant in El-Aaiun (Laayoune) in Western Sahara was announced last week by the local City Hall. The works are due to start next month where a McDonald’s location will be opened and established there. In regular circumstance, it would have been a regular business deal and very much prosperous for the McDonald’s corporation with more money for shareholders and for the franchisee as well.

For us, the Sahrawis, it is bloody money, and such a project is sending the wrong message and a powerful statement whereby it legitimizes the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. It will also contribute to the prolongation of the suffering of its people whether in the occupied territory, in the refugees’ camps or elsewhere.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony from 1884 till 1975. Unfortunately it didn't have the same ending like all the other colonies in Africa and Latin America: being granted independence even though the legal opinion of the International Court of Justice issued in October 1975 and the report of the  UN visiting mission sent by the UN General Assembly in 1975 all recommended the right of self determination for the Saharawis and the need to decolonize Western Sahara .

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain defaulted on its promise to hold a referendum of self-determination and ceded its claim to Morocco and Mauritania. Fighting went on for 16 years before a ceasefire agreement in 1991 was signed under the auspices of the UN. Not only did Morocco not brought in its forces, but it also settled its citizens in the territory it had seized. Morocco continues to exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources for its own profit while the rightful owners of the land either languish in refugee camps and are dependent on dwindling humanitarian aid or are under occupation being impoverished with all their rights confiscated.

On December, 2015, Te European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that it annulling the EU-Morocco trade relations  because they included the territory of occupied Western Sahara. In its decision, the European Court of Justice said the trade deal signed in March 2012 between the North African country and the EU failed to explicitly refer to Western Sahara, leaving open the possibility that the accord would apply in the disputed region. The judgement shows how clear-cut the Western Sahara case is legal. It also mentioned neither that Neither Morocco nor the EU have the right to exploit the resources of Western Sahara.

Obviously, Morocco is luring in foreign companies whether private or public to invest in Western Sahara in order to legitimize its presence in the Non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara. Morocco also uses the revenues from such investments to strengthen its economy at the expense of the Saharawis´ sufferance and impoverishment. Some portions of these revenues are used to bribe officials and lobbyists abroad to back and to lobby for the Moroccan government’s position on Western Sahara (autonomy plan). Infrastructure projects are meant to serve the Moroccan settlement and to ease the plundering of the Saharawi resources.

Many banks and pension funds have divested from Western Sahara. For example, The Sovereign Fund of Norway divested from an oil company then active in Western Sahara: Kerr-McGee in 2003. In June 2013, the Norwegian life insurance firm KLP had also announced its decision to divest from Total Company because of ethics, the international legality and because of its activities in Western Sahara. Early in 2016,The French Company Total also pulled from the territory and said it would no longer have any economic activities in Western Sahara.

It is our duty and our commitment as well as the respect of internal law that we would like you to refrain from making or planning or even conducting any economic activities in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

For these reasons, it is our duty to remind you of the ethics of conducting business and of the obligations and responsibilities that are part of your global business success while respecting human rights. We do not want McDonald’s to be part of an occupation scheme that has been oppressing and silencing the people of Western Sahara.  Your company, with its international reputation, cannot be part of such tragedy. All Saharawis want McDonald’s to be the first to divest in occupied Western Sahara. Yet, when we become independent and free, we will ask you to come to Free Western Sahara and establish your brand there. We are not against McDonald´s as much as we are against legitimizing the illegal presence of Morocco in Western Sahara through international and foreign business investment.
Best Regards,
Mohamed Ali Arkoukou
President of The Sahrawi Committee in USA



The Western Sahara Campaign works in solidarity with the Saharawi people to generate political support in order to advance their right to self-determination and to promote their human rights. Our role is to lobby the UK Government and the EU. You can help us to ensure the UK does not ignore the voice of the Saharawi people.



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