WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

 

WEEK 10

07.-13.03.1999

 

10.02.99
An ICRC shipment of 1.5 tonnes of essential medical supplies and 1,000 blankets arrived last week in Oran, Algeria, and was delivered to the Polisario Front near Tindouf by the Algerian Red Crescent. The beneficiaries will be Moroccan prisoners and local medical facilities.

26.02.99
New Delhi

In commemoration of the Sahrawi national holiday, the Indian Africanist association organized a symposium on the peace plan. Diplomats, politicians, academics, media and business representatives attended. The assembly passed a resolution supporting the organization of a free, fair and transparent referendum in the Western Sahara by the UN and OAU and called on the UN to speed up the decolonization of the Western Sahara. It expressed its support for the Houston Agreements and called on both the Polisario Front and Morocco to adhere to them. (AIA)

24.02.99
Spanish congress

The United left and the Mixed left have separately requested that the government supply information on the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding the expulsion of two Sahrawis from Spain to Morocco in early February. The parliamentarians are demanding to know if the Spanish government took steps to guarantee the physical and psychological well-being of the two Sahrawis, if it plans to continue to expel Sahrawi residents in Spain and if it considers these expulsions in keeping with international law and the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

01.03.99
International day against landmines

The Sahrawi government has announced that it is ready to sign the international treaty banning landmines and has called on Morocco to start demining the territory. (Saharawi Ministry of Information).

07.03.99
President Abdelaziz visits the U.S.

Mr. Abdelaziz began a three-day working visit to the United States. He plans to meet with various political groupings, including the U.S. Congress. U.S. sources in Rabat have indicated that Washington supports a political solution supervised by the UN while maintaining stability in North Africa (Sahrawi Ministry of Information, Reuters, AP).

08.03.99
International Women's Day

To mark this day, the Polisario Front and the SADR government "reassured Sahrawi women of their commitment to support women in their efforts to occupy their rightful place in a democratic Sahrawi society, where women and men shall be equal, both in rights and responsibilities." (Saharawi Ministry of Information)

08.03.99
25th anniversary of the First Martyr

To mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Bachir Lehlaoui on March 8, 1974, the first Sahrawi to fall in battle, the Polisario Front and the SADR government remembered all of the fighters who have fallen in combat with festivities at Tifariti, in the liberated zone, some 100 kilometres from the Moroccan wall.
Attended by Prime Miniser Bouchraya Bayoun and Minister of Defence Mohamed Lamine Bouhali, various delegations and journalists viewed an exhibition recounting the history of the liberation struggle, and visited the construction sites of an elementary school and a 100-bed hospital being built for refugees who are eligible to vote and will be moving into the area. The day also included an impressive military parade, a football game and wrapped up with a large art show.

Large-scale military manoeuvres, named "the teeth of the United Nations" were called off at the last minute by the Sahrawi President "at the request of the UN, and friendly countries like Algeria, the United States and France." These manoeuvres were to include an attack plan against a fictive enemy involving tanks and batteries of anti-aircraft and surface to surface missiles. During a press conference, the Prime Minister stated, "faith in the UN peace plan is dwindling. If the peace plan fails, the only recourse will a resumption of war." In a speech aired on radio, the Sahrawi President called on the Moroccan government to agree to Kofi Annan's proposals, in order to organize the referendum. For the President, there is only one possible outcome for the referendum-independence. He added that an independent Sahrawi Republic would pursue profitable relations with Morocco. (Sahrawi Ministry of Information, Reuters, APS)

