The Prime Minister, Abdelkade Taleb Oumar presents to Parliament his governments programme for the year 2004, centred on "the reinforcement of resistence by developing human resources and material means", the improvement of living conditions in the camps, the strengthening of social services for elderly people, the handicapped and war veterans, the emanicipation of women, the encouragement of agricultural and pastoral farming, manufacture of crafts, cooperatives and professional training. The Saharawi Parliament has 51 members of whom 12 are women. (SPS)
Mhamed Khaddad, member of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front and Coordinator with MINURSO, accompanied by the Representative of the Polisario Front in Germany, Zakari Djamal, were received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) by all the parliamentary groups. Several political parties expressed their "consternation over the procrastinations and blockages which prevent the United Nations from completing their mission" in Western Sahara, Khaddad declared.
The Polisario Front's delegation held a working session at the regional parliament at Erfurt, capital of Thuringa, where the creation of a support group for the Saharawi people, called "Salma", chaired by the MEP Margot Kessler, was announced.
Bachir Moustapha Sayed, Saharawi minister for teaching and education took part in Havana in the 8th meeting of the joint Cuban-Saharawi committee for scientific and technical collaboration between Cuba and SADR, which meets every two years. The Cuban government was represented by Ernesto Senti Darias, interim minister for foreign investment and economic collaboration.
Khartoum - 8th Congress of the Organization of the African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU)
The congress recommends to the UN the acceleration of the decolonisation of Western Sahara and asks Morocco to abide by international law and by resolution 1495 (2003) of 31.07.2003.
The congress calls trades unions across the whole world to join the Saharawi workers in their struggle for freedom and independence. Finally it condemns abuses of the rights of workers in the territories occupied by Morocco.
Direct telephone links between the Saharawi refugee camp of "27 February" and the occupied zones of Western Sahara have been opened by the UNHCR. The international organisation envisages establishing a "air bridge" between the Saharawi refugee camps and El Ayoun thanks to MINURSO, whose Antonov planes make two flights each way daily between Tindouf and El Ayoun, which could carry about twenty passengers on each trip. The Polisario Front has given verbal agreement for this operation. The HCR is waiting for a reply from the Moroccan and Algerian authorities, "hoping for a favourable response which will allow the first trip to be made on the occasion of Eid el Kebir, on 1 February next".
Concerning exchanges of mail, the latest report from Kofi Annan indicates that the Polisario Front and Algeria have accepted the HCRs conditions, which would be responsible for collecting and distributing the mail. Morocco has asked that the Moroccan postal service "should look after the collection and distribution of the mail" (sic!), which the HCR cannot accept.
Secretary General's Report S/2004/39 (PDF)
In July 2003, the Security Council in resolution 1495 ratified Baker's peace plan and asked the parties to accept it. The Polisario Front having replied favourably, it was to allow Morocco to express its position that the mandate of MINURSO was extended to 31.10.03, then to 31.01.04. In his latest report the Secretary General asks for a further extension of three months, on the recommendation of James Baker, "to allow him to consult further with Morocco on its final response to the peace plan."
If the report does not state the content of Morocco's response, there is information circulating about its substance. Thus the Spanish press has claimed that Morocco would accept internal autonomy, but would refuse any reference to independence in a referendum which should take place in 4 or 5 years.
According the well-informed Saharawi sources, Morocco would concede a wide autonomy to Western Sahara, but would not accept holding a referendum. This return to Baker's first plan, the framework-agreement, has apparently not found a favourable response from Baker or the Security Council. The ball remains in Morocco's court which has until the end of April to decide. According to certain UN diplomats this extension could the "the last".
The Polisario representative in Spain, Ghali, considered Morocco's position to be a challenge to the international community, and that talk of sanctions should begin so that no more time is wasted.
Release in Spain of the film ´Cuentos de la guerra saharaui´(stories of the Saharawi war), which is fiction by Pedro Pérez Rosado, based on the true story of a Spanish legionnaire who deserted in 1975 to join the Saharawi people and share their life.
Ali Salem Tamek and other Saharawi political prisoners pardoned on 7 January were given a triumphal welcome in Assa (southern Morocco). A large crowd was waiting for them at the town gate entrance, to then accompany them in a procession. The return of those pardoned was the occasion for a reception with many speeches. After the president of the "Committee for the release of Tamek and all Saharawi political prisoners" Al Moutawakil, Mohamed Daddach expressed his "satisfaction at the victory over the forces of repression and the arbitrary". By telephone, European human rights associations congratulated the former detainees on their struggle.
See photographic reportage .
See the special page on the release of Saharawi prisoners with press articles, reactions and statements.
