WEEKS 09-10 : 26.02.-11.03.2006
Humanitarian aid continues to arrive in the camps badly affected by the floods. For further details see: ARSO or Reliefweb/UN ]
Following an appeal on 24.02. by the HCR and WFP to donors and because "a serious shortfall in food aid threatens the whole population of Saharawi refugees", several governments put planes at their disposal for transport: France, Turkey and the USA.
of the 30th anniversary of SADR
[special page] - [Picture galeries on website of the SADR embassy in Algeria] - [videos by RASD-TV]
Despite the disruption caused by the floods, festivities took place in the different wilayas of the refugee camps. From 25 February, foreign delegations arrived and had the opportunity to see for themselves the extent of the damage and the setting up of the emergency operation.
In the wilaya of El Ayoun popular parades and exhibitions about traditional activities and crafts of the refugees preceded the International Conference of Solidarity with the Saharawi People, presided over by Pierre Galand and the Saharawi Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Oumar. [Final declaration in French]
The next day the guests travelled to Tifariti, a place situated in the liberated zones of the Saharawi Republic about 350 km to the west of Tindouf, to attend the ceremonies of commemoration.
An imposing military parade of soldiers of both sexes, followed by troops mounted on 150 camels, opened the ceremony in the presence of a crowd of Saharawis and many guests of honour, including two Algerian ministers, as well as representatives from various governments (African Union, South Africa, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cuba, Mexico, Timor Leste, Venezuela etc), and associations of solidarity, NGOs, MPs, elected politicians from the whole world, (Algeria, Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Greece, Guinea Bissau, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States of America,
After recalling the "shameful withdrawal of the Spanish administration without having honoured its commitments respecting the organisation of a referendum of self-determination of the Saharawi people", the head of the Saharawi state affirmed that Spain bears the responsibility for the tragedy that the Saharawi people have experienced, deprived as they are of their right to self-determination.
He spoke of the courageous resistance of the population under Moroccan occupation, who "succeeded in renewing its means of fighting and to reduce to nothing the calculations of the Moroccan coloniser". Then he exhorted the international community "to put an end to the pillaging and profiteering from its natural resources, which are the property of the Saharawi people."
Reiterating "the willingness of the Saharawi party to cooperate fully with the efforts of the international community to find a just and lasting solution to the conflict", Abdelaziz recalled that the Polisario Front had accepted in turn, the initial Settlement Plan, then the Baker Plan. He exclaimed: "The Moroccan Kingdom cannot take to itself the right to speak in the name of the Saharawis", to declare that the Saharawi party rejects globally and in detail, the autonomy proposal recently put forward by Morocco, which is only another manoeuvre in total contradiction with the United Nations Charter and the resolutions of the Security Council."
For the messages from the African Union and the heads of state of various countries (Algeria, Cuba, Mauritania, Namibia etc), from parties and liberation movements: see SPS .
To illustrate the choice of the Saharawi people for "a just and lasting peace, based on the respect of its legitimate rights to freedom and independence", the Polisario Front proceeded to destroy 3000 mines during a ceremony attended by a delegation from Geneva Call, with its president, Mrs Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey.[Geneva Call - Press Release, 01.03.06, The Polisario Front starts to destroy its landmine stockpile] This was a way to put into practice the Polisario Front's undertaking on 3 November 2005 when it signed the Geneva Call's Deed of Commitment. [Press statement 03.11.05]
The day finished with a long cultural evening in the course of which several guests, including Algerian parliamentarians and several European NGOs spoke. Old Saharawis read long poems in Hassaniya, groups of traditional musicians played and a comedian and troupe of singers and dancers performed an opera relating to the annexation of the Sahara by Morocco.
Receptions, conferences and meetings took place in the European Parliament, in Australia, in Mexico, Cuba, Spain, Italy and in Switzerland to commemorate the 30 years the Saharawi Republic has existed.
