The international trade union federation Public Services International PSI's World Executive Board, meeting in Seoul 29-31 October, has called on the UN to organise the long awaited referendum (in Western Sahara) without further delays, and expressed its support to the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence.
Spanish journalists following the King of Morocco's trip to Western Sahara noticed that MINURSO was proceeding to a significant reduction in the staff of the Identification Commission. This has gone down from 120 to 86 members. It is planned that only 36 people will remain. Their job will be to microfilm the documents which have been assembled. Farhan el-Haq, UN spokesperson, confirmed the story, "since at the moment there is nothing to do". He added that this does not mean that the UN has the intention to withdraw its mission from the territory.
The representative of the Polisario Front to the UN, Ahmed Boukhari, declared that this measure is "illegal, surprising and politically counterproductive", as the Security Council resolution 1359 of 29 June 2001 does not authorise the least change concerning the functioning and the staffing of MINURSO until the next resolution. "This reduction reflects the pessimistic atmosphere that has hovered over MINURSO since Morocco's blockage", he added. (ONU, SPS)
President Bouteflika, on an official visit of the United States, had talks with James Baker in Houston. The Minister of Justice, Ahmed Ouyahia, together with Abdelkader Messahel, Minister Delegate responsible for African Affairs, attended the meeting. "Algeria is not against a third way concerning Western Sahara", Bouteflika is alleged to have stated, according to "Le Quotidien d'Oran", which was following Bouteflika's visit. These words, spoken in private during a meeting with American businessmen, provoked violent reactions in the independent Algerian press. The Algerian Press Agency APS, firmly denied these allegations and confirmed Algeria's commitment in favour of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. (El Watan, La Tribune, Le Matin, APS)
The Saharawi President sent a letter asking the French Prime Minister to annul the contract signed beween TotalFinaElf and Morocco, calling it illegal. Mohamed Abdelaziz also wrote to the personal envoy of Kofi Annan, James Baker, expressing the view that the nationality of the two companies (TotalFinaElf of France and Kerr McGee of the USA) has a very negative impact on their confidence in these two countries, which should be playing an important role in guaranteeing peace. The Saharawi President also mentioned the preparations for the Paris-Dakar rally, which are going on "with the blessing of the French government", as well as the recent visit of the King of Morocco to the occupied territories, which constitute "an unacceptable escalation with extremely serious consequences for the current peace effort and for the stability of the region". He asked for the intervention of the United Nations to cancel these contracts, to condemn the visit of the King of Morocco and to prevent the Paris-Dakar rally from going through Saharawi territory.
On 6 November the Security Council decided to ask the UN Legal Department for an opinion on the legality of the oil exploration contracts in Western Sahara prior to self-determination by the Saharawi people, Ahmed Boukhari, Saharawi representative at the UN, told the SPS.
Moroccan-Spanish diplomatic crisis
While the Spanish authorities are trying to minimise the crisis set off by Morocco between the two countries, Rabat continues to accuse Madrid of "hiding" the many problems which have arisen between to two countries in recent months. Morocco insists in particular on the referendum organised in Andalusia, considered as an interference in the internal affairs of Morocco.
On the other hand a highly placed Spanish official recognised that "the Moroccans would have liked us to align our position with that of Paris" during the work of the UN Decolonisation Commission last October. During these debates, France tried without success to manipulate the official position of the European Union on Western Sahara. The president of the European parliamentary intergroup, "Peace for the Saharawi people", Margot Kessler, made an urgent appeal on 4 November asking for explanations from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mrs Kessler believes that "the efforts of France to manipulate the official position of the EU are totally unacceptable".
For his part, the MEP, Isidoro Sanchez, member of the ad hoc delegation which visited the Saharawi refugee camps recently, thinks that faced with the prospect of the forthcoming withdrawal of MINURSO, the European Parliament owes it to itself to intervene, for "there is a very delicate conflict of interests in which the United States and France are involved". Sanchez, also a member of the intergroup "Peace for the Saharawi people", will ask the European Parliament to intervene in favour of the United Nations peace plan, believing that a "formidable" diplomatic effort must be undertaken to resolve the conflict.
The liberation of Saharawis political prisoners Eddah Echaihk and Mousamih el Arbi, who had served their sentencs of two years' imprisonment for having participated in the uprising of El Ayoun in 1999 was joyously celebrated in El Ayoun. These two prisoners figured on the list of the BERDHSO campaign.
The director of the aid programmes and emergency operations of Algerian Red Crescent, Ali Bouguedour, deplored the "serious failures" which are " prejudicial" to humanitarian aid of the United Nations to the Saharawi refugees. In contrast he congratulated the ECHO team which distributes European Union humanitarian aid , believing however, that this aid should be increased.
Mrs Lalumière, during a press conference on her return from the Saharawi refugee camps, pointed out the critical food situation of the refugees. "There is a sort of negligence on the part of the World Food Program, judging its insufficient presence in the camps. It is urgent that the World Food Program should react, the European parliamentarian added.
