WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 07-08 : 11.02. - 24.02.2007

original french

 

SADR

12.02.07, reactions
The President of the Saharawi Republic reacted to the position taken by the French president on the subject of the Moroccan autonomy proposal.
He asked him, in an open letter, to play a “constructive role in a fair and lasting settlement of the problem of Western Sahara through respect for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people”. [SPS] [texte intégral]
The French Association  of Friends of SADR expressed “great surprise”, in a statement, about the recent declarations of President Chirac, who had “committed himself in clear support of the autonomy plan for Western Sahara describing it as a constructive solution”. AFASPA and CORELSO also reacted in similar vein.
[Communiqué AARASD, 11.02.07]  [AFASPA: Lettre à Chirac, 18.02.07]  [Lettre du CORELSO, 20.02.07]

12.02.07, protests
The Saharawi ambassador in Algiers, Mohamed Yeslem Beissat denounced on Algerian radio, the armaments contract concluded between Spain and Morocco, calling it an “irresponsible” act and demanding its annulment. [SPS]
The Coordination of Spanish associations with the Saharawi people (CEAS-Sahara) likewise condemned the contract, claiming that “it encourages the continuation of the illegal occupation” of Western Sahara. [Nota de prensa]

12.02.07, Mauritania
A special envoy of the Saharawi President, Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, Minister of the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora, was received in Nouakchott by the Mauritanian head of state, Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. [SPS]

12.02.07, Slovenia
Nadjat Hamdi, Polisario Front representative for Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia, was received by the Slovenian authorities, who expressed their support for the efforts of the UN towards a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara. [corr.]

22.02.07, UN
Faced with the worsening situation in the occupied territories, the President of the Saharawi Republic asked, in a letter to the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, for the intervention of the UN in order to protect Saharawi citizens and the immediate release of Saharawi political prisoners on hunger strike for over three weeks. [SPS]

31st anniversary of SADR, 26-27.02.07
On the occasion of the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the foundation of the Saharawi Republic, which will take place in Tifariti, in the liberated territories, several events are planned : in addition to the traditional parade, an international conference of solidarity with the Saharawi people, a conference of towns twinned with Saharawi municipalities and a super-marathon between Bir Lahlou and Tifariti. “We want to show that we have here a people, a liberated territory and a government which take the form of the very essence of a state, as well as broad support from the international community for this state,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
“I would like to take this opportunity to repeat to you our declared wish to contribute to the efforts deployed by the international community towards arriving at a fair and lasting solution to the current conflict in Western Sahara, in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Saharawi people”, writes Alpha Oumar Konaré, president of the African Union Commission, to the Saharawi president on the occasion of the national day. [SPS]
[see also the message (french) sent by Pierre Galand, president of the European coordination of committees of support for the Saharawi people, to President Abdelaziz on the occasion of the international meeting in Tifariti]
Numerous events have taken place or are yet to take place in relation to this anniversary: reception in Geneva on 22, organised by the Swiss committee of support for the Saharawi people and the Polisario Front representation in Switzerland; demonstrations in Spain, among others in Valencia on 23, round table discussion on 27, in Bilbao on 24, in Vitoria on 27 etc., as well as in Italy, France, Australia etc

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

10.02.07, Drug trafficking
According to the Spanish daily, La Razon, quoting a Moroccan daily, a consignment of cocaine from Colombia was discovered on 2 February inside a container belonging to a business whose owner is close to General Bennani. The police subsequently seized 112 containers  in storage in the Dakhla region on Moroccan fishing boats. The principal ship owners operating in this region are Generals Abdelaziz Bennani, inspector general of the FAR, Housni Benslimane, head off the Royal Gendarmerie and Abdelhak Kadiri, former chief of espionnage services. The daily Assabah announced on 19.02 that a small plane had been surprised near Dakhla, abandoning 78kg of cocaine after having taken off in the direction of the Canary Islands. [La Razon]  [M.Lakhal]

12-23.02.07, United Kingdom
The Saharawi human rights activist Ali Salem Tamek visited the United Kingdom at the invitation of members of parliament. Tamek had talks with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, members of parliament, trades union figures and representatives of human rights organisations and other NGOs. Tamek was able to talk with Nicole Piché, coordinator of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group ("PHRG"). [SPS]

12.02.07, Agadir
The Agadir court of appeal postponed until 16 April next the sentencing of four Saharawi political prisoners imprisoned in Inzegan. They are Najii Brahim, Mohamed Tamek, Driss Mansouri and Brahim Kajout, sentenced on 19 December last by the court of first instance to four years’ prison for the first two and to three years for the two others. [SPS]

12.02.07
The European parliamentary intergroup, in a statement, declared itself deeply concerned by the constant violations of human rights in Western Sahara, by Morocco’s autonomy plan and the sale of arms by Spain to Morocco. It reaffirms the necessity to respect the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people, and respect for human rights in Western Sahara and asks the Spanish government to reconsider its decision to sell arms. [Llamamiemto del Intergrupo del Parlamento Europeo para el Sahara Occidental]

13.02.07, El Ayoun
Two Saharawi political prisoners on hunger strike, Choubeida Laroussi Mohamed Salem and Cheikh Benga appeared in court.

