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  • Western Sahara conflict

    A secret UN report lashes out against Morocco, saying that citizens in Western Sahara are denied basic human rights. Not only were they deprived of their rights to choose over independence, but there existed no freedom of expression or assembly for those advocating the UN-endorsed view. Advocators could face torture and unfair trials. But the UN report also doubted the exiled Saharawi government's position on democracy.

    afrol News has obtained a copy of a document termed "not a public report," compiled last month by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), investigating the human rights situation for the Saharawi people living in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and in Algerian refugee camps controlled by the exiled Polisario government. The report came as a reaction to the violent crack-down on demonstrations in El Aaiun and other towns in Western Sahara since May 2005, and could only be carried out "after several months of negotiations" with Morocco and Polisario.

    According to testimonies of Saharawi activists who met with the UN delegation, "demonstrations started peacefully, but became violent after Moroccan police, auxiliary forces and the Groupes Urbaines de Sécurité (GUS) used excessive force to disperse protesters against demonstrators and bystanders, beating them with batons, injuring hundreds of protesters and arresting a significant number," the report says.

    This violence had also "resulted in the death, on 30 October 2005, of Hambi Lembarki," who had been beaten to death with batons by police officers. "An initial autopsy indicated that his death was the result of injuries to the skull," the UN report says. The death of Mr Lembarki is among the few incidents that got a legal aftermath, as his father filed a complaint that has been investigated. Two police officers are awaiting trial for "unintentionally causing death" while on duty.

    The UN report however points out that the Rabat Ministry of Justice has only recorded three cases where legal complaints against Moroccan officers have been made - Mr Lembarki's case being the only one truly investigated - while Saharawi activists talk about hundreds of cases, including torture. The report indicates that, while Moroccan law strictly forbids torture and excessive police violence - complaints from Saharawis were not taken seriously.

    Moroccan authorities had told the UN delegation that "violence during the demonstrations - which were described as illegal ... - was provoked by the demonstrators and the police response was entirely justified." The UN delegation however did not accept this assessment, concluding that police "officers seemed to have used force in an indiscriminate and disproportionate manner," and that the demonstrations never should have been termed illegal in the beginning. It also found Saharawi torture allegations credible but not proven. afrol News however has seen photos documenting torture of Saharawi human rights activist.

    The UN report also questions whether the 14 Saharawis convicted in January this year for their participation in the demonstrations had been given a fair trial. All claim their innocence, several say their "confessions" had been a response to torture and lawyers claim they were not allowed to bring forward witnesses. The President of the El Aaiun Appeal Court could not answer these allegations as "he was newly designated." Concerned about "serious deficiencies with regard to ensuring the right to a fair trial," the UN report deplored the unsatisfactory reply by authorities.

    The UN delegation registered that the background for this situation was to be found in the limited "freedom of expression, assembly and association" in Western Sahara. Moroccan government officials on several occasions confirmed that these freedoms were limited for persons, associations, media and views in favour of a Western Sahara referendum over independence.

    "Such limitations, especially in view of the internationally recognised right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination," could not be interpreted as a UN-sanctioned restriction to freedom of expression, such as national security, public order or public health or morals, the report concludes.

    The UN delegation could not document equally grave human rights abuses during its stay in the Saharawi refugee camps, under Polisario control. It reported violations of the refugees' economic, social and cultural rights, which it blamed on the camps' remoteness in the Algerian desert. It also questioned the Polisario's monopoly on power despite the Saharawi constitution, and was assured that this was a temporary state given by their exile, but that multi-party democracy would be introduced with the achievement of "full independence of Western Sahara."

    The report clearly demonstrates scepticism about the seemingly good state of human rights under the Polisario regime. It noted that several mass events - meetings and demonstrations - had been staged by the Polisario, where large number of Saharawis met the delegates, expressing "only one view concerning the future of Western Sahara." All the organisations meeting the UN delegation had also belonged to Polisario. In the well staged visit, no dissident views came forth and earlier reported human rights abuses were flatly denied by all.

    Surprised and sceptical about this united voice, the UN delegation reminded the Polisario government of its constitutional obligation to guarantee freedom of expression. Obviously, the delegation was alarmed, as it concluded that a "closer monitoring" of the human rights situation also in the camps "is indispensable." The UN expected there to be an opposition, as it is found in any other society.

    afrol News has spoken to several sources in the camps and close co-operators of Polisario who say there is indeed a growing opposition to the government in the camps. Press freedom is not established, opponents are discriminated against and only associations willing to be a part of the Polisario movement are allowed to register, opposition sources in the camps say. Other sources tell about a power battle between democrats and falcons within Polisario, where democrats have agreed to lay low until independence. There is an obligation to demonstrate unity while the conflict goes on, these sources said.

