WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

Résumé  December 2007

WEEKS 49 - 52 : 01.12. - 31.12.2007

original french

SADR

14-20.12.07
12th Congress of the Polisario Front, Tifariti, on the theme of “the general struggle to impose sovereignty and full independence”.
The congress discussed “a new strategy for getting out of the present impasse” and the record of the Polisario Front leadership. It also decided a program of national action and elected a new political management team. The 1750 delegates came from the five Saharawi refugee camps, the diaspora and from the territories occupied by Morocco. Over 250 foreign visitors, from about 30 countries attended the opening session, at the end of which they adopted a joint declaration.[déclaration commune/La Tribune]

Particularly notable was the presence of the former head of the Algerian government, Rédha Malek, the president of the Republican National Alliance, and a large Mauritanian delegation representing the Popular Progressive Alliance of Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, the party of the presidential majority, the Union of the Forces of Progress, the Assembly of Democratic Forces of Ahmed ould Daddah,  the Alliance for justice and democracy, the Partyfor Unity and Change (Hatem), the Union of Democratic Forces and the Mauritanian Association of Friendship with the people of Western Sahara (AMASO). [see more details on WS-Info]
The governments of Nigeria and South Africa, the political parties FLN, RND, MEN of Algeria, MPLA of Angola, PS of Senegal (Jacques Baudin), PARENA of Mali, ANC  and communist party of South Africa, the Palestinian FPLP, as well as political parties of Venezuela, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, Spain and Germany and the South African union COSATU and committees of support and associative movements in Algeria and Europe were represented.
The second day of the Congress was devoted to an in-camera discussion of the moral report  presented the day before by the Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz. Debates ranged over the possible return to war, the continuation of the Moroccan-Saharawi talks and the preparation of the army in the eventuality of a return to war if the negotiations fail.
The proceedings continue on the third day in five committees (statutes and internal regulations, international relations, recommendations and program of national action). [Le Soir d'Algérie, 16.12.07]  [La Tribune, 16.12.07]  [La Tribune, 17.12.07]

On Monday 17 December, the committees submitted their reports for discussion and the approval of the Congress, which also pronounced on the Polisario Secretary General’s report. The national program of action accords priority to the army, to the strengthening of political structures, to support for the intifada in the occupied territories, to the reconstruction of the Saharawi liberated territories to establish a population, the improvement of the diplomatic work, of the information services and the institutions of the Saharawi state.
The executive took the decision to extend the Congress by two days to allow time for the elections. Mohamed Abdelaziz, the only candidate, was re-elected by 85% of votes. 146 candidates stood for 25 seats on the National Secretariat. [
New POLISARIO Front National Secretariat 2007 - Nouveau Secrétariat national Front POLISARIO 2007 -  Nuevo Secretariado nacional del F. POLISARIO 2007]
In the final declaration, the Congress decided on the continuation of negotiations, but should they fail, “hostilities could resume”. The decision will be taken by the National Secretariat in six months. [Déclaration finale] [Declaración final] [official documents in Arabic] [Revues de presse Sahara-Info fr + esp.]

28.12.07
The Saharawi President, Mohamed Abdelaziz, re-appointed Abdelkader Taleb Oumar to the post of Prime Minister, and proceeded with the nomination of the new government. [
New SADR Government 2007 -Nouveau Gouvernement de la RASD 2007 - Nuevo Gobierno de la RASD 2007]

Moroccan manoeuvres and counter-moves
At first, Morocco tried to prevent the holding of the Congress in the liberated territories, advancing arguments such as the danger for the peace dynamic, the breaking of the cease-fire by the violation of the military agreement No 1 of the peace plan, the forced movement of populations, etc. Morocco sent a letter to the UN Secretary General to ask him to ban the Congress. [English]  [details on the military agreement No 1 can be found on the MINURSO site]
The two chambers of the Moroccan parliament meeting together on 12 December send an urgent appeal to the UN Secretary General in the same vein. The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs further intervened with the UN Secretary General. Other Moroccan diplomatic interventions took place with the EU President, the European Commission and the Parliament. The UN did not take up the matter, see the Secretary General’s spokesman’s daily press briefing.[Daily Press Briefing 14.12.07, Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General]

During the Congress, the Moroccan press played its part, it makes an issue of mysterious meetings of pro-Moroccan Saharawi notables in northern Mauritania, allegedly expressing their support for the Moroccan autonomy proposal.
At the same time in Smara, CORCAS meets on 17 and 18 December and launches an appeal to “brothers in the Tindouf camps to allow the logic of reason and history to prevail and to return to their mother land”, while in the streets, despite a strong police presence, demonstrators call for the holding of a referendum of self-determination and the support of the Polisario Front’s struggle.

