WEEKS 21-22 : 16.-29.05.2004
The National Secretariat (SN) of the Polisario Front called on the Security Council to make Morocco "accept and implement UN decisions". In a meeting chaired by the Head of State, Mohamed Abdelaziz, the SN considered that "only when the peace plan endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1495 is fully implemented will there be a peaceful end to the process of decolonization in Western Sahara and peace and stability restored to the Maghreb region."
After denouncing the current situation in the occupied territories, the SN called on the UN and all international bodies to dispatch a "special reporter" there and welcomed the operation of exchange visits between Saharawi families, condemning however, the Moroccan policy aiming to "limit the number of people who could take advantage of the scheme as well as putting pressure and constraints on the freedom of those concerned to circulate".
The SN finally deplored "the alignment of France with the Moroccan line of argument" and reminded Spain of its responsibilities in the tragedy which the Saharawi people have been experiencing since 1975". (SPS)
5th UGTSARIO Congress
Mohamed Abdelziz, in his opening speech, again expressed the willingness of his country to continue cooperating with the UN and his Special Envoy, underlining that he "totally rejects any approach or solution which doesn't have as its basis the principle of self-determination, in accordance with the United Nations Charter".
In its final declaration, the 5th UGTSARIO congress called on the international community to do whatever it can to dismantle the Moroccan wall, erected to protect colonialism and its interests in Western Sahara. The retiring secretary general, Mohamed Cheikh Mohamed Lebib, was re-elected to his post. The European and African unions present signed a declaration, strongly denouncing "the impediments and equivocations put up by the Moroccan government to prevent the implementation of the agreements which it has made with the Polisario Front under the auspices of the United Nations".(SPS)
The President of the Algerian Movement of Society for Peace (MSP, ex-Hamas), Abou Jara Soultani, paid a visit to the Saharawi refugees. A member of the coalition at present in power, Soultani's party supported President Bouteflika during the presidential election last April beside the FLN and the RND. A big meeting was organised in his honour. Soultani, who had last visited the camps in 1996, laid the foundation stone of a school, named Mahfoud Nahnah, who was the founder of the MSP.(SPS)
In the course of the first session of the African Union's Council of Peace and Security, the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ould Salek tabled the instruments of ratification of the protocol relating to the creation of this new body. Composed of 15 elected member states, the Council of Peace and Security is a permanent body, charged with the promotion of peace, security and stability in Africa, of preventive diplomacy, and the re-establishment of peace. It is also concerned with the management of catastrophes, humanitarian actions and reconstruction after conflicts. (Press statement of SADR 26.05.04.French + Spanish, Sahara-Info )
The company Wessex Exploration Limited, based in Great Britain and Houston USA, "is currently undertaking a comprehensive technical analysis of the Aaiun Basin in order to facilitate further hydrocarbon exploration in this very underexplored area", quoting directly from its website in which this activity is presented under Morocco. After the big companies such as TotalFinaElf and Kerr McGee, in this case it is a small business which has obtained a contract with Morocco. Questioned on the legality of the procedure by the Western Sahara Campaign UK, the management of Wessex did not deign to reply on the fundamental problem. The British NGO then launched on 17.05.04, jointly with other organisations in the solidarity movement with the Saharawi people, a campaign aiming to make Wessex aware of what is at stake with their activities and asking them to enter into contact with the Polisario Front, as representative of the Saharawi people, or to withdraw from the territory considered by the UN as a non-self-governing territory, whose natural resources cannot be exploited, as stated in the legal opinion of H. Corell in 2002, except with the agreement and to the benefit of the indigenous population. A letter-writing campaign met with great success and a consortium of European NGOs has asked the management of the company for a meeting very soon.
