An Open Letter about the Problem of Western Sahara
on the Occasion of the TICAD III
(Tokyo International Conference of African Development)


To Prime Minister Mr. Junichiro Koizumi

Foreign Minister Ms Junko Kawaguchi


The third Conference of TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) will be held in Tokyo this coming October 2003. This is one of the most important conferences in the World for African development, for which the Japanese Government has been playing an important part as one of the sponsors. We regard this coming conference as an important occasion for the Japanese Government to show its basic policy toward Africa.

Now we must point out the fact that at the preceding conferences of TICAD 1993 and 1998 Morocco was invited quite normally, although the country has been occupying Western Sahara illegally. On the other hand the problem of Western Sahara was totally ignored, as if there were no such problem. We cannot accept that the same thing would happen at the TICAD III. If Morocco will be invited, a representative of Western Sahara should be also invited, because this is recognised by the UN as non-self-governing territory territory which exists outside of Moroccan sovereignty. If this should prove impossible, Morocco should not be invited either.

The Japanese Government has repeatedly emphasised in its Blue Paper on Foreign Policy as well as on different occasions like TICAD or symposiums on conflicts in Africa its readiness to contribute to settlement or prevention of conflicts in Africa. And in spite of many domestic disputes the Japanese Government dispatched its expeditionary forces or election watching missions to African countries, e.g. to the former Zaire or Mozambique.

Quite different is its attitude toward the MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), which has been organised 1991 for implementation of the referendum over Western Sahara. The Japanese Government did not send any envoy to this mission until now. It means that the Japanese Government neither expressed its constructive ideas nor undertook any activities for settlement of the problem. It is quite passive and inactive not only at the UN deliberations but also for the domestic information about the problem. Beside there is no entry of Western Sahara in the lists of responsibilities, which are placed in the Internet site of the Foreign Ministry. Therefore it is inevitable to be understood that the Japanese Government has approved the Moroccan illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

If in this context only one of the parties concerned, namely Morocco, is invited to such an important conference like TICAD, it must be construed that the sponsor refuses its neutrality, which is indispensable for settlement of such conflicts, and obviously supports Morocco's occupation.

Therefore we ask you the following questions. We consider these as essential questions about the basic policy of the Japanese Government not only toward the problem of Western Sahara, but also toward Africa. We request your sincere answers till May 30. 2003.

We have already released these questions to the persons and organisations supporting Western Sahara in Japan and in foreign countries. We will release your answers as well. If we get no answers, we will also make public that fact.

1) The exiled government of Western Sahara (the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR) became a regular member of the OAU 1982, participating in its conferences and meetings at all levels since 1984, and is holding the same status at the AU, which has been formed officially in July 2002. Co-operation with the AU must be indispensable for holding the TICAD. In spite of this the SADR has not been invited. What is the reason? Is this attitude not too far removed from the position of the AU?

Beside the fact that the Japanese Government has not established any diplomatic relations with the SADR or that the SADR is not a member of the UN, this cannot be the reason for not inviting it. Because there are many cases of international conferences, especially economical ones, where the Japanese delegation sits with delegations from North Korea and Taiwan.

2) The UN hasn't recognised Morocco's territorial claim to Western Sahara up to now, regarding it as a non-self-governing territory territory, and has been trying to settle the problem through a referendum in accordance with the principle of self-determination. On the other hand Morocco has been causing many problems with its arbitrary criteria for identification of electors, ignoring the Houston agreement, and showing its one-sided prospecting right to foreign oil companies. All these activities are against the peace plan of the UN. On January 29 of last year the vice-chief of the UN law department has reported that it is illegal to drill for oil in Western Sahara under contract with Morocco.

Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara and illegal activities in the mentioned territory has been threatening pace and security, which are indispensable for further development of Africa, not only in Western Sahara, but also in the whole continent. In spite of this why is the Japanese Government inviting Morocco (non-member of the AU) to the TICAD? Is the Japanese Government of the opinion that Morocco is representing the interests of the legitimate inhabitants of Western Sahara?

Japan-Sahara Association
Western Sahara Campaign Tokyo
Noriko AOYAGI (translator)
Midori IIJIMA (assistant professor of Rikkyo University)
Hideaki UEMURA (assistant professor of Keisen University)
Satoshi UKAI (professor of Hitotsubashi University)
Kenji OOKI (Japan-Osttimor Association, Shimonoseki)
Naohiko OOKUMA
Kazuo OOTA (director of the Peace Research Society Japan)
Mari OKA (assistant professor of Kyoto University)
Tomonari KASUGA
Toshio KADOKURA (lecturer of Christian University Ibaragi)
Naoko KAWAKAMI (Zoseba Research Society Japan)
Ichiro KAWABE (assistant professor of Aichi University)
Yoko KITAZAWA (chairwoman of the Peace Research Society Japan)
Akira KUSUHARA (professor of Kokugakuin University)
Keiko SAIGA (lectuerer of Highschool of Economics Osaka)
Masaaki SATAKE (professor of Shikokugakuin University)
Keiko Shingo (translator)
Yukitoshi SUNANO (professor of Kumamoto University)
Toshiyuki TAKABAYASHI (assistant professor of Shikokugakuin University)
Junko TAKEUCHI (assistant professor of the Institute of Industry Kobe)
Misato TODA (professor of Bunkyo University)
Chizuko TOMINAGA (professor of Girls' University Miyagigakuin)
Yasuko NUKATA (Girls' University Osaka)
Tamio NOMURA (Amnesty International Japan)
Kiiko HIROMITSU (lecturer of Shimane University)
Kiyoko FURUSAWA (assistant professor of Girls' University Keisen)
Nobuko MURAKAMI (translator)
Yoshihiko MURATA (CHT Commitee Japan)
Jun MORIKAWA (professor of Rakuno University)

Answer from the Japanese Foreign Ministry

To the Japan-Sahara Association Kagawa

June 4, 2003


Dear Mr. Toshiyuki Takabayashi,

I am sending you an answer to your open letter dated May 12, 2003 as follows.

We have been making different efforts in order to establish peace in Africa. Through the process of TICAD conferences as well as the process of the G8-Summit meetings we have been taking measures for settling conflicts and establishing peace in co-operation with the international community. Also in the future we will work together with the other main countries toward a solution of such problems.

As for Western Sahara, as pointed out in your letter, many serious efforts have been made under the leadership of the UN in order to settle the problem. On 19 February of last year the secretary-general of the UN proposed four possible alternatives, but in the following meetings of the Security Counsel no clear agreement was reached, as you know well. We have been hoping that the problem of Western Sahara would be settled quickly and peacefully through negotiations between the parties concerned. Therefore we have been supporting the intermediation by the secretary-general of the UN.

As far as the invitation of Western Sahara is concerned, we must point out that the problem has not settled yet in spite of measures for settlement under the leadership of the UN. In addition, we must consider that our country has not recognized "the Democratic Arabic Republic Sahara" yet. The TICAD III is an official international conference, which will be held at the initiative of the Japanese Government. And it is also one of the cosponsors. Inviting of Western Sahara in these circumstances would mean that we are ignoring different opinions in the international community. From this standpoint we have no intention to invite Western Sahara. On the other hand Morocco is one of the countries concerned with the cause of African development. Therefore we have invited it to the TICAD III.

In any case we hope that the problem would be settled quickly under the leadership of the UN, and we will continuously support such efforts.

Yours truly,

Toshitsugu Uezawa
Second chief of the section for the Middle East and Africa, Foreign Ministry, Japan

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