19.12.07, Moroccan-Senegalese diplomatic incident
Morocco recalls its ambassador to Senegal “for three days” to protest at the statement of Jacques Baudin, the former minister and member of the Senegalese Socialist party, expressed before the 12th Congress of the Polisario Front, calling it a “frankly unfriendly and incomprehensible gesture”. Africans “have a moral duty to support people who are fighting for their freedom”, the Polisario Front’s struggle “will be inscribed on the façade of the Pantheon of all those who fight to defend their dignity”, Baudin declared at Tifariti.[
Reuters]  [déclaration de Jacques Baudin]
The Senegalese government recalls its ambassador from Rabat. [communiqué Premier ministre Sénégal]  [réaction du Premier ministre marocain, le 22.12.07]

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

INDICTIMENTS
17.12.07, Madrid
The judge, Baltasar Garzon heard the descendants of four disappeared Saharawis and decided to start a procedure for genocide in Western Sahara against 13 Moroccan officials. [AFAPREDESA span.] 

DEMONSTRATIONS
Demonstrations took place in Smara on 18 December in support of the Polisario Front’s Congress and on 26, during a peaceful demonstration following the arrest of Saïd Mustapha El-Beillal. It is claimed 40 persons were injured when the gathering was brutally dispersed. In Boujdour also the intervention of the police on 14 December creates dozens of injured people and two arrests. In El Ayoun on 25, a sit-in of families of the 15 young Saharawis who disappeared at sea on 25 December 2005 [remember]  was violently repressed. The families had met to demand the truth on the fate of their children and of numerous people who have expressed support for them. [comunicado [Comunicado de Madres de Secuestrados Saharauis, AFAPREDESA, 31.12.07]
Following these events, the Saharawi government reiterated on 24 December its “pressing” appeal to the United Nations in favour of urgent intervention to put an end to the repressive practices of the Moroccan Kingdom against innocent Saharawis. [SPS]

SENTENCES
04.12.07, El-Ayoun
A Saharawi political prisoner, Mohamed Tahlil - <http://arso.org/intifadalisteprisdet.htm#tahlil>http://arso.org/intifadalisteprisdet.htm#tahlil – was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the appeal court. [plus] [Testimonio de Luis Mangrané]

QUESTIONING AND ARRESTS
14.12.07, El-Ayoun
Daha Rahmouni, member of the executive board of ASVDH and Brahim Elansari, a member of AMDH (El-Ayoun branch), were arrested and released 48 hours later. Human Rights Watch asked the Moroccan authorities to set up an inquiry into the bad treatment and violence suffered by these human rights defenders during their detention. [Morocco: Investigate Police Beating of Rights Activists in Western Sahara] [arabic]

26.12.07, Smara
Arrest in Smara of Saïd Mustapha El-Beillal, member of the Committee of Support for the Self-determination of Western Sahara, who has just completed his studies at the University of Mohamed V in Rabat. A protest demonstration was very brutally repressed by the police. On their side, the Saharawi students of Rabat University also demonstrated against this arrest.
Beillal is accused by Moroccan justice of “having taken part in the 12th Congress of the Polisario Front, of having contacts with the Polisario Front leadership, as well as having organised actions and armed demonstrations and having attacked public agents during the exercise of their function”. The trial, fixed for 31.12 in Rabat, was postponed until 14 January at the request of the defence.

SENTENCE SERVED
Ahmed Sbai, who was sentenced to a year and a half in prison by the court of El Ayoun, was released after having served his sentence.

NATURAL RESOURCES

11.12.07
Western Sahara Resource Watch denounces the practice of bird hunting by a group of Saudis, observed at the east of Khat Alfater (north east from El-Ayoun).
[pictures [mas y fotos]

PHOSPHATE
03.12.07
The ship, Silver Bay, arrived on 3 December in the port of Lyttleton, New Zealand, the Greek ship, Lorentzos on 16 December in Northport, NZ and in Tauranga on 17, continuing to Marsden Point and Bluff, carrying phosphate from Western Sahara.
[more: http://www.lpc.co.nz/RP.jasc?=&Node=N38P0&Page=A_Shipping_Forecast&PrinterFriendly=true - http://www.northport.co.nz/Frame.html - http://www.port-tauranga.co.nz/Shipping-Information/Schedules/ ]

04.12.07
The Australia-Western Sahara Association, AWSA, continues its campaign against the illegal importation of phosphate from Western Sahara. [English/PDF]
The Australian government replied that the Security Council had not issued trade sanctions against Morocco, but that Australian companies should pay attention to international law and the respect of human rights. [Will the camel get a vote? AWSA, 20/12/2007]

