WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

Résumé March 2008

01.03. - 31.03.2008

original french

 

SADR

17.03.08, diplomacy
The Republic of the Seychelles decided to withdrew its recognition of SADR.

21.03.08, scientific studies
A number of British and Irish academics will carry out research on the ground from March to June on Saharawi cultural identity:
Joanne Clarke and Nick Brooks, Western Sahara Project at the University of East Anglia, on the rock paintings damaged by members of MINURSO. Mrs Constantina Sherin Isidoros from the Anthropology Department of the University of Oxford will study Saharawi life before the Moroccan invasion and the upsets it has engendered. A delegation of student-researchers from Leeds University will start on 23.03. a visit to the Saharawi territories which will continue until mid-April. A delegation from the University of Cork in Ireland will carry out a similar visit at the end of April, which will continue until June. [SPS]

22.03.08, declarations
In an interview with the Spanish press agency EFE, the Saharawi president, Mohamed Abdelaziz considers that the result of the negotiations is a big disappointment. Asked about the opinions of Saharawi youth, Abdelaziz pointed out that there is no sign that could make one fear they will lose their national identity or that they would not join the armed struggle. “Completely to the contrary, they are the ones who are putting on pressure to return to war”. On the difference of military equipment between the two sides, Abdelaziz points out that “the Polisario has 15,000 to 20,000 troops. The Saharawi President asked the Spanish government to do its utmost to make Spain “rectify the mistake” committed during its time when it gave up the process of decolonization of the territory”. [
SPS fr]  [Diario Montanes]

22.03.08, the column of one thousand – Human chain along the wall - COLUMNA DE LOS 1000
About 2,500 people, mostly Spanish, stayed in the Saharawi refugee camps as a sign of solidarity to demand a referendum of self-determination following the initiative of students from the Complutense University of Madrid. For the first time, a human chain of solidarity 2 km long was formed on 22  March some hundreds of metres from the wall of shame, supervised by MINURSO.
[more]
Fotos/Photos:
http://www.saharanoroeste.org/columna%20de%20los%20mil/columna%20de%20los%20mil.htm + http://www.porunsaharalibre.org/index.php?option=com_expose&Itemid=68

24.03.08, anniversary
The Saharawi Prime Minister, Abdelkader Taleb Oumar declared that festivities, commemorating the 35th anniversary of the start of the armed struggle (20 mai 1973), will take place in Tifariti in the liberated territories of Western Sahara. Military marches and traditional cultural displays, exhibitions and a speech from the President of the Republic are planned.[SPS]

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

18.03.08, turned away
Yarba Mahfoud Mohamed arrived by plane in El Ayoun to visit his relatives, coming from Spain where he lives. Paralysed following a war injury in the ranks of the Polisario, he is in a wheelchair. As he was not returning to the Sahara to defect to the regime, the Moroccan authorities refused to let him enter. Thanks to the insistence of his relatives, he was finally able to meet them for four minutes before being sent back on an aeroplane.

Trial
10.03.08: The court of El-Ayoun handed down a sentence for a first conviction to two Saharawi political detainees, Said Mohamed Lamine Said Lahnani, born in 1983, and Mohamed Elmokhtar Alouate, born in 1986, of six months imprisonment for “attacking, injuring and insulting an official on duty”. They were arrested in Smara on 1 March 2008.
27.03.08: the punishment of El-Baillal, on hunger strike in Salé since 20 February is reduced on appeal from 8 to 4 months.
31.03.08: Elmokhtar Akhnibila and his son, Mohamed, arrested on 26, were sentenced to ten months’ prison.
01.04.08: On appeal the sentences of Mouloud Barkouh and Khellihenna Dleimi,were reduced from twelve to eight months in prison. They were released, having served their time. Hamid Barkouh had his sentence reduced from 18 to 12 months’ prison. [ASVDH]

Demonstrations, arrests
17.03.08: Trainees at the Office of Professional Training and of Work Experience in El Ayoun, organised a sit-in, outside the establishment, to protest against their marginalisation and the refusal of the Moroccan authorities to respond to their demands for work. The sit-in was violently repressed by the Moroccan police and several victims were taken to casualty in the Belmehdi Hospital in El-Ayoun. [ASVDH]

25.03.08: A demonstration calling for the respect of the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, organised in the
Maatallah district by young Saharawis, was violently repressed by the police. The next day the police broke into the house of the Akhnibila family and arrested Elmokhtar Akhnibila, 65 years, as well as his son, Mohamed. His wife and daughters were injured during the police intervention. Elmokhtar Akhnibila and his son, Mohamed were sentenced to ten months in prison on 31 March 2008. [ASVDH]