    UN slams Morocco on abuses in Western Sahara

  • #2
    New York (United Nations), Oct. 6 - "Without Algeria, the Sahara issue would never have existed, and the fate of the Maghreb people would certainly have had a better lot," stressed, here Thursday, Chairwoman of the Italian Human Rights Commission of the Caucus of Christian Popular Democratic Parties.

    Addressing the United Nations’ Fourth Commission, Maria Cervone pinpointed Algeria's involvement in the Sahara dispute opposing Morocco to the separatist movement "Polisario". The latter, backed by Algeria, has been, since 1976, laying claims to Morocco's Southern Provinces, known as the Sahara. The former Spanish colony was retrieved by the North African kingdom in 1975 under the Madrid Accords concluded with Spain and Mauritania.

    Algeria, she said, keeps "thousands of (Moroccan) Sahrawis that it presents to the entire world as refugees." Algeria is always "harassing NGOs and international organisms for humanitarian aid, while its funds are full of billions of Dollars."

    Speaking about the autonomy project that Morocco proposes to grant to the Sahara inhabitants to solve this dispute, Cervone said it is a "sacred principle," and none would accept it to be used by "whatever party" to "harm the unity and the territorial integrity of countries."

    For the chairwoman of the Committee of the Women of the Euro-Mediterranean Zone, Latifa Ait Baala, who was speaking before the same commission, the UN and the international community are called upon to "pressure on Algeria to launch direct negotiations with Morocco in order to bring this artificial conflict to a halt and save the victims of the Tindouf Camps, southwestern Algeria."

    Upon its creation in the mid-70s, the Polisario lured thousands of Moroccans into joining it in the Tindouf Camps. These are still kept there against their will in dire conditions.

    Baala also touched on the "recent kidnappings that are taking place since May 2006 in the Tindouf Camps," deeming they have "only worsened the already horrible human rights situation."

    Hundreds of Moroccan POWs also perished in the camps during the war that the separatists triggered against Morocco up to the cease-fire concluded in 1991.

    After the latest group (408) was released last year, the corpses of many others are still unknown, which prompted the International Committee of the Prisoners of Tindouf (CIPT) to call for an "international probe to elucidate the fate of the Moroccan prisoners who disappeared in the Tindouf Camps,” and to “bring those responsible of human rights breaches before the international justice.”

    The same concern was voiced by the British NGO “Freedom for All,” whose director Tanya Warburg said the “Polisario commits a crime against the populations of the Tindouf camps by preventing them from the humanitarian aids offered by international NGO.”

    For the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC), the Polisario does not present “the minimal conditions of a valid interlocutor” for the settlement of the Sahara issue.

    The NGOs also denounced the deportation of the camps’ children for indoctrination.

    Source: MAP

    UN 4th Commission: International NGOs pinpoint Algeria's involvement in Sahara issue


    • #3
      UN shuns Western Sahara rights plea after France objects

      UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council voted on Tuesday to keep U.N. peacekeepers in Western Sahara for six more months but shunned a plea that Morocco do more to safeguard human rights in the territory after France objected.

      A resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council proposed no new substantive steps for resolving Africa's oldest territorial dispute, instead simply reaffirming the U.N. body's support for a solution that would "provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara."

      Diplomats said 14 of the council's 15 members backed adding a provision to the resolution expressing concern about human rights violations by Morocco in the northwest African territory of some 260,000 people.

      But France, a close ally of Morocco, pushed hard to keep it out of the text.

      Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement have been at odds for three decades over whether Western Sahara gets a promised independence vote or remains part of Morocco.

      "The Polisario Front regrets that ... the council was not able to reflect in its resolution a legitimate and justified concern regarding the violation of human rights in Western Sahara by Morocco, due to the open opposition of France," Ahmed Boukhari, the U.N. representative of the Polisario Front, told reporters.

      France had no immediate comment.

      Morocco seized Western Sahara in 1975 after former colonial power Spain withdrew, claiming centuries-old rights over the territory rich in phosphates, fisheries and possibly offshore oil.

      That triggered a low-intensity guerrilla war that ended in 1991, when the United Nations brokered a cease-fire and sent in peacekeepers in anticipation of a self-determination vote.

      But the referendum never took place and Morocco now insists the most it will offer residents is regional autonomy.

      U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had urged the Security Council to push Morocco and the Polisario to agree to direct talks without preconditions in hopes of a solution.

      The resolution as adopted made no reference to the U.N. leader's proposal.

      The measure authorized the 220 U.N. peacekeepers in the territory to keep enforcing the 1991 cease-fire accord through April 30, 2007. Had it not been renewed, the mission mandate would have run out at the end of Tuesday.

      UN shuns Western Sahara rights plea after France objects


      • #4
        Western Sahara conflict

        ALGIERS, Algeria: Algeria's president said Tuesday that a referendum on independence for the disputed Western Sahara territory was "inevitable."

