WEEKS 15 - 16 : 08.04. - 21.04.2007
02-05.04.07, African Union
A Saharawi delegation took part, in Tunis, in a regional consultation on the African Union’s Protocol relating to women’s rights in Africa. [SPS]
Aichatou Ramdane, wife of Ali Salem Tamek, presented to Saharawi war and mine victims, the solidarity prize "Juan Antonio Gonzalez Caraballo", awarded in 2005 to her husband. [SPS]
08-14.04I.07, 14th congress of the International Democratic Federation of Women (FDIM), Caracas
In his speech, president Hugo Chavez exhorted all countries to recognise the Saharawi Republic. A delegation of the National Union of Saharawi Women took part in the proceedings. During the final session a motion of solidarity with the Saharawi people in their struggle for their legitimate rights to freedom and independence was adopted. The FDIM is one of the largest international women’s organisations in the world. [SPS]
17.04.07, anti-personnel mines
The Western Sahara official of the British NGO Landmine Action, Zlatko Gegic, presided in Tifariti over a ceremony promoting 15 specialists in de-mining. The President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, the Minister of Defence, Mohamed Lemine Bouhali, the deputy Director of the United Nations Service for Action against Landmines, Patrick Tillet and the Commander of MINURSO, Kurt Mosgaard, attended the ceremony. [SPS]
The President of the Saharawi Republic sent another letter to the UN Secretary General to ask him to protect Saharawi civilians in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. [full text SPS]
TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO
Repression has not stopped and arbitrary arrests continue.
Mohamed Salem Boussoula, 1989, was taken on 28 March out of El Ayoun, undressed, beaten and humiliated. Boussoula was interrogated about participants in the intifada. He was threatened with being charged with dealing in drugs and illegal immigration before being abandoned there. Some days later Seif Eddine Ould Omar Saman, 1991, a pupil in the second preparatory year, was taken to a police station, beaten and interrogated on who writes independence graffitis and hands out SADR flags. The interrogation was accompanied by threats of sexual abuse and torture. Saman was released the same day. [ASVDH]
On 18 April, six young Saharawis, mostly minors, were arrested following demonstrations, some had been questioned several times before. Still in El Ayoun, school children Oum Loukhout Mohamed El Abd and Ahl Elmehdi Mohamed were arrested and beaten for having taken part in the welcoming of a family coming from the refugee camps within the program of UNHCR exchanges.[SPS]
Departures by boat from Western Sahara to destinations in the Canary Islands have begun again. 17 illegal immigrants arrived on 9 April on Gran Canaria, 13 of them were stated to be Saharawis. [agencies]
Mothers of the 15 Saharawis, disappeared while attempting to emigrate towards the Canary Islands in December 2005 gathered outside the wilaya of El Ayoun to demand clarification on the fate of their children, whom they suppose to be imprisoned. On 12 April the police force brutally attacked the gathering, injuring several people, who continued the sit-in. [SPS] [more]
The Saharawi human rights defender, Ali Salem Tamek returned without any problems to El Ayoun. On the other hand, people coming to welcome him were prevented from entering the airport by various police forces. [Collective of Saharawi human rights defenders CODESA]
17.04.07, El-Ayoun – trial
Saharawi political detainees, El-Wali Amidane and Bachri Ben Taleb were sentenced to five years in prison. Yahdih Ettarouzi to a year and a half. The court postponed the appeal hearing of six other Saharawi political detainees until 15 May 2007. [more about the trial in a CODESA Report]
Mohamed Tahlil, former political prisoner and president of the committee of the Boujdour branch of ASVDH (Saharawi Association of victims of serious human rights abuses by the Moroccan state) was arrested at the gate of El Ayoun, where he wanted to attend the trial. Taken to an unknown spot, he was tortured for several hours. In the evening he was expelled from the town and prohibited from returning to El Ayoun.
Tahlil was arrested in August 2005, sentenced to 3 years in prison and released on 22 April 2006. On 30 April 2006 he was again arrested, tortured and abandoned in the desert 50 km from
Boujdour. On 11 August 2006, the Moroccan authorities refused him a passport. On 11 October 2006 he was arrested at the Mauritanian border when returning from Nouadhibou, then arrested a second time 40 km from Dakhla, insulted and beaten.
