I posted recently about Ahmed Benchemsi receiving the Samir Kassir award for press freedom, so it's only right that I link to this report on ...or does it explode? about the Benchicou prize, granted to the great Syrian opposition intellectual Michel Kilo, and murdered Algerian journalist Abdelhai Beliardouh.
Mohamed Benchicou is, for those unfamiliar, a leftist Algerian former editor and journalist, and one of the brightest stars in the opposition to Algeria's regime, however it is defined. He is also the author of the book Bouteflika: An Algerian Impostor which saw timely release in the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections. That did him no good, however, because Bouteflika won a crushing victory and he was thrown in jail. But now he's out, and not only does he hand out press freedom prizes -- he blogs too!
I bet there will be a nasty-titled post about Boutef when he tries to sneak a third mandate this year, and if so, I promise to link to it. Meanwhile, here's what he has posted about the Western Sahara so far. (In French.)
This blog is no longer active, but I continue to post at the group blog MAGHREB POLITICS REVIEW.
Jun 29, 2007
I posted recently about Ahmed Benchemsi receiving the Samir Kassir award for press freedom, so it's only right that I link to this report on ...or does it explode? about the Benchicou prize, granted to the great Syrian opposition intellectual Michel Kilo, and murdered Algerian journalist Abdelhai Beliardouh.
The UN secretary general's progress report is out, as promised in Security Council resolution 1754. (UPDATE: it has since been retracted.)
It really only tells us what has already been made clear from the parties' comments: that there was no progress towards a solution, but the atmosphere was great, and new talks will be held in August. The shocker report that Ban Ki-moon was about to demand that Polisario accept autonomy was false -- I really should have realized that earlier, so sorry for the fuss. Will and Laroussi score points for keeping their heads cool, and the DPA news agency henceforth joins the long ranks of Germans unbeloved by the international community.
This is not very pleasing to Polisario, which is asked to take the far greater step by even touching the autonomy idea, but it doesn't imply a formal concession. Morocco is simply asked to be trustworthy and reasonable when negotiating, which, even if a small step for most of mankind, would indeed be a giant leap for the Moroccan monarchy. For these reasons, the talks could well stumble with either party, or both, or through sheer misunderstanding. Or, not at all unlikely if they drag on, through dynamics internal to Algeria, which is heading towards power struggle over Bouteflika's third mandate.
The upside to it is that the talks would get serious, for the first time, if both parties act on these recommendations. That could set positive dynamics in motion, and potentially lead further. On the other hand, "positive dynamics" is everyone's favorite buzzword in international relations, and in the end, it is no more a deal-sealer than was the much-reported good food and hearty atmosphere in Manhasset. And also, setting up the whole negotiating process on a "what if" basis leaves it wide open to betrayal or misunderstanding at a later stage. This could potentially make the parties averse to risk-taking or compromise early on, even if not legally bindning, since no one wants to be exposed later on as the sucker who went the furthest before talks broke down.
And, of course, the long-term risks inherent in any negotiated solution outside the framework of self-determination as generally understood, remain unchanged. It doesn't matter how the negotiating process is set up: if a large and/or headstrong enough element of the population, or Algeria, or Morocco, feels cheated and the legal situation isn't cleared out, there's a major chance that this version of autonomy becomes just the first step towards a far nastier sort of conflict. That is really a factor that is being overlooked here, I feel, but it seems the powers that be have made their choice to try and solve this through a fast-track negotiated autonomy -- and are not quite as interested in making it stick, or haven't fully grasped the likely consequences of that.
III. Observations and recommendations
10. In paragraphs 2 and 3 of its resolution 1754 (2007), the Security Council called upon the parties to enter into negotiations and requested me to set up those negotiations under my auspices. In addition to what I have reported on the status and progress of the negotiations in the preceding paragraphs, I am also pleased to inform the Council that a second round will begin on 10 August 2007.[cartoon: www.wsahara.net]11. In paragraph 3 of that resolution, the Security Council also invited Member States to lend appropriate assistance to the negotiations. Given the context, I assumed that the Council was thinking, in particular, of assistance in the setting up of the negotiations. In that respect, I can report that several Member States have offered facilities and expertise for that purpose, for which I wish to express my gratitude. All offers are currently being evaluated.