200 athletes from 17 countries took part in this sporting event which has become traditional. The marathon was won by a Spaniard, Ramon Alvarez Sainz in 3 hours 06 minutes, the half-marathon by an Irishman Michael Collins and the women's race by Chikha Abba Cheikh.
The organisation of the festivities of the 30th anniversary of SADR in the liberated Saharawi territories unleashed violent reactions from the Moroccan press and government, who called the region the "buffer zone", while, according to the cease-fire agreement, "there is a 'prohibited area' 3 km wide, to the east of the Moroccan wall, then a "buffer zone" 30 km wide, where the UN must be notified in advance of any activity". Tifariti is clearly outside this zone. The permanent mission of Morocco at the United Nations even send a letter of protest on 28 February to the UN Secretary General. [voir revues de presse dans Sahara.Info]
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO
Bachir Jenhaoui, father of a Saharawi prisoner, Likhlipha Jenhaoui [Eljanhi], was arrested by the torturer Ichi Abou Al Hacen, who confiscated documents relating to his car for "the simple reason of having asked explanations for the daily harrassments he is subjected to by the Moroccan Intelligence Services."
Human rights defence
The Moroccan Forum for Truth and Justice decided to reconstitute its Sahara branch dissolved by decree on 18.06.03 [see dossier].
At the approach of the 30th anniversary of SADR, demonstrations were held in the towns of occupied Western Sahara. Arbitrary arrests followed by heavy handed interrogations, not to say torture, were reported in Dakhla, Boujdour and El Ayoun. [détails] [detalles]
The human rights activist El Mami Amar Salem, the president of Dakhla's Committee against Torture, was arrested near the defensive wall on his way to Nouadhibou. His passport and his money were confiscated. He was beaten and tortured, then abandoned in an area close to the Mauritanian border in a condition giving cause for concern.
Mokhtar Benjelloune, abducted and tortured twice in February, was sentenced to a year in prison and fined 1000 DH for "holding and selling cannabis". The lawyers for the defence withdrew from the trial as a sign of protest against the irregularities of this case. Benjelloune is incarcerated in Inzegane. Born in 1973, he holds a master's degree in law and has been unemployed since 2001. He is vice-president of the Association of Unemployed in Goulimine and a member of the Goulimine branch of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).
A large ministerial delegation from Morocco paid a two-day visit to El Ayoun. This trip can be set in relation to the announcement made by a Moroccan daily of a visit by King Mohamed VI to occupied Western Sahara probably after 15 March. [L. de Vega, ABC, 10.03.06]
The police intervened brutally to disperse a peaceful demonstration in the quarter of Dir Eidak, composed of a majority of women brandishing SADR flags. Several arrests are reported, including two girls, Leila Said Ramdan and Meska Aminatou.
Several independence demonstrations of students. Aminetu Beiba is injured following police intervention. In Assa the arrest of Mousbahi Housam.
Nine young Saharawis arrested after demonstrations in February in this town have been transferred to the civil prison of Inzegane and presented on 2 March 2006 to the examining magistrate. They are Mohamed Lamine Sahel, Hamdi Labayed, Bachir Handi, Bachir Charguaoui, Bachir Driouech, Lekhlifa Erreguibi, Saleh Choukri, Brahim Aabanni, Mostapha Bakrim. A group bringing together trade unions, human rights associations and activists, has been constituted to work for their release and to provide solidarity with these detainees.
The Saharawi human rights activist, Mamay Ahmed Menhenoun, was dismissed from his job by the Moroccan authorities. This move comes after the forced sacking of two other Saharawi human rights defenders Oulad Cheikh El Mahjoub and Wani Beida, as well as the torture of Miské Ahmed Zein, another human rights activist who is still suffering from the injuries inflicted.
05.03.06 Abusive dismissal of a Saharawi human rights activist in the occupied city of Dakhla, [SPS, 05.03.06]
Big demonstrations of joy welcomed the arrival in Smara of the families of Loud ould Salek ould Hseina and Mheiyiba ment Ali Boulla, within the family visit scheme organised by the UNHCR.
