WEEKS 37 - 38 : 05.09.-18.09.2004
The Saharawi Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, was received in Antananarive by the Madagascan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marcel Ranjeva, to whom he handed a message from President Mohamed Abdelaziz concerning bilateral relations and the latest developments in the question of Western Sahara.
Navarro, reaffirmed his support for the "struggle of the Saharawi people for independence" during a meeting with a Saharawi delegation led by the President of the Parliament, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, accompanied by the Minister Counselor to the Presidency, Ahmedou Souilem and the Saharawi Ambassador in Panama, Salama Teyeb. The same declaration was made by the President of the Panamanian Parliament, Jerri Wilson, two days later to the delegation, meeting with all the members of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mohamed Abdelaziz attended in Ouagadougou the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government from the African Union, devoted to "Strategies for job creation/promotion and sustainable improvement in the means of subsistence". Mr Abdelaziz was accompanied by a delegation comprising Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Khaddad, Coordinator with MINURSO, Malainin Sadiq, Minister Counselor to the Presidency, Zannan Mohamed Brahim, Ambassador for the AU and Aabdati Breika, Press Adviser to the President.
Statement Mohamed Sidati about terrorism.
Spain - Popular Party
The Secretary of External Relations of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), Jorge Moragas, paid a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps. "My trip is a response to an invitation from the Polisario Front, he declared, with the aim of informing ourselves on the ground, about the situation in which over 120,000 Saharawi refugees find themselves, to find out how the Saharawi authorities assess the present state of the UN peace process and finally to reiterate to the Saharawi people the PP's position on the conflict", a position which "is in favour of a negotiated solution between the parties within the framework of the United Nations resolutions". It is the first time that the PP, which has always maintained contact with the Polisario Front, has sent a leader on an official visit to the refugee camps. Moragas met the Secretary General of the Polisario Front, the Prime Minister together with members of the government, as well as the UN Special Representative, Alvaro de Soto. Moragas asked the Spanish government again not to modify the position of the previous government and underlined that the vagueness and improvisation of the new socialist government had aroused distrust and suspicion among the Saharawi population. [La Razon, 12.09.04]
Diplomatic Recognition - Embassy opening
South Africa announced its official recognition of SADR in a joint statement signed by the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dlamini-Zuma and her Saharawi counterpart, Ould Salek, bringing to pass a promise made by Nelson Mandela 8 years ago in 1996.[week27/1996]
South Africa had justified its long "postponement", which has not prevented very close relations between the two partners, on account of "advice" from friendly countries dating from their struggle against apartheid (Morocco, France, the USA as well as some Arab countries, as it happens) and on the pretext of not wanting to interfere in the process of self-determination in progress. The final step was motivated, according to official sources, by a decision in keeping with the principles and aims of the AU and the UN Charter. It is a consequence of Morocco's intransigent attitude, which, after having accepted the UN Peace Plan for some years, now refuses any solution which supports the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. Even though, according to official sources, the decision had already been made known to Morocco last month, and was well-founded, the reaction of the authorities of the Kingdom was brisk: immediate recall of the ambassador and virulent words.
The SADR Embassy was officially opened on 16.09 in Pretoria in the presence of the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs and members of the Saharawi delegation to the Pan African Parliament which is in session at the moment at Midrands (SA). During the inaugural session of this body of the AU, created last March, President Thabo M'Beki described as "shameful" the fact that the people of Western Sahara had not yet been able to exercise their right to self-determination. He called on the members of the Parliament to work for a solution to the conflict." Special page- Page spéciale - Pagina especial [press revue, reactions, etc]
Official Visit of the Venezuelan Minister for Energy and Mines, Rafael Ramirez, emissary of Hugo Chavez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
On 21 August 2004 Mohamed Mahmoud Fakak, born in 1973 in El Ayoun, was arrested for having destroyed a photo of the king on a poster in street in Smara. He was tortured for six days before being forced to signed a false statement (drug trafficking...). He was sentenced on 27.08.04 by the Court of First Instance in El Ayoun, in the absence of his lawyer and his family, to 2 years in prison. He is in the Black Prison. These facts only became known later due to the new method of the authorities which consists in keeping secret arrests and those held in custody. Sentences are given quickly without lawyers or outside observers.
News from the occupied territories and southern Morocco
SMARA , 06-07.09.04:
A sit-in of unemployed graduates was brutally dispersed. The next day the town was decorated in Saharawi flags and leaflets promoting independence which were removed at dawn by the highways department.
