WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

original french

WEEK 08

20.-26.02.2000

 

Referendum - Annan Report (S/2000/131)

Saharawi reactions
The president of SADR, in his speech opening the 4th congress of the UGTSARIO, declared: "If the referendum is no longer possible, the UN should declare its incapacity to organise it and announce who is responsible for its failure." In this case the Saharawi people "will assume its own responsibilities and take an appropriate position". (
SPS)
The representative of the Polisario Front with the UN thinks that the problem of the appeals "is neither by nature or by scope insurmountable". It is a problem which can and should be resolved". He regretted that the UN Secretary General had not put forward practical ideas for the solution of the problem and had presented a "pessimistic appraisal" and a "gloomy picture" which would make the organisation of a referendum difficult. He welcomed with satisfaction the involvement of James Baker and made the point that the settlement plan remains the best and only peaceful way of finding a solution to the conflict. (
APS)
In a press release, the press agency SPS points out the inaccuracy of the conclusions of the report, which do not correspond to the line previously adopted, that Kofi Annan disregards the important progress made up until now and omits the question of the appeals. For the
SPS this report is an attempt to prepare opinion for the idea of a solution other than the referendum, whereas a clear mandate is given to the Secretary General, that of organising a referendum of self-determination. SPS recalls finally that the mandate of James Baker should be within the remit of the settlement plan, although the report of Kofi Annan does not make this clear. (SPS).
The Saharawi Ambassador with the OAU, Fadel Ismaïl: "At the moment that the international community notes, after the establishment of the list of voters, that the referendum would doubtless confirm the independence of the Sahara, a high level conspiracy with the aim of abandoning the way of the referendum, is being fomented against the Saharawi people. The unavowed aim of this attempt is to prepare the ground for another solution, while the referendum is closer than ever and the definitive settlement of the problem of the decolonisation of Western Sahara. Nothing, really nothing, can replace the referendum to resolve the conflict once and for all except the recognition of the Saharawi Republic by Morocco. Any other solution is condemned, in advance, to failure."

Morocco
The Moroccan Minister of the Interior, Ahmed El Midaoui, in an interview with the daily paper,
Le Parisien, said: "For us, the question of the Sahara is resolved : Morocco is at home there and will stay there. A referendum cannot take place unless all Saharawis take part. It is the only condition that we are putting to the UN. But if they want to impose on us that only part of the Saharawis can vote, we will not accept it."

Some extracts and headlines from the media.
Le Quotidien du Maroc (21.02.00): "James Baker will have a lot to do to get the process out of the present impasse, at the moment when nobody has started talking of a third way, this is the direction that we hope Baker's mission will take."
Al-Ittihad al Ichtiraki (Morocco): "Kofi Annan thinks that Morocco and the separatists each make a link between the constitution of the electoral body and the result of the referendum. This is an erroneous conclusion, for if it applies to the Polisario, it will not be valid for Morocco. We find ourselves faced with a new logic of the UN, an incomprehensible logic, for the UN must adhere to the terms of the referendum plan and the participation of all Saharawis."
Maroc Hebdo International headline: "Abandonment by the UN of the Referendum in Moroccan Sahara", "The UN annuls the referendum in the Sahara", "What can be done with the Polisario?"
La Tribune, Algiers, 24.02.00: "The signs militate rather for optimism. The many contacts between those responsible in Morocco and Algeria in recent days speak in favour of a normalisation between Algiers and Rabat prior to the final settlement of the Western Sahara issue."
El Watan, Algiers: "The prevarications of Morocco and Kofi Annan's repeated side-stepping are opening the way to resume military hostilities."
El Pais, Madrid, headline "Saharan Mirage" it thinks that the Realpolitik has rules which disadvantage the weaker party. Neither the USA nor France are going to blow up their special relationship with Morocco. The UN itself suggests looking for an alternative solution. The writer of the editorial concludes that what happened in Timor weighs heavily on the global powers.
Financial Times, London, title: «Hopes fade for Western Sahara vote»

NGOs
The Spanish Associations of Support for the Saharawi People, meeting in Barcelona, declare in a press release that "Annan's report constitutes an inacceptable provocation for a people which has spent 25 years in exile and an insult to the consciences of their supporters. No technical or political argument can permit the UN or its Secretary General or the Security Council not to fulfil their mandate."

17.02.00
Great Britain
Responding to a question in the House of Commons from Julia Drown, MP, on the measures which the British government counts on taking to ensure that the appeals procedures are respected by the two parties, Peter Hain, Minister for Africa and the Middle East at the Foreign Office, replied that Great Britain would ask the two parties to stick to the UN Peace Plan which is committed to a referendum.

18.02.00
Appeals
The lawyer, Susan Marks, a specialist in International Law, Fellow and Director of Studies in Law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, has written a legal opinion on the admissibility of appeals as given in the Peace Plan. The English text is available.