13.02.07, Norway
The former political prisoner and winner of the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2002, Sidi Mohamed Daddach, was invited to Norway by the Rafto Foundation, Amnesty International and other Norwegian organisations. Daddach launched an appeal to the international community for solidarity with the Saharawi political prisoners on hunger strike and for pressure to be applied to the Moroccan government for their immediate and unconditional release.”

16.02.07, Spain
Demonstration outside the Moroccan Embassy in Madrid in support of Saharawi political prisoners following the appeal from the Committee monitoring Saharawi political prisoners and Associations of friendship and solidarity with the Saharawi people. Another protest against human rights abuses in Western Sahara takes place on 24 in Santander.

17.02.07
The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) launched an urgent appeal to the president of the Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba and to that of the UN High Commission of Human Rights, Louise Arbour for the “creation of a mechanism for the protection of Saharawi civilians and the preservation of their fundamental rights, notably freedom of expression, of assembly, of association and movement". [SPS]

19.02.07, Arrest of a Swedish journalist in El-Ayoun
The Moroccan authorities proceeded to question a Swedish journalist and photographer, Lars Björk, arrested after having taken photos of a demonstration of young Saharawis waving the SADR flag. Interrogated for 4 hours in the central police station he was released in the night. His passport, his press card and his camera were confiscated. Summoned to another interrogation the next morning, he was finally forced to take a bus to Agadir and to leave Morocco. According to Reporters without Borders, he had been threatened by policemen: “If you are lucky you’ll be expelled, if not you will be prosecuted for having links with a terrorist organisation”. Björk refused to sign a record of his interrogation written in Arabic.
Reporters without Borders denounced this intervention by the police against a journalist who has traveled several times to the region. The press freedom organisation sees there a attempt by the Moroccan authorities to prevent any independent coverage of the situation in Western Sahara and deplores the Ministry of Communication’s vagueness around the criteria for accreditation of foreign journalists. [Reporters Without Borders, 20.02.07]
According the Moroccan agency, MAP, the magistrate’s court in El Ayoun had ordered legal proceedings against the journalist for “instigation of an illegal gathering on the public highway in connivance with certain individuals”. [MAP, 21.02.07]
The Swedish MEP, Jens Holm, lodged a written question with the Council about this arrest and the threats of expulsion from Morocco or legal proceedings against him. He asks what measures are envisaged in order to ensure fair treatment by the Moroccan authorities. [Svensk journalist tagen i Marocko, fråga till rådet]
[See also Bakchich info, 23.02.07, french]

20.02.07
The appeal court decided to postpone the sentencing of six political detainees, including  Brahim Sabbar and Ahmed Sbai, until 6 March next. [Communiqué public des avocats de la défense du 6 février 2007 - El-Ayoun]

Demonstrations, repression
At the approach of the anniversary of 27 February street demonstrations are on the increase almost everywhere, particularly in El Ayoun and in Smara. Numerous arrests are indicated and demonstrators injured during police interventions. It should also be mentioned that the Moroccan authorities have put in place various means of distracting the Saharawi population from demonstrating. For example the organisation of sporting activities with free distribution of equipment on one hand, on the other an offer of  more courses at school and post-school level as well as evening classes for female literacy etc.

24.02.07
Saharawi political prisoners are still on hunger strike since the start of the month.

NATURAL RESOURCES

08.02.07, Ireland
In reply to a written question from the MP, Brian O’Shea on the EU-Moroccan fishing agreement, the Irish government replied that it had supported the agreement because it does not prejudice the EU’s position on the status of Western Sahara and on condition that the agreement is for the benefit of the population of the territory, as envisaged by international law.[English text, question 194]

REFERENDUM

30.01.07, Germany
German Green parliamentarians asked the government, in a statement, to use their presidency of the EU to take in hand the development of a common European position with the aim of improving as quickly as possible the human rights situation in Western Sahara and to open the way to the referendum.
[statement in German]

10.02.07
The 11th conference of Spanish parliamentary intergroups, Peace for the Saharawi people, was held in Santander, in the presence of representatives of intergroups from the regional autonomous parliaments, the Senate and the European Parliament. In a statement, the parliamentarians asked the central government to take the lead in the process which should lead to the decolonization of Western Sahara, Spain having a historic responsibility and the right the self-determination being non-negotiable. They also asked the government to suspend the sale of arms to Morocco. Andrés Perello, Socialist member from Valencia, was appointed president. [Declaración de Santander. Declaración de la XI Conferencia de los intergrupos Parlamentarios Paz y Libertad para el pueblo saharaui , Santander, 10 de febrero de 2007]

