WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

original french

WEEK 18

28.04.-04.05.2002

 

TITLES

SADR
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
HUMAN RIGHTS
SOLIDARITY
COMING UP
INTERNET
NEW PUBLICATIONS

SADR

27-29.04.02
Non Aligned Movement
Political declaration adopted by the Council of Ministers of Non Aligned Movement held in Durban, South Africa: «The Ministers reiterated the support of the Movement for the efforts of UN to organize, and supervise an impartial, free, and fair referendum in accordance with the Settlement Plan and Houston Agreements, and with the relevant Security Council and UN resolutions».
«The Ministers again emphasised the fundamental principle of the sovereignty of peoples under foreign ocupation over their natural resources. In this regard, the Ministers expressed their concern about the activities of those foreign economic, financial, and other interests that exploit the natural and human resources of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to the detriment of the interests of the inhabitants of those territories and deprive them of their right to control the wealth of their countries. They condemned those activities and in this regard reitirated that the exploitation and plundring of the marine and other natural resources of colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories by foreign economic interests in violation of UN Charter and the relevent resolutions of the United Nations is a threat to the integrity and prosperity of those territories».

28.04.02, Paris-Dakar
The Paris-Dakar rally will leave from Tunisia for Egypt via Libya. The organisers are giving up crossing the Sahara, because, they say "although the Saharawi government tolerated our passage through, the problem was not completely sorted out". (Afrik.com)

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

28.04.- 01.05.02: Three reports
Toby Shelley, stayed recently in occupied Western Sahara where he noted that Morocco had launched a charm offensive in Western Sahara. Interviewed, the Moroccan coordinator with MINURSO, Hamid Chabar, claims to want to set up a real democracy, to favour viable economic development, as well as setting up local powers in the region. He would be ready to allow Algeria to have access to the Atlantic. But the Saharawis he met consider that their poverty is not the main thing, the first problem to settle is self-determination, only then could we start talking about development. (Financial Times)

In occupied El Ayoun Katherine Butler met Daha Rahmouni, a former political prisoner and Saharawi defender of human rights, who believes that self-determination is sacred for the Saharawi people. "If this right is denied us, although we don't want it, the danger is the Polisario will resume hostilities", he said. Mohamed Daddach spoke in a similar vein. (The Independent)

Javier Espinosa also spoke with Hamid Chabar, who departed from the traditional simplistic speech and spoke of a fratricidal conflict, with "our Polisario friends". "We are ready to establish a frank and direct dialogue with them to settle this problem with wide autonomy". The Moroccan coordinator with the UN was not alone in having changed his tone, even if the Moroccan position remains the same.
Claire Davidson, an executive from the British public relations agency, The Policy Partnership*, installed in the Parador Hotel in El Ayoun, is looking after Morocco's communications policy and is giving advice to officials on the spot. She advocates openness. Journalists are now welcome in Western Sahara and can get interviews without any problems with Moroccan officials and independence supporters. Several European TV crews are making programs.(El Mundo, Le Reporter)
* The Policy Partnership is a major British consultant specialising in political lobbying, contracted by the Moroccan government to improve its brand image in relation to Western Sahara (week
11/2002).

01.05.02
Demonstration for the disappeared and political prisoners
In El Ayoun a march was organised by the Sahara branch of the Truth and Justice Forum, the Association of unemployed Saharawis and families of disappeared Saharawis. The demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners and disappeared, for bringing torturers to justice and to end repression against human rights activitists. The very high level of unemployment among young Saharawis was denounced as a form of discrimination. The celebrated Place D'Cheira was re-named "Place of the martyr Khnatha", after Khnatha Ayad, who died under torture in a Moroccan jail. In Smara the police stopped human rights activists from joining the march and they then organised a sit-in in front of the Moroccan administration buildings. In Assa Saharawi defenders of human rights were not allowed to join in the demonstration unless they agreed not to display their banners. (SPS)

REFERENDUM

29- 30.04.02
Security Council Resolution 
S/2002/1406
The draft resolution from the USA, supported by France, Great Britain, Guinea and Bulgaria, proposing to make an immediate choice between the 4 options in the SG's report and to impose a solution of autonomy, did not receive a majority. The negotiating took place within the Security Council. Ten countries, led by Russia, demanded extra time to study all the options better. The United States, to avoid a failure, finally gave up their proposal and the Council adopted a technical resolution extending MINURSO's mandate by three months, a compromise between the 3 weeks proposed by the USA and the 6 months put forward by Russia.
James A Baker denied having threatened to resign if the Security Council did not give him a mandate to pursue the Framework Agreement. He declared himself to be favourable to any option giving him a clear mandate and which had the support of the Council. From his point of view, whatever option is chosen by the Security Council, it should give the Secretary General and his personal envoy sufficient authority to resolve the conflict.