22.02.00
Hunger Strike
The three Saharawi detainees held in Inezgane have started an unlimited hunger strike. They demand their liberation or the acceleration of the process as well as bringing to justice those who have tortured them. The examining magistrate who questioned them on 14 February decided to keep them in detention until 14 April, without fixing a date for their trial. The Moroccan Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AMDH) sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice asking for their immediate intervention.(
AFP, SPS).

24.02.00
Security Council
After having been briefed on the present situation by Bernard Miyet, the deputy Secretary General responsible for operations for the maintenance of peace, the Council is considering a resolution and will decide on Monday 28 February on the extension of the mandate of MINURSO.

25.02.00
New Delhi
The Association of Indian African specialists organised an international seminar on "The UN Peace Plan in Western Sahara, problems and perspectives for the future". University lecturers and journalists spoke in the presence of Indian parliamentarians and politicians as well as several ambassadors.

24-26.02.00
4th Congress of the UGTSARIO
The General Union of Workers of Saguiat et Hamra and Rio de Oro held its congress under the slogan "mobilisation, fidelity and continuity", in the presence of more than 700 delegates and about 100 invited members of foreign delegations. The Saharawi trade union general assembly elected a new secretary general, the National Council and the executive committee. The last day was devoted to a conference of solidarity with the Saharawi people. UGTSARIO held its first congress on 20 October 1975, one year after its first militants sabotaged the conveyer belt of Bou-Craa. (
SPS).

25.02.00
Liberation
The International Red Cross took charge of 186 Moroccan prisoners of war and repatriated them. They were liberated last November by the Polisario Front as a gesture of good will.

SOLIDARITY

Barcelona, El Masnou: 19-20.02.00, the Catalan Association of Friends of the Saharawi People and the delegation in Catalonia from the Polisario Front organised the first official days of "Holidays in Peace", in collaboration with the general secretariat of youth of Catalonia. Representatives of associations and committees of support for the Saharawi People from different communities in Spain approved, after discussion with the Saharawi representatives, a series of measures which should improve the welcome of Saharawi children in Spain during the summer.

DIPLOMACY

14-16.02.00
Extremadura
The representative of the Polisario Front in Spain, Brahim Ghali, made an official visit to Extremadura, during which he met members of the autonomous government, parliamentarians and representatives of the associations of support for the Saharawi People.

24.02.00
During his official visit to Asturia, Brahim Ghali had talks with the president of this autonomous region. In his speech he assured them that the Polisario Front could return to arms if Morocco persisted with its delaying tactics.

21-24.02.00India-Morocco
First visit to India of a Moroccan Prime Minister, accompanied by a large delegation. Despite important economic agreements and political pressure, India did not give in to Moroccan advances. Its Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, expressed again the support of his country for the UN Settlement Plan for Western Sahara and reaffirmed its recognition of the Saharawi Republic. India recognised SADR in 1985, and SADR is represented in New Delhi by a charge d'affaires, Mohamed Salem Hadj Embarek.

26.02.00
SADR - Africa
The Saharawi minister of Foreign Affairs went to Nigeria and Chad, whose governments reaffirmed their support for a rigorous application of the UN Settlement Plan. The Chad government gave its approval to the nomination of Malaïnine Sadik as Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of SADR in the Republic of Chad.

CULTURE

The work «Sàhara Occidental. Pasado y presente de un pueblo», by the archeologists Narcís Soler, Carles Serra, Joan Escolà and Jordi Ungé, was presented to the press at the University of Girone. The book describes the natural environment, the history and the culture of the Saharawi people, it is the fruit of collaboration between the Saharawi Ministry of Culture and the University of Girona whose aim is to make the Saharawi people known by setting up a National Museum of the Saharawi People and a web site.
The team of archeologists, which has been working for several years in the region of Rekeiz and Slugilla Lawaj, in the north-east of Western Sahara, requested UNESCO on this occasion to declare the rock art discovered in this zone a world heritage site. The site is situated 120 km from the Saharawi refugee camps, and the rock engravings cover an area 30 km by 300 metres.

COMING UP

United Kingdom: University of Sussex, Brighton, 01.03.00, from 6:00 to7:30 pm: War and Refugees in Western Sahara: a UN Failure? David Styan (LSE), Diana Montero Melis (Euro). Chair: Alex Colas (Afras). Meeting House, organized by AFRICA FORUM. For more info: email Africa-forum@excite.com

NEW ON THE INTERNET

A. Raffaele Ciriello, an independent photo-journalist who covers exclusively wars are places of conflict throughout the world, presents a photographic report on Western Sahara.
http://www.ciriello.com/49saharawi1.html
http://www.ciriello.com/49saharawi2.html

NEW PUBLICATIONS
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