WEEKS 25-26 : 13.06.-26.06.2004
Withdrawal of recognition by Ecuador
Ecuador is reported to have withdrawn its support of SADR. This country recognised SADR in 1983. (AFP)
Moroccan prisoners of war
The Polisario Front released 100 Moroccan prisoners of war at the request of the Republic of Ireland, the current chair of the European Union, which received emissaries from the Polisario Front last April, as well as by the Spanish government, which had recently dispatched a high ranking delegation to the camps. This release coincides with the visit to the camps of the Irish Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with Responsibility for Overseas Development and Human Rights, Tom Kitt. The ICRC proceeded with the repatriation of the prisoners on 23.06.04.
This release, the second this year, brings the number of Moroccan prisoners still being detained down to 412.
On this occasion the Polisario Front regretted that no gesture had been made on the Moroccan side to clarify the fate of some 150 Saharawi soldiers captured during the war and 500 civilians disappeared under Moroccan occupation. (ICRC News, 23.06.04: 100 Moroccan prisoners repatriated)
The Cuban Ambassador in Algeria, accredited for SADR, Alberto Blanco, carried out a working visit to the refugee camps, where he was received by President Mohamed Abdelaziz. He had talks mainly on bilateral relations of cooperation in both social and cultural fields. He also visited the Cuban mission resident in the refugee camps which is working in the field of health.(SPS)
Illegal immigration tragedy
According to an eye-witness account from a Basque fieldworker, returning from an archeological research trip conducted in the liberated territories of Western Sahara from 7-13 June 2004, the Moroccan army recently expelled 25 illegal Asian immigrants by driving them out over the other side of the wall and abandoning them, without food or papers to their sad fate. Three were gunned down. These unfortunate individuals, coming from Bangladesh and India, through the various ways and means of international mafia were intercepted by a Polisario Front patrol in the region of Mijek. It seems the UN, although on the spot through its mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), had been reluctant to take action, as this matter does not fall within its responsibility. A solution would seem to be emerging thanks to the intervention of the President of the Saharawi Parliament and the Prime Minister.
These facts only represent the tip of the iceberg of all the crimes committed towards migrants from the third world in transit countries to Europe. In Morocco and in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, favourite last staging posts for entry to the "European Eldorado", immigrants are caught practically on a daily basis and they are turned back without pity, under pressure from the European destination countries, who also bear a responsibility. >> Veinticinco emigrantes asiaticos recogidos por una patrulla des Frente POLISARIO en los territorios librados Testimonio original en español trasmitido por la Asociación de Amigos y Amigas de la RASD - traduction en français.
In May 2004, the oil company Kerr-McGee du Maroc Ltd. (KMG) continued its off-shore seismic survey in the Boujdour region, using the companies Fugro and Svitzer. KMG considers that this zone looks as if it could be as profitable as the Gulf of Mexico. ( Source: IHS Energy in Sahara update)
After Baker's resignation:
Kofi Annan's letter to the Security Council
The UN Secretary-General decided that in his capacity as Special Representative for Western Sahara, Mr. Alvaro de Soto, "will continue to work with the parties, and neighbouring countries, in pursuit of a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations". (Letter dated 11 June 2004 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2004/492)
Ahmed Boukhari, Polisario representative at the UN, to the Canary Islands press:
"Only another American will be acceptable in the eyes of the Polisario Front to replace the former Secretary of State James Baker as a special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for Western Sahara, otherwise Morocco will not respect him..." Boukhari also called on Spain to act as Portugal did for Timor in order to accomplish the decolonisation of its former colony. (agencies)
The affiliated groups of trades unions UGT, CC.OO and Intersindical Canaria, published a common manifesto of solidarity and support for the just struggle of the Saharawi people for their freedom and right to self-determination. They condemn the blockage to the peace plan by Morocco and call on Spain to shoulder its responsibilities.
The Austrian Head of State, in a letter to the President of SADR, expressed his concern about the "political developments in Western Sahara", deploring "the serious difficulties that the Saharawi people is undergoing" because of the illegal occupation of its territory by Morocco. (SPS)
Letter from Annan to Abdelaziz
"While regretting the departure of Baker, I wish to assure you that I remain firmly determined to help the parties towards a political, just and lasting solution which would be mutually acceptable and would assure the "self-determination of the people of Western Sahara", writes Kofi Annan in a letter sent to Mohamed Abdelaziz. (SPS)
In reply to a question from a member of the parliamentary group Enhedslisten, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Soern Soendergaard, assures him that his Government "does not recognise the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco", considering that the presence of the latter on Saharawi territory is illegal and unacceptable. (SPS)
Alvaro de Soto, special representative for Western Sahara charged by the UN Secretary General to continue the work of James Baker, starts a consultation tour. In Madrid he met the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and affirmed at the end of discussions that the UN "maintains the Baker Plan as a basis for the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, considering that this plan remains a viable solution to reach this goal." (agencies)
The Madrid daily La Razon let it be understood that the head of the Spanish government, Zapatero would suggest he would organise an international conference on Western Sahara (like the Israel-Palestine conference in 1991), which would bring together Morocco, the Polisario Front, the neighbouring countries of Algeria and Mauritania, as well as France and the USA. The French proposal of a meeting between Morocco and Algeria was immediately refused by Algeria not long ago. (La Razon, 15.06.04 :Zapatero y Mohamed VI preparan una conferencia en Madrid sobre el Sahara, Pedro Canales)