Tan Tan Affair
A Moroccan policeman, Abdelaziz El Meski, 35 years, a member of the GIR (Rapid intervention group), received a head injury on 26.02.08 in unclear circumstances in Tan Tan, in the course of a violent dispersal of a demonstration. He died on 3 March in Marrakech.
Seven Saharawis who were not there were arrested several days later in various places. Among them the human rights defender, Yahya Elhafed Iaaza, a member of AMDH and CODESA, arrested previously in 2004 and 2006, and former political prisoner, Lahsen Lafkir (arrested in 2006 and 2007 and sentenced respectively to 3 years and 3 months in prison).
The others apprehended Najem Bouba, Mohamed El Bourkaoui, Mohamed Essalmi, Mayara El Moujahid and Salama Charafi were tortured, blindfolded and undressed in the Tan Tan police station for several days before being incarcerated in Inzegane, where Iazza on 26 March 2008 was the victim of an attack by four common law prisoners. [CODESA fr., eng., esp.] [
more]
The Moroccan Ministry of the Interior accused “independence supporters of the Polisario of having mortally wounded a policeman, savagely attacked in Tan Tan”. Moroccan political parties denounced what they called an “ignoble murder by Polisario separatists”. For the Moroccan press, “the separatists assassinated a policeman”, “martyr victim of terrorism”.
[El Pais, 03.03.08] [AFP, 03.03.08] [Maroc Hebdo International no 782, 07.03.08] 
The Polisario Front denied any implication. The Saharawi President asked on 5 March for the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to “intervene urgently” to save the lives of these innocents who incur capital punishment. [SPS]  Saharawi human rights organisations in the occupied territories denounced the arbitrary arrests of these persons, whose sole and only wrong is to call for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Awareness-raising tours
The former political prisoner, Brahim Noumria was received on 5 March by the Vice President of the Canary Islands Parliament,  Cristina Tavío. He expressed the view that the Sahara would become like Palestine if repression continues. He revealed that young Moroccans born in occupied Western Sahara sympathise with the Saharawis.[EFE, 04.03.08][Interview of Rabab , video]

Hunger Strikes
In addition to the 27 Saharawi political prisoners in the Black Prison on hunger strike since 25 February, other prisoners have joined in from Moroccan prisons of Taroudant, Tiznit, Ait Melloul, Kénitra and Salé. They are demanding an improvement in their conditions of detention and recognition as prisoners of opinion, as well as the right to self-determination.
 A follow-up committee reported on a daily basis the deteriorating state of health of the 60 hunger strikers. On 14 March it called for “emergency intervention” to save their lives. Others called on the strikers to stop their action: the Coordination of Associations and Committees of Support for the Saharawis to the international campaign  for the release of Brahim Sabbar and all the Saharawi political prisoners, as well as three Saharawi barristers Mohamed Lehbib Ergueibi, Hassan Benamman and Mohamed Boukhaled, who paid a visit to the strikers. [ASVDH]

The president of the Moroccan Consultative Council of Human Rights(CCDH), Ahmed Herzenni, on 15 March visited the Saharawi political detainees. [ASVDH] On 22, The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) sent the Minister of Justice a “very urgent” appeal to save the Saharawi prisoners on hunger strike and the Moroccan Organisation of Human Rights (OMDH) called for the release of Brahim Sabbar.
Presient Abdelaziz intervened on two occasions on 11 and 23 March with the UN Secretary General. The executive of the Polisario Front National Secretariat appealed on 12 March to the international community to intervene, On 24 March the hunger strikers announce having ended their action “following appeals from NGOs, families of prisoners and Saharawi lawyers” and in the face of the refusal of the Moroccan authorities to open a dialogue. [ASVDH] Despite the stopping of the strike the state of health of several strikers is of considerable concern,[CODESA]. Said El Baillal did not stop his strike until 31 March.

31.03.08:
Amnesty International public statement about Said El Baillal:
Morocco / Western Sahara: Sahrawi student may be prisoner of conscience, AI Index: MDE 29/006/2008 (Public).[arabic]

Campaign
The international Campaign for the release of Saharawi political prisoners continues and a petition is put on line.
http://www.lapetition.com/sign1.cfm?numero=1645 or http://www.acatfrance.fr/actualites.php#Lire
The French member of parliament, Jean-Paul Lecoq on 15 March seizes the UN Secretary General, the French President N. Sarkozy and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, Rama Yade. [El Moudjahid, 15.03.08]
On 31 March, the Saharawi minister for Europe, Mohamed Sidati, interceded in favour of the 60 Saharawi political prisoners in an open letter to the Presidents of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Commission, to the representative of the  PESC as well as the commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner. [UPES, 31.03.08, arabic]

NATURAL RESOURCES

10.03.08, Appeal by WSRW, Western Sahara Resource Watch: Stop the exploitation of natural resources in occupied Western Sahara , Press release by Western Sahara Resource Watch.

