WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 03 -04 : 16.01.-29.01.2005

original french

SADR

15.01.05, Ali Lemrabet
The independent Moroccan journalist, Ali Lemrabet emphasises that he "moved about with complete freedom" in the Saharawi refugee camps, and that he was "warmly welcomed" by the Saharawis during his visit to SADR, accusing his country's regime of spreading propaganda about the Polisario Front. [
complete text of the interview appearing in "Al Mustakil" on 7 January translated from the Arabic by SPS]

19.01.05, Solidarity
The President of the Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, receives the President of the Arab Committee of Solidarity with the Saharawi People, Mr. Mahmoud Marai. Mr. Mahmoud Marai told SPS that this visit to SADR allowed him to see close at hand the conditions "in which the Saharawi Arab people live, which are inhumane", and which, according to him, require "action of solidarity and support by Arab civil society, Arab human rights NGOs , as well as particular attention from the Arab League".  [SPS]

22.01.05, Prisoners of war
The International Red Cross (ICRC) repatriates to Morocco two prisoners of war aged 57 and 48, Lahmadi Ahmed and Badaoui Miloud, held for 16 and 17 years, released following a deterioration in their state of health. 410 Moroccan prisoners of war are still held captive. Lahmadi, a member of the auxiliary forces, died on 24 January in the military hospital of Marrakech. [
ICRC]
This tragic episode set off a wave of demands in Morocco for the release of the 410 prisoners of war remaining and revived the debate about the indifference of the Moroccan authorities regarding the prisoners already released...

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

08.01.04, Illegal fishing
«12 fishing boats have been inspected by the royal navy in Dakhla-Villa Cisneros. They were the fleet which was fishing in a prohibited area within 5 miles of the coast. The boats seized in flagrante delicto belong to barons of the "south", notably Maa el Aïnine, president of the chamber of fishing and to Derhem. The other boats are the property of companies such as Lucky Fisheries and Royal Fisheries, whose fishing licences belong to army officers. The law makes clear that in this case, the ship owners must pay a fine. This revenue is paid into an account managed by the command of the armed forces in the "southern" zone. This could set the generals controlling fishing against those banking funds on behalf of the state."  [Telquel]

12.01.05, Violence
During violent clashes between Saharawi strikers and the Moroccan forces of occupation in Dakhla, a handicapped Saharawi citizen, Laaroussi Elmakki, was wounded and taken as an emergency to hospital in occupied Dakhla.  [Cahiers du Sahara in
Arabic]

14.01.05, Illegal immigration
The president of the autonomous government of the Canaries reveals that Morocco will send from 3 to 5000 troops to the Sahara. In addition to the 7000 police already on the spot, they will reinforce the unit fighting illegal immigration to Fuerteventura. It is the King of Morocco who himself announced this decision to an official delegation from the Canaries, taking part in an international meeting on tourism in Ouarzazate. [El Pais]
The Spanish minister for Employment and social affairs welcomed this decision which he called "positive".

18.01.05
The Association of exporters from the Canaries (Aunexca) visits Dakhla from 27-31 January to explore commercial prospects of the zone. [Canarias ahora]

24.01.05, Amnesty International
A.I. publishes a report on Morocco and Western Sahara after a delegation visited the area 5-21 January. While welcoming an opening up on human rights matters, the NGO points out that "
Regrettably, the current climate of openness does not extend to discussion of rights and freedoms in Western Sahara. During Amnesty International's visit, the Moroccan authorities refused to allow a group of human rights activists in the disputed territory to begin procedures to register their association. This is only the latest in a series of measures to suppress freedom of expression on Western Sahara, which has helped foster deep mistrust towards the authorities' approach to human rights within the territory.» [
Amnesty international Press release, 24/01/2005]

EUROPE

24.01.05, Council of Europe
The Standing Committee of the Council of Europe, acting on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly adopted on 23 November 2004 resolution 1408 on Western Sahara. It remains concerned over the lack of substantial progress in finding a fair and lasting political solution, which is acceptable to the different parties, to the dispute over Western Sahara.
It considers that the conflict causes unacceptable hardship and suffering for innocent people and has led to an unbearable humanitarian situation which should no longer be tolerated.
The Assembly gives its full backing to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1541 (2004) and the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara, Baker plan, and urges the authorities of Morocco to seize the opportunity and show a attitude of compromise towards acceptance of the Peace Plan and hence to put an end to the dispute over Western Sahara.
The Assembly underlines the necessity not to forget the humanitarian aspects of the dispute, including the food situation in the Tindouf area refugee camps. Noting with satisfaction the release of Moroccan prisoners of war, it calls on the Polisario Front to hasten the release of the 412 prisoners still being held. [
Resolution 1408 (2004)] [see also Doc. 10346, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Puche, of October 20 2004] [Declaration of Mohamed Sidati, 19.01.05, French]

