Prisoners of War
A hundred and one Moroccan prisoners of war were handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during a ceremony in which United Nations representatives and the German ambassador in Algiers took part. The Minister of Defence, Mohamed Lamine Bouhali, indicated during a press conference that this measure testifies to the "good will of the Saharawi government to respond favourably to international opinion." For his part, the German ambassador in Algiers stated that "we must not forget the Saharawi prisoners and disappeared, whose number approaches 1250 people, according to the regional Red Cross."
The Saharawi minister of defence handed to the ICRC a list of 151 Saharawi prisoners, whose "fate remains unknown. The majority of them were arrested between 1975 and 1976 and they await the intervention of the international Red Cross", the minister declared during a press conference. He affirmed that "the majority of the Saharawi prisoners of war were executed by the Moroccan government after the first year of the invasion except for 66 who were released a few years ago." (SPS, inc. list)
Council of Europe
A report on the situation of women in the Maghreb was submitted to the Council of Europe during its summer session from 24 to 28 June in Strasbourg. This study illustrating the situation of women in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as that of immigrants in Europe made no reference to the extremely difficult situation of the Saharawi women. Eva Zetterberg, a Swedish member of parliament, a substitute member of the Council, proposed amendments of which only one was accepted excluding the term "occupied territories". (see Resolution 1293 (2002))
According to Moroccan sources, Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan foreign minister, announced in Rabat that his government had decided no longer to recognise SADR. This recognition, dating from May 1979, "was decided by an illegitimate government", the minister explained.
The trial of the human rights activist Enasiri (see week 26), due on 10 July, was postponed until the 24th of the same month, at the request of his lawyers.
Western Sahara has been divided administratively into three provinces by the Moroccan occupier. The region of Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra (north-west) has a population of about 280,000 inhabitants, the average density is 126 inhabitants per Km2. 35% of the population is aged under 15 years and 61% from 15 to 59 years.
The principle activities are stock rearing, fishing and phosphate mining.
The tertiary sector employs 64% of the active population. The useful agricultural area does not exceed 7500 ha, of which 50 ha are irrigated and 1000 could be irrigated. The stock numbers over 89,500 head of camels and over 200,000 head of goats. The region has three ports in Laâyoune, El Marsa and Boujdour, with a total annual catch of 310,207 tonnes valued at 40 million euros, and a fleet of over 700 fishing boats.
The Bou-Craa mine produced over the course of 1997 1,860,000 tonnes, or 2% of the national production of phosphates. It has 2500 employees. This production is exported to the USA (45%) and to southern Europe (20%). The region produces around 20,000 tonnes of salt a year, extracted from sabkhats (salt lakes) of Tazgha, Oum Dbaâ, Tislatine and Tisfourine. 76,630 tonnes of sand were exported to the Canary Islands in 1998 and this figure has increased. There are 18 industrial units for freezing fish and making fish meal and oil which only employ 3000 to 3500 people. There are no more than a thousand artisans. (Le Matin du Sahara)
The OAU Council of Ministers adopted the report of its secretary general and reiterated "the support of the OAU for the implementation of the settlement plan accepted by Morocco and the Polisario Front and approved by the United Nations Security Council as a mechanism for settling the dispute over Western Sahara". The OAU appealed to the international community "to continue giving support to the search for an acceptable peaceful solution to the conflict as well as assistance for dealing with the obvious humanitarian problems in the region". The report recalls that the "Polisario Front launched an appeal to the international community to apply pressure on Morocco to clarify the situation of disappeared Saharawis and to release all Saharawis detained in El Ayoun and Smara following various demonstrations organised around the territory."
On the occasion of the proclamation of the African Union, which is succeeding the OAU, forty heads of state and government, took part in the inaugural ceremony of the new pan-African organisation in a stadium in Durban, South Africa. Among the five heads of state who spoke for the different African regions, Mohamed Abdelaziz spoke for North Africa. The Saharawi president affirmed that the UN-OAU settlement plan the most appropriate framework on an international level. It constitutes, he said, the only legal framework capable of ensuring the establishment of peace and stability based on truth and justice. The Saharawi President, stating that the launching of the UA was a great day, paid homage to the founding fathers and the long struggle of the OAU. He declared that the birth of the AU strengthened the Saharawi cause, because the "AU will support our aspirations and it will co-ordinate with the UN to call for the referendum." President Mohamed Abdelaziz also gave a warm tribute to Algeria which has succeeded in emerging victor from many attempts at destabilisation over recent years.
SADR was appointed member of the executive and becomes one of the five vice-presidents of the AU, and President Abdelaziz was elected from the three North African representatives to the future "Council of Peace and Security" of the AU with 15 members.