12. In a different context, however, there is at least one other area where appropriate assistance could be lent to the negotiations. I would like to recommend that the Security Council call on all Member States to lend assistance to the process by urging both parties to make every effort to maintain the momentum and to impress upon them that a final resolution of the conflict will require flexibility and sacrifice from both of them. In that context, the Frente Polisario could be asked to test Morocco’s readiness to take part in serious, constructive negotiations by making
concrete proposals to define, clarify or amend provisions in the proposal of Morocco, leaving the final status out of consideration at this stage. Morocco, on its side, could be asked to show a greater awareness of the complexity of the issue by not insisting that its acceptance of autonomy instead of integration is equivalent — in terms of sacrifice, for example — to a possible acceptance by the Frente Polisario of autonomy instead of independence.
13. If the negotiations are to lead to a positive outcome, both parties must recognize that the question of sovereignty is, and always has been, the main stumbling block in this dispute, and that it is in this highly sensitive area that a solution will need to be found.
Moroccan newspaper, Al Massa, reported that the Moroccan army will receive from France, this September, a set of missiles ASM 125Kg and 250 Kg, in addition to systems of radar, and another missile system, NICA, for Moroccan planes.Also, the on-and-off reports of a large purchase of Rafale fighter jets by Morocco, to counter Algeria's one-country arms race, now seems to be on again. As before, Saudi Arabia will carry part of the cost, and Moroccan tax-payers the rest. If feudal monarchies don't look out for each other, no one else will.
Jun 28, 2007
Ban calls for autonomy in disputed Western Sahara
New York (dpa) - Morocco and the Polisario Front, both of which claim Western Sahara, should settle their dispute by accepting autonomy of the territory that was once a Spanish colony, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.Morocco wants to integrate the territory, while the Polisario, which fought Morocco decades ago, are calling for an independent state. [My comment: no, you duped fuck, Morocco wants the UN to approve autonomy, which is a way of integrating the territory. The whole point of Ban's statement is that it represents a 100% cave-in to the Moroccan position, from the traditional UN line that all ex-colonies have a right to become independent if that is the wish of the population. Hitherto an absolutely sacred principle of all UN bodies.]
[ . . . ]
Ban said although those parties respected the principle of self- determination, their positions remained "far apart on the definition of self-determination."
Despite the negative assessment of the talks, Ban said Morocco's seriousness in the talks should be tested. He called for flexibility and sacrifice from the two sides, saying Morocco should accept autonomy for Western Sahara and not try to integrate it. [Again! Couldn't the reporter at least have googled the subject before writing?]
He also urged the Polisario to accept autonomy and drop the call for independence for the territory.
"If the negotiations are to lead to a positive outcome, both parties must recognize that the question of sovereignty is, and always has been, the main stumbling block in this dispute, and it is in this highly sensitive area that a solution will need to be found," he said in a report to the council.
[ . . . ]
Plans for the referendum, set more than 10 years ago, were never implemented because neither Morocco nor the Polisario agreed on how to conduct them. [More journalistic excellence.]
Ban urged UN members to lend support in pressuring the contenders to the former Spanish territory to end the dispute by showing flexibility and making sacrifices.
-- -- -- -- --
UPDATE I: might it all be a hoax? Let's hope so.
UPDATE II: the report is finished, whether it contains these remarks or not, but it remains under embargo as of June 29.
UPDATE III: you can now read the report at the link above, and I have posted about my analysis and extracts here. It does not contain the conclusions reported above.
UPDATE IV: complete confusion reigns.
UPDATE V: though this be madness, yet there is method in 't.[edit: the quote has been slightly shortened]
Jun 26, 2007
Jacob Mundy strikes again. This time he has penned a short something for the Spanish defense think tank GEES with a more law-oriented approach than usual. He argues that international conventions on occupation and international humanitarian law are fully applicable to the Western Sahara conflict, and lays out some of the consequences of that legal framework.
Previous Mundy articles and essays are blogged about & linked to here, here and here. A few more are available online and in specialist journals. Recommended reading.
Oh, and right. I haven't forgotten my promise to write a review of the Crisis Group reports, but it'll have to wait a couple days more.
