WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

 

WEEK 39

26.09.-02.10.1999

 

 

10.09. -30.09.99
Events in El Ayoun

The Sahrawi protest movement (see
week 38), that began September 10 with a peaceful sit-in and was brutally broken up in the night of September 21 to 22, continued until September 30. The night of 22 to 23 September, another demonstration was also brutally put down. According to various sources, at least one (possibly more) person was killed, dozens were injured and hundreds more were arrested.
Monday, September 27: protest demonstration against the police violence of the previous week, followed by a march that degenerated into confrontations between Sahrawis, Moroccan settlers and the police. According to AFP and RFI witness reports, "members of the Moroccan police recruited 'militias' to strike down the Sahrawis." Stone-throwing, batons and knife attacks. Cars were burned, stores and houses belonging to Sahrawis in the Maatalla district were pillaged and burned down. Radio France International reported 30 houses destroyed, some 100 arrests, and some 100 others beaten at police stations. MINURSO has confirmed the confrontations.
Sahrawi women marched to the governor's headquarters to demand their sons' release.
These confrontations took place over three days. With police forces unable to control the situation, the King sent in the army. The powers of the wali are broad, the "pacha" and chief of police in El Ayoun resigned their positions (AFP).
On September 30, calm was restored. Emergency measures were decreed for the entire territory. Under the direction of General Hosni Benslimane, dispatched from Rabat, the cities and towns of the Western Sahara have been blanketed, senior army officers have replaced police chiefs, and the borders have been closed, and tourists turned back.(SPS)
SPS reports that demonstrations also took place in Smara, Tan-Tan and Goulimine.

Reactions
The Moroccan press started covering the events on September 29, describing the demonstrators' demands as social, akin to commonly recurring demonstrations in all Moroccan centres, denying them any political motivation and stressing their legitimacy. They minimise the brutality of the police forces, assert some demonstrators were raising Moroccan flags and pictures of the King. The daily Istiqlal and the OADP (extreme left) are calling for a commission of inquiry.
The releases of the Saharawi agency SPS show the demonstrations as expression of dissatisfaction of the Saharawi population in front of the Moroccan policy in the territory regarding social and human rights aspects as well as the delays of the implementation of the referendum.
In the refugee camps the events are followed with great concern and meetings in solidarity with the victims of the repression are being organized.
Prsident Abdelaziz, in a letter to Kofi Annan dated September 24, called on him to intervene to end the human rights violations perpetrated by Morocco and to conduct an inquiry. The irresponsible conduct of the Moroccan police, combined with the provocative use of appeals during the identification process, could bring into question the entire referendum process, he said. He stated that the conditions exist in the Western Sahara for a situation to develop like that in East Timor. In a second letter, on September 29, to the President of the Security Council, he condemns the silence of the UN and urges him "to immediately open an international investigation and dispatch an inquiry mission in the territory".
On September 30, the Sahrawi government made an appeal to the international community to intervene to force the Moroccan authorities to stop the carnage.
Many overseas Sahrawi bureaus are appealing to Kofi Annan and the international community (
India, Central America, Australia).

The European Coordinating Committee taskforce also sent a letter to Kofi Annan and to the Moroccan Prime Minister.
Western Sahara Campaign UK is launching an
urgent action in U.K.

29.09.99
Nominations

Mohamed VI named Mohamed Loulichki, ambassador-coordinator with MINURSO, replacing Mohamed Azimi, who is close Minister of the Interior Basri.
He also named Colonel-Major Hamidou Laânigri director general of the territorial enforcement branch (DST). Laânigri is a very close collaborator of General Abdelhak Kadiri, director of military intelligence. This sector will therefore no longer be supervised by the Ministry of the Interior.

NEWS BRIEFS
20.09.99, United Nations: Several heads of state and governments called for the rapid implementation of the Peace Plan in the Western Sahara during the 54th regular sitting of the UN General Assembly in New York.

30.09.99, Rabat: Abraham Serfaty returns to Morocco without "conditions or negotiation." "I am placing a lot of faith in Mohamed VI," he told Le Monde, adding that he was returning to Morocco to contribute to the development of civil society and that he was putting himself at the disposal of Prime Minister Youssoufi.

30.09.99, Australia: The Senate adopted a motion of support for the organization of a free and fair referendum in the Western Sahara, calling on the government to increase its aid to MINURSO and to establish official ties with representatives of the Polisario Front.

30.09.99, East Timor: the President of the National Resistance Council, Xanana Gusmao, announced that he will be visiting the Sahrawi refugee camps in the near future.

SOLIDARITY
Perugia, Italy: A Polisario delegation with the Secretary General of Jeunesse Sahraouie, Mohammed Moulud Fadel and the Polisario Representative to Italy, Omar Mih, took part in the third UN people's assembly, from September 23 to 25, 1999. Representatives of Sahrawi youth, associations and local Sahrawi solidarity committees, as well as municipalities twinned with refugee camps participated Sunday, September 26 in the Perugia-Assisi peace march, a traditional rallying event for the Italian peace movement.

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