08.03.99
Sahrawi student protests in Morocco
(cont'd)
Following a meeting of Sahrawi students to mark the 23rd anniversary of the SADR, which degenerated into a confrontation with police (see Week 09 / 99), the protests have continued. Monday, March 8: a student sit-in at the Souissi I campus in Rabat to protest the repression. Sahrawi students from Casablanca, Marrakech and Agadir universities join in solidarity. Negotiations with the campus director and the ministry of the interior fail with the students refusing to be outdistanced by the information published by the media.
Tuesday, March 9:the sit-in in Rabat continues. A large police presence is dispatched to surround the Souissi I campus. The students call for help.
It has been confirmed that five Sahrawi demonstrators were seriously injured last week. Treated at the Avicenne hospital, they have been transferred to a private clinic in the Hassane district, close to the ministry of higher education and professional training.
Bak el Hafed has a broken arm, Bak Naama face wounds, Cherif Abdelwahab a fractured skull, Ch'haima a broken knee. A fifth student suffered a broken arm.
Wednesday March 10: the sit-in in Rabat runs from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Negotiations with Moroccan authorities fail. The students stick to their demands. Late in the evening, Brahim Hakim, a Sahrawi defector, viewed as a "traitor" arrives to talk to the students. They refuse to give him an audience. The students meet with Mohamed Darif, of the ministry of the interior, who expresses his regrets for the events of February 26 and promises to meet all of their demands and pay compensation to the Moroccan and Sahrawi victims. Following much discussion, the students agree to end their protests since exam period is approaching. They give up on the false promises made by the authorities and announce the event another victory for the Sahrawi people in their struggle against marginalization and for survival.
According to another source, the protests are continuing, negotiations are ongoing and the Sahrawi students are asking the UN to ensure their safety.

09.03.99
Hillary Clinton in Morocco: Urgent action

The U.S. First Lady will visit Morocco in the last week of March for a 4-day private visit (Reuters). The Western Sahara Campaign UK has launched an urgent action calling on the public to write letters to Hillary Clinton pointing out the situation in the Western Sahara and the humans rights violations against the Sahrawi people. (WCS-99.htm)

09.03.99
The U.S. Under-Secretary of State, Martin Indyk, met with the King of Morocco in Marrakech. According to an American diplomatic source, the discussions focussed on the Middle East peace process and the Western Sahara peace plan.

11.03.99
Human rights

AFAPREDESA held a press conference in Madrid to talk about the situation of the two Sahrawis, Mohamed Chigali and Abdallah Ruh, both holders of Mauritanian passports and Sahrawi identity cards, who were handed over to Morocco by Spanish authorities at the beginning of February (see Week 07 / 99). Their cases are not unique and AFAPREDESA is calling on the Spanish authorities to conduct an inquiry to determine who is responsible and to use diplomatic channels to guarantee that the two Sahrawi's rights are respected, to inquire into their physical well-being and to lend them necessary assistance.

Ex-disappeared prisoners
The coordinating committee elected to represent Sahrawi victims of forced disappearances in Morocco (see Week 51 / 98 and 42 / 98) is made up of 11 former disappeared Sahrawis who were freed in 1991 from a prison in El Ayoun and the Kalâat M`Gouna penal colony. Several months ago they moved into a Rabat hotel to demand reparations. In a press release, the committee stated that since the publication, by the consultative committee on human rights (CCDH), of a list of disappeared at the end of October 1998, the committee has received only promises. The group has decided to only meet authorities in the presence of national and international media organizations and human rights NGOs. Their demand remain unchanged: prosecution of those responsible for the disappearances; compensation for the victims and their reintegration, including provision of jobs, healthcare and housing; death certificates for the families; freedom of movement and the right to leave the country. The committee is calling for pressure on Morocco to force it to treat the issue of the disappeared in conformity with human dignity, and is asking human rights NGOs to make contact with the committee. The committee recently met with Amnesty International. In early October, the Consultative committee on human rights promised to settle all of the cases "within 6 months".

11.03.99
Referendum

While the United Nations are expect ing since 4 month the Moroccan answer to the SG proposals to come out of the blockage of the process, (S/1998/1160), Interior Minister Driss Basri persists with ambiguous decalarations:
"The referendum on the Western Sahara will take place in March 2000. There is no chance we will lose it," stated Moroccan minister of the interior, Driss Basri. "In the event of an impasse in the referendum process, it will be up to the UN to decide the outcome, and in any event, we will maintain our territory," he added. (Al-Hayat, London)
Morocco wants the self-determination referendum in the Western Sahara be organized "as soon as possible," according to Driss Basri, Moroccan minister of the interior. "As early as possible, namely in February 2000," he told the Associated Press.

SOLIDARITY
Italie
, Naples, 12.03.99: "Terra senza ombra", exposition de photos réalisées par Livorio D'Avino et organisée par l'Association des Amis du peuple sahraoui de Naples.
Espagne, Zamora, 13.03.99, Pabellon de desportes de San José Obrero 2º concierto de música alternativa por un Sahara libre.

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