A national conference on Saharan agriculture took place in the wilaya of Dakhla chaired by the Minister of Development Larabas Joumani, in the presence of representatives of the other wilays, Saharawi agricultural engineers and foreign experts. «The scarcity of water, the salinity of the soil, the violent winds and heat are so many negative factors which the Saharawis have succeeded in conquering in order to grow vegetables in the desert», declared one of the engineers who piloted an experimental garden in Dakhla. This conference aims to deepen understanding of the different experiments in this field and to benefit from the knowledge of other nations in order to give each of the four wilayas in the refugee camps an area for cultivation capable of providing self-sufficiency in vegetables. (SPS)
About twenty Brazilian members of parliament created a solidarity group with the Saharawi people at the very moment that the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Mohamed Benaissa was carrying out a visit to the parliament. «We want to initiate debates and activities so that Brazilians can understand who important it is for this people to obtain their independence», stated Mrs Maris José Maninha, member of the ruling Labor party and the chair of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas (COPA). (AFP)
Visit of an Australian delegation
A member of parliament, a lawyer, a teacher, trades unionists, a researcher, artists and representatives of the Australian association of support for the Saharawi people (AWSA) visited the Saharawi refugee camps and visited the liberated territories of SADR, where they organised a small demonstration in front of the wall of shame, which since the 80s has divided the Saharawi territory. During a reception in their honour, the President Mohamed Abdelaziz called on the UN to put pressure on Morocco finally to organise the referendum in Western Sahara. He revealed that, «Saharawi political management finds itself under constant popular pressure born of the bitter disappointment caused by the UN and its tolerance of Rabat». The president of the Republic has again expressed the willingness of the Polisario Front to continue to cooperate with the UN underlining that his country can make no further concessions. He concluded with an appeal: «The democratic powers, including Australia, must make more effort and exercise more concrete pressure on Morocco to oblige them to abide by international law. The credibility of international institutions is at stake.(...)». (SPS)
The Saharawi Minister of Information categorically denied any relationship between the Polisario Front and a person implicated and found guilty in Mauritania for the theft of explosives. It is the Moroccan official press agency MAP who, once again, has engaged in an operation of misinformation and defamation.
Cultural activities for youth
The first forum on socio-cultural activities for Saharawi children and young people opened in Chahid El Hafedh, chaired by the Secretary General of the Saharawi Youth union (UJSARIO) Mohamed Mouloud, and in the presence of specialist partners from Algeria, USA, Switzerland, Spain, France and Belgium.
The form should permit these various partners to coordinate with a view to developing a methodology in the field of socio-cultural action adapted to the environment of Saharawi children and young people. Under the title «Let's imagine the future together», the UJSARIO presented to the participants a paper on the objectives of this initiative which aims to forestall the negative influences of exile and the precarious context of the life of young people in the camps. (SPS)
Chirac in Algiers
On the subject of Western Sahara, the French head of state declared in cryptic fashion that France would not support a solution «of a such kind as to pose the least difficulty to relations between France and Algeria».
The Moroccan Minister of the Interior Moustafa Sahel, accompanied by the coordinator with MINURSO, Hamid Chabbar, were received by James Baker in Houston on 2 April last. The UN Secretary General's report on the Sahara is expected on 20 April, MINURSO's mandate ends on the 30. Reminder: in January the SG concluded his report S/2004/39 thus: (...) my personal Envoy is of the view that the mandate of MINURSO should be extended until 30 April 2004 to allow him (Baker) to consult further with Morocco on its final response to the peace plan. I concur with this view and hope that he will be receiving Morocco's final reply before the end of April 2004. (...)
The Norwegian independent journalist Erik Hagen was apprehended in the street in El Ayoun in Western Sahara by Moroccan security forces and expelled under escort to Mauritania. Hagen intended to meet human rights activitists and former political prisoners, including Sidi Mohamed Daddach.