The solidarity campaign is also targeting the activities of the Dutch group Fugro, which has taken up seismic tests off-shore from Boujdour, tests which the Norwegian company TGS-Nopec did not continue with following a protest campaign in Norway. (Press Release WSC )( Letters, medias, documentation. >> Campaign Page )
A committee of the body Equité et Réconciliation (official body charged with settling human rights abuses in Morocco) visited Laayoune, Smara, Tan-Tan and Lamsaied from 25-30 April 2004, to meet families of disappeared Saharawis. On this occasion, the Committee of Disappeared Saharawis in a statement (French ), expresses its firm attachment to its claims, "a prelude to any equitable, just and systematic approach of the cause of serious abuses of human rights in the Sahara". These claims are: to clarify the fate of the disappeared, to liberate those still alive, to return the remains of the dead and issue death certificates, to transport the remains to places chosen by the families, to reveal the truth on the tragedy suffered by the disappeared, to pursue all those responsible for abusing human rights. (see also the Memorandum (French) presented to the body Equité et Réconciliation, Laayoune 23.04.04, signed by nine Saharawi human rights NGOs, which can be downloaded in Word format - in PDF format )
Suspicious death of a Saharawi prisoner
Hadi Hassan Ali Aswaydi, a Saharawi born in 1966, in prison for two and a half months for a common law offence in El Ayoun's black prison, prisoner number 24 882, died suddenly in suspicious circumstances. His family, who had visited him the same day, lodged a complaint with the prosecutor and asked for an inquiry into the circumstances of the tragedy. The next day the detainees refused to go back into their cells after their walk in the courtyard to protest and to demand the truth about the affair. The body was taken on 23 May to Casablanca for an autopsy.(Letter of protest of the family of 19.05.04,in Arabic with Spanish and French translation )
Reminder: In November 2002 the death of the prisoner Boucetta Mohamed Barka, known as Chaybani, following maltreatment by a guard and fellow detainees, caused a stir. On 02.07.03 El Ayoun Appeal Tribunal judged the prison guard and the 2 Saharawi fellow-detainees accused of having caused his death. Contrary to the results of the inquiry, the prison guard was acquitted while the two fellow detainees were sentenced to 2 years in prison.
Exchange of family visits - Intimidation and threats
Visits between Saharawi families from both sides of the wall separating Western Sahara, organised by the UNHCR, are continuing at present between the camps and the town on Smara.
We are informed that the human rights activist and former political detainee Ali Salem Tamek was the target of attempts at intimidation on the part of the Moroccan authorities, who tried to prevent him meeting families coming from Tindouf. On 23 May a car with registration number 15-alif-23725 followed all his movements. The families of Lmami ould Azzat, Ahmad ould Omar ould Blaila, Mohammad Bouya Mantallah, Lhbada Ammah, who were receiving visits from the camps, were also pestered by police, while others were threatened and humiliated. Police officers surrounded the homes being visited by Tamek and those of Saharawi human rights defenders. In one case, Lbouihi Fkko was insulted on 25 May by a policeman called Karroum and called in the next day by the superintendant who threatened him in public. (corr.)
Replying to the questions of several parliamentarians on the policy of the new Spanish government towards the Sahara, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs repeated before the parliament, the Senate and the Foreign Affairs Committee the support of his government for the UN peace plan. "There is however a change", Moratinos declared. The government will commit itself to finding a lasting, just, consensual political solution which should satisfy all the parties, and which would be favourable to the stability of the Maghreb and to Europe-Maghreb relations.
Spanish diplomatic offensive
Moratinos revealed before the Senate that the government will be involved in a series of contacts with members of the Group of Countries Friendly with Western Sahara (ad hoc group created at the level of the Security Council, made up of France, United States, United Kingdom and Russia), in order to help the parties in conflict to find a satisfactory solution.
Surprise visit of the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs to Madrid, who brings a message from the King of Morocco to the Spanish Prime Minister, Zapatero.
The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Benaissa, is awaited on 29.05. in Algiers. This surprise visit is devoted principally to bilateral relations, an Algerian source indicated.