20.12.07
At the Annual General Meeting of Incitec-Pivot, the largest Australian importer of Saharawi phosphate, a shareholder raised a question about Western Sahara while members of AWSA were demonstrating outside. Incitec confirmed that the larger part of their phosphate in their superphosphate fertiliser comes from Western Sahara. All Australian producers of superphosphate use phosphate rock from Bou Craa. Incitec acknowledges having spoken with representatives of the people of Western Sahara – including the Polisario – over the past 18 months and that it follows the directives of the United Nations and the Australian government. [photos and videos]  [Sydney Morning Herald, Australia - Dec 20, 2007]

OIL
26.12.07
Tamoil denied reports that it had acquired concessions to look for oil in Western Sahara. [Reuters, 26.12.07]

REFERENDUM

01.12.07
According to the Moroccan press agency MAP, several vehicles belonging to MINURSO attracted acts of vandalism and their transmission systems were stolen by an Islamist group operating in the region of Tindouf. The news was denied by MINURSO who described the report as false.


02-04.12.07
Official visit of the French President to Algeria, who reiterates his support for autonomy. [texte intégral déclaration de Sarkozy] [texte intégral discours Bouteflika]

08-09.12.07, Euro-African summit in Lisbon
During a seminar on Africa, organised in Lisbon, a Saharawi official regretted that SADR had not been invited to the EU-Africa summit. [agencies]
During this summit, Mohammed VI warned against the balkanisation of national entities and support for separatist movements and artificial entities”. [texte intégral du discours de Mohamed VI]

11.12.07, Norway
The Norwegian government reaffirmed its support for the Moroccan-Saharawi negotiations and the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination during an interview between Mohamed Khaddad and Raymond Johansen, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. [SPS fr]  [SPS esp]

16.12.07, South Africa
During the ANC conference, its president, Thabo Mbeki, emphasised the necessity of resolving the question of Western Sahara in conformity with the resolutions of the UN. He revealed that the South African government had granted to SADR humanitarian aid worth over 2.2 million euros for the next three years.

17.12.07, UN General Assembly
The draft resolution drawn up by the 4th committee (document A/62/412) on the question of Western Sahara was accepted without a vote.[résolution français]  [resolution English]  [resolucion espanol]

19.12.07, Canaries
The parliament of the Canaries accepted unanimously a declaration which asks for a just, urgent and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara through a democratic referendum. [Declaración Institucional]

MOROCCO - EUROPEAN UNION

05.12.07, Economic development
The European Union allocates 28 million euros  more to cross-border cooperation with Morocco for the period 2007, within the framework of neighbourhood policy. This financial aid could be destined for projects in Western Sahara. The EU grants  654 million euros for 2007-2013 to Morocco. [European Neighbourhood Policy]

SOLIDARITY

02.12.07, European Students' Union, Vilnius
The Union of European Students asks for the protection of Saharawi students in the occupied territories. [Statement

07.12.07, Melbourne, Australia Western Sahara Association (Victoria)
Stephen Zunes launches the new book "International Law and the Question of Western Sahara" at the Institute of International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School to an audience of lawyers, academics and supporters of the Saharawi cause. Zunes said the outcome of the UN peace negotiations between Morocco and Western Sahara are important for the whole world.  Not only because the Saharawi people deserve a just resolution of the conflict and a chance to determine their future. But if Morocco’s autonomy plan were to be approved in the Security Council, the repercussions would go far beyond the fate of the Saharawi people. It would mark the first time in the 60-year long history of the United Nations that a country would be allowed to extend its boundaries by force”. [more

07.12.07, conference at l'istituto italiano per gli studi filosofici de Naples with the theme « Occupied Western Sahara Occidental : international law and human rights abuses ». [résumé in italiano]

10-15.12.07, V Festival de Cine Solidario de Guadalajara. Homenaje al pueblo saharaui: http://www.cinefilia-films.com/

15.12.07
The Bishop of Laghouat, Mgr Claude Rault, launched an appeal for solidarity with the Saharawi refugees after visiting the camps. [italiano]

15.12.07, mourning
Robert Emery,  founding member of the International Bureau for Human Rights in Western Sahara, BIRDHSO and an activist in the Swiss Committee of support for the Saharawi people, died in Geneva. [plus]

18.12.07, vandalism
The British scientist, Nick Brooks, denounced to the UN authorities the damage caused intentionally at various archeological sites in the liberated territories of Western Sahara by members of MINURSO. Dr Brooks directs an archeological research program. (Visiting Research Fellow School of Environmental Sciences University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) [UN Personnel Vandalise Archaeological Sites]  [photos]  [otro testimonio: El personal de Naciones Unidas destruye el arte rupestre del Sahara Occidental, Universitat de Girona]

COMING UP...

07-09.01.08, Next round of negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front in Manhasset, near New York.

25.02.08, Sahara Marathon: http://www.saharamarathon.org/

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