USA

25.01.05
Mr. Richard Erdman, US Ambassador in Algiers, to the Algerian daily
Liberté:
«The United States believes that greater regional cooperation will serve the interests of all the Maghreb countries. As to the conflict in Western Sahara, we support a political solution to this question within a UN framework and the right to self-determination along the lines of the Baker plan. In this regard, we believe that good relations between Morocco and Algeria will contribute to a regional climate which is more favourable to a settlement of this conflict»

24-25.01.05, Visit to Algeria of a delegation from the American Congress
A delegation of five congressmen led by Edward Royce, Republican from California and member of the Committee of International Relations of the House of Representatives, accompanied by Betty McCollum (Democrat, Minnesota), Jim McDermott (Democrat, Washington), Diane Watson (Democrat, California) and Barbara Lee (Democrat, California) meet President Bouteflika, the presidents of the two chambers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence.
Royce to the press: "We have spoken about the way of improving our mutual efforts to settle the problem of Western Sahara, one of the most preoccupying for us." " We firmly believe that justice and peace will prevail in a solution capable of delivering to the people of Western Sahara the recognition of their rights". "The UN is up to the job of finding a just solution". [press]

MOROCCO

17-19.01.05, Official visit of King Juan Carlos I of Spain

On the eve of the visit:

Several associations of solidarity with the Saharawi people publish open letters to the King of Spain, asking him not to forget the Saharawi people. [AFAPREDESA y UJS 11/01/05] [ASOCIACIONES DE AMISTAD Y SOLIDARIDAD CON EL PUEBLO SAHARAUI DEL ESTADO ESPAÑOL, 14.01.05] [Bahia M.H Awah, periodista saharaui 14.01.05] [FEDERACIÓN ANDALUZA DE ASOCIACIONES SOLIDARIAS CON EL SÁHARA, 16.01.05] [Hamdi Mansur delegado del Frente Polisario en Tenerife, 18.01.05]

14.01.05, Decorations
The Spanish Council of Ministers awards the chain of the order of Charles III to King Mohamed VI. Over a dozen Moroccan personalities receive the Grand Cross of the order of Isabella the Catholic, including the head of the gendarmerie, General Hosni Benslimane and the director of National Security, General Hamidou Lanigri, called into question by Moroccan human rights organisations. [Le Monde 18.01.05]
Numerous Moroccan human rights activists express their amazement and indignation.

16.01.05, Interview with the King of Morocco
El Pais publishes an interview with Mohamed VI, here are passages concerning Western Sahara: "The territory was recovered in 1975 in a legal and peaceful way"  "Neither myself not the Moroccan people will ever agree to give up our sovereignty over these provinces". "A political solution must be negotiated. hay que negociar una solución política (...) which consists in allowing the populations concerned to run their own affairs within the context of Moroccan sovereignty". "It is a question (the type of autonomy) which we are in the process of discussing with the United Nations". [El Pais]

16.01.05, Amnesty International
The Spanish section of AI, in an open letter [
Spanish] to the King of Spain, expresses its concerns about the human rights situation in Morocco and in Western Sahara.

16.01.05, Open letter of Mohamed Abdelaziz to the King of Spain
The Saharawi president asks Spain to use its influence to shift the position of Morocco on Western Sahara, notably on the organisation of the referendum.
"Your Majesty must not let the occasion of a state visit to the Moroccan kingdom pass by without, directly or indirectly, ending the deep wound that afflicts the Sahrawi people," wrote Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz.  [
Daily Star of Lebanon/AFP 19.01.05] [SPS] [BBC]

The visit

17.01.05, Marrakech
In a speech at a dinner, Juan Carlos expresses views on the Sahara, but he does not mention the Baker plan and repeats that "Spain is firmly decided to help bring, in the framework of UN resolutions, a just, definitive and acceptable solution". In his response, Mohamed VI is content to repeat the Moroccan position. Not less than five ministers take part in the trip, that is as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, those of Industry, Culture, Education and Development.