The French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Michel Barnier, pays an official visit to Morocco, where he will meet the King, the Prime Minister and his counterpart, Mohamed Benaïssa. The aim of this visit is to reaffirm the "exemplary dimension of the Franco-Moroccan partnership". The situation in Iraq and the Middle East, the coming G8 in Sea Island, as well as the integration of the Maghreb and developments in Western Sahara, were due to be raised in the course of the minister's talks. (Statement by a Quai d'Orsay spokesman)
The European Commission will release in the coming weeks an allocation of about 8 million euros of humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugees. This decision follows an agreement concluded between Brussels and the Polisario Front on the means of access and the movements of ECHO officials, the European Union's Office of Humanitarian Aid, in the Saharawi camps. Let us recall that ECHO has an annual budget of 14 million euros for the Saharawi refugees, 3.75 million were made available to the World Food Program in February 2004 out of the 5.14 allocated to ECHO in January.
Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (WFP)
The proposal for protracted relief and recovery (IPSR) for the refugees in Western Sahara was unanimously approved by the Council of Administration of the World Food Program, during its second ordinary session. This proposal, amounting to nearly 40 million dollars, spread over two years (September 2004-August 2006), will benefit 158,000 Saharawi refugees.
Mr K. Adly, director of the regional bureau of WFP for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, confirmed the number of 158,000 refugees and emphasised the very difficult living conditions of the refugees. Broaching the question relating to possible misappropriation of this aid and its disposal on local markets, Mr Adly was categoric: "the aid given by WFP to Saharawi refugees is not subject to any misappropriation and reaches the beneficiaries. The systematic and regular controls carried out up until now have not uncovered any anomaly of this kind."
Mr Mahaman Balla, the representative of WFP in Algiers, and the American attaché for humanitarian affairs, Mr Timothy Lavelle, who was part of the joint mission (WFP-UNHCR) of evaluation which traveled on 20 January last to the refugee camps, underlined that WFP is putting in place monitoring and a rigorous control after distribution of the provisions and that nothing indicates there has been any misappropriation of this aid.
According to APS the European Union had decided to grant aid of 20 million euros for the period 2004-2006. Finland has more than doubled its contribution from 114,000 to 300,000 euros. (APS) (Proposal for aid to the refugees of Western Sahara, document WFP/EB.2/2004/4-B/4 of 5 May 2004: English - arabic
The 2nd international conference on information in Western Sahara opened in Toledo in the presence of a large Saharawi delegation comprising Mohamed Sidati, Minister Counsellor to the President, Batal Sid'Ahmed, Minister of Information, Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, Minister of the Occupied Territories as well as Mohamed Yeslem Beissat, Ambassador of SADR in Algiers and Mohamed Lemhamid, director of the Sahara Press Service, SPS. With the theme "Let's speak about the Sahara - break the information blockade" (Hablemos del Sahara - Rompemos el bloqueo informativo) media professionals, politicians, activists from the solidarity movement in small workshops discussed how to put into practice better ways of publishing information about the conflict in the Sahara. Talks and films were also expected.( web site )
4 y 5 de junio
Jornadas sobre DERECHOS HUMANOS
Será la tarde del viernes en cáceres y el sábado entero en Badajoz. Está previsto que participen mujeres saharauis que han estado 15 años en una prisión marroquí y juristas españoles y extremeños que han viajado al Sáhara ocupado por Marruecos y han presenciado juicios a saharauis y la situación de la población que lleva 30 años resistiendo en condiciones más duras aún que la población saharaui que sobrevive en lso campamentos de refugiados argelinos.
Ya os enviaremos más información con el programa pero podeis ya ampliar información en los tefnos 924 25 70 74 y 629 68 92 23 AAPSEX
Nouveaux web sites en arabe:
Mémorandum soumis à l'Instance Equité et Réconciliation, Laayoune 23.04.04, signé par 9 ONG sahraouies de défense des droits humains au Sahara Occidental à télécharger en format Word - en format PDF
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
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
Las voces del desierto. Una escritora saharaui, residente en Galdakao, recopila en un libro la tradición oral, fábulas y cuentos de su país de origen. Fátima El Ghalia recoge en su libro historias que le contaban sus mayores, M. Atrio, El Correo digital, 23.05.04.