Investments
28.02.08, According to Maghreb Confidential N° 823, the Emirates group Quadra Holding,  specialising in tourism, are prospecting the region of Dakhla.
[WSRW]

27.03.08, WRSW sent a letter to the South African bank, RMB, who are a major financier of the activities of the Irish oil company,
Island Oil & Gas, at present in an exploration phase in occupied Western Sahara, to ask them to end their support.
[Letter to RMB]
A few days later, one learnt that RMB decided to extend by 60 days credit of 12 million pounds due on 31.03.08. The latest extension was granted on the same terms as for 31.12.07.
[Press release Island Oil and Gas, 31.03.08] 

Agriculture
21.03.08, plunder
Saharawi families returned to occupied Western Sahara from the refugee camps claiming agricultural lands they used to work in the region of El Ayoun, “ceded” recently to a management company al Omran, a state enterprise.
[La Vie économique, Maroc]

Sand
The exploitation of sand continues. The ship Seisbulk discharged in the Canaries 3 and 11 March 2000 tonnes of sand from Western Sahara for the company Project Dover SL. (corr.)

Phosphates
According to the Australian Legend International Holdings, Morocco is at present negotiating between 350 to 400 US$ a tonne, twice the price in 2007.
[Legend International Holdings, 17.03.08]
The effects of this steep price increase are being felt in Spain. The Agricultural Coordination of Andalusia will ask the national committee on competition to examine the increase in fertiliser prices, which have increased by 30% in 2008, to discover whether there is a cartel agreement. The Andalusian organisation considers that the price increase is also the consequence of Morocco’s demands, which have doubled the price of sale of the mineral coming from Bou-Craa. 
[Europa Press, 25.03.08]

27.03.08: Morocco will increase its export of phosphate to India, at its request, which imports annually 1.1 million tonnes of phosphate rock from Morocco. Morocco produces annually 29 million tonnes of the mineral, of which 45-50% are exported. 
[Press Information Bureau-Government of India]

REFERENDUM

01.03.08, Switzerland
The Swiss Socialist Party, in a resolution, hopes that the coming negotiations will permit progress in the direction of peace and asks for human rights to be guaranteed in Western Sahara.

04.03.08, Great Britain
In response to a question from the MP, Mark Williams on the subject of human rights in occupied Western Sahara, the British Minster for Foreign Affairs, Kim Howells replied that Great Britain was concerned by the situation, that he had discussed with his Moroccan counterpart and that this topic would be taken up on a regular basis with the Moroccan authorities.
[Hansard] <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080304/text/80304w0026.htm#column_2361W>

15-16.03.08, Denmark
Meeting in Gladsaxe, near Copenhagen, the Young Conservative Party supports the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and considers that the International Community should take stronger actions towards Morocco. They ask Denmark to make Morocco release the political prisoners of Western Sahara, to work actively for MINURSO’s mandate to be extended to supervising human rights in Western Sahara and for the EU to annul the fishing agreement. [corr.]

16-18.03.08, fourth round of Moroccan-Saharawi talks - MANHASSET IV

Worrying sabre-rattling preceded the fourth round of talks between Morocco and Western Sahara. On 1 March, the Saharawi President, in a press conference, denounced the Moroccan policy of arms build-up and the redeployment of Moroccan troops in the occupied Saharawi territories. He made his worries known to the UN Secretary General and to the President of the Security Council. [SPS, 13.03.08]
He pointed out at the same time that influential states recognised the independence of Kosovo and asked for the same recognition of SADR. The Moroccan daily Assabah confirmed on 10.03.08 that large military manoeuvres would take place on 11 March in the region of Ausserd and Dakhla under the cover of the anti-terrorist struggle.
[Liberté, 12.03.08]
The Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared on 12 in an interview with Reuters, that "the two present parties, Morocco and the Polisario Front, have still not exhausted all the possibilities offered by negotiations". The latter "must be accompanied by a strict respect of the ceasefire brought about by the United Nations in 1991", for the reprisal of hostilities "would represent a dangerous and dramatic evolution for all of our region". He repeated that "the decolonisation of Western Sahara is not a casus belli between Algeria and Morocco. This decolonisation is the sole responsibility of the United Nations and the Security Council".
[Reuters]

On the Saharawi side, they denounced the declarations of Moroccan officials for whom “Morocco only accepts autonomy and nothing but autonomy”. But they kept hoping that a dialogue would be possible and that an advance could be made concerning the confidence-building measures.