In the course of a long interrogation led by the police superintendant himself, the Norwegian independent journalist was accused of supporting the Polisario Front. He was surprised by the amount and the precision of the information which the Moroccan police had about him, both on his activities in Norway and on his intentions on the ground. In an interview with the Norwegian press agency, NTB he expresses the conviction that these people had been listening to phone calls and that Moroccan agents had been spying in Norway. (NTB)
The Saharawi Government on Thursday denounced the expulsion as an «arbitrary» act, which proves that «the state of emergency and the media embargo are still imposed by Moroccan colonialism on Western Sahara, despite the UN's presence on the ground» (SPS). The Association of Moroccan Sahara known for its commitment to the annexation of Western Sahara to Morocco, condemned «yet another expulsion» pointing out that «such acts harm our national cause». The ASM wonders if there are «compromising things to hide from international opinion?».
The former fort of Villa Cisneros, now Dakhla, architectural remnant of Spanish colonialism, is threatened with destruction. The Moroccan occupying authorities intend to demolish it. The Saharawis consider that this building is part of their historical heritage and ask for the intervention of UNESCO in order to prevent its disappearance.
Since the attacks in Madrid Moroccan power, relayed by the official press, would make it believed that there are connections between Al Quaeda and the Polisario Front. Starting from certain established facts such as the existence on the outskirts of the Sahara and the Sahel of armed groups of Islamic fundamentalists, it attributes to the Polisario Front its own malady, namely penetration by a violent Islamism into Moroccan society. Number 121 of the weekly Tel Quel goes one step further. Through the pen of the journalist Amal Samie the connection of Al Quaeda and Polisario is clearly identified, twice over. Firstly, taking up information spread by the official press, «well-developed contacts between Al Quaeda terrorists and the Polisario Front», «juicy arms market». Secondly, the paper appeals to the support of a university teacher, a professor of geopolitics at the Sorbonne, Aymeric Chauprade. During a conference in Geneva on 30 March 2004, this eminent professor affirmed that the Polisario «is in crisis» and «increasingly under the influence of Islamic fundamentalism». For Amal Samie, «the fight against terrorism can't allow any slack, each inch of the territory must be controlled in the future, including the camps in Tindouf». They have completed the loop. A rumour fed, a university Moroccan services, a paper with a reputation for flattery which takes it up. Everything is in place to send messages to Westerners and Americans sensitive to the topic of terrorism. After having exhausted the topic of the prisoners, the misappropriation of humanitarian aid, children deported to Cuba, now we have terrorism... (communqué AARASD french)
The anti-terrorist fight occasioned «serious deterioration» in human rights in Morocco in 2003, assures the Moroccan Association for human rights (AMDH, independent). In its annual report for 2003, AMDH affirms that «the deterioration» consists in «arrests in the ranks of fundamentalists accompanied by abductions, torture, unfair trials, and heavy sentences going as far as capital punishment» «There is also repression aimed at the press, journalists and human rights defenders». (AFP)
The AMDH called for Morocco to have a «Democratic constitution» in which the powers would not be concentrated in the hands of the King. «We demand a democratic Constitution in form and in matter» the AMDH President, Abdelhamid Amine, declared in an interview with the weekly Assahifa. The new constitution «should have no article such as article 19 (...) which concentrates power in the hands of the king alone», he added. Article 19 stipulates notably that the king is «commander of believers», «supreme representative of the nation, symbol of its unity, guarantor of the perpetuity and the continuation of the State», but also that he «watches over respect for Islam», protects «the rights and freedoms of citizens», and «guarantees the independence of the nation». (AFP)
the first work in Dutch on the question of Western Sahara: De laatste
kolonie van Afrika, reizen door de Westelijke Sahara (The last colony
of Africa, journeys to Western Sahara), by Nicolien Zuijdgeest,
During the presentation of the work on 15 April 2004 at the Institut Tropical Royal in Amsterdam, the film of the Algerian-Dutch film maker Karim Traïdia on the refugee camps was shown, followed by a debate entitled The biggest taboo in Morocco, Western Sahara, in which Ali Lmrabet, Paul de Waart, professor emeritus of international law, a representative of the Polisario Front and the author.
