WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 11-12 : 12.03.-25.03.2006

original french

 

SADR

13.03.06, Floods
In response to a question from a member of parliament, the Swiss government points out it has released for the World Food Program, 250,000 francs as emergency aid for the Saharawi refugees. Concerning reconstruction, the government will make available to the UNHCR additional means on the basis of the results of a mission of donors, in which Switzerland took part, which visited the region from 15-18 March 2006.

16.03.06, oil exploration
Following the offer of licences in May 2005, the SADR government announced having concluded eight agreements for oil and gas exploration with nine firms.

Emhamed Khadad, advisor to the SADR President, comments: «This licensing initiative has been undertaken in preparation for full independence and the assertion of control by the Saharawi people over the resources of our country. The international companies who signed these agreements are: Premier Oil limited, Ophir Energy Company limited, Europa Oil and Gas plc, Maghreb Exploration limited, Osceola Hydrocarbon limited, Nighthawk Energy limited, Encore Oil plc and Comet Petroleum limited. The ratification of the contracts is due to take place on 26 March in Tifariti. [statement] [communiqué]

17.03.06, Bis repetita placet - "Repetition is pleasing."
The Minister for Foreign Affairs from Chad, on a visit to Rabat, announced for a second time the withdrawal of recognition of SADR by his country. Chad, which first recognised SADR on 04.07.1980, has already once withdrawn its recognition during a previous visit to Morocco of its Foreign Minister on 09.05.97.

17.03.06, solidarity
A humanitarian caravan from Spain with 104 vehicles laden with food products is en route for the camps. It is followed by the first Algerian caravan of solidarity, made up of about thirty trucks carrying 250 tonnes of food and blankets, which came from Setif as a token of solidarity of the Algerian people and the associated movement of wilayas of Sétif, Bordj Bou Arreridj, M'Sila, Batna, Bejaia and Biskra. The national caravan of solidarity with the Saharawi refugees comprises six other towns: Oran (19 March), Bouira and Chlef (20 March), Constantine (21 March), Bechar (22 March) and Tindouf (23 March).

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

17.03.06 Hunger strike
Nine Saharawi political detainees arrested during the demonstrations which took place in Goulimim in February have started a hunger strike in Aït Melloul and Inezgane. [
more]

Before the visit of King Mohamed VI to Western Sahara
In anticipation of the King of Morocco's visit to Western Sahara announced in the Moroccan press, with no exact date, the Moroccan authorities consolidated and intensified their military presence in the territory. Soldiers, some coming from the defensive wall, tanks, trucks, armoured vehicles with heavy machine guns, etc. were deployed around the towns of El Ayoun and Boujdour. The Moroccan armed forces are said to have constructed a military airport at  Sidi Ghazi, 10 km to the north of Boujdour, to welcome the king.

Soldiers, members of the gendarmerie, the police and other auxiliary forces proceeded to patrol the towns and set up road blocks and checkpoints.

Saharawi families, with houses near the main roads, were expelled. According to Hammoud Iguilid, president of the local branch of the AMDH, the Maatallah quarter was half-emptied of its inhabitants. Two high schools, Msala and Lisan Eddine, were literally occupied by the police. Through television the population was told of temporary bans on using certain arteries of the town of El Ayoun.

Means of communication between Western Sahara and Morocco are controlled, in order to prevent Saharawi students in Moroccan universities from travelling to Western Sahara.

A new campaign of terror and intimidation was unleashed. Iguilid declared that some of his friends were taken without explanation to the outskirts of the town and prohibited from returning for several days. He, himself as well as Haiba Ahmed Mahmoud were taken in for questioning on 18.03.06 on boulevard Smara. Iguilid was released after several hours, Haiba was transferred to Tantan. He was let out after two days, but must report on a daily basis to the police station and spend the night there. [Hammoud Iguilid was arrested earlier on 27 May 2005 (see A.I. Report of 24.11.05) 5 and Haiba Mohamed Mahmoud Razzak, corporal of the Royal Armed Forces, on 3.11.05].

The Moroccan authorities in El Ayoun bought thousands of daraa and malhfas (traditional Saharawi clothes) to hand out to Moroccan settlers who were to line the route and "acclaim" the king.
Since 16 March,  sporadic gatherings opposing the visit of the king have taken place, SADR flags as well as leaflets have been distributed in El Ayoun, Boujdour, Dakhla and Smara. [sources: Moroccan and Spanish press (
Sahara-Info), SPS, correspondents]

17.03.06, false hope - good news
The Spanish daily
ABC reports that the director of El Ayoun prison would announce to the Saharawi political prisoners that they would be liberated "shortly". This news aroused great hope among the families and friends of the prisoners, who spent a whole night outside the Black Prison waiting for their release, but in vain. Since then no news has filtered out. On 19.03. Moroccan "nurses" presented themselves at the Black Prison on the pretext of examining the Saharawi prisoners ahead of the king's visit. They refused any contact with these special nurses...
Subsequently Brahim Dahane and 16 other Saharawi political detainees in the Black Prison were notified of the date of their trial on 4 April in El Ayoun.
Finally on 25.03.06, 30 (among 67 Saharawi political prisoners) are liberated by king pardon. [
more]

