Sahrawi intifada (continued)
Foreign journalists arrived in early November to investigate the
events in El Ayoun. They are reporting eye-witness accounts that
confirm that the Sahrawi demands were political in nature. Slogans
included "Long live the Sahrawi Republic" and the Moroccan flag was
burned. A journalist of El
Pais met several of the
injured (7.11); El
Mundo (9.11) reported
dozens of injured, and provided numerous photographs and a video as
evidence. The Moroccan weekly Le Journal
published (8.11) six photographs of injured residents of El Ayoun,
victims of police brutality.
AFAPREDESA is distributing a provisional list of names including some
50 injured, by police brutality or rape, a dozen stores pillaged and
over 40 homes ransacked.
The French Prime Minister stated in Marrakech, with respect to the
Western Sahara, "As a country, were are committed, with our criteria,
to the process initiated by the UN. If we can be helpful through our
exchanges, discussions, then we will do so."
The results of the French visit: financial support in the form of
debt cancellation (700 million francs converted into investments) and
approximately 500 million FF in credits. The World Bank accords
Morocco loans averaging $325 million annually and in 1998,
"exceptionally" granted Morocco a US$450 million loan.
The UN Human Rights Committee, in response to a report issued by
Morocco, stated "The Committee continues to be concerned about the
very slow pace of arrangements in preparation for a
self-determination referendum in the Western Sahara as well as by the
lack of information on the application of human rights in this
region. It calls on Morocco to intensify its investigations into the
fate of all those who disappeared and to free those who are still in
detention. It urges that those responsible for the disappearances be
brought to justice and that their families be compensated. It also
recommends that strict measures be adopted to eradicate
On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the "Green March,"
Mohammed VI stated: "We remain committed to the United Nations plan
on condition that all persons native to the Sahara be included on the
voters lists to participate in this referendum (.) We have committed
ourselves to address the Western Sahara according to a new vision,
that will ensure equity, objectivity and realism." The latter
statement is interpreted by some as a step towards the development of
an autonomy project".
The 25th European Coordinating Conference of Support to the Sahrawi
People concluded in Las Palmas with the endorsement of a final
resolution. See also the
Conference page with links to documents, speeches, etc. and
the site of Sahara
Press Service with press
releases in French.
21st Socialist International Congress
A Sahrawi delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed
Ould Salek attended the Congress, where he was able to meet with and
update delegation leaders on the latest developments regarding the
referendum. In its general resolution, the Socialist International
reaffirms its resolution on the Western Sahara adopted during the SI
council in Geneva in 1998; supports the UN in terms of organizing a
free, fair and transparent referendum on self-determination, in line
with the terms of the Peace Plan and the Houston Agreement; calls for
all parties concerned and particularly Morocco and the Polisario
Front to cooperate fully with MINURSO to ensure a free, just,
transparent and democratic referendum in the Western Sahara.
Three days after the delegation of the royal commission charged with
monitoring Saharan Affairs, including Basri, four ministries, Foreign
Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Finance and Justice, visited El Ayoun and
organized, on Monday, November 8, a press conference involving over
60 journalists brough in on a special flight. Their goal was to
"present the basic outline of the new policy, based on respect for
the law, transparency and democracy," and "to announce measures taken
to respond to public demands." They stated that by means of "honest"
elections they sought to involved the sons of the region in the
management of the territory. Benaïssa broke a tabou by
mentioning Moroccan soldiers being held as prisoners by the Polisario
Front. With regard to the demonstrations at the end of September, the
Minister of Justice admitted that they were "savagely repressed by
the Moroccan police with help from colonists from the North."
Concerning the arrests, conflicting numbers were announced: once 30,
then 49, and then 23. Only 13 people are supposed still being held,
accused of "rebellion." The Minister of Justice announced one
ten-year prison sentence and 25 sentences of 15 years for
"participation in the riots." Three indicted police officers were
taken to Rabat.
On its side the Sahrawi Minister of the Occupied Territories
published a provisional list of some 30 detainees.
Sahrawi students at Cadi Ayad university organized a sit-in in front
of the Human Rights Defense Committee (CDDH) in Marrakech, demanding
that their friends and family members be liberated, that charges be
laid against those responsible for the exactions during the events in
El Ayoun, and that an independent commission of inquiry be set up.
The CDDH expressed that it was fully disposed to undertaking the
necessary steps to answer these demands and to bring justice to the
Dismissal of the Minister of the Interior Driss Basri, replaced by
the former director of National Security, Ahmed Midaoui, aged 51,
assisted by a Secretary of State Fouad Ali Al Himma, aged 37, a
personal friend of King Mohammed VI.
For the Sahrawi government, the dismissal of the Minister of the
Interior should not "obscure the truth of the repression that is
ongoing against our fellow citizens in the occupied territories and
in Southern Morocco." Its press release adds that the change is
simply tinkering and an attempt to manage internal dissension,
"cosmetic touch-ups on a corrupt and archaic system that is seeking
to boost its fortunes."
The Sahrawi Minister of Foreign Affairs qualifies Basri's departure
as "symbolic," calling for real political change and not simply a
change of personnel.
Brahim Ghali, Polisario representative in Spain, considers Basri's
removal as the turning of a new page in Morocco and an important step
forward, but hopes for the same "firmness and courage" in making the
necessary decisions for the organization of a referendum that
respects the UN's timetable.
Members of the Moroccan opposition are demanding that charges be laid
against Basri for "crimes against humanity."
Basri received the sash of Ouissam Al-Arch directly from Mohamed
The French newspaper Le Figaro reported a case of arson, which
occurred on October 29 at the headquarters of territorial
surveillance (DST), which precipitated Basri's removal. The fire was
lit in the archives which could have led to the destruction of
documents concerning the management by the DST of special funds
destined for Sahrawi notables allied to Rabat and partisans of the
"Moroccaness" of the Sahara.
Blanes, Catalonia, 25.10.99: The
families that hosted Sahrawi children collectively introduced a
motion with the municipal council calling for greater involvement of
the Spanish State in promoting the referendum. The motion was passed
Madrid,12-15.11.99: The Consejo de
la Juventud de España (CJE) organized a training course for
referendum observation in the Western Sahara. Sixty young Spaniards
participated in the course.
Cantabrica, Espagne: The Sahrawi
delegation is organizing, from December 1 to 7, a charter flight to
the camps. Reservations can be made before November 20 at
942/33.34.03 or 608/87.79.19.
Daily updated Spanish press review
by the Polisario bureau of Madrid: http://www.nodo50.org/fpolisario/Prensa.htm
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