Students waved the national colours of SADR in the demonstrations calling for the respect of the rights of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence. Elazza Babait, Maelainin Babait and Khaya Safia are arrested. Many people are injured. The families of eight students in the demonstration were given trouble.
International Women's Day
Dozens of Saharawi women demonstrated peacefully in El Ayoun on the occasion of International Women's Day, calling for the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence.
The wife of the Saharawi human rights activist Ali Salem Tamek, Mrs Aichatou Chafii, started a 24-hour hunger strike, on the occasion of International Women's Day, in protest and denunciation of the human rights abuses inflicted by the Moroccan colonial authorities in Western Sahara.
A ceremony organised in Algiers in honour of Saharawi women, for International Women's Day, in homage to their struggle for the right to self-determination of their country. The National Union of Saharawi Women, for its part, organised a meeting in Madrid for the occasion with Cristina del Valle, president of the Plataforma de Mujeres Artistas Contra la Violencia de Género.
Inauguration ceremony for Bouchaïb Rmail, the Prefect of Police replacing Ibrahim Bensami, and of Benashir, head of the Gendarmeríe Royale in occupied Western Sahara.
More independence demonstrations in six educational establishments.
The families of 15 young Saharawis disappeared since 25 December 2005 launched an appeal to the Moroccan authorities to shed light on these disappearances. Apparently these 15 young people had been summoned by the Moroccan authorities while they were getting ready to immigrate to the Canary Islands. [appeal]
The Saharawi doctor, Ali Sbai ould Mohamed Cheikh ould Sid Labbas, serving a sentence of six months' prison in Ouarzazate since 2 February last, was released. The Saharawi human rights defenders wrote a joint statement dated 8 March to the international campaign for Dr Sbai, who holds dual Swiss and Moroccan nationality. [SPS]
The coalition of 19 countries in Europe which launched on 13 February an international campaign to prevent the EU from ratifying the fishing agreement with Morocco concluded on 28 July 2005, continues its actions with letters to European MPs, governements and a petition. [see the website]
Two members of the American Congress wrote to the European Commissioner for Fishing, J. Borg: The Fishing agreement between the EU and Morocco is a violation of international law, it does not specify a ban on fishing in the territorial waters of Western Sahara. Joseph Pitts et Donald M. Payne ask for the agreement to exclude this zone. [Letter original English]
The Committee for the respect of freedoms and human rights in Western Sahara (CORELSO, France) asked the European Parliament to hold hearings for associations to speak on the "denial of international law" in the EU-Moroccan fishing agreement.
The Saharawi government asked the European Union not to include Saharawi territorial waters in its fishing agreement with Rabat.
The legal service of the European Parliament expressed its opinion on the geographical extent of the fishing agreement, which involves the "waters under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of Morocco". It concludes that the agreement is not contrary to international law and submits that "the important thing is that a share of the Community financial contribution should be set aside for the development of local populations in Western Sahara". The Legal Service suggests" that Parliament might receive an assurance from the Commission and Council that they will call on Morocco to provide the necessary guarantees in this regard, and that the Community would envisage suspending the agreement if the populations in Western Sahara do not receive part of the financial contribution". [Legal opinion by the European Parlament' Legal Service, 20.02.06 [PDF]] - [Draft opinion of the Committee on Development for the Committee on Fisheries]
The question of possession arose following a question formulated by Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark. For its part, Morocco has postponed by two months the date at which the fishing agreement comes into force, first due on 1 March and and threatens to grant fishing licences to private companies.
The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya party (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia) presented a draft motion to the Congress (lower house of the Parliament) in which it calls on the Spanish Government to recognise "officially" the Saharawi Republic.
Response of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs to the question of a member of parliament:
France "is working towards an agreed political solution to this conflict" ...and "supports the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General in this regard... France has observed with concern the deterioration of the situation which had marked the beginning of the summer 2005. This has now found greater stability... France supports the normal procedures of the presidency of the European Union on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict. It recalls the obligations which fall on each party..."