TANTAN, 06.09.04 :
Saharawi flags and banners hostile to the Moroccan authorities were put up in the streets. The police and the army redoubled their controls and check points.
A protest demonstration against administrative dysfunction and poor living conditions led to claims for independence and protest against the Moroccan authorities. The police intervened.
On 14 September, another demonstration brought out the greater part of the Saharawi population into the streets of the town, protesting against poor living conditions, but also calling for independence. On arriving outside the prefecture, the demonstrators were blocked by the forces of "order". [AFAPREDESA]
A journalist, a special reporter from the Spanish daily, La Vanguardia, met in Smara, a Saharawi human rights activist, sentenced to five years in prison for his presumed links to the Polisario Front. After his release from prison he was again detained for several months in the Black Prison of El Ayoun, after having met Spanish journalists during a visit of Mohamed VI to the Sahara. He was later appointed President of the Committee of Victims of Smara 2001. He testified to the rejection of the pro-Moroccan policy of the new Spanish government by the Saharawi human rights defenders and their desire to see the Baker plan implemented.[La Vanguardia, 06.09.04]
The Saharawi activist, Ali Salem Tamek received a warm welcome during his visit to Dakhla. Meetings were organised with young people, shop keepers and officials to discuss human rights abuses committed by the authorities of the occupation towards Saharawi citizens. [corr.]
Two political prisoners, Mohamed Mustafa Hadad and Mohmed Mahmud Fakak, recently sentenced, saw their prison terms made longer at appeal. During his trial, Mohamed Haddad rejected the false charges brought against him and protested at the torture he had undergone. He admitted to the act of having replaced a Moroccan flag with a Saharawi flag to show his support of self-determination of the Saharawi people. The sentence of 8 months in prison and 5000 dirhams' fine was increased to 2 years by the court of appeal.
Mahmoud Fakak accused the police and the examining magistrate of having falsified the accusation statement (drug trafficking confessed under torture) and affirmed loud and clear his conviction in favour of self-determination, recognising that he had torn down a photo of the King Mohamed VI, symbol of the Moroccan occupation. His speech was punctuated by statements in favour of independence and was disturbed by the intervention of policemen who, on the order of the judge, tried to silence him and ended up taking him out of the hearing room. His prison term of 2 years was doubled to 4 years by the appeal court. As usual the trial of Saharawi activists was the occasion for a large police presence. [corr.]
Tour of the region of UN Special Representative and Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General, M. Alvaro de Soto.
Mr Alvaro de Soto was received in Meknès by King Mohamed VI. The audience took place in the presence of Mohamed Benaïssa, Moroccan Minster of Foreign Affairs, Al Mostafa Sahel, Minister of the Interior, Taib Fassi Fihri, Minister delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Mohamed Bennouna, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco with the United Nations. According to the official statements the sovereign recalled his position in favour of a negotiated political solution within the framework of "the sovereignty of the Kingdom" and respect for its "territorial integrity". The Special Representative then went to El Ayoun, to the headquarters of MINURSO.
On the eve of the visit of the UN Special Representative, the Saharawi President, in a statement recalled that:
- the question of Western Sahara is a problem of decolonisation,
- the Polisario Front wants to continue its cooperation with the UN but regrets the departure of Baker,
- Morocco is responsible for the blockages,
- the mission of Mr Alvaro de Soto "cannot go outside the framework defined by Security Council resolutions 1495 and 1541, which call for the implementation of Mr Baker's Peace Plan, as an optimal political solution to the conflict of Western Sahara".
- the Polisario Front rejects "any attempt to take the problem of Western Sahara outside the context of decolonisation". [SPS]
It is the Saharawi Prime Minister who received the UN envoy, in the presence of Mr M'Hamed Khaddad, member of the National Secretariat and Coordinator with MINURSO. At the end of the meeting the Prime Minister declared that "any attempt to get around the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence is bound to fail." He warned that the Baker plan "cannot be remodeled or readjusted" and that it is "a whole to take or leave as laid down by its author and accepted as such by the Polisario Front". [SPS]
Alvaro de Soto, for his part, made clear that "the Secretary General asked me to continue to work with the parties and the neighbouring countries to seek a political solution which is just and lasting and acceptable to the parties", a solution "which gives self-determination to the people of Western Sahara following terms and conditions of the UN Charter".[Exploratory tour of the UN Representative for Western Sahara, UN News 14.09.04]
In Algiers, Mr de Soto had talks with the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who recalled the position of Algeria, which "is neither the guardian nor the spokesman for the Saharawis". The head of Algerian diplomacy underlined that "Algeria held to the settlement plan, international law and the peace agreement adopted by the United Nations".
