Musical and Cultural Festival in the refugee camps
During the Easter weeks in all camps happened cultural manifestations with foreign musicians and traditional Saharawi music groups, in presence of thousands of visitors coming mainly from Spain by charter flights.
AFAPREDESA announces the disappearance on 30 March 1998 near Amgala of 8 young Saharawis who tried to run away from the occupied territories and reach the refugee camps:
Report of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara, S/1998/316
In his latest report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General recommends a three-month extension of the mandate of the MINURSO. He notes that :"The pace of the identification process in February and March 1998 fell short of expectations, as fewer applicants were identified than in the two previous months when the Identification Commission had not yet been fully staffed. A major reason for this shortfall was the reluctance of the Government of Morocco to start identification at two locations in northern Morocco". The process has also been interrupted by representatives of the two parties over "perceived slights and accusations." The S.G. says that May and June will be crucial for determining whether a solution can be found to the problem of three contested tribes, which are referred to as H41, H61 and J51/52. Fewer than 60,000 remaining applicants will still have to be convoked from among the non-contested tribes. In addition, there are some 65,000 members of the three contested tribes. He also evokes that the Moroccan press has printed "almost daily accusations alleged - albeit unsubstantiated - bias against Moroccan-sponsored applicants on the part of members of the Identification Commission." The Secretary-General writes that if no solution to the problem of contested tribes is found by the end of June, and if a large number of applicants from non-contested tribes remains to be identified, "it would be my intention to recommend that the Security Council reconsider the viability of the mandate of MINURSO."
Reacting to the report, Morocco's roving ambassador, Ibrahim Hakim, told a news conference that the current dispute was "between Saharan tribes, Polisario and United Nations representatives in the territory not between U.N. and Morocco." (!!)
Balance of identification since 3.12.1997
Applicants convoked = 59.876.
Applicants identified = 44.392.
Applicants identified since August 1994: 104.504.
The identification centre of Nouadhibou (Mauritania) has been opened at April 13 98, in addition to the centre of Zouerate. There are now 8 identification centres: Laâyoune 1 and 2 in the occupied Western Sahara, Tantan and Goulimine in South Morocco, in the refugee camps of Smara and Awserd in Algeria, Nouadhibou and Zouerate in Mauritania. The centre of Kelaat of the Sraghna in Northern Morocco should open at the beginning of next week.
Morocco: Official declaration
Addressing the opening ceremony of Morocco's parliament, Morocco's Prime Minister Youssoufi said: "The cabinet's pressing priority is the issue of Morocco's territorial integrity. It will work to ensure that all Saharans eligible to vote in the expected referendum would be able to do so." He told the referendum in the former Spanish colony "would confirm" that the territory belongs to Morocco. "The government is concerned with closing the Moroccan Sahara issue finally, by attaining the international community's unequivocal recognition of our national sovereignty over that part of our land," Youssoufi said. "We are certain that the referendum can only confirm the province is Moroccan, because that is a geographical and historical fact and the will of the concerned population".
Security Council resolution S/RES/1163 (1998)
The Security Council extended the mandate of the MINURSO until 20 July so it can proceed with its identification task, with the aim of completing the process. Acting unanimously on a resolution, the Council called on the parties to cooperate constructively with the United Nations, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Charles Dunbar, and the Identification Commission, to complete the identification of voters phase of the settlement plan and the agreements reached for its implementation.
The Council again expressed its intention to consider positively the request for the remaining additional military and police assets for MINURSO proposed by the Secretary-General, as soon as he reported that the identification process had reached a stage where their deployment was essential.
The Council asked the Secretary-General to report every 30 days on the progress of the implementation of the settlement plan and the agreements reached between the parties. It also asked the UN leader to inform the Council regularly about significant developments in the interim, and on the continuing viability of MINURSO's mandate.
A statement issued after the council meeting by Ambassador Nancy Soderberg of the United States, said: "The council's patience is not unlimited. Unless significant progress can be maintained, the U.S. cannot support the continued renewal of MINURSO in its present form - nor will the United Nations.''
The Bask Youth Council signed an agreement with the Saharawi Youth Organisation UJSARIO in order to collaborate and support the referendum. The Bask organisation will spend one percent of its budget for the UJSARIO. The agreement is signed for two years.
On April 22 there will be a manifestation in front of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. The National Coordination for a free referendum in Western Sahara will address the following revendications to the government of Spain: Spain has to honour its commitments to the Saharawi people, give an urgent humanitarian aid to the refugees by the way of the Spanish NGOs involved in help for the Saharawi people and support the UN peace plan.
AFAPREDESA will hold its General Assembly in the refugee camps on days 27, 28 and 29 of April 1998. Informations: email@example.com
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