WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

original french

WEEK 01

01.-06.01.2001

 

Paris-Dakar Rally

On leaving Paris the organisers maintain the planned route of the race.

The Polisario Front reaffifirms its determination: "The Saharawi authorities consider themselves free of any commitment to the truce in force, and consequently will resume military activity in the context of the exercise of the right to legitimate defence if the border between the Saharawi Republic and Morocco is crossed by the Rally." (01.01.01,Ould Salek, Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs)

The Saharawi Ambassador in Algeria announced on 3 January in an interview that "in the past, the rally took place after consultation between the organisers and the Saharawi authorities. We had always warned them to avoid this territory, as nobody can guarantee their security in this zone. But this time, they have not consulted us in advance..." adding that "the Polisario Front has never threatened the participants. We have said clearly that it is an operation plotted by the Moroccan party who want to face us with a fait accompli, they want to gain legitimacy for their presence in Western Sahara. Our reaction is one of legitimate defence, and retaliation will take place against the Moroccan forces if the route of the rally is not modified. (...) I can inform you that at the present time, all our forces are mobilised on the whole of Saharawi territory. The Liberation Army of the Saharawi people is ready. It is awaiting our orders." (Le Matin, Algiers)

The director of external relations of the race, Roger Kalmanovitz: "I have met the appropriate people who have assured me that the rally and in any case the physical security of the participants is in no way threatened." He added that the organisers of the Paris-Dakar are aware of the situation which prevails in Western Sahara: according to the UN agreements, "there is a zone controlled by the Moroccans, and a zone controlled by the Polisario, and there is also Mauritania". The participants will cross "the wall to enter Mauritania by Mauritania, not through any territory controlled by the Polisario". Finally,the organisers of the Paris-Dakar are "in contact with the UN, which has been on the ground for some years" and which "is the guarantor of the cease-fire, guarantor of movements taking place in this zone". (03.01.01, La Tribune, Algiers)

Demonstrations
Several dozen demonstrators delayed the departure of the race in Castellon, Spain, protesting against the crossing of Western Sahara by the rally, which Morocco is using in order to legitimate its occupation of this territory. They brandished placards and banners along the track of this stage, which took place on the beach of Castellon. Another demonstration was organised for the arrival of the rally in Almeria. (
03.01.01, SPS, Spanish press)

President Mohamed Abdelaziz: "We have said it formally with due notice, we will hit hard, for if it were really a sporting event, its organisers would never have shown this degree of scorn to our cause", the Saharawi President announced in an interview. When pointed out to him that the rally has already passed through Western Sahara during the period of the cease-fire, the Saharawi President acknowledged it, but remembering the context at the time : "The referendum provided for by the UN was happening, and the organisers of the rally, at that time behaving more properly, came here to discuss it with us, to request our permission and to agree an itinerary. This time, they have decided to trust only the Moroccan guarantees." This year, those responsible for the Paris-Dakar informed the Saharawi leaders very late about the route of the rally, making it clear that they were doing so at the request of MINURSO and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. (04.01.00, El Watan, Algiers)

UN: The UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Western Sahara, William Eagleton, indicated in the course of talks he had with the Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO, Mr M. M'Hamed Khaddad, that "there has been no coordination nor consultation between the organisers of the rally and MINURSO" and that MINURSO had given no guarantee" for the security of the competitors. (05.01.01 SPS)
In statement released in both El Ayoune and New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Western Sahara said he was "seriously concerned" about warnings by officials of the Polisario Front that the ceasefire would be considered broken if rally participants enter Western Sahara on 7 January, and that force would be employed to prevent passage of the rally through the Territory. He emphasized that "there is no reason to infer that the crossing of Western Sahara as part of a sporting event in any way constitutes recognition of the sovereignty of either side over the Territory, whose final status, as is well known, remains to be determined." (
05.01.01, UN news)

France: A spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Bernard Valero, said France was following the affair "with great attention." "We are in contact with the rally's organisers and we have brought to their attention the political and military issues in the region," he said.(05.01.01, AFP)
Roger Kalmanovitz, Director of external relations of the race, announced that "a neutralisation could be decided through concern for appeasement. That is the normal route, but without a race, with no classification, and no televised images." (
05.01.01, AFP)

On Friday, Claude Buze, military commander of MINURSO, the UN mission in Western Sahara, said patrols had been reinforced in areas along the rally route. "We will also watch that neither Morocco nor the Polisario Front has a military presence in the 35-kilometre (23-mile) security zone," he said. (05.01.01, AFP)

Occupied territories: State of alert
According to observers on the ground police presence has been considerably reinforced on all the roads leading to the towns of Western Sahara, by means of road blocks comprising police, gendarmes and military. Inside the localities soldiers with white helmets are patrolling everywhere and search warrants have taken place in the homes of Saharawi citizens. (
corr. 06.01.01)

Occupied territories: repression
A group of unemployed Saharawi graduates demonstrated before the city hall in El Ayoun to protest against the enrollment by the Fos Boucraa Company of workers coming from Morocco. Following the intervention of the police 16 people (19 according to another source) have been arrested and tortured at police station by Hariz Aarbi, well-known torturer.(
corr., SPS, BDH, 06.01.01)

06.01.01
The Polisario Front throws again an urgent call to the organisators and to the competitors of the race, as well as to their families, to avoid the zones of Western Sahara occupied by Morocco, and take into consideration the risks that they incur for their security and their life, declares the representative of the Sahrawi movement in France Sadafa Bahia. «Morocco and the promoters of the rally, and all those who encourage this adventure, will have to assume the consequences» he adds.
Some hours later, Hubert Auriol, the director of the race announces, in Goulimine, that the seventh stage of the Paris Dakar rally, between Goulimine (Morocco) and Smara (Western Sahara), will take place as foreseen. (
agencies)

06.01.01
Violation of the cease-fire
The Saharawi Ministry of Defense announces in a letter to MINURSO Commander Buze that the Moroccan forces have passed the defense wall in the region of Uein Terguet (where the rally should leave Western Sahara and cross the Mauritanian border).

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