        President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's remark was a reply to Moroccan King Mohamed VI's call a day earlier for autonomy — not independence — for the vast desert territory, which Morocco's considers an integral part of the kingdom. He contended that independence for the territory risks destabilizing the region and would make it a haven for terrorists and traffickers.

        The statements by the two leaders underscored the decades-long standoff over the Western Sahara and the difficulty at finding a solution despite a recent calls by the United States, Britain and France for an end to the impasse over the territory.

        Morocco annexed the Western Sahara after Spain gave up the mineral-rich territory. It fought a long war with the Polisario Front which is seeking independence for the territory. Morocco and the Polisario have been in a standoff since a 1991 U.N-negotiated cease-fire overseen by U.N. troops. Algeria backs the Polisario, whose encampments are in southern Algeria.

        The Security Council voted Oct. 31 to extend the U.N. mission there for another six months.

        Bouteflika called the Western Sahara issue a "problem of decolonization" to be resolved by the U.N. Security Council, which has failed to resolve the differences between the Polisario, Morocco and Algeria, creating a thorny issue for North Africa.

        He spoke during a state visit to China with his remarks reported by Algeria's official APS news agency.

        The Moroccan monarch reaffirmed Monday what he called the "Moroccan-ness" of the Western Sahara and said the Royal Consultative Council for Moroccan Affairs was putting together an autonomy plan that could be ready within weeks.

        He warned that independence for Western Sahara would "transform the region into a squalid swamp serving as a hideout for bands of terrorists and criminals doing business in human beings and arms trafficking."

        The king spoke as Morocco marked the 31st anniversary of the so-called Green March in November 1975, when hundreds of thousands of Moroccans marched on the Western Sahara in a symbolic gesture of ownership.

        Algerian, Moroccan leaders diverge on Western Sahara


        • #5
          On October 31, Morocco’s allies on the United Nations Security Council — including France, the United States and Britain — blocked a motion to condemn human rights abuses against the people of occupied Western Sahara. Despite reports of Morocco’s escalating repression of the Saharawi independence movement, the resolution passed by the Security Council merely extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), a 15-year-old “peacekeeping” mission that has failed to facilitate a referendum on self determination.

          Earlier that month, Moroccan officials rejected as “biased” and “completely erroneous” a report from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that revealed the use of torture and violent repression against pro-independence demonstrations and activists. According to Afrol News, the report exposed the regular denial of rights to a fair trial, freedom of expression and freedom of association in Western Sahara.

          On October 30, 80 people were apprehended by Moroccan police at a ceremony in El-Ayoun marking the anniversary of the death of Hambi Lembarki. Lembarki was an activist beaten to death by police during a pro-independence demonstration last year. His death is among the few incidents of repression that have reached the courts.

          On October 24 the Switzerland-based Association for a Free and Fair Referendum in Western Sahara reported: “The repression seems to be principally directed against young people, of which a great number have been arrested, stripped and beaten, violated with various instruments, forced to swallow diverse substances, subjected to injections with unknown products and to diverse forms of torture.”

          Kamal Fadel, the representative in Australia of the Saharawi liberation front (Polisario), spoke to Green Left Weekly following the the Security Council’s refusal to take a stand against Morocco’s human rights abuses. He said that the council “had in front of it a report that stated clearly that there is a problem with human rights abuses in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. France objected to any mention of the human rights situation in the Security Council resolution.

          “There has been an increase in action by the people of Western Sahara. The current uprising has continued for over a year now, during which time there has been an increase of vocal disagreement with the presence of Morocco in Western Sahara. The response from Morocco has been very harsh — using torture, imprisonment and kidnappings to repress the uprising.”

          No referendum on independence

          The passage extension of MINURSO’s mandate was welcomed by Washington, which has backed Morocco’s occupation of the mineral-rich territory since its 1975 invaded. According to an October 31 Washington Post article, William Brencick, a senior US diplomat, said: “The United States remains concerned that the Western Sahara conflict has impeded regional integration and development for the last 30 years. A lasting resolution is now long overdue.”

          However, Brencick’s comments in favour of an “autonomy proposal” indicate support only for a “resolution” in Morocco’s interests. The “autonomy proposal” is a referendum model proposed by Morocco that would include an option of regional autonomy for Western Sahara, but would deny a vote on independence for what it calls its “southern provinces”.

          Morocco welcomed the extension of the MINURSO, confident it will remain powerless to force a referendum that could lead to Saharawi independence. In a statement reported in Johannesburg’s Sunday Times on November 2, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “hailed” the resolution, saying it “completely reinforces the approach supported by Morocco for a lasting political solution”.

          Since Morocco and Polisario agreed to a ceasefire in 1991, the Moroccan government has prevented a referendum (a condition of the ceasefire) from taking place by obstructing updating of the electoral roll, and has continued to deny a vote on independence.