Jun 23, 2007
[picture: sahrawi woman getting water from cisterns]
The Moroccan government claims that this refusal to conduct a census is an attempt to hide that the real refugee numbers are far lower -- anywhere from 15,000 to 75,000, depending on the mood of the Moroccan source -- and that the international aid is being pilfered and sold to the benefit of Algerian and Sahrawi leaders. Proof of this has been scarce, however, and what little misuse of aid has been documented -- a couple of bags of UN food that were found on a market in Mauritania a few years ago -- was well within the margins of error accepted elsewhere, in other refugee situations. Also, as pointed out in the Crisis Group reports, Sahrawi refugees have been getting the same emergency rations for 32 years (rice, lentils, water), and it is not unreasonable that those who can, try to trade their staple foods for other kinds of food, so as to round out their nutritional intake. (UN surveys point to severe health problems due to the one-sided diet.)
Rabat's Western allies have leaned heavily on the UN to get it to accept Morocco's numbers rather than Algeria's or Polisario's, both in order to cut costs for the operation, and -- Sahrawis say -- to pressure them into being more politically amenable, by using starvation as a weapon against Polisario. Recently the World Food Program caved and surrendered the higher figure, cutting rations to 90,000. This was supposedly what was needed to feed the "most needy refugees", and the agency at the same time politely refused to get involved in the dispute about the total number. (It is true that at least a small number of refugee families has become self-sufficient over the years, through trade and labor, some of them now living in northern Mauritania.)
It is normally prudent to remain somewhat skeptic when a small, dirt-poor tribal country, wracked by centuries of ethnic conflict, and consisting mostly of arid, resource-less Sahara desert, decides to democratize, but Mauritania really is making all the right moves. Not only does its new head of state, president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, stand out among his Maghrebian counterparts for being fairly elected, he also decided last month to unilaterally lower his own salary.
Now the government has announced it is going to readmit the remaining 20,000 or so black Mauritanian refugees who fled or were expelled across the river to Senegal during the 1989 events. That will, inshallah, mark the beginning of the end to one of the most divisive and destructive racial conflicts in Mauritanian history -- and God knows there have been many.
UPDATE: The Head Heeb has more.
I'm late and this is just for formalities: negotiations produced nothing, as expected, but a new round is set for August. For up-to-date info, check the ARSO negotiations page, but of course, there was little to report on -- which didn't stop Will from putting together this piece of investigative journalism on the luxurious Manhasset mansion where the talks took place.
With that kind of negotiating environment, no wonder that Polisario's delegation head, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, says that "human relations" with the Moroccans got a lot warmer after lunch. He didn't elaborate on that, but fortunately, my sources have provided an extract from the dinner table:
Mahfoud Ali Beiba: Excuse me, you no-good traitor, could you please pass the dessert?
Khellihenna Ould El Rachid: What? Oh, of course.
Mahfoud Ali Beiba: Mm-mm. We don't have this at home.
Khellihenna Ould El Rachid: I imagine you get tired of emergency rations after twenty years or so.
Mahfoud Ali Beiba: Yeah. Still, I prefer WFP bags of rice and lentils to collaborating with colonialism.
Khellihenna Ould El Rachid: Then you obviously haven't tasted the desserts at the King's palace in Rabat.
Fouad Ali El Himma: What? What did you say?
Khellihenna Ould El Rachid: Nothing.
Mustafa Sahel: Where are the peas?
Fouad Ali El Himma: Yassine, what are those two Sahrawis saying about the King?
Yassine Mansouri: How should I know, they're speaking Hassaniyya with their mouths full. Eat your dessert.
Fouad Ali El Himma: What?
Mustafa Sahel: The peas.
Ahmed Boukhari: Shut up you two. Ya Allah, I'm so full I'll never eat again.
Emhammed Khaddad: Good, because the aid agencies didn't send any bread this month.
Khellihenna Ould El Rachid: If you're out of bread, you should eat cake.
Emhammed Khaddad: He's got a point. We need to negotiate more. How is August to you?
Mustafa Sahel: Sidi Omar, quit hogging the peas.
Sidi Mohamed Omar: When you quit hogging my country.
Yassine Mansouri: We'll switch if you like.
Brahim Ghali: Sovereignty over the peas rests with the Sahrawi people. They are not ours to trade.
Fouad Ali El Himma: But what was he saying about the King?