18.01.05, Rabat, parliament
King Juan Carlos of Spain has called for a fair final settlement of the Western Sahara dispute, in a speech to the Moroccan parliament in Rabat. He said Spain wanted to see a "consensual, just and final" settlement for the former Spanish colony. [
BBC]

19.01.05, Tangiers, economic leaders
Juan Carlos presides over the opening ceremony of a Moroccan-Spanish enterprise meeting. He declares that "Spain has decided to develop an increasingly closer relationship with Morocco".

This trip has been presented to Morocco as "the grand reconciliation" between the two kingdoms. This normalisation had started with the arrival to power of the Socialist party in March 2004, after the various crises due to the non-renewal of the fishing agreements, tension around Parsley Islet, problems of illegal immigration and terrorist attacks.

In Spain the visit raised a debate concerning the shift in the Spanish position on Western Sahara and the over-conciliatory attitude on the question of terrorism. This visit gives a blessing to the change of  attitude by the Spanish government on the question of Western Sahara, abandoning the Baker plan and seeking a political solution.

SPAIN

24. - 28.01.05, Official visit of President Abdelaziz to Catalonia

The Saharawi president carried out this week-long official visit in Catalonia with a very busy program of meetings.

On 25.01.05 he is received at the Barcelona Town Hall by the Mayor, then by the President of the Catalan government, Pasqual Maragall, finishing the day with a dinner-debate organised in his honour by business men and specialist journalists from the economic world. The delegation comprises M'hamed Khaddad, coordinator with MINURSO, Ministers Khalil Sidi Mohammed, Salek Baba Hassena and Mahfouda Rahal. Catalan celebrities and politicians recalled the great interest but also the understanding and solidarity shown by the great majority of the Spanish and Catalan population in favour of Western Sahara and its people.

On 26.01.05 it's the Town Hall of Sabadell, which has maintained relations of solidarity for decades with SADR, which welcomes the delegation with great pomp. In the afternoon a visit to the Catalonian parliament, whose president, Mr. Ernesto Benach, underlines the fact that Western Sahara is a major "concern" of all the Catalonian political parties in the parliament, which supported unanimously last July the Security Council's resolution. The Saharawi head of state thanks the President of the Parliament and the representatives of the Catalonian people for the welcome accorded them. He calls nevertheless for "urgent and firm action to bring peace to the Saharawi people", affirming his country's wish to consolidate relations of cooperation and friendship with the Catalonian people and government.

In a press conference Abdelaziz points out that the position of the Spanish government is essentially "ambiguous". He asks for a more decisive, resolute and firmer attitude in favour of a referendum of self-determination.

The 27.01.05 is kept for meetings with the principle leaders of Catalonian political powers and with the parliamentary group, Peace for the Saharawi people. On Friday 28 there was a great meal with the solidarity associations.

SPAIN

22.01.05
Death of Colonel José Ramón Diego Aguirre, historian and author of several elementary books on Western Sahara. Member of the general government of the Sahara in 1966, he became devoted to the Saharawi cause through his publications and commitment to the the Association of solidarity in Spain. He was honoured by the citizenship of SADR in 1989.
Publications: "Historia del Sahara Español" (1988), "Guerra en el Sahara" (1991) et "La última guerra colonial de España" (1993), "El Oscuro Pasado del Desierto" (2004). [see some tributes,
Spanish]

REFERENDUM

27.01.05, ONU, Report of the Secretary general, S/2005/49
In this interim report , which the Security Council asked Kofi Annan to submit, the Secretary General "regrets having to inform the Council that the parties are still not agreed on the way of overcoming the present impasse concerning the Peace Plan for the self-determination of the Western Sahara." He adds that he fears " that the prolonged persistence of the deadlock might lead to a deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara" and asks to maintain the size of the MINURSO mission.

Two other aspects should be pointed out: the fight against illegal immigration and the confidence-building measures. Concerning the first, Annan mentions that the two parties have taken measures to discourage the growing movements of illegal migrants and smugglers, measures which in themselves constitute "violations of the military agreement Nº1". The migrants from Mijek [weeks 25-26 2004] were repatriated by the world organisation for repatriation, those in Tifariti by MINURSO. New fact, MINURSO will provide logistic support for repatriations. Meanwhile, the visits between the refugees in the camps and their families in the territory will start again in March, if funds suffice.

