WEEKS 51, 52, 53 : 12.12.-31.12.2004
International day of human rights
On the occasion of the international day of human rights, AFAPREDESA and UJS (Union of Saharawi Lawyers) as well as UNFS (National Union of Saharawi Women) call on international human rights bodies and organisations to put pressure on Morocco to lift the state of siege, both military and of the media which it is imposing in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. [SPS, AFAPREDESA]
Creation of a post and communications service
In the first letter sent by the new Saharawi postal service, President Abdelaziz declares that this new development is yet another expression of national sovereignty and proof of progress in the institutional construction of the Saharawi State. [SPS]
The Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO protests in a letter to Mr Alvaro de Soto at a violation of the cease-fire. On 10.12.04 a nomad, looking for a lost animal near the Moroccan defensive wall in the region of Amgala, was gravely wounded by shots from the Moroccan army. [SPS]
Visit of the President of Mozambique
President Joaquim Chissano is warmly welcomed in the wilaya of Smara. After welcoming speeches, President Mohamed Abdelaziz presents the medal of the Republic (the highest national decoration), "in recognition of his undying support and that of his people to the Saharawi cause", before giving him a camel. In the course of this visit "of friendship, solidarity and work", Chissano declares that he went to SADR to encourage the Saharawis to pursue their struggle, "which we have always considered to be just. The Republic of Mozambique supports the Peace Plan for the self-determination of the Saharawi people, proposed by James Baker and approved unanimously by the United Nations. We reiterate our willingness to cooperate with you, within the African Union and the United Nations, with a view to the implementation of this Plan". As a member of the African Union and the UN he calls on "Morocco to enter into direct dialogue with the leaders of the Polisario Front and SADR", and reaffirms his support for the self-determination of Western Sahara.
In a joint statement, the two heads of state drew attention to the "necessity of finding a peaceful solution to the problem, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1495 and in conformity with International and African law regarding decolonization." [SPS 12.12. / 13.12.04]
SADR Ambassador, Sadafa Bahia, presents his credentials to President M'Beki. On this occasion, the South African president reiterates "his country's support for the Baker plan" and the search for a solution to the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict, regretting "Morocco's absence from an attempt to bring the parties together in Pretoria on 5 and 6 September 2004". [SABC NEWS]
Elections at daïra level and for national institutions took place in two stages from 16 to 19 December and from 22 to 25 December. The electors choose the presidents of the daïras (mayors of municipalities), members of the municipal councils as well as representatives of national institutions and grass roots organisations. [SPS]
The winter session of the National Council opens in Ausserd chaired by Mahfoud Ali Beiba. The Prime Minister, Abdelkader Taleb Omar presents his report for the past year and the government's program for the year 2005, which the parliament is to examine.
The National Council is composed of 51 members, spread across five committees: social; policy for occupied territories and diaspora; foreign affairs and information; economic; law and administration.[SPS]
The 29th anniversary of the creation of the national radio gives occasion for a ceremony, in the course of which journalists and collaborators are congratulated for their contribution towards making the voice of the Saharawi people heard in the world. On the public hearings on human rights abuses in Morocco by the Equity and Reconciliation Body (see below), the Saharawi President points out that it is trying to exonerate Morocco for their crimes against Saharawis. [SPS]
Meeting in its 3rd ordinary session in order to evaluate the past year's programs and to decide those for the coming year, the NS declares that "any attempt to move away from the right of the Saharawi people to express themselves freely through a referendum can only be doomed to failure", considering that the Baker Plan II remains "the optimal solution for the settlement of the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict". It draws attention to the deterioration of the situation consequent upon the official and public denial on Morocco's part of its commitments towards the international community. The last ordinary session of the NS, elected in October 2003, was held in May 2004. [SPS]
The President of the Republic sends his congratulations to the new Mozambican President, Armando Emilio Guebuza. [SPS]
Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers met under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, in the presence of national officials, walis and members of the national diplomatic body "to assess the annual report for 2004 and discuss prospects for next year". [SPS]
World Human Rights Day (continued)
Following El Ayoun, Smara and Assa (southern Morocco) (see week 49-50), "several hundred" Saharawis, (women, unemployed graduates, students, fishing sector workers) organise on 12 December a sit-in outside the office of the Governor of the administration of the Moroccan occupation "to protest against Moroccan colonial policies which tend to marginalise Saharawis, to impoverish them and to force them into submission and humiliation". [corr.]
