Breaking the cease-fire
The race crossed the Moroccan-Saharawi border about midday and reached Smara in the early afternoon under heavy protection from the Moroccan army.
International observers in southern Algeria, who observed the Polisario supporters on the move from their camps towards the front with Morocco, described the threat as serious according to the BBC.
From El Ayoun a correspondent reports a massive reinforcement of the already impressive security forces, in the form of patrols of police and armed soldiers in the streets.
Rumours circulate in the refugee camps about an attack by the Saharawi popular liberation army. Other rumours are about a possible negotiation, involving the UN, the organisers of the rally and the two parties concerned, the Polisario Front and Morocco. Several news sources agree about meetings between the Saharawi authorities with Algerian military. General Mohamed Lamari, chief of staff of the Algerian army, had supposedly personally taken part in these transactions. Among Western diplomats based in Algiers they talk of differences between the Algerian civil and military authorities, about the opportuneness of breaking the truce in place since 1991, which would explain Saharawi hesitations. (La Liberté, 08.01.01, Le Matin, 08.01.01, El Pais, 10.01.01).
In Barcelona around 500 people demonstrated against the route of the Paris-Dakar Rally through Western Sahara and in favour of the implementation of the referendum.
Suspension of military
In the evening the Saharawi Minister of Information announces in a laconic statement that "faced with appeals from the Presidency of the OAU, and friendly countries including Algeria as well as the United States of America, the POLISARIO Front had decided to suspend the implementation of its decision taken on 22 December 2000 concerning the resumption of military activities." (Statement from the Saharawi Ministry of Information)
"Consternation is total with the Saharawis. With the civilians in the refugee camps, who had begun to regain hope, as with the combatants who were waiting impatiently for this moment... Today and for so long as it is prevented from resuming its armed combat, the Polisario Front looks like a broken movement, with no credibility... Yesterday morning, after two long days of waiting feverish and joyous at the same time, Saharawi fighters on the ground in Tifariti waiting to get back into the operational theatre had misty eyes. They had however been prepared for it like lions, young and old joined together in an extraordinary enthusiasm and a brotherhood in arms which was promising." (El Watan, 09.01.01)
"Numerous Saharawi students and businessmen established in the Maghreb or in Europe had returned to the refugee camps in Tindouf to lend their personal and financial help to the Polisario Front... The decision of the leaders of the Polisario Front had been badly received by the Saharawi population, especially by the army and young people... All the people we spoke to after the announcement of the freeze in the military operation, expressed their opposition by a heavy silence, accompanied by nervous tics for some and tears for others." (La Liberté, 09.01.01)
State of war
The Saharawi minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Salem ould Salek, made clear that "the decision taken by the Polisario Front to suspend the resumption of military activities has no time limits, (but) this does not mean that these activities will not be taken up on the 10th or the 15th or at another date"... "We consider ourselves to be in a state of war", he warned, speaking in front of journalists present in the liberated territories of SADR, adding that "in any case, we have not negotiated or undergone any pressure whatever about a decision to postpone an attack against the FAR to another date." (Le Jeune Indépendant, 10.01.01)
According to the SPS (09.01.01), the Polisario Front must have had good assurances that the peace plan, blocked by Morocco, would be put back on track, with a precise timetable for the organisation of the referendum without further delay. This explains its last-minute decision to suspend its military activities. In the same vein, the Polisario Front delegate in Valencia affirmed that the United States, Algeria and the OAU have committed themselves to re-launch the peace process.
The Committee of Foreign Relations of the Polisario Front publishes an explanatory letter, in which it goes through in detail the arguments concerning its decisions of 22 December 2000 and of 7 January 2001.
Malainine Sadik, SADR Ambassador to Algeria, attended the ceremonies of inauguration of John Agyekum Kufuor as Ghana's fifth President.
In a speech given on the occasion of the 89th anniversary of the African National Congress (ANC), the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, demanded a speedy solution to the conflict in Western Sahara so that no people of Africa should be deprived of its right to self-determination.
"Ni un día más" (Not one day more), is the catch-cry of the campaign for the referendum of self-determination launched by the Association of friends of the Saharawi people from the Balearic Islands, with weekly gatherings in different towns, a human chain, petitions and postcards to regional and Spanish state governments, the European community and the UN.
The Western Sahara support society in Ljubljana, Slovenia, sent letters to all members of the Parliament, to the government and to the President of the Republic to remind them that they should maintain their position on the organisation of the referendum on self-determination of the Saharawi people which consists in defending and giving political and material support to the efforts of the UN as well as encouraging the parties in the conflict to fully cooperate with the UN.
The Irish Prime Minister, whose country will sit for two years, from the beginning of the year, on the Security Council, went on an official visit to Morocco. The solution to the conflict in Western Sahara figured among the subjects for discussion. Mr Bertie Ahern made clear on this subject that his preference was for the United Nations referendum. (Irish Times)
27 February 2001: SAHARA MARATHON
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