East Timor - Western Sahara
Approximately one year before the Sahrawis, the East Timorese were
able to exercise their right to self-determination as part of a
settlement negotiated by the United Nations, Portugal, the former
colonial power, and Indonesia, which has occupied East Timor since
1975. The East Timorese voted 80% in favour of independence, without
any campaigning by the independence movement. The tragic events
following the referendum, which had been predicted by informed
observers, demonstrates the international community's powerlessness
and cowardliness in failing to insist that their right be
The bloody events over recent days have been met around the world
with indignation and gestures of solidarity with the East Timorese.
It has also caused much reflection about the implications for the
A call for solidarity from Portugal was joined by several Sahrawi
organizations and individuals. Numerous other calls were spread
worldwide. The Spanish press published
analyses and comparisons between
the two conflicts.
Felipe Briones, Secretary-General of the International Association of
Jurists for the Western Sahara, who participated in the Timorese
referendum as accredited international observer, stated upon his
return that this experience has better prepared him for his mission
in the Western Sahara. He also criticized the role the UN played in
the former Portuguese colony for its failure to take the context of
the vote into account, and highlighted the similarity between the two
conflicts. The tragic developments since the vote in East Timor
demonstrate that it is absolutely critical to disarm the Moroccan
army if a just and democratic referendum is to take place in the
For more information see
the page of
links to East Timor.
The identification process resumed following resolution of the
problem regarding the designation of sheikh and advisors for some of
the "contested" tribes. Identification was interrupted from 24.07 to
During his visit to Algiers, US Under-Secretary of State for the
Middle East and the Maghreb, Martin Indyk, stated that the US hoped
that relations would improve between Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. He
spoke in favour of the "Eizenstadt Plan," a partnership program
between the US and the Maghreb, launched a few months ago along with
a strengthening of US initiatives to see the international
community's resolutions on the Western Sahara implemented. The Plan
involves the creation of a free trade zone and a projected $2 billion
in investments, three-quarters of which is destined for Algeria.
Report of the UN Secretary-General
The report cites positive indications that the Moroccan Government
and the POLISARIO Front intend to maintain the progress made towards
the holding of the referendum. As at 3 September 1999, a total of
47,796 appeals had been received by MINURSO. The majority of appeals
received to date, 40,440, are against non-inclusion in the first part
of the provisional list of persons eligible to vote, 7,356 appeals
are challenging another person's inclusion in the provisional list.
The Mission will continue to keep some of its appeals centres open
until September 18th, as planned, and after that hearings will be
held to complete the appeals process.
As far as the timetable for completing the process goes, the
Secretary-General says that the identification of the remaining
members of the "contested tribes" could be finished by the end of
December. The report also mentions difficulties at the airport
customs in El Aayoune where standard communications material,
essential for the functioning of the identification centres, has been
held for several weeks.
The modalities of the implementation of the status-of-forces
concerning the carriage of weapons is still in discussion between the
UN Force Commander and Moroccan representatives. The Moroccan
authorities agreed in principle with the activities envisaged by
UNHCR, which are aimed at fostering a climate of confidence within
the Territory and in the Tindouf refugee camps. Minister Basri
reiterated his Government's full support and cooperation to enable
UNHCR to complete its preparatory activities as provided for under
the Settlement Plan. Some progress was also made with the Moroccan
authorities in the discussions regarding the draft refugee
repatriation protocol. To date, 26,429 refugees (3,701 families) have
been pre-registered by UNHCR. Emmanuel Roucounas appointed as the
Independent Jurist announced to end his mission and a new Independent
Jurist will be appointed in due course.
The number of appeals filed to date is substantial and will require
more time and the deployment of a larger staff than originally
envisaged, the Secretary-General concludes. He will not be in a
position to give the Council a revised timetable until early
December, so in the meantime, he recommends that the Mission's
mandate be extended through December 14.
About fourthy students demonstrated on Friday at El Ayoune in front
of the seat of the regional administration Laayoune-Boujdour,
Boulevard de la Mecque.The demonstrators held up a a streamer worded:
«The Saharawi students demonstrate and claim their legitimate
rights». The demonstration continued with a sit-in until 20h.
A delegation of the United Kingdom, with Ms Harriet Cross, secretary
at the British Embassy of Rabat, Mr Nick Robbins, in charge of the
Maghreb at the Foreign Office and an Officer of the Ministry of
Defense, Mr David Evans, spent a few days in the refugee camps and
liberated territories of the SADR. They hold talks with a Saharawi
delegation including the President of the Saharawi Parliament Mr.
Abdel Kader Taleb Omar, Military Commander Mr. Hama Salama and the
wali of Smara Mr. Walad Moussa, as well as the POLISARIO
representative in the UK. The delegation exprimed its surprise about
the great number of appeals filed to date.
This mission is part of the measures decided by the UN Security
Council member states in order to supervise the progress of the
process and to put pressure upon Morocco to avoid more delays.
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