          Commenting on Morocco’s referendum model, Fadel said: “In our view a solution that does not involve a democratic and fair referendum will not be a solution at all — it will be a fake solution. A referendum that does not offer a chance for self-determination will not succeed because it will not be accepted by the Saharawi people or the Polisario front as their legitimate representative.

          “Our only demand is that the people of Western Sahara are given a chance to exercise their legitimate right to a referendum that contains the option of independence. We do not object to the referendum including an option of Western Saharan integration into Morocco.

          “This is a compromise we are making. But [Morocco] is adamant in its intransigent position as it fears a democratic solution which will likely to culminate in independence for Western Sahara.”

          According to a November 6 Reuters report, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, in an attempt to build support for his country’s anti-democratic position, argued that an independent Western Sahara would harbour terrorists: “This dreadful hypothesis would transform the North African region into a dirty marsh and den of terrorist gangs and criminal bandits smuggling human beings and arms.”

          “These are the hazards Morocco is striving to prevent by proposing the autonomy within the framework of a great drive of democracy Morocco has embraced”, he added.....


          • #6

            Western complicity

            While independence is not on the agenda of Morocco or its allies, there is support among the Western powers for “progress” towards some form of resolution during the current six-month term of MINURSO. According to Yahia Zoubir, author of “The United States and the North African Imbroglio” (Mediterranean Politics, July 2005), the Western Saraha question is seen by the US as an obstacle to establishing a regional trade bloc that includes Morocco and Algeria and developing north African unity in the “war on terror”.

            Algeria has been a longstanding ally of the Polisario front, providing refuge to Saharawis who have fled Morocco’s invasion, and financial support to the independence movement. Camps in southern Algeria are home to more than 160,000 displaced Saharawis and are the base for Western Sahara’s “government in exile”, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

            On the other side of the conflict, the US has been a longstanding ally of Morocco. Between 1950 and 1998, Morocco received more US aid than any other Arab or African country, except for Egypt, receiving more than one-fifth of all US aid to Africa. Without US counterinsurgency support, Polisario would likely have succeeded in forcing out Western Sahara’s occupiers.

            In 1981, the armed movement had liberated the vast majority of Western Sahara and had forced out Mauritanian forces that had participated in the 1975 invasion. But within six years, Morocco had re-conquered almost the entire country, following a boost in military aid from the Regan administration. Using a US-designed 1500-kilometre sand wall, lined with an estimated 3 million landmines, Moroccan forces managed to isolate Polisario to a third of Western Sahara, along its eastern border.

            Similar support for Morocco has been provided by European powers, such as France, throughout the occupation. On October 10, the European Parliament voted on a agreement with Morocco that will allow European boats to fish in the occupied territorial waters of Western Sahara.

            As well as Morocco’s plundering of Western Sahara’s large phosphate resources, plans are underway to extract oil and natural gas from offshore reserves, with the Moroccan government granting US corporation Kerr-McGee exploration rights in 2001 to 27 million acres of offshore territory. International solidarity campaigns have in recent years forced other companies to withdraw from similar contracts.

            Roots of the struggle

            The invasion of Western Sahara by Morocco and neighbouring Mauritania took place as Spain was moving to end its 90-year occupation, which had been weakened by a growing independence movement. In 1975, the International Court of Justice rejected Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara. At the same time, Morocco and Mauritania signed a secret agreement with Spain for a handover of the territory.

            Morocco’s King Hassan II, who was facing a domestic crisis at the time, ordered the “green march”, a contingent of 350,000 civilians aimed at seizing Western Sahara. The corporate media portrayed the events as a crusade by an oppressed nation against the Franco government, turning a blind eye to demonstrations of thousands of Saharawis against the Moroccan-Mauritanian takeover.

            Since then, the government has promoted Moroccan settlement in Western Sahara by providing subsidies on goods, services and incomes. Despite this, a large proportion of the Moroccan population in the region is some 140,000 occupying troops.

            Saharawi struggle to continue

            When UN secretary-general Kofi Annan told Polisario on October 18 that they should drop their demand for a referendum with independence as an option and reopen negotiations with Morocco, Boukhari Ahmed, the representative of the Polisario Front to the UN, responded in an interview with the Sahara Press Service by saying that “it is necessary now, not to resume negotiations, but to implement the signed accords”.

            SADR President Mohamed Abdelaziz said on November 4: “Meanwhile, we will continue the intifada in the occupied territories and create pressures on the Moroccan government to compel it to respect the fundamental freedoms in the zones of the territory it occupies, without abandoning the possibility of resuming war once all efforts failed.”

            Commenting on the possibility of renewed armed struggle by Polisario, Fadel said, “I think all options for winning independence remain on the table. There has been a ceasefire since 1991, but it was a ceasefire based on the promise of a referendum for self-determination in [January] 1992.”

