WEEK 41 07.-13.10.1996


51th Session of UN General Assembly
Statements about Western Sahara at the Fourth Committee of UN G.A.
French parliamentary delegation on trip in Western Sahara
4th Sahrawi Youth Congress
Statements about Western Sahara at the Fourth Committee of UN G.A., continuation
MINURSO financing

51th Session of UN General Assembly

Mauritania, Guinea-Bissao, Botswana, Malawi and Ghana asked for a quick implementation of a fair and free referendum in Western Sahara.

Statements about Western Sahara at the Fourth Committee of UN G.A.

Jarat Chopra, Research Associate and Lecturer, Brown University, said that abandonment by the United Nations would be a tragedy for Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa, because the fate of a people and a territory were at stake. In Western Sahara, the consequences of United Nations failure might be greater than in Cambodia or Somalia, he continued. Morocco was militarily stronger, yet the tactics of the Frente Polisario did not require the same kind of strength. In the event of renewed hostilities, it was likely that the conflict would be protracted.
Mr. Chopra recommended that talks between Polisario and the Government of Morocco be convened in the presence of Member States, particularly those from the Security Council. Both parties would agree in advance to the agenda and to the members of the delegations. "Passive observers" could be present but would not participate, and "individual petitioners" could address the meetings in their own capacity. Following each meeting, Member States would report the results to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council. (full text)

Douglas K. Dryden, of the Sam Houston University in Texas, a former member of the US MINURSO forces, said that the United Nations was entering the sixth year of what had been defined as a six-month process at a cost of millions of dollars a month. While the political solution languished, Morocco enjoyed possession of the region's phosphate deposits and rich fishing grounds of the Atlantic coast. Thus, time was on Morocco's side; any delays worked to its benefit. He said there had been serious problems in the way the lists of eligible voters had been compiled by Moroccans, with evidence that Morocco had substituted voters for those who were allowed to register with the Identification Commission.
The atmosphere at MINURSO Force Headquarters in El Ayoun was practically a siege mentality. There was tampering with mail; telephones were tapped. The Mission was not allowed to function independently. The Inspector General could not grant protection to any UN employee. UN employees thus could not freely discuss matters relating to perceived shortcomings in the mission without fear of it affecting their jobs. A solution must exist that would take the concerns of both sides into account. A serious revamping of the United Nations process was needed. ( full text )

Nina May, Chairwoman of Renaissance Foundation, said the current impasse regarding the referendum in Western Sahara could be resolved by recognizing that the current process was not working. Why was the authority of MINURSO being undermined and its presence minimized? she asked. The fact that one country had virtually held another country hostage for more than 20 years seemed to have escaped international scrutiny. Observers deemed the conflict solvable, but their access to the regions and peoples had been limited. Negotiations appeared one-sided in favour of the invading country. It was difficult to believe that it had taken more than five years to identify approximately 100,000 voters in an accessible and secluded country.
She questioned the Moroccan claim that Western Sahara had always been part of Morocco. If that were true, why had Western Saharans embraced liberation from Morocco at the end of the Spanish control? The Moroccan Government was doing everything in its power to weight the referendum. Given a choice, the Sahrawis would choose freedom, independence and democracy. Regardless of the outcome of a referendum, if it were held, a negotiated settlement was necessary that would take into account the future of the people of Western Sahara. Unless the climate for an election was one of inclusion, rather than intimidation, then a referendum would be irrelevant. For the election to occur, the people must feel free.

The representative of the Polisario, Boukhari Ahmed, wished to continue its dialogue with the Moroccan Government, and requested the active presence of the United Nations in the process. He said Western Sahara was at a crossroads which could lead either to peace or to war. It was untenable to tell the Sahrawi people that self-determination was not possible and that illegal occupation must be accepted. The fate of a people, peace in the region, and the credibility of the United Nations were at stake.
In numerous ways, Morocco had thwarted the identification process, he contended. The Identification Commission had been faced with "a fraudulent plan of scandalous proportions" when Morocco submitted 181,000 applications for participation in the referendum. The Polisario was dedicated to the peace process but Morocco had supplied ample evidence that it did not intend to cooperate with the efforts of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) or the United Nations towards a just solution of the conflict.
Suspension of the self-determination referendum was a severe blow to the prospects of a peaceful solution in Western Sahara, he said. The Polisario had contributed earnestly to the efforts of the United Nations and the OAU, and was prepared to continue doing so. A return to war was not desirable for either party. The Polisario wished to continue and intensify direct dialogue begun recently with the Moroccan Government as a means to overcome the impasse. The decisions to be adopted by the Committee would make a decisive contribution in bringing about a definitive peace

French parliamentary delegation on Western Sahara trip

A French parliamentary delegation visiting Morocco as a part of french-moroccan friendship, went also to El Ayoun and Dakhla in order to "allow the French deputees to enquire about the local situation" the delegation leader Paulette Brise Pierre, RPR, said.

4th Sahrawi Youth Congress
President Abdelaziz opened the fourth Congress of the Sahrawi Youth. The Spanish Council of Youth organised the 2nd Youth Caravane for Freedom with a hundred of participants from Spain and all over Europe, convoying humanitarian aid to the refugee camps.

Mr. Boutros Ghali met privatly Bachir Moustafa Sayed, Sahrawi responsible for relations with the UN.

09.10.96 - 10.10.96
Statements about Western Sahara at the Fourth Committee of UN G.A. (continuation)

Uruguay, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa and Algeria exprimed their concern about the actual deadlock in W.S. et recommanded direct negociations between the Polisario and Morocco.
The Committee heared 4 ancient members of the Polisario now on Moroccan and also a Moroccan journalist emprisoned by the Polisario. Those testimonies repeated the Moroccan arguments about repression in the refugee camps near Tindouf, argued that the number of refugees is inflated and that the Polisario had misused humanitarian aid.
Mr. Baali, representative of Algeria, mentioned the last report of the UNHCR which had found that the Sahrawi refugee camps were open and accessible. United Nations officials had been able to circulate without impediment, questions had been asked and answered without hesitation or fear. Algerian and Sahrawi authorities had ensured free access to the Organization's officials, as well as their full support for the implementation of the mandate of the UNHCR. The UNHCR office in Tindouf was fully operational. Officials had found that during informal contacts, refugees always mentioned voluntary repatriation, but wanted to repatriate within the context of an overall settlement, rather than as spontaneous individual acts. Finally the UNHCR recognizes that the humanitarian aid arrives to the refugees.s
On his side the Moroccan representative declared his country is not responsible for the stopping of identification. He affirmed Morocco wants an authentical referendum with the participation of all Sahrawis identified by the UN Commission. The contacts between Morocco and Polisario took place and will continue. King Hassan II or his representatives will receive those people Morocco considers as its loose brothers in order to bring them back to reason and to their homeland.
Several delegations appealed the concerned parties to continue direct discussions, among them : CARICOM (Caribbean Community), Kenya, Cabo-Verde, Tanzania, Uganda, Granada, Zimbabwe, the Rio Group, Mozambique.
The Committee will prepare a resolution for the General Assembly.

MINURSO financing

The G.A. accepted to free $13.3 millions for the period of 01.07.96 to 30.11.96, and $ 18.6 millions for the period of 01.12.96 to 30.06.96 in case of prolongation of the MINURSOs mission. Actually 230 military observers, 9 members of civil police and 167 members of administration are at work. Since its creation the MINURSO has cost $231 millions.


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