the Spanish fort of Dakhla
The demolition of the oldest witness to Spanish presence in the Sahara, which had begun in June, is completed despite all the demonstrations and protests from the local population supported by an international campaign. (corr.) [photos] [COMUNICADO de AFAPREDESA y UJS] [STATEMENT BY AFAPREDESA and UJS]
Kerr-McGee, the last oil company still to benefit from an exploration contract in Western Sahara, should seriously consider withdrawing if it doesn't want to lose its principal investors. Skagen Vekst, one of the principal private Norwegian funds, has sold its shares worth 3.6 million euros, for ethical reasons following a campaign by Norwegian organisations. The next to take this step, according to well-informed sources, will be the Norwegian Petroleum Fund, the most powerful private fund in the country, likely to withdraw its interest in the company worth 5.6 million euros. [afrol News 21.12.04] + Norwegian press]
In his reply to written questions from the parliamentarian, Rudolf Kraus (CDU/CSU), the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Klaus Scharioth, affirms that his country "will continue to support the efforts of the United Nations for a peaceful solution to the conflict" of Western Sahara, which is respectful of the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. The German Federal Parliament, adds the Secretary of State, will continue its commitment "in the humanitarian field". [SPS]
Put to a vote for the first time since 1988, the annual resolution of the General Assembly proposed by the Fourth Committee (decolonization) is adopted by 50 votes in favour and 100 abstentions. (document A/59/478, PDF only French for the moment) http://archarso.org.site.voila.fr/A59-478f.pdf. [Press Release GA/10318] >> see also the dossier Fourth Committee session of September-October 2004
The SADR Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Salem ould Salek welcomes this support for the Settlement Plan of 1991 and for the Baker Plan II. He points out that despite Morocco's diplomatic campaign, no state opposed it or tried to amend the resolution. [Statement 10.12.04]
Mohamed Sidati, Minister delegate for Europe, regrets that Spain, "principally responsible for the failure of decolonization" of its former colony, should have chosen to abstain, despite the stated position of both chambers of the Spanish parliament. (see week 37-38). [Statement 14.12.04 french]
Castille y Léon
The Parliament of Castille y Léon approves a motion in favour of the implementation of the Baker plan, underlining the "historic engagement of Spain and Castille y Léon towards the Saharawi people and their struggle for self-determination".
A delegation from Castille y Léon, led by the Counselor of the Autonomous Government, Rosa Valdeón, visited the Saharawi refugee camps from 4 to 8 December last. [SPS]
Interview with the Saharawi President
In an interview given to the Algerian French language daily, Liberté, Mohamed Abdelaziz declares that the Baker plan is "a mid-way solution since it comprises the option of autonomy required by Rabat and the option of self-determination of the Saharawi people. We have accepted this plan and the enlargement of the electoral body (...), because we are in favour of peace, but also because the essential thing for us is that there should finally be a referendum of self-determination. Only Morocco refuses the Baker plan and wants to impose the colonial fait accompli. We know that autonomy is equivalent to integration of the Saharawi territory into the Kingdom of Morocco. We have fought against this option and will continue to do so."
"We hold Europe, particularly France and Spain, to be responsible for the danger which weighs [on the region], for encouraging Morocco in its present position. There is a sort of conspiracy between the governments of Rabat, Madrid and Paris, against the Saharawi people and international law." (...)
On Spain: "This in no way means that we have recovered our confidence in Spain [after the meeting with Zapatero]... We consider that the present Spanish government is responsible for Rabat's turn-around."