            Fadel pointed out that the Saharawi people have made a series of compromises, but Morocco, backed by powerful world leaders, has been unwilling to reciprocate: “In the past, France, in the name of human rights, backed calls for the release of Moroccan prisoners by the Polisario. We have cooperated and respected the call by freeing the Moroccan prisoners of war. But despite this our country continues to suffer from repression by Moroccan forces, including the repression of peaceful demonstrations. But that has not stopped or deterred the Saharawi people, who have shown great courage in their defiance to the occupiers.”

            “If UN efforts fail the people of Western Sahara will have all options available, continued uprising in the occupied territory and other means [may be] possible. This is the legitimate right of the people of Western Sahara to seek their rights by whatever means they choose”, Fadel explained.

            Western Sahara: Morocco's repression continues


            • #7
              Francesco Bastagli:

              In a routine decision, the UN Security Council two weeks ago extended the mandate of the UN mission for the referendum in Western Sahara until April 30, 2007. When it was established in 1991, the mission was supposed to organize a referendum within nine months for the self-determination of the Saharawi people.

              When Spain relinquished control of Western Sahara in 1975, the United Nations had already recognized it as a non-self-governing territory entitled to the guarantees provided by the UN Charter, including the right to self-determination.

              However, in November of that year King Hassan II of Morocco moved to fill the vacuum left by Spain. A "green march" of tens of thousands of Moroccans crossed the border into Western Sahara to stake Moroccan sovereignty. This led to a prolonged conflict with the pro-independence Polisario Front. In 1991, the two parties agreed to a cease-fire to be followed by a referendum. The subsequent deadlock has been due to Morocco's refusal to allow any referendum that may lead to Western Sahara's independence.

              To this date, most of Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco. Some 100,000 Saharawi refugees lead a miserable life in the Algerian desert. A 1,700-kilometer wall separates 130,000 Moroccan troops from Polisario forces that have nominal control over a swath of land bordering Algeria and Mauritania. UN military observers monitor the 1991 cease-fire.

              Through the years, Morocco has strengthened its hold over Western Sahara. Moroccan settlers now constitute the majority of the population. The natural resources of the territory, which under the UN Charter should be used for the sole benefit of the Saharawi people, are being exploited by Morocco.

              A recent agreement between Morocco and the European Union gave European fishing fleets access to Western Saharan waters, among the richest in the world. Only Sweden spoke against it.

              Since November 2005, there has been an ebb and flow of unrest in the territory. Morocco's response has been harsh. Men, women and children have suffered beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions.

              Polisario has so far refrained from challenging Morocco openly. It has also kept a distance from militant Islamist groups active in the region. However, discontent is growing. Disenfranchised and frustrated by the political stalemate, younger generations may turn to violence.

              Last month the belt conveying phosphate from the Boukraa mine to the Laayoune port was blown up in the same location where Polisario launched its armed struggle against Spain in 1973.

              Following the failure of past UN efforts, the UN secretary general is now proposing to hold direct negotiations between Morocco and Polisario without preconditions. This rather unimaginative approach will not break the deadlock without the engagement of international actors.

              The United States has been sitting on the fence since 2004, when a settlement plan by former Secretary of State James Baker was rejected by Morocco. America should renew its interest in Western Sahara.

              The Maghreb is a region of strategic importance, not the least for its abundant natural resources. Western Sahara may soon become an oil producer. From Algeria to Mauritania, however, the political and security environment is extremely fragile. Observers agree that the region will not stabilize until the Western Sahara issue is resolved.

              France, which has the lead in the European Union on Western Sahara, is a stalwart champion of Morocco. It should use its privileged relationship to advocate a more courageous and innovative stand. As permanent members of the Security Council, the United States and France should join forces to prompt the Council into robust action.

              Western Sahara has remained at the periphery of the international agenda for too long. Acting with the Council, the new secretary general could secure progress in the early stages of his mandate. Failure to do so may soon bring Western Sahara and its surrounding region to the front pages for all the wrong reasons.

              The forgotten referendum


              • #8
                Algeria asks Spain to help find Western Sahara solution

                ALGIERS (AFP) - Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika asked Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to help settle the dispute in Western Sahara, as the latter paid a flying visit to Algiers.

                "We would like Spain to start working more profoundly to bring to the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front to agree on the modalities of a free and fair referendum on independence," Bouteflika said.

                A referendum should, he said after meeting Zapatero at his palace, "allow the expression of the sovereign free will of the people of Western Sahara and conform to international law."

                Morocco has proposed self-government for the Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, rather than a referendum, and a Royal Consultative Council for Saharan Affairs handed a new autonomy project to King Mohammed VI on December 5.

                Zapatero said he and Bouteflika had discussed "in depth the key principles" towards a definitive solution.

                Morocco claims Western Sahara, a desolate but phosphate-rich northwest African territory, which it annexed after the withdrawal of Spain and Mauritania in the 1970s and settled with around 300,000 Moroccans in the 1975 "Green March."