During the whole discussion phase numerous initiatives of support for the referendum became known through letters to the Security Council, declarations, petitions etc coming from Spain, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Germany, France, Algeria etc.
The American democrat senator, Edward M Kennedy, sent an urgent letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell : "I firmly support the referendum in Western Sahara and I am concerned by the fact that USA is seeking to impose a solution which does not take account of self-determination"(27.04.02).

Algeria in a letter to the chair and members of the Council, rejected the American proposal and reiterated "its position according to which the settlement plan, as the only accepted context for a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara, can still be implemented". It expressed "its willingness to explore the proposal made by James Baker for territorial arrangements between Morocco and the Saharawi people" (SPS 29.04.02).

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara and the student-based development NGO SAIH (Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund) sent an open letter to the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jan Petersen, expressing their concern for the lack of progress in the implementation of the referendum of self- determination in Western Sahara. They also expressed hope that the Norwegian government would not give in to American and French pressure to ditch the referendum and that Norway would vigorously defend the inalienable rights of the Saharawis.
Referring to recent media reports, the organisations said that "Recently, the Norwegian attitude regarding the illegal Moroccan occupation has been thrown into doubt. We hereby urge the Norwegian government to clarify this matter as soon as possible."
A number of Norwegian Members of Parliament from left to right of the political spectrum were also lobbying the government to defend international legality and the referendum of self- determination in Western Sahara.(30.4.02, Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara)

Reactions

SADR
The Polisario Front coordinator with MINURSO, M'hamed Khaddad thinks that in allowing a period of three months "the Council intends to explore calmly and transparently all the ways open to reach an agreement in a democratic manner on the option which seems to it the most capable of bringing about a just and lasting solution to the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict". (SPS, 30.04.02)

The Saharawi president Mohamed Abdelaziz declared on Algerian radio that "reason overcame adventurism thanks to this decision which endorses the triumph of the defence of international law and the struggle of the Saharawi people for its self-determination". He reiterated the categorical rejection by the Polisario Front of the framework agreement which "advocates the annexation of Western Sahara by Morocco and affirmed that "the next three months will be decisive". (SPS, 01.05.02)

The Arab television channel Al Jazeera devoted its program "Questions of the moment" of 02 May to the development of the conflict of Western Sahara. A long report on the Saharawi populations in the refugee camps and showing Saharawi fighters on manoeuvres was followed by a live interview with Mohamed Sidati, member of the executive of the Polisario Front, and minister delegate for Europe. He denounced repression in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and reiterated the determination of the Saharawi people to defend by any means its right to self-determination, "nothing will deflect them from this objective which is the very essence of their struggle" he concluded.

Morocco
"Morocco will take advantage of the next three months in order to pursue common efforts towards a settlement favouring Moroccan sovereignty in its southern provinces", the minister of culture and communication, Mr Mohamed Achaâri.(MAP 02.05.02)
The minister of foreign affairs, Mr Benaissa declared himself "astonished" by the attitude of Russia in the UN debate on Western Sahara. (AFP 02.05.02)
Elsewhere he pointed out: "The partition idea is in itself inconsistent with the peoples' right to self-determination (ABC, 30.04.02)

Algeria
The minister delegate responsible for African affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, affirmed that "Algeria welcomes the sense of responsibility which the Security Council showed in adopting this resolution". (01.05.02 APS)

France
After having replied to the press on 30 April that "the framework-agreement is, for us, the only option which is realistically capable of finding a lasting settlement for the question of Western Sahara", the spokesperson of the Quai d'Orsay, in a written statement on 2 May, makes clear that "France hopes that the Security Council will, by the end of these three months, respond to the expectations of the Secretary General and renew its support for the efforts of Mr Baker. The Secretary General's personal envoy expects from the Council a clear direction in which to go forward in the definition of a new settlement framework. This is what we expect also. On this subject, the formula of a framework agreement for autonomy of the territory, so long as it takes account om a balanced way of the aspirations of all the parties, continues to seem to us the most promising. We hope that the new deadline created by the technical extension of MINURSO's mandate will allow the Security Council to progress this way." (
French government site)