Spain - parliamentary debates
Debates on the policy of the Zapatero government on Western Sahara took place in both parliamentary chambers.
The Senate adopted a motion from the Popular Party which insists on the government adopting actions in favour of a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people. Formulated in restrictive terms, it rejects steps towards bilateral or regional negotiations and demands the implementation of the Baker plan. For this reason it did not receive approval from the PSOE, which abstained. As for the Congress, it adopted an agreed text unanimously by all the groups, including the PSOE. The text asks the government to defend a solution to the conflict within the framework of the UN, in accordance with international law, and to promote any political initiative capable of contributing to an agreement by the parties,and which respects the right to self-determination in conformity with the UN Charter.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moratinos expresses his annoyance after the vote in the Senate and declares that the Baker Plan is not "sacrosanct". This makes observers say that Spain, which is president of the Security Council this month, rather than arguing for a technical extension of MINURSO's mandate, could, with France, argue for the Baker Plan to be put back in the melting pot.[Mocion publicada en el Boletín Oficial de las Cortes Generales, Senado, Serie I, número 68, de fecha 13 de septiembre de 2004). (Núm. exp. 662/000023] [Proposición no de Ley sobre la situación del pueblo saharaui. (162/000121), Texto completo PDF]
The president of Eusko Alkartasuna (EA), Begoña Erratzi, met the head of the Spanish government and asked him to continue to demand a referendum in Western Sahara and the implementation of the UN's resolutions.
France - Spain
On the question of knowing if France was ready to respond positively to Moratinos' appeal to work in concert with Spain to draw up a joint position and initiative on the case of Western Sahara, the spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied: "You know that France favours the search for a realistic and lasting political solution to the question of Western Sahara, which will attract the agreement of both parties within the framework of the United Nations. In this context, we fully support the action of Mr Alvaro de Soto, Special Representative of the UN SG. On this subject, we regularly work with all the members of the Security Council, including therefore, Spain." [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France, 15.09.04]
Brussels - European Union
The new intergroup of the European Parliament "Peace for the Saharawi People" re-constituted itself in the course of this summer's elections. About fifty parliamentarians are members of it. Karen Scheele, MEP, an Austrian socialist, was called to chair the group and an executive was elected. The inaugural session examined the principal lines of future activity and made a survey of the present situation, with a contribution from Mohamed Sidati, Saharawi Minister responsible for Europe.
En torno a mil quinientas personas se manifestaron el pasado viernes 03.09.04 por las calles de Palma de Mallorca bajo el lema de "Sáhara, no más traiciones", en defensa del pueblo saharaui y su derecho a la autodeterminación.
L'association espagnole Plataforma de Mujeres Artistas contra la Violencia de Género (women artists against gender violence), accompagnée de personnalités politiques, du monde de la culture et des médias d'Espagne, soit près de 150 personnes, a organisé un voyage à Alger où elle a été rejointe par une forte délégation de femmes sahraouies et algériennes.
Le but de la manifestation était de remercier le gouvernement et le peuple algérien pour leur soutien à la cause sahraouie et d'appeler au respect de la légalité internationale concernant la question du Sahara Occidental. Au nom de la délégation la chanteuse espagnole Cristina Del Valle, ambassadrice de la paix de l'ONU, a appelé le gouvernement espagnol à "réparer la faute historique commise il y a plus de 30 ans à l'encontre du peuple sahraoui". De nombreuses rencontres avec la société civile algérienne, des femmes parlementaires, des institutions (Sénat, APN et APW), CNASPS. Un grand concert pour la paix avec des artistes espagnoles, algériennes et sahraouies a couronné l'événement. Le CNASPS accueille les délégations espagnole et sahraouie. Soutien à la femme et à la cause sahraouies, [La Nouvelle République, Karima Bennour, 08-09-2004] [Declaración final]
An evening of solidarity with the Saharawi people was held at the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney to launch a documentary about the Australian visit to Western Sahara and the refugee camps last April. The function was hosted by the President of the Legislative Council, the Hon Dr. Meredith Burgmann, MLC, who had led the Australian delegation. She said "The Saharawi are very dedicated, very focused, very united and they only want one thing, to be able to return to their own country and live in freedom."
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