                A bitter guerrilla war with the Polisario Front - who contested Rabat's sovereignty - ended only in 1991 with a UN-brokered ceasefire.

                The United Nations had sought since 1992 to organize a referendum on self-determination for the territory, but several attempts, including one in 2003 by former US Secretary of State James Baker, broke down over arguments over who was eligible to vote.

                Zapatero and Bouteflika also signed an extradition agreement during the visit. More than 70 Algerian nationals arrested in Spain on suspicion of terrorism could be eligible for extradition to Algeria under the treaty.

                Algeria asks Spain to help find Western Sahara solution


                • #9
                  Algeria's Bouteflika urges Spain to press for independence referendum in Western Sahara


                  • #10

                    Bouteflika stresses Spain’s responsibility for Western Sahara crisis


                    • #11
                      Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Zapatero, is in Algeria, while his Moroccan counterpart, Idris Gato, is in Paris: two events connected by a coincidence and drawn apart by interests.

                      As the natural arrangement of spaces, which aims to establish bridges of cooperation between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, takes place, political complexities, led by the conflict over the Saharan issue, emerge.

                      Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika asked the Spanish visitor to use his influence over Morocco to return the proposed settlement back to the referendum.

                      Meanwhile, President Jacques Chirac is urging the Moroccans to speed up the holding of negotiations to add momentum to diplomatic efforts. This means that instead of diverging by virtue of geography and fraternity, dialogue between Algeria and Morocco is converging in the direction of being administered through the Spanish and the French, the conventional power brokers of the North African region.

                      Between harmony and conflicting interests, the sides involved in the Saharan conflict are trying to prepare for the outcome of the UN Security Council's expected discussion of the issue under the current mandate of the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO. Paris and Madrid's tendency to favor one side or the other does not seem very different from trying to seize the reigns of control over the administration of the Sahara desert.

                      For while the French influence still holds by virtue of France's permanent membership in the UN Security Council, the Spanish influence stems from Madrid's position as the former colonial power in the Saharan region, not to mention the key economic and trade ties with both Morocco and Algeria.

                      In contrast to former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, who pushed the Spanish-Moroccan relations into a dark tunnel, current Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero managed to normalize positive relations with the Moroccan capital, Rabat, making it highly unlikely for him to overlook such an advantage.

                      Accordingly, the objective of Zapatero's visit to Algeria is to achieve a consolidation of a delicate balance, so that the visit does not come in the interest of Morocco at the expense of Algeria, or vice versa.

                      It is the same state of affairs for France, whose relations with Algeria were restored by Chirac, while at the same not losing Morocco, even if it came to the consternation of Algeria over statements by Morocco's ally, who once considered the Sahara as one of the 'southern provinces' of Morocco, which unleashed criticism and calls to reopen the pages of the past.

                      Both the French and the Spanish adhere to strategies based on principals in their relationship with North African nations. Socialist PM Zapatero succeeded in reshaping the policies of Madrid in the direction of upholding Madrid's European affiliation, in contrast to Aznar's aspirations for a preferential relationship with Washington.

                      In dealing with the Saharan issue in particular, this shift in policies breathed life into the French-Spanish axis, especially as Madrid was never content with handing over the keys to sponsoring a political settlement of the Saharan conflict to Paris and Washington within the framework solution laid down by the former mediator, James Baker, prior to his abandonment of this file.

                      The emergence of a common French-Spanish understanding toward the Saharan issue seems likely to remain a top priority, especially in light of international developments that proved the validity of the French approach toward the Iraqi war dilemma, the Middle East crisis, and the American's ambitions in the African arena.

                      Therefore, it was no coincidence that the UN envoy to the Sahara, Peter van Walsum, was keen on visiting both Madrid and Paris each time he needed a sense of direction.

                      Both the French and the Spanish are applying increasing pressure toward a speedy settlement of the Saharan conflict, and to this end, they are well aware that the gap created by the slowing down of the drive to reach a settlement will be in the interests of the Americans, who seek to find a foothold in the region.

                      This is becoming increasingly apparent taking into consideration the fact that notions of political and economic partnership, which was previously exclusive to the European efforts to foster relations with the nations of North Africa, are now becoming the language used by the Americans, as well. Threats to the peace and stability of the Sahel-Saharan countries have also been on the forefront for US analysts.

                      The only absentees in these arrangements are the nations of North Africa themselves, who are showing little or no concern in face of the looming challenges. The most immediate outcome of such a lack of concern may be seen in the fact that the Saharan conflict continues to simmer today. It was supposed to have been settled 30 years ago through means of dialogue, international legitimacy, and significant mutual compromises, instead of insistence on bringing up scrap issues that were behind exhausting the region and obstructing its march toward building a future.