19.03.06
The King of Morocco's visit to Western Sahara "increases tension and seriously threatens regional security", warned the Saharawi government in a statement from the Minister of Occupied Territories and the Saharawi community abroad. "The Saharawi Government considers the Moroccan Government responsible for the consequences which could arise from this bellicose initiative". The Government called on the Security Council to "condemn this provocation", to "denounce this new aggression", to "protect the security of Saharawi citizens" and to "safeguard their fundamental liberties". [SPS]

20-25.03.06,  MOHAMED VI's VISIT

20.03.06
The King of Morocco arrived at the beginning of the afternoon at El Ayoun airport, although his visit was expected the next day. Moroccans, dressed in traditional Saharawi costumes, living locally or brought in buses and trucks from the north, were massed along the itinerary taken by the royal cortege to cheer the king and welcome him. Mohamed VI set up his head quarters at the Hotel Parador.

According to witnesses, all officials and state employees were obliged to go with their families into the street to greet the king. The police forces were checking the Saharawis' social services cards. Any absentees risked losing their essential monthly contribution to their economic survival.  [El Mundo, 21.03.06]

According to another journalist, leaflets against the visit of the Moroccan sovereign were handed out in certain quarters. Thousands of security agents patrolled the town, practically in a state of siege. All businesses were forced to shut up shop. [ABC, 22.03.06]

Demonstrations of opposition here and there in Saharawi popular quarters, greeted the visit, and were immediately repressed. At least five people were arrested: Vaissal Mohamed Laroussi, Maalainin Lekhliphi, Sleima El Jarah, Mohamed Bouzeid and Fatma Ayache. Many young people were held in police stations.  [corr.]

In Boujdour students and high school pupils demonstrated in the streets their disapproval of Mohamed VI's visit. In Dakhla leaflets and SADR flags were distributed. In Smara, at least ten people were injured and eleven houses ransacked following demonstrations.

The Saharawi minister for information, Sid'Ahmed Batal, warned of the "dangerous consequences for peace and security in the region" which could arise from the King of Morocco's visit. He deplored that Rabat had opted for "provocation, escalation, tension and recklessness".  [SPS]

Saharawi students in an El Ayoun lycée refused to be transported by force in military trucks to take part in "royal activities". Young Saharawis brandished Saharawi flags running along streets and distributing leaflets. At night, police as well as many Moroccan settlers, living locally or brought from Morocco, invaded the streets of Saharawi quarters. Threatening them and destroying their houses. Clashes lasted the whole night, about 80 Saharawis are estimated to have been arrested.

According to Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, Saharawi minister for Occupied Territories, the Moroccan King's visit is "a show on a backdrop of terror". According to him, the occupied Saharawi capital passed a night of terror, panic and disturbances". The security agents who had welcomed the king at the airport, disguised as civilians, seized the principal popular quarters and spread chaos."

21.03.06
Mohammed VI inaugurated several development projects relating to supply of drinking water as well as an extension to the port of El Ayoun and the construction of another at Boujdour.

In Boujdour, despite a massive police deployment, young people ran down the main street handing out leaflets and flags. Gatherings in Dakhla and Smara were reported, where two Saharawi citizens, Sid'Ahmed Brahim Lebreiki and Abeida Hamoudi, as well as a young child under ten years, Mohamed Boukhari Mseini, were arrested.

22.03.06
Mohammed VI arrived at the beginning of the afternoon in Boujdour. Groups of young Saharawis shouting slogans against the king's visit got in amongst the crowd greeting the king. In Smara, Maelainin Mojtar Ahmed and Nasiri Hafed are taken in for questioning during a gathering hostile to the king's visit.

23.03.06, El Ayoun
Larbi El Moussamih, an activist and former Saharawi political detainee and member of the executive of the Sahara branch of the Forum for Truth and Justice, was arrested by the Moroccan police. He was released after having passed the afternoon in the police station for reasons the police services were unable to explain. [corr.]

24.03.06
Another demonstration in the evening in the Inaach quarter of El Ayoun, which was very violently dispersed by the forces of repression, who also attacked dwellings. Numerous injuries were reported and several arrests, the exact number could not been established.

It is known that Djimi El Ghalia, a former disappeared from 1987 to 1991, [see her testimony before AMDH, 12.02.05] vice-president of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Serious Human rights abuses committed by the Moroccan state, was arrested as well as her husband, Dah Mustapha (Dafa), a former disappeared also himself, while they were visiting the mother of the political prisoner Ahmad Hammad, in the same area.
Similar events happened in Boujdour and Smara [corr.]

