WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

 

WEEK 49

05.-11.12.1999

 

05.12.99
417 Sahrawi youths, forcibly recruited into the Moroccan army, have been subjected to inhuman treatment in the Bensergaou camp, according to
SPS. Thirty-three among them are suffering from health problems and are currently being treated in the camp, while two others are hospitalized in Agadir.

06.12.99
Sahrawi students in Rabat, along with human rights organizations, organized a solidarity meeting with detainees following the events in El Ayoun. Letters by ex-workers and the families of detainees in Assa or El Ayoun were read at the event.

06.12.99
In El Ayoun, the Moroccan Minister of Employment announced the hiring of 1179 young, unemployed Sahrawi graduates by the civil service. He also announced the implementation of a huge housing program, expected to create some 10 000 new jobs.

06.12.99
Youssoufi-Almunia meeting
The Secretary-General of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) met with the Moroccan Prime Minister, who informed him of the King's plans to overhaul the Council of Sahara to include Sahrawi representatives. According to Almunia, this could contribute to the development of solutions favourable to all parties in the Western Sahara conflict.

06.12.99
Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara
S/1999/1219
The Secretary-General stated that, in light of the number of current and likely future appeals, the referendum cannot take place before 2002, at the earliest. He outlined the new facts that have come into play since 28.10.99:

  1. Review of consultations held by Special Representative W. Eagleton with the Mauritanian, Algerian and Moroccan governments and the Polisario Front: Mauritania is calling for a rapid resolution of the problem. The Polisario Front expressed its concern about the delay in the organization of the referendum, resulting from the large number of appeals. It argues that many of the appeals can be rejected on the basis of inadmissibility. Algeria, also concerned by the number of appeals, agrees that a rigorous appraisal of their admissibility could reduce the amount of time needed for their review. Morocco argues that all appeals submitted must be reviewed.
  2. Robert Kinloch, Vice-President of the Identification Commission, will not renew his contract, which expires on 31.12.99.
  3. Identification and appeals: identification of the contested tribes will end 31.12.99. The second part of the provisional voter's list will be published in mid-January. 42 774 applicants have been identified, a relatively low percentage of those were found eligible to vote. If all persons who were not received by the Identification Commission submit appeals, the total number of appeals could double. Morocco and the Polisario Front have different interpretations of the protocols with respect to admissibility.
  4. Prisoners of war: in the context of Polisario's release of 191 prisoners (of whom only 5 have been repatriated), the ICRC has "called for the early repatriation of all remaining POWs."
  5. Repatriation: Pre-registration, which should be completed by the end of December, has demonstrated that the vast majority of refugees are concerned about their safety and wish to be repatriated on the east side of the wall (liberated zones).

Given the large number of appeals, Kofi Annan observes that Morocco's demand that all appeals be admissible, "seems to allow little possibility of holding the referendum before 2002 or even beyond". In conclusion Mr. Annan recommends to the Security Council that MINURSO's mandate be extended to February 29, 2000. The Special Representative will continue his consultations, in order to reconcile the views of the parties with respect to appeals and repatriation. Mr. Annan states, "difficulties may be encountered," including in the implementation within a reasonable timeframe of the settlement plan itself.

Sahrawi reaction
"The large number of appeals, and not diverging points of view between the parties in the conflict, as stated by the Secretary-General, is the problem. The divergences are between Morocco and the UN, not between Morocco and the Polisario Front," states Ahmed Boukhari, representative of the Polisario Front to the UN.
For his part, President Abdelaziz expressed his delight, in an interview published in an Algerian daily, to see the conclusion of the identification process within the prescribed timeframe. He stated that the appeals introduced by Morocco "are contrary to the Security Council's recommendations." He called on the Security Council to be more vigorous in imposing respect for the conventions regulating this issue (
SPS).

Comments
In an article entitled "Bad omen for the Sahara," the daily
El Mundo talks about "UN failure," and its capitulation once again to Morocco. The newspaper emphasizes that the Polisario Front only agreed to a cease fire in view of a referendum. The alternative is not a renunciation of independence, but a return to armed struggle. El Mundo regrets that Spain, contrary to Portugal, did nothing to contribute to resolving the problem, caused by its failed decolonization.

In a letter addressed to the Minister of State of the British Foreign Office, Peter Hain, the Western Sahara Campaign is calling on the government to intervene to ensure a rigorous processing of the admissibility of the appeals. The association points to the instructions regarding the appeals process, as approved by the parties and cited in the UN document S/1999/483 Add. 1. The WSC demonstrates how the procedure that was agreed upon allows for the rejection of appeals that are unfounded and that are simply designed to lead to a second round of identification.

In a press release, the Plate-forme Solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui, an umbrella organization of several French associations and representatives of twinned cities, stresses that "no practical reason exists for any further delays and the United Nations must deploy all material and financial means to honour its commitment; that no technical argument can justify that a entire people continue to live in exile under uncertain and precarious circumstances."

06.12.99
Arrests and disappearances
AFAPREDESA has reported the disappearance of two human rights activists. Brahim Najem Laghzal, 34 years old, employed in Tan-Tan city hall, was arrested in this city on December 6, around 8:30 p.m. by civil security agents. On the same day and time, Cheikh Khaya, 32 years old, an agricultural engineer, working for a farm credit bureau in El Ayoun, was also arrested in Tan-Tan, where he was visiting his family for Ramadan. Khaya was detained and tortured by DST agents in 1991, secretly detained for three months and freed as a result of pressure from Amnesty International. Their families and friends demonstrated before the governor's offices in Tan-Tan, carrying portraits of the two men and demanding information from the authorities on their fate. The governor simply responded that their detention was a decision made in Rabat.
Another disappearance was reported in El Ayoun, that of Cheikh Abdelaziz Ould Abdallah Ould Ali, while Mohamed Salem Mayara managed to escape from agents who attempted to arrest him (
AFAPREDESA, SPS).

08.12.99
Protest
The policy advisor from the US embassy in Morocco, Robert Holley, protested that he was followed by security agents during his entire visit in El Ayoun last week, during which he held a number of meetings with political groups in the city regarding the recent events and trials. His visit was in preparation of an annual report on human rights issued by the US State Department (
Al-Ittihad al-Ichtiraki, Moroccan daily).

08.12.99
Morocco
Mohammed VI chaired a meeting of the monitoring commission on Saharan affairs, that has focused on questions of employment, strategies to reinvigorate the economic and commercial sectors and on guidelines for the elections of the consultative committee for Saharan affairs (
Le Matin du Sahara, Moroccan daily).

SOLIDARITY

Canary Islands, Santa Cruz de Tenerife
"Que el Sahara no sea un nuevo Timor" campaign Following a call by the "Asociación Canaria de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui" and the " Plataforma de Apoyo a un Referéndum Justo en el Sahara", 500 people gathered during the first week of November to launch the campaign that continued with a symposium on the Western Sahara at the faculty of law at the university of La Laguna, on November 18 and 19. On December 10, a three-day hunger strike was initiated at the La Laguna cathedral. On December 11, a symbolic referendum and on the 12th a demonstration in front of the cathedral.

COMING UP

14.12.99, Rome: Amnesty International's Italie 2 group is organizing a meeting on the Western Sahara with Giulia Olmi, CISP, and Marisa Rodano, Secretary-General of the National Association of Support to the Sahrawi People, 17,30, Libreria Il manifesto, Via Tomacelli 144.

NEW ON THE INTERNET

The site of the Asociación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de Valladolid has changed its URL: http://www.fortunecity.es/sopa/botones/347/

NEW PUBLICATIONS

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