                      The deteriorating consequences of the conflict on the region dwarf any hoped for or needed incentives in the direction of the continuation of this conflict: whether in terms of the increasingly deep-rooted relationship of caution and mistrust between Algeria and Morocco, or the diminishing odds for the Moroccan developmental bid, which has become no more than a blurred dream; or in terms of dialogue among the partner nations in the region, characterized by dealing with each of these nations separately and individually.

                      There is, however, a misconception that whoever emerges a winner from this conflict will have the first and final word in the regional decision-making center of gravity.

                      The drive toward swaying European capitals, however, contradicts the futuristic perspective of the independence concept of the decision-making process, since until not too long ago, the capitals of North Africa have been resorting to economic and political influence in their attempts to forge a partnership with European allies.

                      Some of these capitals complied with the conditions on structural reforms and competition standards, while others chose to strip some of these European partners of the privileges of trade monopoly, while others, still, chose to accept demands without even reading them.

                      However, the concept of interests that develop into competitive partnerships is no longer within the scope of any limited regional nation, as unity has become the only requirement for achieving power.

                      One thing is being overlooked with regards to this tendency: the goodwill of the French and the Spanish is indeed necessary by virtue of these two countries' roles, significance and leverage.

                      It would be, however, more feasible for the crisis to be handed over to the UN Security Council, and before that, for the disorder of dialogue between Morocco and Algeria to be smooth, not obstructed by mediators.

                      Mediated talks between Morocco and Algeria


                      • #12
                        Western Sahara: UN General Assembly calls for decolonization


                        • #13
                          Rabat/Laayoune/Madrid - In the neighbourhood of Hay Riad in the Moroccan capital Rabat, Mohammed, the son of a Western Saharawi dignitary, and some friends sit around his computer.

                          The group reads all websites defending the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, but does not participate in chats.

                          'Moroccan secret police are constantly logged in,' explains Moussa, one of the young men. 'They post pro-independence comments to gain your confidence and then one day you find them on your doorstep, bringing a host of problems.'

                          But when Moussa and others like him log in from a cybercafe, they give free rein to their anger at Morocco, inciting to join the independence movement Polisario Front and to resist the Moroccan 'occupation' of their home region.

                          While Saharawis living outside Western Sahara pursue such campaigns, the mounting protests against Morocco are taking more serious forms in Laayoune, the capital of the desert territory annexed by Rabat after the colonial power Spain withdrew from there in 1975.

                          Street protests have clearly increased over the past few years, as have police crackdowns, according to observers in Laayoune.

                          When Moussa was still living in Laayoune, he and his friends used to display Saharawi flags and to stone police patrols, he recalls. 'It is our way of venting our fury against injustice,' he adds.

                          The United Nations (UN) and international human rights groups have given credibility to reports of arrests, torture and biased trials of Saharawi pro-independence militants, dozens of whom have staged hunger strikes in prison.

                          Morocco has barred several European delegations from visiting Western Sahara, including members of the European Parliament and Spanish legislators, on the grounds that they comprised disproportionate numbers of Polisario sympathizers.

                          The police and army are highly visible in Laayoune, and people attending weddings or other ceremonies often find that some family member is absent - in jail or exile, according to local sources.

                          A police chief in Laayoune, however, says he and his colleagues are only protecting citizens from 'aggressors.' 'We try to avoid clashes with young people at all costs, but sometimes, we have to intervene,' he explains.

                          The sharpening of the Western Sahara conflict can also be observed on Spain's Canary Islands, where hundreds of Saharawis have landed after a long and dangerous sea journey in the recent months.

                          Unlike most other undocumented immigrants arriving from Africa, the Saharawis nearly always apply for political asylum, accusing Morocco of using police repression to push pro-independence activists to leave the region.

                          Moroccan officials in Laayoune dismiss such allegations, stressing Rabat's commitment to the fight against illegal emigration.

                          The Western Sahara conflict has threatened regional stability and hampered economic integration since 1976, when Polisario launched a full-scale guerrilla war against Morocco and Mauritania, the two of which had occupied the territory after Spain pulled out of there.

                          Mauritania also withdrew in 1980 and Morocco grabbed its share. The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991 and sent a force known as Minurso to monitor it.

                          The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic proclaimed by Polisario in 1976 has been recognized by more than 30 countries, but UN plans for a referendum on independence collapsed over quarrels about who would be allowed to vote.

                          Morocco has encouraged large numbers of Moroccans to settle in the region, where original Saharawis only make up a minority in the population of 400,000.

                          Rabat is now pushing an autonomy plan for Western Sahara, but Polisario and its backer Algeria want to hear of no such thing.

                          Many Saharawis have joined pro-independence protests because of the economic situation of the territory, where Morocco has built a considerable amount of infrastructure, but which has been unable to rise out of unemployment and poverty.

                          Morocco offers Sahara residents advantages such as tax exemptions and subsidized foodstuffs, but they are of most benefit to a few families favoured by Rabat, which control the economy, according to observers.

