The American Hugh Jones, general secretary of the Association of International Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) won the 4th Sahara Marathon, organised by an Italian committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Sport. Over two hundred athletes, the great majority from Western Europe, ran the 42,159 km separating the wilayas of El Ayoun and Smara to show their active solidarity and support with the Saharawi people in their struggle for freedom and independence. About 20 Saharawi athletes took part in this marathon.
Repatriation of 100 prisoners of war
The Polisario Front handed over to the ICRC the 100 Moroccan prisoners of war freed at the request of Qatar, who were repatriated through the military base of Inzegane (Agadir) on board an aeroplane put at the disposition of the International Red Cross by Qatar. During the ceremony, the Polisario Front deplored that "Morocco continues to hold in complete secrecy 150 Saharawi combatants and over 500 disappeared civilians" and asked for the intervention of Qatar with Morocco. The Polisario deplored the fact that the fate of these people "has not been a focus of interest for the ICRC which has invested much more in the Moroccan prisoners of war." Recalling that they still intend to favour "the peaceful road for decolonising Western Sahara, in accordance with what is right and legal", the Polisario Front considered that Morocco "cannot continue to go against the efforts of the international community with impunity and reject the resolutions adopted by the Security Council and in particular number 1495 of 31 July 2003 which asks it expressly to subscribe to and implement the 'Peace Plan for the self-determination of the Saharawi people' of James Baker."
After welcoming the Saharawi leadership's gesture, the Qatar Minister of State Cheikh Hamad Ben Abdallah Al Thani declared that the government of Qatar would try as hard as it could to ease the suffering caused by the conflict in Western Sahara.
The regional delegate of the ICRC, Harald Schmid de Gruneck, thanks the Polisario Front for this "new aid" as well as the authorities of Qatar. According to him, the Moroccan authorities are no longer holding any prisoners of the Polisario Front.
In a joint statement, the Union of Saharawi Lawyers and AFAPREDESA express their gratitude to the government of SADR and the Polisario Front for this gesture, which comes at the very moment when the authorities of the Moroccan occupation are increasing their repression against the defenceless Saharawi population.
The President of the Saharawi Republic sent a message of condolence to the King of Morocco after the earthquake in Al Hoceima. (SPS)
African Union - summit at Syrte
The President of the Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defense took part in the 2nd extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) devoted to common defence policy for the continent, to questions linked to water and agriculture.
The Saharawi delegation comprised the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek and the Minister for Defence Mohamed Lamine Bouhali. The summit adopted the "Declaration of Syrte on challenges to integrated and lasting development of agriculture and water resources in Africa", as well as a formal declaration of common defence and security policy. This declaration stresses the "intangibility of the borders inherited from colonialism" and the "indivisibility of the security of African countries", holding that "the security of one African country is indissolubly linked to that of other African countries and to that of the continent as a whole". The Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed out that "these clauses will not fail to upset Morocco and isolate it more from the heart of the international community... We greatly regret the absence of Morocco from this process of African integration, because it is the only country of the continent which does not respect the borders of its neighbours", he concluded. (SPS)
28th Anniversary of SADR
Commemorations in many places around the world. >> see SPS
>> communiqué des Amis de la RASD
>> Letter of the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) to Kofi Annan<
New association: the Club of the Friends of Tifariti
A group of Algerian journalists announced the birth of the Club of the Friends of Tifariti, "an free space, open to professionals of the media, intellectuals, researchers, students and personalities from Algeria and abroad who are interested in the Saharawi issue". The group intends to "express the broad solidarity of journalists with the Saharawi people who are suffering the pangs of Moroccan colonialism."
The Union of Saharawi Women announce the opening of an office in Madrid.
Wall of Shame
President Mohamed Abdelaziz opened an exhibition in the 27 February School of paintings by Fadili Yeslem inspired by the Moroccan wall of defence. (SPS with photos)
Visit of the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs to Cuba. (agencies, see Sahara-Info)
The first exchange visits between families living in the refugee camps and those in the occupied territory have started. About twenty people took the MINURSO plane, respectively from Tindouf bound for El Ayoun and from El Ayoun to Tindouf, for stays of 5 days. During the next six months weekly flights are planned which will be part of the program of confidence-building measures of the UNHCR aimed at permitting direct contact between the families who have been separated for over 25 years. These measures figure in Security Council resolutions.>> Special page
Visit to Switzerland of the Minister of Occupied Territories
On the occasion of a series of meetings in Geneva, Lausanne, Berne and Basel, with ambassadors or representatives of the UN, the president of the ICRC, human rights and solidarity NGOs, the authorities, parliamentarians and politicians, Mr Khalil Sidi M'Hamed described the situation of the Saharawi population living under Moroccan occupation and called for measures to protect human rights defenders. He recalled the case of 500 disappeared Saharawis and asked for free access to the territory for journalists and observers. (SPS)
The El Ayoun Magistrate's court sentenced the Saharawi Mohamed Bahia Sidi Brahim Errachida to a year and a half in prison. He was apprehended in a café, where like many young Saharawis, he had sided with Algeria during an Africa Cup match between Morocco and Algeria. (see week 07/04)
The Spanish daily, El Pais publishes large extracts from the Moroccan response to James Baker and Kofi Annan on 23 December 2003. Morocco has created some time out with the help of a team of French lawyers, to study a modification of its constitution, in order to introduce the notion of regionalisation and allow the creation of an autonomous Western Sahara, without the slightest reference to a referendum of self-determination... This "draft statute" provides for a regional legislative Assembly, elected by the 86,000 Saharawis on the UN electoral list, the refugees enrolled by the UNHCR and everyone resident in the territory before 1993 (?). The Assembly would elect the President of the executive, appointed later by the King. The competence of the autonomous authority would cover education, health, social services, but not the police, justice system or economic policy. In the case of divergence of opinion or conflict between the Moroccan state and the region, it is a Moroccan institution - the constitutional Council as it happens - which would decide.