Spain
The firm position of Spain in favour of the referendum has earned it a revival in the crisis with Morocco with virulent attacks making an issue of an "Algiers-Madrid alliance" against Morocco and the possible abrogation of the Spanish-Moroccan cooperation and friendship treaty of 1991. On an official visit to Washington the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar declared that Spain had no reason to change its traditional position in favour of the settlement plan which provides for a referendum in Western Sahara. Aznar took advantage of his meeting with G Bush to alert him to the danger of destabilisation of the Maghreb represented by the Sahara conflict. (Spanish press)

USA
According to Ach-Chark-Al-Awsat (02.05.02) Washington has decided to put to the vote again, as soon as possible, its proposal to adopt the framework-agreement. (
Arabic original)

HUMAN RIGHTS

28.04.02
Solidarity with Saharawi human rights defenders
A meeting was organised by the Truth and Justice Forum, Sahara branch at its office in El Ayoun, under heavy police surveillance as usual. Over 250 people, Saharawi human rights defenders, ex-disappeared, ex-political detainees, members of families of disappeared Saharawis and others, took part in it. In the course of the debate, two representatives of Moroccan political parties, the OADP and the Democratic Voice, spoke.
A defender of Saharawi human rights deported to Casablanca addressed the meeting by telephone. Mohamed Daddach expresssed his solidarity with Saharawi human rights defenders and called for the organisation of a free and fair referendum of self-determination. 
A petition of solidarity with defenders of Saharawi human rights circulated and a statement was published. It enumerates the intimidations to which human rights defenders are subjected, expresses its solidarity with them and makes a certain number of demands. (
complete report French)

SOLIDARITY

United Kingdom, 23.04.02
Two Staffordshire University lecturers this week set off on a gruelling journey to the Western Sahara as part of a humanitarian aid convoy. Ray Johnson and Pauline Elkes left the Potteries as part of a Rainbow Rovers convoy which is taking vital supplies to the Saharawi people who live in refugee camps in the desert. They are making the journey as part of their work for the university's Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Education and Research. They will piece together a film on the ways in which the Saharawi have reacted and responded to their forced exile, looking at health and education, the role of women in the camps and the experiences of children and young people. Ray and Pauline will give a presentation on the mission at the Film Theatre, College Road, Stoke, on Wednesday, May 22. (The Sentinel, 25.04.02)

Murcia , 29.04.02
Nueve niños saharauis enfermos, procedentes de los campamentos de refugiados de Tindouf, llegaron a nuestra Región para ser atendidos de diversas patologías. Los niños serán atendidos en los centros de salud de nuestra Comunidad y, cuando estén curados, volverán a los campamentos. Estos niños permanecerán en la Casa de Acogida que la Federación de Asociaciones de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de la Región de Murcia tiene en Molina de Segura, en la que se viene desarrollando desde hace cuatro años este Programa que cuenta con subvención de la Comunidad Autónoma y con el apoyo del Ayuntamiento de Molina.

Danemark, 26-28.04.02
Une délégation sahraouie dirigée par le représentant au Danemark Sidi Mohamed Omar a participé au Congrès du Parti socialiste populaire danois SF( Socialist Popular Party). Le congrès a exprimé son appui à l'autodétermination du peuple sahraoui et son président s'est engagé à intensifier son soutien durant la présidence danoise de l'UE qui débutera en juillet prochain.

COMING UP

Débat
Le Bureau national de la Jeunesse des Démocrates Marocains à l'Etranger projette d'organiser, en collaboration avec la Jeunesse d'As-Saqia Al-Hamra et Oued Ed-Dahab, le 15 juin à Paris, un débat sur la question du Sahara. L'invitation a été envoyée aux jeunesses des partis politiques marocains, des organisations politiques et des associations oeuvrant dans la société civile et principalement dans le domaine des droits de l'Homme, à la Jeunesse d'As-Saqia Al-Hamra et Oued Ed-Dahab, la Jeunesse de l'Union Nationale des Femmes Sahraouies, la Jeunesse de l'Union Générale des Travailleurs d'As-Saqia Al-Hamra et Oued Ed-Dahab. Contact : <
samad.filali@orangefrance.com>

INTERNET

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