HUMAN RIGHTS

26.01.04
El Premio Juan María Bandrés otorgado a la Comisión de Derechos Humanos en el Sáhara del Consejo General de la Abogacía Española por su misión de observación en los juicios que se desarrollan contra presos políticos saharauis en el Sáhara Occidental. [
Rebelion , 27.01.05]

SOLIDARITY

26.-31.01.05, World Social Forum
A delegation comprising Saharawi organisations and those from the European solidarity movement take part in the Vth Forum in Porto Alegre in the aim of making the Saharawi cause better known within the alternative world movement. On 27 January, under the heading of "Towards construction of international democratic order and people's integration",  a round table discussion on the subject" "Other walls: the case of Western Sahara" took place, with the participation of Mr Sidati, Abba Hassan and activists from Basque solidarity associations. This was an occasion for analysing the causes of the conflict and retracing its history as well as human rights abuses in the occupied territories by Morocco. It had a large public following of young people, principally Latin American. [
read]

COMING UP...

30. -31.01.05, Abuja, Nigeria: participates to theFourth African Union Summit.

02.02.05, Western Sahara : What future for Africa's last colony?
A study organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese the School of Modern Languages and cultures and the Cervantes Institute. Michael Sadler building (LG15), university of Leeds, UK.
14:00-15:00 pm: Western Sahara: The forgotten conflict, by Dr Pablo San Martin (University of Leeds) + La Fuga del Infierno (Escape from Hell), 20 min. documentary based on original TV footage of the Saharawi exodus in 1975-6 + Reading of Saharawi Poetry
15:10-16:10 pm: The Saharawi Refugee Camps: social and cultural revolution in no man's land by Fatima Mahfud (Polisario Front Representative in Italy and member of the National Union of Saharawi Women) Presented by Liman Mohamed Ali, Polisario Representative in the UK
16:20-17:30 pm: Beat of Distant Hearts. Art of Revolution in Western Sahara, 50 min. documentary Presented by filmmaker Danielle Smith. INFO:
P.SanMartin[at]leeds.ac.uk

05-06.02.05, 11ème Maghreb des livres - hôtel de ville de Paris
Samedi 5 février: 12 - 21h, Dimanche 6 février : 11 - 20h, avec un STAND de
L'OUEST SAHARIEN http://ouest_saharien.site.voila.fr/

10-27.02.05, Sahara Art Caravan: paintings from the camps
At Gasworks Arts Park in the Angela Robarts Bird gallery open Thursday &endash;Sunday 1-5pm. It will be part of A Taste for Living Festival on Sunday 27 February at Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park. Enquiries to AWSA, 0425 702 975 or
awsamel[at]alphalink.com.au

Vuelo charter a los campamentos desde Cantabria del 12 al 19 de febrero de 2005.

24.02.05, Guadalajara, IV Festival Musical a favor del Pueblo Saharaui. El Acto tendrá lugar en el Teatro Auditorio "Buero Vallejo", a las 20.30 h y en el que actuarán Mariem Hassan, una de las más conocidas cantantes saharauis, que recorre el mundo con sus conciertos de música tradicional, y Enrique Morente, una de las primeras figuras del cante flamenco.Contacto 676 25 93 98 (Socorro).

5. Sahara Marathon: 28.02.2005

Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara: 03 - 06 de marzo de 2005.

Las primeras jornadas internacionales sobre derechos humanos del pueblo saharaui, Ciudad de Olivenza (Badajoz), 11 y 12 de marzo de 2005.

Vol "Catalunya amb el Sàhara" setmana santa 2005 Info: sahandreu[at]yahoo.es

Noviembre 2005: Jornadas internacionales de arqueología, Sahara Occidental (Rekeiz, Tifaritti) Info: bcheij[at]hotmail.com - narcis.soler[at]udg.es

INTERNET

OPINION

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS
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Français

>> Revue de la presse internationale francophone http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/revue-de-presse-sahara-occidental/messages

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English publications on Sahara Update mailinglist: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sahara-update/messages

Castellano

Revista de la prensa en español http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/revista-de-prensa-sahara-occidental/messages con toda la prensa sobre el viaje de los reyes de España a Marruecos y algunos especiales...

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