60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission, Geneva 15 March - 26 April 2004
Adoption by consensus of resolution E/CN.4/2004/L.8 on the question of the Western Sahara.( UN news 08.04.04) - (full text french: )
11.04.04: Communiqué AFAPREDESA (french): Importante résolution au profit des droits inaliénables du peuple sahraoui adoptée par la Commission de l'ONU.
11.04.04: Communiqué Union des Juristes Sahraouis UJS, (french)
The Annual Report 2003 of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders ( FIDH & OMCT) highlights the increasingly hostile situation confronted by defenders over the world because of the erosion of human rights standards. >> Presentation - Full Report PDF
"L'expérience de la Femme Sahraouie", Conférence, Palais des Nations, Genève >> compte-rendu french .
Conférence de presse avec Mohamed Sidati au Palais des Nations >> compte-rendu french .
Geneva: Demonstration on the occasion of the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights
Union of Saharawi Jurists UJS, the Association of Saharawi Families of Prisoners and Disappeared AFAPREDESA, the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people EUCOCO, the International Bureau for the Respect of Human Rights in Western Sahara BIRDHSO, and the League pour the Rights and Freedom of Peoples LIDLIP had called for a symbolic action «For the self-determination of the Saharawi people and for the implementation of the resolutions of the UN» and «For the liberation of all Saharawi disappeared and prisoners of opinion».
Over 250 people, Saharawis from the refugee camps and the diaspora and their friends, from Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, met at the Place des Nations with numerous banners, placards, drawings of the wall of shame etc. After speeches from the representatives of the various NGOs and institutions present, the participants held a picnic on the grass in a friendly atmosphere.
A group of Moroccans accompanied by Saharawi defectors which tried to disturb the demonstration, were obliged to leave the area on order from the Genevan police. In the afternoon a conference was held with talks on the political situation and human rights in Western Sahara. The participants adopted a resolution called GENEVA APPEAL.
Note: This year again 13 Saharawis from the occupied territories, human rights defenders, ex-political prisoners, relatives of disappeared Saharawis, who were invited by human rights NGOs to testify before the Commission, were not able to leave Morocco to travel to Geneva, deprived of the right to movement by the Moroccan authorities. They are Taglaboute Maimouna:wife of the disappeared Beih Oubarka; Kirraoian M'Barka Alina: mother of the disappeared Kirraoian Said; Mohamed Daddach: former political prisoner, defender of human rights; Khaya Cheikh : former political prisoner, defender of human rights, Lakhfaouni Bachir: human rights defender; Noumri Brahim: human rights defender; Guarhi Brahim:human rights defender; Brahim Dahane: human rights defender; Sidi Mohamed Salem Zaidan: son of disappeared, Hadia Mohamed M'Barek Zaidan ; Mohamed Mahmoud Moumen: son of the disappeared Ahmed Babaih; Hammia Ahmed: son of the disappeared Hamdi Oould Moussa; Oulad Cheikh Mahjoub: son of the disappeared; Elqotb Hamma brother of the disappeared Elqotb Elhafed.
Conference: 'The Sahara: Past, Present & Future', 22-24 June, 2004. The Conference will be divided, very broadly, into three main fields: Archaeology and prehistory, The Physical environment, Recent History & Contemporary Social & Political Issues. University of East Anglia, Norwich, contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Les dépêches, articles, etc, sur Sahara-Info, liste de courrier (français et espagnol): http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/sahara-info/messages
English publications on Sahara Update mailinglist: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sahara-update/messages
Todos los despachos, articulos de prensa, etc, son acessible en Sahara-Info, lista de correo (castellano y francés): http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/sahara-info/messages
"El Oscuro Pasado del Desierto", José Ramón Diego Aguirre, Casa de Africa, Sial Ediciones, Madrid, 2004.
"El conflicto del Sahara Occidental, desde una perspectiva canaria", José Ignacio Algueró Cuervo, S. Sebastián de la Gomera, 06/2003.
"El conflicto del Sáhara", Fernando M. Mariño Menéndez, Ignacio Puentes Cobo, Instituto de Estudios Internacionales y Europeos "Francisco de Vitoria", Escuela de Guerra del Ejercito, coord., Getafe: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, 09/2003, 100 p.
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