The town Council of Gonfreville l'Orcher, French city near Le Havre, adopted a solidarity and watchfullness Charter, titled "Peace and Sovereignty for Western Sahara". It asks the MINURSO to realise strictly the Houston agreements. It asks also the MINURSO to control the access to the territory by sea, air and land, including the borders between Morocco and W.S. and to permit a free access for observers and medias.
OAU chief New Year message
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who is also chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, said in a New Year message, he hoped some of Africa's political problems could be resolved this year, adding that the future of Western Sahara might be resolved by a referendum. "We want to see them emerge as an independent state," he said.
The National Secretary of the Italian Section of the International League of the Rigths of the Peoples, Luciano Ardesi, sent us following short testimony from the refugee camps.
"On Friday 26th December I visited the UN identification center in Smara Camp with my assistant and with Rod Wooden, a member of English P.E.N., the writer's organisation. We watched people waiting to be identified, and then we were allowed to enter the room where the identification was being formalised. Present in this room were two teams of UN officials, together with two observers from both FRENTE POLISARIO and Morrocco, one observer from O.A.U, and two CHIUKS. Each applicant was called in turn by either of the UN teams, and their details were checked. The CHIUKS were then asked if they knew the applicant, and the response was registered and communicated aloud to the observers. After this, the applicant was given a copy of the form containing details of his/her registration which had been already entered in the computer."
Balance and rectification of numbers
The number of candidates which have still to be identified, we evaluated about 150,000 last week, must be corrected. There were only some 110,000 files to treat.
The difference is due to the compromise of Houston which decided the withdrawal by Morocco of 40'000 applicants of the contested tribes not corresponding to the 5 criterias.
In short: first 233,000 applicants were registered, untill the deadlock of the process in 1995, 77,000 candidates were convoked, about them 60,000 identified. The S.G. Report (S/1995/986) mentionned 157,000 applicants to be identified.
In its last report (S/1997/882 ch. 30) the S.G mentions 117,000 demands to treat (40,000 less) after the compromise of Houston. Counting the 8,000 identified in December 97, we arrive at about 110,000 files in suspense at the beginning of the year.
A fifth identification center opened in Goulimine South Morocco.
According to the Secretary Generals Spokesmen, since the identification process resumed on 3 December, 16,351 people had been convoked and 10,036 had been identified. So far, a total of 70,148 people had been identified.
After the referendum
In a three pages interview published by the weekly Jeune Afrique. The SADR Prime minister Mahfoud Ali Beiba speaking about the military forces and the about 350,000 Moroccan civilians presently in W.S., if independence wins , declares: "We will not ask them to pack their bags......Here they will be sure to find work and earn more money than in Morocco. We are not twenty five millions of people like in the Kingdom but only one hundred thousand. We will have a GNP of 3'000 dollars a head, that is three times more than in Morocco". In case of a victory of Morocco : "We will accept the results. The POLISARIO will no longer exist and the Saharawis will have to choose their destiny, individually or collectively. Some will go or stay in Western Sahara. The others will settle elsewhere, under the warranty of the UNHCR."
Alain Dejammet (France) succeeds Fernando Berrocal Soto (Costa Rica) as President of the Security Council.
Belgium is considering whether take part in MINURSO force being set up to ensure security during the referendum on the future of Western Sahara, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. For remember, from 1992 to 1996 the Belgian general André van Baelen was at the head of MINUSRO.
The Catalan Association of Friends of the Saharawi people (Barcelona, Spain) and two municipalities organize a cooperation programme in the domain of pedagogy. The campaign includes formation of teachers, collecting of school material, and also public meetings with photo-exhibition, conference and sessions of traditional Saharawi storytelling. (infos: firstname.lastname@example.org )
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