20.04.07, Fez and Agadir
A gathering of Saharawi students in Fez, protesting against the military occupation of Western Sahara, was violently dispersed by the police. Similar incidents are reported in the University of Agadir.
A ship named Celerina from the Swiss company Oceana Shipping arrived on 11 April 2007 at Grand View Anchorage, in Louisiana, bringing phosphate from Western Sahara.
An oil exploration agreement signed by the Irish company Island Oil and Gas with Morocco is illegal, being contrary to international law, declared Sidi Mohamed Omar, Polisario Front representative for the United Kingdom and Ireland on Irish radio News Talk 106. A Labour member of the Irish parliament, Michael Higgins, who was taking part in the program, called on the Irish government to “take any measures necessary to prevent Irish companies becoming involved (in projects) in occupied Western Sahara”. [SPS]
A ship named Tigris arrives in the port of Lyttleton on 23 April and on 26 April in Napier, transporting phosphate sourced in Western Sahara.
The Foreign ministry spokesman described the Moroccan autonomy proposal as “a constructive step” and “the possible basis for taking up negotiations again” capable of “leading to an agreed political solution by all the parties within the framework of the United Nations”.
[point de presse MAE]
The secretary of International Relations of the PSOE, Elena Valenciano, declared in an interview that the PSOE will shortly be organising a delegation led by the secretary to the Social Movements, Pedro Zerolo, with the aim of discussing with Polisario leaders how an agreement with Morocco could be reached. The Polisario Front has warned that it will not receive the delegation unless it is to discuss cooperation or self-determination. [Europa Press]
During talks with the Madrid daily, ABC (09.04.07), the Saharawi Prime Minister, Abdelkader Taleb Omar declared himself disappointed with the position of the Spanish government, aligned with Morocco, while the parliament and the majority of the population are of a completely different opinion. “We cannot accept the sale of Spanish arms to Morocco nor the alignment with Moroccan positions”, he underlined, adding that “Spain had a moral and historic debt with our people”.
While the Moroccan government welcomes the “positive and encouraging” position of the Spanish government, the latter has aroused many reactions within Spain.
Several demonstrations of protest against the policy of the government have taken place from 12-14 April, in Barcelona, Madrid, Santander, Valencia, Cádiz, Jaén, Seville and Málaga. In this last town, about a hundred people shut themselves for eight hours in the town hall.
The Spanish Associations of solidarity with the Saharawi people organise again in Madrid on 21 April a protest march to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Associations of Saharawis in Spain are gathering to protest outside the headquarters of the PSOE. [Declaracion 21.04.07] [Manifiesto, 21.04.07]
The president of
the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,
PSOE, during an electoral meeting in Tenerife on 14 April, called the
Saharawi territorial waters “Moroccan”. The vice-president of the
Association of Friendship with the Saharawi people of the Canaries,
Alberto Negrin, protested claiming they are Saharawi. This declaration
cost him expulsion, several hours of interrogation in the police
station and a penal action. One would have believed onself to be in
Izquierda Unida, which is part of the government coalition, denounced the “inacceptable submission” of the Spanish government to the Moroccan position, which “weakens the defence of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people”.
The opposition of the right seeks also to draw profit from the change in position of the government. The spokesman of the Parti populaire in the parliament, Gustavo de Arístegui, declared on 12 April that Morocco and the Polisario Front defend extreme positions and that it was necessary to abandon them in favour of a viable, fair and negotiated solution, under the auspices of the UN and acceptable to the two parties.
In the Senate, the former minister Josef Piqué, Popular Party, lodged a proposition which asks the government to clarify its position on the question of Western Sahara. It was accepted on 17 April unanimously (that is with the votes of the PSOE). It “points out to the government that the solution to the conflict in Western Sahara must involve recognition by both parties, of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people”. The representative of the Polisario Front in Spain, Brahim Ghali, welcomed the adoption of this motion, a month after that of a similar motion in the parliament. [Europa Press]
10.04.07, UN - Peace plan
The Polisario Front handed the UN Secretary General a plan for solving the conflict which is “flexible and constructive”, in accord with “the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, and which calls all to the exercise by the Saharawis of their right to a vote on their self-determination by a free and legitimate referendum”. According to the Polisario Front representative, Ahmed Boukhari, this plan is “open to cooperation and to a good neighbour relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco and all the countries of the region” and proposes a “special relationship” with Morocco in the field of economy, commerce and security. [full text] [arabic]
10.04.07, USA - Morocco
The American under-secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Burns, received a Moroccan delegation and declared that the autonomy proposal was "a serious and credible proposal to provide real autonomy for the Western Sahara." [statement] Read also an analysis of the US politics published in UPI Outside View : Elliot Abrams' Maghreb plot, By Clayton E. Swisher, April 13, 2007.