A spokesman for the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as other sources denied these allegations.(El Confidencial, 23.06.04: Exteriores desmiente: no habrá conferencia de paz en Madrid para resolver el conflicto del Sahara Occidental)
The Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs León declared that the right place for resolving the question of Western Sahara remained the United Nations and that his government was not in favour of a "bilateralisation". (Europa Press)
In mid-July the head of the Spanish Government Zapatero will go to Algiers. (abc 23.06.04)
parliamentary group CDU-CSU (opposition) notes in a statement that,
following the resignation of James Baker, the settlement of the
conflict of Western Sahara risks further postponement. It asks for
the immediate appointment of a new envoy of the Secretary General to
show the people of this troubled region that the exercise of their
right to self-determination is in the interests of the international
community and peace in the region. (Pressemitteilung)
On next day the SPD Parlamentary group (Social-democrats) in its pressstatementdans also asks for a new Special envoy of the Secretary-General, whose authority is accepted by both parties and who wil work seriously for a resolution of the conflict. (Pressemitteilung )
Sidi Mohammed Daddach, Tamek Ali Salem and Hmad Hammad, Saharawi human rights activists, were followed by cars belonging to the Moroccan administration in Boujdour when they tried to meet families from the camps coming on the exchange visits organised by the UNHCR. The three Saharawi activists claimed that the governor of the town had called the host families in to ask them not to receive any Saharawi activist and threatened them with prison and job loss. The three activists issued a public statement in which they recall that the Moroccan authorities watch all movements of Saharawi activists very closely and try to prevent any contact being made with the families coming from the refugee camps, adding that these hindrances to freedom of circulation are very serious and do not affect only the activists. They call for the urgent intervention of the international community to put an end to this repeated practice.
Summary of a
debate in Morocco about the conflict in the Sahara (French):
Un conflit...ensablé, La Nouvelle Tribune, 17.06.04
Interview with M. Mustapha Naimi, anthropologist, Sahara, a process towards a relevant type of autonomy is needed, La Nouvelle Tribune, 17.06.04.
Two Norwegian journalists, Tor Dagfinn Dommersnes and Fredrik Refvem, were expelled from Morocco where they had arrived on Sunday 13.06.04 complete with a press visa in due form. They intended to provide for the daily, Stavanger Aftenbladet, reportage on the political situation in the kingdom, the Sahara conflict and the problems of illegal immigration to Europe. Dommersnes had a meeting the same morning with the Saharawi dissident Moutik Lahcen. The claims of the Moroccan Minister for the Interior relayed by AFP, of contacts with Ali Salem Tamek are without foundation. This third expulsion since the beginning of the year has raised an outcry in Norway, in Morocco and elsewhere. See detailed media coverage.
Following the discovery of a SADR flag on a dispensary building in the quarter of Ain Arrahma in the town of Tan Tan, police forces proceeded to arrests in the Ain Arrahma and Ben Khalil districts. Ali-Bouya Mayara, son of a former disappeared, Hmadnah Salama Jnaieba, as well as Hassanna Med elHafed, an official in the Tan Tan Ministry of Agriculture, were apprehended. These three young Saharawis underwent long interrogations concentrating on their relations with the ex-political prisoner, Ali Salem Tamek, before being released the same day.
In response to the declarations made during the signing on 15 June 2004 of the Free Trade Agreement between Morocco and the USA in favour of maintaining the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco as an anti-terrorist measure, Congressmen Joe Pitts and Donald Payne today blasted efforts by the Kingdom of Morocco to dodge its international commitments in the name of its "territorial integrity." (Statement.)
Moroccan military authorities recruit young Saharawi graduates in Tan Tan. This new venture can be seen as an attempt to destroy the fabric of Saharawi society. This way they are conditioned to the norms and wishes of the occupying authorities and their resistance is broken. All the young Saharawis totally reject this policy, which is aimed principally at university students who have several years of study behind them.
The Sahara: Past, Present and Future, Conference at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Within the framework of its program of Saharan studies, the University of East Anglia in Norwich organised a conference bringing together over a hundred specialists in areas as diverse as archeology, sociology, political economy of tourism and natural resouces, biology, environmental science, etc. Half a day was devoted specifically to Western Sahara. >>Program with abstracts to download
9 to 17 June
Visit to France
The CMCAS of Valence (Caisse Mutuelle Complémentaire et d'Action Sociale, an organisation close to trades unions which manages social insurance and promotes sporting and cultural activities) invited, as part of initiatives of solidarity and support of the Saharawi people, the Saharawi Minister for Culture and Sport, Mariem Salek Hammada. She took part in the CMCAS Festival in Valence and after a tour in the south of France was received in various cities in the districts surrounding Paris.
At an inter-EC regatta in Lorient on 18 and 19 July, the two sailing boats hired by CMCAS of Valence were named: "Solidarity with" "the Saharawi people", they each sported a SADR flag.
About 250 representatives of 140 institutions twinned and with solidarity links with the Saharawi people from all over Spain took part in this meeting. (more to follow)
As part of this action, around 8300 children have arrived in Spain to spend the summer with host families. Saharawi children are also being offered holidays in other countries.
30th EUCOCO Conference: Zaragoza 26, 27 + 28 november 2004.
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
>> Revue de la presse internationale francophone: http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/revue-de-presse-sahara-occidental/messages
English publications on Sahara Update mailinglist: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sahara-update/messages
Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa's Last Colony? Toby Shelley, Zed Books, 2004.
>> Revista de la prensa en español http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/revista-de-prensa-sahara-occidental/messages