On illegal immigration: "Illegal immigration constitutes a dangerous phenomenon. And there, the responsibility lies with Moroccan groups and with the Moroccan army, the gendarmerie and the police. There is a wall which was erected by Rabat. If someone passes into our liberated territories that means that the Moroccans have opened a way through the wall. It is the Moroccans and the Moroccan services which are implicated, in some way, with the entry of some illegal immigrants into the territories of SADR..." [Liberté, 21.12.04]
"Forum for the Future"
Members of the G8 and 23 Arab and Muslim countries met in Rabat, to debate the timetable and nature of reforms to adopt in Muslim countries within the context of "Forum for the Future". Initiated, defended and promoted by the USA, the Forum is the second demonstration of the initiative of the Greater Middle East, supposed to hasten political and economic reforms from Mauritania to Pakistan through the struggle against illiteracy and discrimination as well as the stabilization of the economic climate. The meeting aroused a movement of protest in Moroccan civil society. [Le Maroc fait la promotion de l'Initiative du Grand Moyen-Orient, Louisa Aït Hamadouche, La Tribune, Alger, 14.12.04] [Forum for the Future: Good idea, wrong location, Kamal Fadel, December 03, 2004]
Over 1000 Saharawi students of both sexes organise a demonstration and a march at the University of Ibnu Zouhr. They chant slogans condemning attacks on human rights in the occupied territories and in southern Morocco and call for the independence of their country. [SPS]
Equity and Reconciliation Body (Instance Equité et
Start of public hearings of victims of human rights abuses.
The manner in which these hearings are conceived, the prohibition on citing the name of the torturers or institutions responsible, the pressure on the Saharawi victims to attend the sessions, have brought the circle of Saharawi human rights defenders in the occupied territories to announce a boycott.
Saharawi human rights defenders denounce in a statement the media exploitation of the testimony and photos of the Saharawi victims, intending to exonerate the Moroccan state. They regret the lack of transparency in the steps taken by the IER and consider that the testimonies "should lead to a fair settlement". The signatories of the memorandum sent to the IER in April 2004 (PDF - Word ) are protesting about the way in which the IER behaves "characterised by ambiguity, polemics and trying to falsify reality." [Statement, 21.12.04 in Arabic] - [Communiqué en français]-[Communiqué in english] >> summary of the activities of the IER >>
President Mohamed Abdelaziz, denounces for his part the attempts of the Moroccan government to rid itself, by the "so-called wish for reconciliation", of its responsibilities in the systematic human rights abuses, expresses the view that it "has the right to manage its own internal problems, but has no right to do likewise in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, without the consent of all the Saharawi people, who should above all have access to their inalienable rights to self-determination and independence". He exhorts Saharawi victims to reject the attempts of the IER, which only represents, in fact, a Moroccan colonial manoeuvre. [SPS]
«The IER, is a white shroud, thrown by the palace over its corpses both known and unknown to cover all the crimes of the monarchy from 1956 to 1999; but the IER is also a thing for protecting criminals and torturers, of whom many live in the immediate entourage of the King of Morocco.» (Ahmed Benani, Moroccan political commentator, 31.12.04)
Capitalizing on the natural wealth of the Sahara
A delegation from the automous government of the Canary Islands, led by the adviser on Economy and Finance, José Carlos Mauricio, starts a three day working visit in Morocco. Since the arrival at the head of the Canaries executive of its new president, Adan Martin, the Canaries have been getting closer to Morocco. The principal objective of the visit of this delegation relates to prospecting for oil in the maritime waters between the Kingdom and the Canary Islands. Mauricio is thought to have brought a proposal for joint exploitation and sharing the benefits of potential oil deposits. The maritime boundaries between the Kingdom and the Canary Islands have not been determined. [ Aujourd'hui le Maroc, 13.12.04]. + [Spanish press in Sahara-Info ]
In a statement sent to the Spanish federal authorities, Mohamed Sidati, Minister Delegate for Europe, notes that Morocco is trying to implicate foreign bodies by associating them with the systematic plunder of Western Sahara. Sidati castigates the autonomous government of the Canaries and Morocco who are seeking to obtain funds which the European Union has made available for "trans-border cooperation including ultra peripheral regions" , to use in Western Sahara. These moves must be qualified as illegal, Western Sahara being a non-self-governing territory awaiting decolonization.