The Moroccan authorities demolished, two weeks ago, the two prisons "which served as tombs to 30 people among conspirators of two military putsches of 1971 and 1972." [Tel Quel 26.02.06]
The Moroccan authorities announced that the proposal for autonomy will be finished for April. The political parties have been called for 3 March to the royal palace for consultations. They have until 30 March to formulate proposals.
The Ennahdj Eddimocrati party (the democratic way) refused to take part in the meeting, believing that the solution to the conflict in Western Sahara can only be found "within the context of a referendum of self-determination" and in "the return to international legality". Ennahdj Eddimocrati called for the holding of a national conference which would bring together the authorities, the political actors and Moroccan civil society, as well as Saharawi activists from the territories administered by Morocco and those outside Morocco around this question. [Statement in Arabic] and [French]
After a visit to Germany, the Moroccan Prime Minister, Driss Jettou had talks in Brussels on 8 March with the President of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso. He also met the former head of the Spanish Government, José Maria Aznar, to acquaint himself with the position of the Popular Party on the subject of Morocco's autonomy proposal. The Spanish Government is thought to have already accepted this "solution". After Brussels the Moroccan Prime Minister went to Chile for the investiture ceremony for the new president, Michelle Bachelet.
Concerning Western Sahara, Mr Bouteflika recalled during a lunch given in honour of the Korean President, Mr Roh Moo-Hyun, on 12 March, that it remains "one of last territories whose decolonization is still pending". "It is the responsibility of the United Nations to bring to this decolonization to a satisfactory conclusion" he stated.
The ambassador and permanent representative of Algeria with the Office of the United Nations and international organisations in Switzerland, Idriss Jazaïry, affirmed that the "much awaited" negotiation between Morocco and the Polisario Front "should take place" and that "no solution could be upheld in despite it (Polisario Front) or without its knowledge". Mr. Jazaïry, speaking on the occasion of the commemorative ceremony for the 30th anniversary of the creation of SADR, organised in Geneva, declared that "negotiation should have as its basis and objective the satisfaction of the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination". "Any other measure in particular, when it ignores this right or when it claims to prejudge in advance the outcome of the choice of this people is anti-democratic and is doomed to fail," he said. [El Moudjahid, 11.03.06]
The library of the Marguerite Emery Centre for the documentation and promotion of human rights (CEMEM), was inaugurated at the headquarters of the Association of Families of Saharawi Prisoners and Disappeared (AFAPREDESA), at Chahid El Hafed, under the presidency of its president, Abdessalam Oumar (Marguerite Emery, who lives in Geneva, is a long-standing activist in BIRDHSO).
- La III edición del Festival Internacional de Cine del Sáhara (FISAHARA), que se celebrará en el campamento saharaui de El Aaiún entre el 4 y el 9 de abril, tendrá como país invitado a Cuba. A partir de esta edición, FISAHARA, que dirige el realizador Javier Corcuera, va a dedicar una sección especial a un país invitado, con la proyección de una selección de sus películas. El festival mantiene sus habituales secciones de cine para niños, cine documental o cine de temática saharaui. [El Mundo, 09.03.06]
- El vuelo charter de Catalunya se realizará del 12 al 17 de abril. Para más información e inscripción: www. saharacatalunya.org
[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
>> Revista de la prensa en español http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/revista-de-prensa-sahara-occidental/messages
Attualità in italiano: El Ouali Bologna + Radio for Peace
RASD, proclamada ha 30 anos ( La RASD, proclamée il y a 30 ans), "Noticias", Mozambique, 28/02/2006. [L'article a, brièvement, relaté l'histoire de l'occupation du Sahara Occidental et a longuement commenté le discours du Président Mohamed Abdelaziz à Tifariti. Il a, pariculièrement, mis en exergue la responsabilité de l'Espagne dans le processus de la decolonisation du territoire, la mauvaise situation des Droits de l'Homme et l'oppression sauvage que subissent les saharaouis dans les territoires occupés.]