11.04.07, Morocco -UN
Morocco finally handed the UN Secretary General the “Moroccan initiative for negotiating an autonomy statute for the Sahara”.
The Moroccan minister for the Interior, Chakib Benmoussa, received in Rabat Julian Harston, the special representative of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara in the context of a tour of the region. Harston had met the day before the minister delegate for Foreign Affairs, Taïeb Fassi Fihri.
The Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Bedjaoui, is in Moscow to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Western Sahara. [Itar-Tass]
A delegation from the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi People was handed to the UN representative in Brussels, an appeal to the United Nations Secretary General carrying 9,000 signatures, exhorting him to respect the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. [Communiqué]
13.04.07, UN Secretary General’s report S/2007/202
Ban Ki-moon notes the Moroccan and Saharawi proposals and recommends the two parties to “engage in negotiations without prior conditions, in order to reach a just and mutually acceptable solution, which would allow the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.” He recommends to bring in the neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania. The Secretary General cites the attacks on the right to freedom of expression, of association and assembly as well as the unfair trials, and affirms that the High Commission for human rights continues to follow the situation. “Even though MINURSO has neither the mandate nor the resources to take on this question, the UN is resolved that international norms in the matter of human rights should be respected”. He proposes the extension of the mandate of MINURSO of six months.
In a written statement, Mhamed Khaddad declared himself “satisfied” with the report, “which constitutes new proof of the attachment of the United Nations to international law through the reaffirmation of the right to the Saharawi people to self-determination”. Khaddad pointed out “the particular attention paid [in the report] to the violations of human rights by the Moroccan forces of occupation” in Western Sahara. The president of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, speaking on Algerian national radio, described the report as “normal and balanced”.[SPS]
Algeria welcomes with satisfaction the report of the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and welcomes the fact that the Secretary General reiterates the proposal of negotiations under the auspices of the UN, between the two parties to the conflict, in order to reach a political solution ensuring the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, stated the spokesman for the Algerian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.[APS, 17.04.07]
Morocco for its part made it known that the report of the High Commission for human rights, quoted by Ban Ki-Moon, is “incomplete” and “does not reflect the reality of the situation in the southern regions and the development of the country in a general way in relation to the matter [of human rights].”
Miroslav Lajcak, director general of political affairs in the Slovakian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had talks in Bratislava with the Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO, Mhamed Khaddad. According to SPS, Lajcak declared that his country, a current member of the Security Council, “supports a solution within the framework of the United Nations accepted by the parties and which respects the free choice of the people of Western Sahara”. [SPS]
The Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Massimo D'Alema, affirmed during a press conference in Algiers, that Italy remains attached to its traditional position concerning the question of Western Sahara and continues to uphold the solution of the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. [SPS]
17.04.07, "Lines in the Sand"
The intergroup of the European Parliament, Peace for the Saharawi People, in collaboration with the Swedish Olof Palme Institute organised a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. Jaume Saura Estapa, professor of international law in the University of Barcelona, Cecilia Malmström, Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Ana Gomes, Portuguese MEP and Régine Villemont, secretary general of AARASD, spoke on the exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara. Mrs Malmström emphasised that the EU-Moroccan fishing agreement is illegal in the eyes of Sweden. She confirmed the commitment of the new Swedish government to the “right of the Saharawi people to self-determination in accordance with the resolutions of the UN”. The former Saharawi disappeared, Djimi el-Ghalia, vice-president of de ASVDH [texte complet], Ali Lmrabet, a Moroccan journalist and Lars Björk, a Swedish journalist testified to the attacks on human rights in Western Sahara. [Compte-rendu détaillé Représentation du Front POLISARIO en Europe, 18.14.07]