The parliament accepted a motion presented by its Foreign Affairs Committee (see week 07-08). During a debate, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ferrero-Waldner declared that Austria has not forgotten the conflict in Western Sahara. It considers that the Baker plan is an optimal solution for the exercise of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. Concerning humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugees, Austria is active in basic community infrastructure and training, and has made available for 2003 and 2004 approximately 640,000 Euros.
The Australian Senate passed unanimously a motion on Western Sahara on 4 March 2004. The motion was sponsored by Senator Allison, Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats Party and also by Senator Nettle of the Greens Party. In this motion the Senate takes note of the 28th anniversary of the proclamation of the Saharawi Republic, the 13 years of delays of the original Peace Plan and the UN Security Council resolution of 30 January 2004 which "gives Morocco more time to respond to the latest peace plan for Western Sahara."
The Senate takes note as well of the agreement by the government of Morocco to allow the "exchange of family visits for Saharawis separated by war, occupation and the 2,720 km long military rampart erected by Morocco." The Senate urges the Australian Federal Government to "use its best efforts to persuade Morocco to sign the latest UN peace plan that is based on the organisation of a referendum of self-determination in Western Sahara". The Senate appealed to the Australian Government to "provide humanitarian assistance to the Saharawi refugees who need food and medicine urgently". >> full text
The Danish Government continues to give its support to the UN efforts to find a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara.
In response to an appeal made to him by a member of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget), Mr. Per Stig Møller, the Danish Foreign Minister, stated that the Danish Government continues its support for the efforts deployed by the UN Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, Mr. James Baker, with a view to finding a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Møller had earlier reaffirmed the same position of his government vis-à-vis the question of Western Sahara in a statement made before the Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, while underlining that the position of his country regarding this particular question remains based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council in this regard.
According to the Madrid daily, La Razon, Morocco's second largest fishing company, Kaben Pêche, has been sold. It belonged to Generals Abdelhak Kadiri and Hosni Benslimane. The sale took place following pressure from the palace, which wants to improve the image of the armed forces, and also because of the uncertain future of the Sahara, on whose coasts the Kaben Pêche fleet is active.
USA-Greater Middle East
The American under secretary of state for political affairs, Marc Grossman, was received by King Mohamed VI as part of a tour of several Arab countries presenting the project "Initiative for the Greater Middle-East". The American initiative anticipates making a sum of 100 million dollars available to develop democracy and the role of civil society in the Arab world, by favouring education, equality between men and women, in order to put an end to "terrorism" and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
American military experts are already in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to train troops in border control. It is expected to send more to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. (agencies)
The United States and Morocco have concluded in Washington a free trade agreement. This free trade agreement, the second of this type signed by the United Nations with a Muslim country after Jordan concluded an agreement, is part of President George W Bush's plan to establish a free trade zone between the United States and the Middle East between now and 2013. A similar agreement has already been signed with Israel and negotiations are in progress with Bahrein. (AFP)
Statement from the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders from the "territory of Western Sahara under Moroccan control"
The Collective points out that since his release at the beginning of January, Ali Salem Tamek has become the target of a hysterical media campaign orchestrated by Moroccan political parties and journalists who call for his arrest or his expulsion. The Saharawi NGO expresses its support and solidarity with the Saharawi human rights activist and announces that it will continue to pursue its commitment and action to get respect for the legitimate rights of the Saharawi people.
Appeal of Sidi Mohamed Daddach human rights defender, Rafto Prize winner 2002 (French or Spanish)
On a working visit to Switzerland, the Saharawi Minister of Occupied Territories Mr. Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, launched an appeal in Geneva, for freedom of movement and circulation of Saharawi human rights defenders. He recalls that a year ago a delegation of 13 people representing families of disappeared Saharawis and human rights defenders from the occupied territories was prevented from leaving Morocco to take part in a meeting in Geneva and that the passports confiscated on that occasion have still not been returned. Deploring the isolation in which the Saharawi population is kept under Moroccan control, he asks that this delegation could this year visit Geneva to take part in the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission which will be held from 16 March until 23 April.
Solidarity campaign with Ali Salem Tamek and human rights defenders in Western Sahara
Sign AFAPREDESA's appeal
The General Workers Union of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (UGTSARIO) denounced the decision of the Moroccan Confederation of Work (CDT) against Ali Salem Tamek, considering that this "racist" decision encourages the Moroccan government to "take the most dangerous position capable of attacking the life of this Saharawi activist". It also appealed to trades union organisations of the world to intervene with international human rights organisations for the protection of human rights defenders in Western Sahara, notably Ali Salem Tamek, who is the "object of a big antidemocratic and racist media campaign" so that he could have his human rights, personal rights and trades union rights safeguarded, in accordance with the international conventions in force".(SPS)
Tifariti (liberated territories of SADR)
International march to the wall of shame in Western Sahara
"For peace and self-determination for the Saharawi people", "Demand that the UN keeps its commitments". Organised by Spanish associations of solidarity in collaboration with the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people, this march to the "wall" which separates Saharawi families is to denounce the suffering of the Saharawi people who have been waiting for 28 years to decide their own future. Its aim is to make the UN and the international community implement the Security Council's resolutions. See Information, program, (at the moment only in Spanish)
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
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Western Sahara: Towards Decolonisation, Dr. Uma Shankar Jha, Indian Africanist and President of the Association of Indian Africanist. (press release)
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