The meetings
The official talks between Morocco and the Polisario started in a tense atmosphere. The same delegations were meeting with the same scenario as on previous occasions. Discussions of 17 stressed the implementation of Security Council resolutions1754 and 1783 . On 18, discussions were devoted to strengthening the confidence-building measures.
The final statement of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary General for Western Sahara mentioned, to cover up the failure of the discussions, the meagre results of the meeting: discussions on topics such as administration, justice and resources as well as an agreement between the parties to explore setting up family visits by an overland route without forgetting the undertakings of the parties to pursue negotiations at Manhasset at a date to be determined by mutual agreement. [special page with speaches and statements]

Reactions
The head of the Polisario Front delegation, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, deplored the rejection by Morocco of “nearly all the confidence-building measures” proposed by Van Walsum and the fact that Morocco continues to set “pre-conditions” and to declare that there is no other solution outside autonomy, conclusions taken up also by the Saharawi Minister for Foreign Affairs and the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front.
Ahmed Boukhari stated to Reuters that the atmostphere was not good in terms of tangible tension. The representative of the Polisario Front Polisario at the UN asked for the help of the Security Council to avoid another failure of UN efforts.
[Reuters, 19.03.08]
He clarified that the confidence-building measures “concern the exchange of high-level political delegations between the two parties, de-mining and setting up mixed military commissions to ensure, among other things, the respect of the cease-fire.”
Van Walsum also proposed “the organisation of regular periodic seminars between the representatives of Saharawi populations to speak about non-political subjects”, the Saharawi diplomat added. The Polisario Front also wanted to “include the question of human rights”, Boukhari, pointed out “we are ready to continue the process and to take part in a fifth round". [SPS]

MOROCCO

11.03.08, The costs of the conflict:
The military occupation of Western Sahara has cost Morocco 31 billion dollars since 1975, that is 2 % of the GDP of the kingdom, to maintain and equip an army of 360,000 men including 130,000 to 160.000 still there, according the independent Moroccan economist Fouad Abdelmoumni, who added another 25  billion of civil expenses, which is 1% of the GDP and the losses due to to non-realisation of the Maghreb commercial common market, which the economist estimates to be 1.5% of the GDP. The cost of the conflict in Western Sahara according to him weakens by 1-2% the annual economic growth of Morocco, whose GDP per inhabitant could today be 7,700 $, instead of 1,500...
[El Pais, 11.03.08] [Le Monde, 15.03.08]

21.03.08,  painting censored
For international women’s day, UNESCO organised in Paris an exhibition of paintings by the Madagascan artist Brigitte Rabarijaona of feminist African political art. To illustrate her message of peace that “No African kills an African”, a canvas representing all the flags of the African Union, including that of SADR was shown. “The Moroccan officials put pressure on the Madagascan ambassador and the organiser of the exhibition to withdraw the painting”, the artist affirmed whose work was finally withdrawn from the exhibition.
[TelQuel, no 316] 

20.03.08: Morocco officially appealed to Algeria to open the borders between the two countries and for the normalisation of bilateral relations.
[APA, 21.03.08]   Algeria refuses. For the Minister of the Interior and Local Communities, Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, the question of borders is not “an isolated question, it must be taken in a general context”. Morocco regrets the refusal of Algeria. Tension mounts between Algiers and Rabat, which, as L’Expression writes, “wants to drag Algeria into the Saharawi conflict which, however, is the responsibility of the UN”.[L'expression, 27.03.08]  The Moroccan Minister for Communication, spokesman for the government, Khalid Naciri, replies that the question of the Sahara is a “Moroccan-Algerian issue” and that its settlement must involve direct dialogue between Morocco and Algeria... [APA, 27.03.08]

27.03.08: In a statement, the accredited Spanish media correspondents in Morocco (except EFE) launched a “last desperate appeal in the face of an untenable situation”. They denounced the withdrawal of accreditation to Beatriz Mesa and Carla Fibla, threatened with expulsion from Morocco for having taken part in a round table discussion in Spain in February on the role of the media in the conflict in Western Sahara. The journalists denounce the incapacity of the Spanish government to stop the systematic harassment to which they are subjected under the cover of the conflict in Western Sahara. The intervention of the Spanish government and of an Opposition member of parliament allowed the tension to be eased. The representative of the Polisario Front in Spain regretted that the government was not able better to protect its journalists.[I. Cembrero, El Pais, 27.03.08]  
[A. Lmrabet, El Mundo, 27.03.08]  [periodistas-es 29.03.08]  [Comunicado en apoyo a los periodistas españoles acreditados en Marruecos,AAPSIB 27.03.08]