“The presidency of the European Union welcomes the fact that Morocco and the Polisario Front have submitted to the UN new proposals with a view to eventual settlement of the conflict in Western Sahara. The European Union supports all the efforts deployed by the UN to reach, on the basis of relevant resolutions of the Security Council, a peaceful, consensual solution to this conflict.” [statement]
20.04.07, Security Council
At the end of consultations of the Security Council on the question of Western Sahara, the Saharawi representative at the UN, Ahmed Boukhari, in a written statement, expressed the satisfaction of the Polisario Front, the majority of the members of the Council having underlined the importance of the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and expressed their concerns on the subject of human rights abuses in the territories occupied by Morocco. The majority of the Council pronounced themselves in favour of direct negotiations between the two parties. [SPS]
The King created, within the Ministry of the Interior, a particular cell responsible for the promotion of the autonomy proposal. It is formed by three Saharawis elevated to the rank of walis, Mohamed Ali El Admi [Omar Hadrami, former leader in the Polisario Front, former governor of the province of Settat], Mohamed Rachid Douihi and Khalil Dkhil, two former members of PUNS, the party set up in the 70s by Spain to oppose the Polisario Front. [see a comment in Bakchich.info, translated by Western Sahara Info and with more info]
China has designated Morocco among the nine priority countries for setting up Chinese businesses, principally in the oil and gas sectors, to which financial advantages will be accorded.
An American delegation arrived in Tan Tan to organise joint military exercises planned in the region, "African Lion 07", in which 2,000 Moroccan soldiers and 300 American military will be involved. It is the third time since 2005 that such exercises have taken place in the region. [Diario de Lanzarote]
Dassault Aviation will sell 18 Rafale combat planes to Morocco.
A representative of UNICEF in Algiers, Raymond Janssens, considers that the situation of the Saharawi refugees in the camps “is precarious and dramatic but not catastrophic”. To face up to this situation, UNICEF has initiated since 2005 a program to develop family vegetable gardens. An annual budget of 250 000 euros has been released in addition to 250 000 supplementary euros made available by the European Union. UNICEF has drawn up a five-year program (2007-2011) costing 10 million dollars which will be spread across the sectors of health, education and protection of the rights of children and women.
[RASD-L’UNICEF s’inquiète du sort des réfugiés sahraouis, De notre envoyée spéciale Fatiha Arab, Le Courrier d'Algérie, 09.04.07, p. 24]
More information on the program of family gardens in the camps with photos:
The WFP welcomes the contribution of 1 million euros granted by ECHO, the department of humanitarian aid of the European Union, towards the Saharawi refugees in Algeria. [Reliefweb]
Février 2007, Norvège
For first time representatives of the Norwegian authorities visited the refugee camps in Algeria. The delegation was accompanied by delegates ofNorwegian Church Aid. [en français] [Report in norwegian]
05.04.07, Province de Florence
Le Conseil provincial a approuvé à l'unanimité une motion demandant au président du gouvernement provincial et au président du Conseil provincial d'écrire au ministre des Affaires étrangères D'Alema et au Secrétaire général des Nations unies Ban, les exhortant à trouver enfin une solution à la question du Sahara Occidental. [Due lettere: al ministero degli Esteri e all’ONU per risolvere la questione saharawi]
«Fighting the ‘Wall of Silence : Views from the Solidarity Movement with the Sahrawi People in Spain», Abel Al Jende Medina, GEISA Research Group, Department of Social Anthropology. University of Seville, Spain. (international workshop about "Forgotten Conflicts: Permanent Catastrophes ?", Colgate University, Hamilton, New York).
Segunda Semana solidaria con el pueblo saharaui, 23-27 de abril 2007, Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de Malaga. Org.: Grupo de alumnos universitarios por Africa. Infos: http://www.centrodeiniciativas.es
25.04.07, 19-20.30 h., l'émission "Les oreilles loin du front", consacrée à la situation au Sahara Occidental, accueille Julien Dedenis. Elle peut être reçue en région parisienne sur le 106.3FM ou en direct ou podcast, via internet par ce lien: http://www.loldf.org/divers/podcast.html
[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: http://www.saharawi.org/saharawi.htm + Radio for Peace http://www.radiokcentrale.it/du.htm