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Danish MPs tell companies to avoid Africa's last colony

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Danish MPs tell companies to avoid Africa's last colony
Parliament unanimously approved the motion. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix
13:54 CEST+02:00
The Danish parliament unanimously passed a motion on Thursday that urges Danish companies and the Danish public sector not to trade with Western Sahara.
During the debate that preceded the vote, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristian Jensen said he would talk to Danish companies to ensure that they know of the motion and the position the Danish parliament has now taken on Western Sahara.
 
“We want Danish companies to know and comply with the laws that are adopted by the Danish parliament. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will contact organisations, such as the Confederation of Danish Industry, to brief them on the Danish government and parliament's position on Western Sahara," Jensen said during the parliamentary debate.
 
Jensen also said that the Danish government supports and will act on one of the other issues mentioned in the motion, that of the UN's peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, being given a mandate to monitor and protect human rights in Western Sahara.
 
The risk of war
Six Danish MPs from different parties had proposed the motion and initiated the parliamentary debate, which ended with all Danish parties, from the socialist Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) to the anti-immigration Danish People's Party, voting for the motion.
 
According to Enhedslisten MP Christian Juhl, there have been many developments in regard to the Western Sahara conflict in recent years that had compelled him to propose the motion.
 
“Morocco expelled 73 of MINURSO's staff and closed the mission in Dakhla, a clear violation of the UN Charter. Ban Ki-moon has called Western Sahara an occupation, which they were very angry about in Morocco. And Afrika Kontakt released a report that showed that several Danish banks and pension funds have invested in Western Sahara. In a situation such as this, we risk young saharawis taking up arms because they have lost faith in any peaceful solution to the conflict," he told members of parliament.
 
Harder to justify trade 
The motion is meant to make it much harder for Danish companies, municipalities, banks and pension funds that presently invest in Western Sahara to justify their investments to parliament, as well as to their investors and customers.
 
“This motion can really make a difference in relation to Western Sahara. Everything depends on the UN, which is sometimes an uphill battle. But it will be an even greater task if democratic countries such as Denmark do not act”, said chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee and former Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Social Democrat Mette Gjerskov.
 
Peter Kenworthy is a sociologist and a freelance journalist for Africa Kontakt and other publications. You can see more from him here
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