MOROCCO - MAURITANIA

11.03.08
The Mauritanian daily. El Houria revealed the existence of a vast illegal immigration network of Mauritanians to Western Sahara, orchestrated by the Moroccan authorities helped by a few shady administrators.
[El Moudjahid, 15.03.08]
The Moroccan authorities, adds the daily, Le Jour d'Algérie, pay sums of money to these Mauritanian nationals in return for their agreement to live in the occupied Saharawi territories and pass themselves off as Saharawis. 
[Le Jour d'Algérie,16.03.08]
The Mauritanian government met to discuss the situation, which could provoke a crisis with Rabat, and decided to start an information campaign to warn about the risks of renouncing one’s nationality.
[Liberté 12.03.08]
According to the Moroccan weekly, "La Semaine" (Al-Ousbou'a) the group of so-called Saharawis returning to occupied Western Sahara under the direction of Hammada Ould Derwich is still housed in a hotel in El Ayoun. The Mauritanian government has just declared their Mauritanian passports invalid and let Ould Derwich know he is persona non grata in Mauritania.
[See also Le Journal Hebdomadaire, 17.03.08, Fr]

HUMAN RIGHTS

7th Session of the Human Rights Council, 03-28 March 2008, Geneva
A Saharawi delegation comprising Abdeslam Omar, President of AFAPREDESA, Abba Haissan, Secretary General of the Union of Saharawi Jurists, Hmad Hammad, Secretary General of CODAPSO and Larbi Messaoud from CODESA participate in this session.
For interventions before the Council see: http://saharaoccidental.blogspot.com/2008/03/7me-session-du-conseil-des-droits-de.html

HUMANITARIAN AID

30.03.08: New appeal for aid by the Saharawi Red Crescent. The food quota for April is not covered and there is still no reserve stock.
01.04.08: the World Food Program (PAM) undertook with the Algerian Minister for Foreign Affairs, to give food aid of 32.5 million  dollars (US), to cover the basic needs of 125,000 refugees for the period of 01.01.08 until 30.06.09.
The UN deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Craig Johnstone, arrived on 31 March for a two-day visit of Algeria, visited the Saharawi refugee camps for a mission of evaluation.  [minAE Algérie] http://193.194.78.233/ma_fr/stories.php?story=08/04/01/6295549

SOLIDARITY

08.03.08, Quito, Equateur, Création d'une association de solidarité avec le peuple sahraoui. [corr.]

12-19.03.08, Caracas, Semana de solidaridad con el pueblo saharaui en el Cuartel San Carlos, edificación del siglo XVIII, declarado monumento histórico nacional por la Junta Nacional Protectora y Conservadora del Patrimonio Histórico y Artístico de la Nación: http://poemariosahara.blogspot.com/search/label/Latinoam%C3%A9rica

13-14.03.08, Leeds, UK: La Generación de la Amistad at the symposium 'Poetics of resistance' : http://sahararesiste.blogspot.com/2008/03/la-generacin-de-la-amistad-en-el.html

COMING UP...

17-20.04.08: V Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara Fisahara 08 avec la participation de plusieurs réalisateurs et acteurs espagnols, dont l'acteur Javier Bardem: http://www.festivalsahara.com

18-19.04.08: Colloque international sur "l’autodétermination des peuples : vecteur de paix et de développement" organisé au siège de l’Assemblée populaire nationale, à l’initiative du Comité de fraternité parlementaire algéro- sahraoui

19.04.08: Marcha en Huelva por la paralización del expolio al pueblo saharaui. Avda de las Palmeras puerto de Levante hasta FMC FORET. Organisan: Fandas, Federacion andaluza de asociaciones solidarias con el Sahara, WSRW, Huelva (Federacion provincial de Huelva de asociaciones solidarias con el Sahara).

INTERNET

Nouveaux blogs
http://www.fidaeiualjabha.skyblog.com (international)
http://www.fidaeiualjabha.jeeran.com (arabe)
http://m-e-s.1s.fr (arabe)

DOCUMENTS

Analyses

Droits humains - Human Rights - Derechos humanos

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http://saharaintifada.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html#5431038631351273046

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