12.02.07 Declaration
Questioned by La Tribune (Algiers), the American Ambassador for Algeria, Robert Stephen Ford, expressed his views on Western Sahara: “From our point of view, we voted for the Baker plan in the Security Council, but it appears that this plan is not going to be executed. Well, we think in that case that one cannot do nothing at all. We think that it’s up to the Moroccan authorities, who reject the Baker plan, to put something on the table to speed up the solution. We cannot continue, for another thirty years, as we have done already.” Concerning the referendum of self-determination, he declared: “We have always said that the Saharawi people have the right to self-determination; on this we have never changed our mind. We think we must find a way to establish that right. Concerning autonomy, it is a proposal which remains to be negotiated between the parties concerned...we still support the principle of self-determination”.[La Tribune, Alger]

12.02.07, Washington
The Under-Secretary of State for political affairs, Nicholas Burns received a Moroccan interministerial delegation in Washington, which presented the Moroccan autonomy proposal for Western Sahara. Burns called it promising and welcomed Morocco’s efforts to find a realistic and realisable solution. He asked the Moroccan government to complete its proposal and the planned consultation process. [US State Dpt.]

15.02.07, UN
In a memorandum sent to the Security Council, the Polisario Front summarises the proposals made by the UN to settle the question of Western Sahara and rejects the idea of autonomy being put around at the moment by Morocco. The Moroccan proposal is “unilateral, illegal and antidemocratic” and therefore manifestly does not constitute “the mutually acceptable political solution ensuring the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.[Full text ]

19.02.07, South Africa
South Africa, a member of the Security Council for the next two years, renewed its support for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people on the occasion of a meeting with Mhamed Khaddad,  member of the National Executive of the Polisario Front, with the South African Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ncosozana Dlamini Zuma. [agencies]

21.02.07, London
An inter-ministerial delegation from Morocco met in London with  Kim Howells, Foreign Office Minister  in charge of the Middle East and North Africa, to present the autonomy proposal for Western Sahara. Howells declared after the meeting that “we share the concern of the international community that the status of Western Sahara should be resolved ... Great Britain will continue to support UN efforts towards a political solution..» [News FCO, 21.02.07]

HUMANITARIAN AID

15.02.07
The president of the Saharawi Red Crescent, Yahia Bouhoubeini, in a statement to the daily El Qods El Arabi, once again underlined the seriousness of the food situation in the refugee camps and exhorted the donor countries and international bodies to intervene swiftly to redress the situation. He explained that the back up food stores had not been renewed and that WFP had been content to extend until the end of 2006 the convention delivering goods, which ended in August 2006, instead of renewing it for two years as normal. [SPS]

16.02.07
The Spanish agency for international cooperation decided to deliver  3000 tonnes of emergency food rations to the Saharawi refugees. Solidariyt caravans left from different regions of Spain laden with foodstuffs collected by the population.

COMING UP...

16.02.-04.03.07, Australie
Bundoora Homestead Gallery, Melbourne: Images of Western Sahara – A picture tells a thousand words
(exhibition). The paintings by Saharawi artists living in these camps, show aspects of their daily lives and concerns.
Australia Western Sahara Association (Victoria) a mis sur pied une exposition de peintures d'artistes sahraouis, de photographies des campements et de victimes de mines.
Infos: http://www.bundoorahomestead.com, http://www.awsa.org.au

25.02.07, Ormaiztegi, Pays Basque, Course à pied populaire organisée en souvenir de Salem Hadj Mbarek: http://www.sahara-cross.com/

INTERNET

Documents

New web - Nouveau site

OPINIONS: http://opinions.arso.org

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]

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

English
>> 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

Nuevo libro: La última colonia española. Una mirada al interior del Sahara Occidental de Luis Antonio González Tule, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México.
Para conseguir el libro contactar con: editorial_uacm@yahoo.com.mx
Nuevo libro: Viaje al Sáhara Occidental : el Badía, Mariano Sanz Navarro, Diego Marín Librero-Editor, 2007, 206 p. + 1 CD-Rom de fotografías.

Italiano
Attualità in italiano: El Ouali Bologna: http://www.saharawi.org/saharawi.htm + Radio for Peace http://www.radiokcentrale.it/du.htm

Arabe

Netherland

  • « The real Morocco revealed », A conversation with Saharawi activist Ali Salem Tamek, By Carolien Roelants, NCR Handelsblad, The Hague, 9 February 2007.

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