In a letter read to the European parliamentary delegation, in the name of the NGOs committed on the ground, Sabine Eckart of Medico International said that the NGOs had noted "a continual decline in food aid destined for the Saharawi refugees" and a continual reduction or stagnation of aid from UNHCR, as well as donor fatigue of certain donors who "are becoming less involved claiming that support for the Saharawi refugee has been going on for too long".
Spain will contribute $216,000 for the Saharawi refugees , the High Commissioner for Refugees, Rudd Lubbers announced on 6 November.
Spanish legislative initiative
The solidarity movement with the Saharawi people is collecting signatures to present to the Cortès(Parliament) a "popular legislative initiative". This initiative, which requires 500,000 signatures to be received, asks the Spanish parliament to support the Western Sahara peace plan. The handing over of the signatures is expected on 23 November, in the presence of the Saharawi president Mohamed Abdelaziz, who will then attend the annual conference of the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people in Seville on 23, 24 and 25 November next.
In Barcelona members of the Association of Friends of the Saharawi people who were collecting signatures, were attacked by a group of about a hundred Moroccans. (La Vanguardia)
Visit of Danielle Mitterrand
Mrs Danielle Mitterrand arrived on the 6th in the Saharawi camps after talks in Algiers with the president of the Algerian Committee of support to the Saharawi people. She went to three wilayas where she was warmly welcomed, and visited schools, hospitals, gardens and a museum of war booty. In Dakhla, she called on the mother of Mohamed Daddach, who had just been liberated. Impressed by the social assets of the Saharawi population in exile, she mentioned "equality between the sexes, respect of human rights and freedom of expression" which she had noticed while there. "This peaceful people who aspires to liberty, should exercise their legitimate right to self-determination, she declared. (SPS)
Anniversary of the Green March
In his traditional speech on the occasion of the anniversary of the invasion of Western Sahara, the King of Morocco, "sure of his sovereignty over this territory", called all the parties concerned to the acceptance of the framework-agreement. He reaffirmed his determination to "consolidate regionalisation" and to follow "personally" the preparation of the draft plan of integrated development.
The Saharawi Minister of Information described his speech as "rushing headlong" in "a vain attempt to hide the negative record of the first two years of his reign." According to Mr Batal, the King of Morocco "is desperately seeking a lifeline to palliate the disappointment, frustration and the disarray which have gripped Moroccan citizens and his friends abroad".(SPS)
Moulay Hicham Alaoui, a cousin of the king, in an interview to a Spanish daily, called the autonomy plan "outmoded".(El Periodico)
Kofi Annan has appointed a new special representative for Western Sahara, William Lacy Swing, an American born in 1934, following the resignation of William Eagleton. Swing takes up his post on 1 December. For the last two years he was US ambassador in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has filled the same function in various countries of Africa.
campaign for the liberation of Mohamed Daddach and all political
prisoners sentenced by Morocco
56 political prisoners have benefited from a royal pardon on the occasion of the anniversary of the Green March.
The official statement published in Rabat indicated that it concerned persons detained following events in El Ayoun (37 prisoners), persons detained following events in Marrakech (14 prisoners), persons detained in relation to affairs n° 2000/1280 and 2000/2499, sentenced in the Court of Appeal in Agadir (4 prisoners), and one person detained in relation to affair n° 79/285/1260 sentenced by the permanent military tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces.
them are the 24 Saharawi political prisoners, for whom the
international the European Bureau for the Respect of Human Rights in
Western Sahara has been campaigning, including Mohamed Daddach,
imprisoned for 23 years.
The others are either Moroccan students who joined with the Saharawis, or people sentenced for their taking part in pillages of Saharawi businesses or homes during the events of El Ayoun.(Info campagne N° 8, french)
This liberation comes after an intense campaign by the prisoners themselves, initiated by hunger strikes by Daddach and followed by other prisoners, supported by human rights organisations in Western Sahara, and the international campaign of BERDHSO for the liberation of all Saharawi political prisoners. All the detainees left prison on 8 November. They were greeted in Marrakech by Saharawi students and with elation by the Saharawi population of El Ayoun.
In a press release the Truth and Justice Forum Sahara welcomed this liberation, coming "thanks to local popular and international pressure". It reaffirmed their demands asking for respect of human rights in Western Sahara in accordance with international law, the establishment of truth on the fate of Saharawi disappeared, the liberation of the living and the restitution of the mortal remains of those who have died, the protection of civilians from the dangers of antipersonnel mines, material compensation for victims, bringing those responsible for human rights abuses to justice, and the opening of a fair and impartial enquiry concerning the communal graves of Lemseyed and Jderiya. (communiqués FVJS, Amnesty international, Intergroupe parlementaire «Paix pour le peuple sahraoui» )
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