52,000 people of the Canary Islands voted in favour of the speedy holding of a referendum of self-determination in Western Sahara, on the occasion of the consultation organised by the Association of Solidarity with the Saharawi people. Only 123 people voted against the referendum. The consultation was organised in 56 communes of the Canary Islands from 12 to 30 June.
In a statement to the newspaper Ech-Charq El-Awsat, the former Moroccan minister Ahmed Osman considered that the question of borders between Rabat and Algiers "is not yet closed". "Sooner or later, this question will be re-opened", he added, explaining that the Ifran accords of 1972 signed by the two countries, have never been ratified by the Moroccan parliament. Mr Osman made it understood that the territorial claims by Morocco concerning the region of Tindouf "are still on the agenda", while the question of Western Sahara, by contrast, was settled "definitively in 1975".(Le Quotidien d'Oran)
The chamber of commerce with Spain in Tangiers and the Mediterranean chamber of fishing organised in Tangiers a Spanish-Moroccan day of discussions on artisanal fishing, in order to study the advantages and disadvantages of cooperating on fishing matters. Members of the Moroccan government and of the Andalusian Federation of fishing associations took part in the day. Governmental fishing agreements between Spain and Morocco having not been renewed, Morocco is looking for direct agreements with the fishermen themselves.
Bid for power
A detachment of a dozen Moroccan soldiers landed on the tiny island Perijil (parsley) or Leïla and raised two Moroccan flags. They refused to obey the commands of the Spanish civil guard which arrived on the scene soon afterwards. The Spanish government condemned the act, demanding Rabat to respect the Treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation of 1991 and the status quo, and so to revert to the prior situation. Spain sent two patrol boats to the area. Spain considers that the islet is under its sovereignty, that this violation of it constitutes an extremely serious act.
The uninhabited islet called Perijil (parsley) by the Spanish (or Leïla by the Moroccans), with an area of 13,5 hectares, is only a few hundred metres from the coast, and about 10 km from Ceuta and 40 km to the east of Tangiers. Its status is not clear. It does not belong administratively to any Spanish community, and Mariano Rajoy, spokesman for the government, asked several times by journalists wishing to know if Madrid considered that Parsley islet was under Spanish sovereignty, declined to reply. He simply emphasised that the island has benefited for the last 40 years from a "status accepted by Morocco and Spain in terms of which neither the Spanish government, nor the Moroccan government would occupy the island. This status quo has been respected until now. In a unilateral manner, Morocco decided to break it", he said.
According to the Moroccan authorities quoted by AFP, Morocco decided to install a surveillance post, a decision which "was part of a campaign against terrorism and illegal immigration carried out by the Moroccan authorities, in the Straits of Gibraltar". For Rabat, the territory is situated in Moroccan territorial waters and under Moroccan sovereignty. Moroccan soldiers have "every right" to be there for simple "reasons of circumstance". The decision of Morocco in no way constitutes "either a provocation or a threat to Spain".
A spokesman for the European Commission considered that the presence of Moroccan soldiers on the islet was a "violation of Spanish territorial integrity" and a "question of sovereignty". NATO considers that the Moroccan occupation is "a bilateral affair".
The Polisario Front qualified as "an act of provocation" the occupation of the "Spanish Parsley island", in a statement by the representative in the Madrid area. "It is a rash act to distract Moroccan public opinion away from the negative results of the new king's policies, as Hassan II did by invading Western Sahara. The aim of Morocco is to bring pressure to bear on Spain to make it change its position on Western Sahara." "The open crisis with Spain (...) is an explicit message on the part of the Moroccan army about Western Sahara. Spain should understand that the "Moroccanness" of the Sahara cannot be called into question", wrote Ahmed Benani. For the Moroccan political scientist "the Moroccan occupation of islet Leila signifies that the decision is not that of the king and even less that of the government of Youssoufi. Moroccan security and surveillance forces, the army and the gendarmerie which all go through the DST, are preparing in their own way for the September elections, or even looking ahead to a time after Mohamed VI." Reacting to the presence of a Moroccan boat near another Spanish island near Morocco, Madrid decided to reinforce the military strength of all permanent Spanish units on these islands.
After three years' training as part of a project of the French NGO Enfants réfugiés du monde (ERM or Refugee children of the world), 23 young women from the refugee camp of Dakhla received their leader's diploma. They will welcome children in seven activity centres in the camp. Meanwhile, different stages of the ERM health programme (training nurses and midwives) are continuing successfully. (ERM Nos 33/34, janv.-juin 2002)
un Sahara libre, ha cambiado su día de emisión a los
Sábados de 7 a 8 de la tarde en Radio Resistencia, 101 FM,
emisora libertaria de Madrid. Recordamos que se puede descargar el
programa en la pagina de Radio
Ademas de las noticias esta semana contamos con una entrevista con el periodista y escritor saharaui Mahayub Salek y con miembros de la Asociacion de amigos del pueblo saharaui de Calasparra (Murcia).
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