The Saharawi responsible also exhorts the European Union to be watchful and "to respect international law in its cooperation deals with Morocco, by refraining from adopting any decision which could hinder the application of international law." [Statement french ] [Statement spanish]
Second meeting of heads of state of North African countries and the Sahel, on the invitation of the Supreme Commander of the allied forces in Europe and Commander of American forces in Europe
General James L. Jones. The first had taken place last March. These meetings take place at two levels. The first is between Mediterranean countries and NATO countries, the second between Americans and countries of North Africa and the Sahel.
The summit in Stuttgart coincides with the second meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers of NATO with those of Mediterranean countries, in the context of NATO-Mediterranean dialogue. [ El Khabar, Alger, 06.12.04]
"5+5 Dialogue" in Paris
This first meeting of ministers of defence of ten Mediterranean countries aims to establish military cooperation in order to promote security and the fight against terrorism in the region. It is also part of the "5+5 Dialogue" set up between the ministers of foreign affairs of five European Union countries (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta) and those of five countries from the southern Mediterranean (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya).
The Algerian Minister of the Interior Yazid Zerhouni indicated on this occasion in Paris that "things are moving on" in the question of Western Sahara, underlining that there was already "a certain number of exchanges" on the ground. "The problem with the Sahara is not a bilateral problem. It should be settled principally within the bodies of the UN, Mr Zerhouni said. [ Le Monde, 21.12.04] [La Razon, Madrid, 22.12.04]
Colonel Luis Rodríguez de Viguri, last civil governor of Spanish Sahara, died in Madrid at the age of 91 years.
L'Associació d'Amics del Poble Sahrauí de les Illes Balears, que forma parte de la Plataforma por la Democracia y la Globalización de Mallorca, participó, el sábado 11 de diciembre, en una concentración en Palma contra la ocupación de los pueblos de Irak, Palestina y Sáhara Occidental, dentro de la jornada europea por la paz y la libertad de estos pueblos.
Cornellá - Barcelona
Conferencia "Violación de los Derechos Humanos en el Sáhara Occidental". Dentro del marco de la semana de los Derechos Humanos en Cornellá, la Sección de ACAPS (Asociación Catalana de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui ) de esta población organizó la conferencia titulada "Violación de Derechos Humanos en el Sáhara Occidental". El escenario fue el Centro Social Titán de Cornellá, lugar de encuentro de muchos actos sociales y culturales de este municipio.
Demonstration of solidarity with the Saharawi people outside the Moroccan Embassy in Stockholm, organised by LUF (Swedish Liberal Youth). Interventions from Fredrik Malm, President, of Jan Strömdahl, President of the Swedish Association of solidarity with the Saharawi people (Föreningen Västsahara), as well as Gunnar Nordmark, member of the Swedish Parliament. [SPS]
MANIFESTAZIONE SOTTO IL MURO DELLA VERGOGNA. Partirà a febbraio da Pisa il 10° Volo Speciale diretto nei campi profughi saharawi. L´iniziativa è promossa dall´Associazione "Ban Slut Larbi" di Sesto Fiorentino (Regione Toscana - Italia).
CAROVANA DI AIUTI UMANITARI DIRETTA NEI CAMPI SAHARAWI. L´Associazione nazionale di solidarietà con il popolo saharawi sta organizzando una carovana per l'invio di mezzi nei campi profughi saharawi a sud di Tindouf. Partenza prevista fine gennaio 2005.
Deutsch: http://www.tuerlings.de/saharamarathon/main.html + http://members.aon.at/saharamarathon/
nueva fecha 03 - 06 de marzo de 2005: http://www.festivalsahara.com/
primeras jornadas internacionales sobre derechos humanos del
11 y 12 de marzo de 2005, Ciudad de Olivenza (Badajoz), Informaciones: http://www.jornadasahara.org
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
>> Revue de la presse internationale francophone http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/revue-de-presse-sahara-occidental/messages
English publications on Sahara Update mailinglist: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sahara-update/messages
Revista de la prensa en español: http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/revista-de-prensa-sahara-occidental/messages
Los Saharauis, Miguel Alcobendas. Infos: saharaverde[at]telefonica.net
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