Demonstrations in Lemseyed
In short an overview of the events of last month: on 24 and 25 of February manifestations took place in this oasis south of the Draa, about 60 kilometers of Tan-Tan. Several hundreds of people claimed the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence and demanded the release of Saharawi political prisoners. The demonstrators held Saharawi flags and burned a Moroccan flag. After a hard intervention of the police about hundred people were arrested.
On March 13 the AFAPREDESA communicated the names of 22 arrested individuals. Since March 4 the families of the detainees demonstrated in front of the jail of Inezgane near Agadir, asking for the release of their relatives. The warders tried to break up the people by violence. but later, after discussions with the governor of the prison, 14 detainees were released. They declared they had been tortured and ill treated. 8 of the known individuals are still in jail in very bad conditions. About 80 persons are still wanted by the Moroccan authorities, they are accused of participation to the demonstrations of Lemseyed.
On March 17 twenty persons were presented to the prosecutor of Agadir, accused of arson of public establishments, burning of Moroccan flags and of pictures of the Moroccan King, and membership to illegal organizations. The trial will take place on April 6.
The Human Rights organizations AFAPREDESA, OMCT and Serpaj Europa started urgent actions asking people to write to the Moroccan authorities and Moroccan embassies in each country. (for informations: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
12. - 14.03.98
Visit of the Saharawi President in Catalonia, contnuation
The city of Sabadell, twinned since 1989 with a Saharawi city, organized an official reception in honour of President Abdelaziz on March 12. The next day he participated to a conference organized by parliamentary groups "Peace and freedom for Western Sahara" in Barcelona. On March 14 he was received officially at Gerona, where he visited the University which collaborates to the creation of a Saharawi National Museum.
New Moroccan government: little changes
The new Prime Minister Youssoufi declared his departmental staff will give priority to three aims: Western Sahara, employment and social problems. Driss Basri stays in charge of the Interior department including the Western Sahara dossier and Filali remains Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mohamed Aujjar is the new Minister of Human Rights.
One more declaration of Basri
In an interview with the Russian weekly newspaper "Novel Vremya" the Moroccan Minister of Interior underlines that Morocco has "serious suspicion" of "cooperation" of some members of the MINURSO with the Polisario. If the MINURSO does not take action against them, " we will question the whole work of the mission", he added. (MAP)
Training for applicants or how to make Saharawi voters
In a confidential document, which reached the media, Minister Driss Basri informed last January 22 the Prefects and Governors of the kingdom that the results of the voter identification at that time do not guarantee a Moroccan success for the referendum. He orders the creation of " Training centers for identification applicants" and others measures in order to improve the rate of success of applicants' identification. The very interesting text showing the explicit manipulation methods can be read, in french only, under http: www.arso.org/01-2-53.htm
Visit to Morocco of Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
After meetings with King Hassan II and the Moroccan government, Mr Indyk, answering to a question about Western Sahara in a press conference, precised: «The Western Sahara issue is subject to a United Nations process that is being overseen by MINURSO. (....) I would just point out that the referendum was an idea originally proposed by Morocco; and, of course, Morocco is a signatory to the agreements.»
This declaration caused fierce reactions in the Moroccan press:
Al Mounaddama (OADP) of 18.03.98 : « Affirming that Morocco proposed the referendum and that it has to respect the Houston agreements, the US responsible has hurted the feelings of the Moroccan people. Mr Indyk has not gained distinction, he went too far, he did not respect his hosts, he did an injustice to the Moroccan people, in his own country...»
Libération (U.S.F.P.) of 18.03.98 :« About the Western Sahara dossier, he (Mr Indyk) recalled that " Morocco has proposed the referendum, so it has to respect the Houston agreements", without mentionning the other party and its manoeuvres with so few bearings on these cited agreements»
UN Human Rights Committee, 54th session
The representative of the Swiss NGO Centre Europe Tiers Monde said Morocco had a strange fashion of preparing itself for a referendum on Western Sahara: there was intimidation; there was taking of prisoners and others simply had disappeared. Moroccans should take a sincere, fair approach to this referendum, as it was taking place under the auspices of the United Nations. Media coverage should be fair -- currently much of it was misleading. It was difficult to have access to the area, and so difficult for neutral observers to tell if the run-up to the voting was taking place in an open, non-threatening atmosphere. The Moroccan ambassador at Geneva protested the Centre Europe Tiers Monde made fallacious allegations.
Balance of voters' identification on 19.03.98:
49'270 individuals convoked.
36'978 individuals identified.
Total since August 1994 : 97'090 individuals identified.
From March 16, 7 offices work: El Ayoun 1 et 2, Tan-Tan 2,
Goulimine, Camps of Smara and Dakhla, Zoueratt. Another office will
be opened soon in Nouadhibou.
M. Charles Dundar is on trip from 17 March going to Geneva (UNHCR), New York and Houston.
Congressional Caucus on the Western Sahara
"The purpose of the Caucus is to be an effective platform for sharing views, gaining knowledge, and expressing concerns about the Western Sahara and overseeing the referendum process". Congressmen Donald Payne, John Porter, Ed Royce, Chris Smith, and Robert Menendez are some of the first members.
Clinton Urged to Name a U.S. Special Envoy to the Western
A letter was circulated by Congressman Curt Weldon and signed by over 40 Senators and Congressmen urging President Clinton to name a U.S. Special Envoy to the Western Sahara to help ensure a free and fair referendum. Citing the appointments of past special envoys like Edmund Muskie to Namibia, former Congressman William Gray to Haiti and Richard Holbrooke to Cyprus, the letter urged such an appointment to help "ensure a smooth and balanced implementation of the settlement plan negotiated" by former Secretary of State James Baker III.
The Austrian Parliament decided unanimously the sending to the MINURSO of a troop contingent of 235 soldiers for 8 months maximum.
The Third Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor, Bangkok, Thailand, declares in its statement to be encouraged by the progress of United Nations initiatives to achieve self-determination for the people of Western Sahara through a forthcoming referendum.
The PSOE (Socialist Party) of the province of Granada adopted a resolution supporting the self-determination of the Saharawi people. It asked also the Spanish Government and the Junta of Andalucia to be more active in the support of a fair and free referendum and to send material aid to the Saharawi people.
Le Mans, France
Like other cities in France, the Town Council of the city of Le Mans adopted on February 26 the "Solidarity and watchfullness Charta - Peace and sovereignity for the Saharawi people".
Enfants Réfugiés du Monde, France
This NGO is realizing a project with the Saharawi refugees for school and extrascolar activities during the transitory period and the reinstallation in Western Sahara.
Bolton to Address Western Sahara Forum: John Bolton, will address the Defense Forum Foundation's Congressional Defense and Foreign Policy Forum at noon on Friday, March 27, 1998, in Room- B339 (basement level) of the Rayburn House Office Building.Washington DC. His topic will be: Resolving the Western Sahara Conflict..
[Summary Weekly News,] [Western Sahara Homepage]