                          The most urgent question, however, is the fate of some 160,000 Saharawi refugees, who have been living for decades in camps in the inhospitable Algerian desert.

                          They now reportedly face a famine after the international community cut food aid to them.

                          Saharawi activists blame the deadlock largely on France, Spain and the United States, which they accuse of lacking the political will to solve the conflict for fear of damaging their relations with Morocco, a key ally of the West in North Africa.

                          If the situation persists for much longer, Polisario may finally carry out its threats and relaunch the war, which has already killed thousands, analysts said.

                          Threat of a new war looms in Western Sahara


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Al-khiyal View Post
                            Rabat/Laayoune/Madrid - In the neighbourhood of Hay Riad in the Moroccan capital Rabat, Mohammed, the son of a Western Saharawi dignitary, and some friends sit around his computer.

                            The group reads all websites defending the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, but does not participate in chats.

                            'Moroccan secret police are constantly logged in,' explains Moussa, one of the young men. 'They post pro-independence comments to gain your confidence and then one day you find them on your doorstep, bringing a host of problems.'

                            Threat of a new war looms in Western Sahara
                            good he knows that already....
                            A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
                            By: George Bernard Shaw


                            • #15
                              The satisfaction of the Moroccans, the Algerians and the Polisario Front with the outcome of the UN vote on the resolution drafted by the UN General Assembly's forth committee can only be understood in terms of the different interpretations and readings in the politics of an event of this kind.

                              The political debate on the Saharan issue at the UN General Assembly mainly addresses legal challenges, the most important of which being that UN resolutions and recommendations - according to the international organization's charter - are not binding in nature, since the Saharan Issue has been listed on the UN Security Council agenda under the category of files and issues that require consensual resolutions non-binding to concerned parties outside the reached consensus.

                              Furthermore, relevant UN Security Council resolutions provide a vague formula for a 'political solution' that can only reached through direct, unconditional negotiations among the sides concerned in the Saharan issue.

                              The recommendations and resolutions of the UN General Assembly are, by definition, consultative in nature and meant to conform with, and reflect, the Security Council's general disposition on the issue, and, at least, play a catalyst role in deciding the path that will lead to a resolution.

                              This may explain the reason for the decision by a majority of the member States to abstain from voting for the Algerian draft resolution, encouraging Rabat to interpret such a decision as an endorsement to proposals for a political solution as means of resolving the current deadlock.

                              Algeria and the Polisario Front perceive the returning to the 1991 referendum plan stipulated by the resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly as an alternative to a political solution, even though, once convinced that is the path to a resolution, the Security Council decision to return to the referendum plan would be inevitable.

                              Conflicting sides unanimously viewed the UN vote as a sort of exit, which was the source of the satisfaction.

                              As a rule, draft resolutions and recommendations issued by the fourth Committee were mostly consensual in nature, and both the Moroccans and the Algerians have reached a consensus on joint projects that reflected the extent of their improving bilateral relations in the past.

                              While voting on recommendations by the fourth Committee does not restrict the outcome of the voting procedure to 'in favor' or 'against', but to voting for the draft, or to abstain from voting, which is the political equivalent of a rejection of the draft or a withdrawal from participation in its possible implementation by any given side.

                              The main reason for ambiguity that made such methods necessary lies in the fact that the non-binding nature of the resolutions and recommendations does not necessarily dictate the adoption of final and permanent stances on the issue. Therefore, while the Moroccans perceived abstentions as just, the Algerian and the Polisario perceived it them as a victory.

                              Eventually, objectives sought by the UN Security Council in dealing with ongoing developments constitute the key criterion for interpretation and comprehending the process.

                              The main responsibility that lies before the sides of the conflict does not lie in avoiding overreacting to legal and political interpretations that diverge over principals and key objectives upheld by each side, but rather lies in the full cooperation with the Security Council, which laid down specific a timetable that starts with speeding up direct negotiations in order to arrive at a consensus over a formula for a permanent solution backed by the Security Council.

                              Unless a comprehensive agreement on all the fundamental differences is reached, talk of a compromise will be difficult to swallow.

                              One of the key objectives of the UN Security Council is to define an outline of the consensus on a political settlement to this long standing conflict.

                              The outlines of the proposed political settlement sought by the Security Council will certainly be able to accommodate all differences without producing winners and losers.

                              In any referendum, there must be those who accept and those who reject. And in any war, there must also be a winner and a loser. Only a political solution is capable of making years of war, suffering and division a thing of the past.

                              Using democratic overtures, the Moroccans say they are consulting with the Saharans, political parties, and Moroccan civil society groups on the proposed self rule, touted as a democratic solution.

                              Who knows, if they had taken the trouble to consult with their closest neighbors, would they still have taken the wrong path? It is always wise to seek advice, because if peace is possible with foes, then why not with neighbors, as well?

                              The concurrence needed for a Saharan resolution


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