Tamek and the poltical detainees just released were received in Rabat. A crowd of lawyers, human rights defenders, families of the disappeared, former political detainees, journalists and representatives of political parties welcomed them outside the lawyers club, where a meeting was held for over two hours, with speeches by Moroccan human rights organisations (AMDH, OMDH, FVJ), action committees and political detainees. According to El Moutawakil Mohammed, spokesman for the action committee for the release of Tamek Ali Salem and all Saharawi political detainees, "this liberation is positive and a step in the right direction, but remains incomplete without the liberation of all Saharawi political detainees, without light being shed on the disappearance of over 500 Saharawis, without the lifting of the ban on the Sahara branch of the Forum for Truth and Justice, without the return of activists deported to northern Morocco and the return of their passports to Saharawi human rights defenders who were intending to visit Geneva last year". Tamek, also congratulated all the organisations, the press and the personalities who had supported him all around the world, adding that "human rights abuses in the Sahara are linked to the political conflict which has been going on since 1975. These abuses will not stop unless a definitive way out of the political issue is found." (corr.)
In a speech to the European Parliament on the preparations for the 60th session of the United Nations Commission of human rights,Yasmine Boudjenah invited the governments of member states to support strongly the United Nations in their present efforts. The deadline being fixed for 31 January, there is urgency in exerting an influence on Morocco to make it accept and implement without any further delay the UN peace plan.
The Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) sent a letter to the President of the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission, the Australian Ambassador, Michael Smith, to draw his attention to human rights abuses in Western Sahara, and to ask him to contribute to the release of all Saharawi political detainees, 500 disappeared Saharawis and 150 prisoners of war. Deploring the fact that Western Sahara "is in a state of siege", AWSA demands respect for free circulation, freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to travel abroad and to take part in the Commission of Human Rights. It also called for "free access to the occupied zones for observers and the media".(letter).
The Saharawi Red Crescent (CRS) called on the ICRC to put more effort into the release of Saharawi prisoners of war (list) and other detainees in Morocco.(SPS)
Risk of famine in the Saharawi camps
"The situation risks being disastrous for the Saharawi refugees in 2004 in terms of food" Peter Kessler declared, the official in charge of North Africa and spokesman for UNHCR, in an interview with the Algerian daily El Watan, adding that the Saharawi refugees were close to a food crisis in 2003. "Fortunately, he stated, the government in Algiers made a gift of 10,000 tonnes of rice to 5 camps in Tindouf". (El Watan)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) coordinates with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Algerian government on a guided tour for Western diplomats based in Algiers to the Saharawi refugee camps with the aim of updating them on the food situation and of raising awareness among the principle funders, the USA, Japan, Australia and Canada. The ambassadors of Austria, Finland and representatives from the embassies of Belgium, Spain, the USA, France, Italy and South Africa accompany the officials from the HCR and WFP as well as the Algerian government, the Algerian Red Crescentand the Humanitarian Affairs Office for the European Commission (ECHO). The mission will also inquire into the progress of confidence-building measures put in place by the HCR. (IRIN)
EUROPEAN ACTION CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW UN PEACE PLAN FORWESTERN SAHARA: Demonstrations in Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Seville, Stockholm, see special page .
The national Association of solidarity with the Saharawi people (ANSPS) in collaboration with the local association Haima organised at the head quarters of the commune of Naples a national Seminar on the hosting of Saharawi children to prepare the next holidays.
CHARTER FLIGHT from ITALIY
Also this year the usual charter flight to Tindouf will leave Pisa airport on 23rd January thanks to the commitment of the Tuscany Branch of the National Association for the solidarity to the Saharawi people.
Public administrators, volunteers, common people and many students from the secondary schools will visit not only the Saharawi refugee camps, but undertaking a long trip through the liberated West Sahara desert, they will also peacefully demonstrate in front of the "wall of the shame", which was built by the Moroccan authorities and about which too few words are spoken up. Moreover, a great party will be organised to inaugurate a water-hole, drilled by the Italian Publiacqua Company, which will provide water to the Auserd tent town.27.01.04 New York. Security Council. Debate on the extension of MINURSO.
29.01.04 Berlin. The German parliament will debate a motion entitled "Support for the Baker plan and a political solution to the conflict in Western Sahara", lodged on 7 January by the four most important political parties represented in the Bundestag. The motion asks the government to make Morocco and the Polisario accept the Baker plan, and for European countries to support the peace process, for the government to make military observers available if needed, to call on WFP and ECHO to deliver sufficient food aid for the Saharawi refugees, and to put pressure on the Polisario for the release of prisoners of war and on Morocco to shed light on the fate of the disappeared.
january 2004: EN ANNAN RÖST
Alternativ konferens om folkmord, terror och mänskliga rättigheter
Söndag 25 januari, ABF-huset, Sveavägen 41 Entré 40 kr
Workshop 11.30 Ockupationen av Västsahara
Hillevi Larsson, riksdagsledamot (s), medlem i föreningen Västsahara
21 to 28 February 2004: Sahara marathon.
The Spanish Associations "White March to the wall of shame in Western Sahara" due to be held 25-29 January 2004, has been postponed until 7-11 April 2004.
International Conference on information in Western Sahara (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
New on arso.org:
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
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