23.03.06,
The Spanish General Bar Council presented the report of its mission of observation to Western Sahara in November-December 2005, at the time of the trials of Saharawi human rights defenders. The 60 page document alleges serious infringements of the law and points out acts of torture, the prejudice of judges and the intervention of police and soldiers in the courtroom. Elsewhere the report denounces that the Moroccan penal code is applied in a non-self-governing territory and deplores the passivity of MINURSO in the face of this abuse of international law. [Informe misión de observación del Consejo General de la Abogacía Española, en juicios contra presos politicos sahrauis en el Sahara Occidental. PDF] [
document in Spanish]

NATURAL RESOURCES

22.03.06, European Union fishing agreement with Morocco
Discussions continue within the committees. The Fishing Committee decided at the request of the Greens, to invite the representatives of Morocco and the Polisario Front to give their views on the fishing agreement. The Development Committee rightly rejected amendments to ban fishing in Saharawi territorial waters. The issue goes back to the fishing committee. [
Fish Elsewhere campaign]

REFERENDUM

02.02.06, Spain
My government would like to contribute, in the framework of the United Nations, to the search for a just, lasting, political solution accepted by the parties and respectful of the right to self-determination", Mr Zapatero stated in a letter sent to the Saharawi president.

28.02.06, USA
William Jordan, responsible for the Maghreb in the Department of State in Washington, in a conference in Paris: "The parties to the conflict, the Polisario and Morocco, should negotiate between themselves with the help of Algeria and Mauritania."

 12.03.06, The Hague
Demonstration of Moroccans outside the Algerian Embassy in The Hague in favour of the "territorial integrity" of Morocco. [
Statement (French) of the Dutch Foundation for the self-determination of Western Sahara] [West-Sahara is geen deel van Marokko. Stichting Zelfbeschikking West-Sahara, Persbericht, Rotterdam, 12 maart 2006].

14.03.06, Spain
Spain in "actively engaged" in looking for a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara within the "framework of the United Nations" and including the exercise of the right  to "self-determination of the people of Western Sahara", the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Miguel Angel Moratinos declared in Madrid before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

14.03.06, Algeria/USA
The  American deputy secretary of State in charge of Near-East, North African and Arab Peninsula Affairs, David C. Welch, declared in Algiers that  "The U.N. Security Council has called for a referendum on self-determination among the residents of Western Sahara. [...] the United States is constantly attentive to this issue.  We believe that it is important for the security and the stability of the area to reach a solution.[
press conference]

16.03.06, Spain
The Spanish government will not take a position for or against Morocco's autonomy proposal. [
ABC/Europa Press]

17.03.06, Britain
The Saharawi Coordinator with the United Nations, M'hamed Khadad, informed officials of the British ministry for foreign affairs that the Saharawi party has asked the Security Council to study the enlargement of MINURSO's prerogatives so to include "the protection of human rights that should be subject to periodical reports".  [SPS]

22.03.06, Britain
The British Government supports a solution acceptable to all the parties within the framework of the United Nations, the British government spokesman declared.

23.03.06, South Africa/Algeria
The Algerian and South African presidents reiterated, in a joint statement, their conviction that the conflict of Western Sahara can only be resolved through a referendum of self-determination.

MOROCCO

10-12.03.06, second national congress of the Moroccan Forum for Truth and Justice
About 300 people, victims of abuse and human rights defenders, including eight Saharawis, took part in the proceedings in Buznika. The new National Council includes four Saharawis: Lahcen Moutik, Mayara Mohamed ould Haïba, Adnane Brahim and Mohamed El Moutaouakil (in prison in El Ayoun). A national council of 83 persons was elected which should designate on 26 March, an executive of 15 persons, among them the future president.

10-11.03.06
Le PJD (The Party for Justice and Development, Islamist, legal) organised a colloquium on the question of the "enlarged autonomy of the Sahara". International experts, from Belgium, Italy, Canada and Spain, took part in the debates. The three government parties,
the USFP, the PI and the PPS, for their part, finished their common memorandum on the autonomy proposal for Western Sahara. The political parties have until the end of the month to present their comments and proposals on the constitutional reform supposed to settle the problem of Western Sahara.

10-11.03.06, Agadir
The University of Agadir was the scene of violent clashes on the nights of 10 to 16 March. Groups of Moroccan students flanked by police attacked Saharawi students, wounding several of them and devastating their homes. Ten Saharawi students, including Sidamar El Kenti, Nin Al-lal and Mahmoud Vilali, were arrested.

21-23.03.06, Marrakech
March of Saharawi students supporting the Polisario Front and denouncing the visit of Mohamed VI. By way of reprisals, police units attacked the Saharawi students lodgings. Aboibi Mohamed was questioned by police. [El-Qods el-Arabi, 23.03.06]

21.03.06, Morocco./autonomy
The Moroccan government communicated that the king will not announce, as expected, his autonomy proposal for Western Sahara in his speech on Saturday in El Ayoun, and that this proposal will not be presented to the Security Council before the end of MINURSO's current mandate, on 30.04.06. [
EFE]

23.03.06, Rabat
Saharawi students gathered outside the seat of the Consultative Council on human rights, to demand news of the fate of 15 young Saharawis who have disappeared since 25.12.05. [see week
09-10/2006]

SPAIN

11.03.06, Toledo, 10th Conference of parliamentary intergroups  
Spanish parliamentary intergroups "Peace and Freedom for the Saharawi people", called on the government "instantly" to "assume the historic responsibilities which fall on the Spanish state" in the conflict of Western Sahara, in promoting political and diplomatic actions allowing the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination through a referendum.

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