Jun 16, 2007
Just a tip for those who haven't already noticed. To follow the negotiations, ARSO has compiled this excellent special page with articles in English, French and Spanish, and lots of links. ARSO is a pro-Sahrawi site (no, the pro-Sahrawi site), but it gathers info from all sources, so you'll find both SPS and MAP material, which is of course as it should be. Best of all, the page is being updated continuously with the latest news.
For those in Morocco and Western Sahara who have trouble getting past Internet censorship, try this proxy version of ARSO, and you'll find the negotiations link right in the middle of the page. (I don't know how it works, but apparently it does.)
An absolutely fascinating proposal by Rob Annandale at the Angus Reid Global Monitor. I don't think it's all that realistic, given the current balance of powers, but ... fascinating:
Earlier this year, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos recognized in an El País opinion piece that his country bore some responsibility for the Western Saharan dispute. Indeed, it set the stage for the current conflict by ceding what had been Spanish Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania mere days after the International Court of Justice had ruled against both countries’ claims of sovereignty over the territory. Still, he wrote, Spain does not hold the key to resolving the dispute.
But that is not necessarily true. While the UN struggles to find a win-win solution to what it considers a question of decolonization, the fact of the matter is Morocco has much to lose and little to gain from a referendum that threatens its hold over a Colorado-sized territory rich in phosphates, fishing and possibly oil. Spain, however, has something Morocco wants.
Proponents of Sahrawi independence call Western Sahara "Africa’s last colony", apparently oblivious to the two Spanish enclaves—Ceuta and Melilla—which interrupt Morocco’s Mediterranean coastline. Spain argues the two towns are an integral part of the country, echoing Morocco’s position on Western Sahara or, until 1962, France’s on Algeria. It is the colonizer’s mantra but the time of European possessions in Africa is over and the fact that Spanish occupation of the two ports has lasted five centuries is not reason enough to justify its continuation.
By offering to relinquish its last toeholds on the continent in exchange for Morocco’s willingness to allow a referendum under conditions acceptable to the Polisario, Spain could help clean up the mess it left behind in 1976. [Read the whole thing: "Thinking Outside the Box", Global Monitor, June 17.]
For a background on Spanish-Moroccan relations, see Laila Lalami's spot-on dramatization. (Although that was 2002. Since Spain's new government officially subscribed to Morocco's plan for Western Sahara c. 2005, and Morocco in a freak coincidence stopped arguing about Ceuta & Melilla, relations seem much better.)
... his portraits are everywhere, crowds flock in masses to catch a glimpse of the royal convoy, huge decorum expenditures and protocol, quasi Stalinist newscasts … Why does not the King stand up against all that? Whose vested interest it is to allow this useless and outdated veneration to go on?
Yeah. And you should read the whole thing: English/French.
This prize is well deserved. Moroccan journalism has made great strides these last years, despite incessant meddling and censorship from the authorities. After the political parties capitulated to patronage and pressure, the real caretakers of that most slow-growing of plants, Moroccan democracy, seems to be the independent press and human rights movements. For that, they should get more prizes and fewer prison sentences, because unlike the men jailing them, they are doing their country a real service.
Jun 14, 2007
No, no one is surprised:
An official press release said the delegation will include Minister of the Interior Chakib Benmoussa, deputy Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri, deputy Interior Minister Fouad Ali Al Himma, chairman of the Royal Consultative Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS) Khalihenna Ould Errachid, chief of Morocco's intelligence (DGED) Mohamed Yassine Mansouri and Morocco's Ambassador to the U.N El Mostafa Sahel. (MAP.)Chakib Benmoussa, Taieb Fassi Fihri, Fouad Ali El Himma, Yassine Mansouri and El Mustafa Sahel are all experienced and high-ranking politicians/diplomats who have dealt with the issue before. In fact, the first four are the very same people who went around the globe to promote the autonomy plan before it was released. But Khallihenna Ould Errachid, on the other hand, is another deal -- he isn't a decision-maker, he's their Sahrawi front man. His mission is simply to be present, in his official capacity as CORCAS chairman (note that he's presented with full title above), in order to make Polisario call off the negotiations, as it has threatened to do if Sahrawi sockpuppets are sent instead of real politicans. If Polisario decide to go ahead anyway, so as not to look bad, Rabat will of course jump at the opportunity to present Ould Errachid's participation as official recognition for the CORCAS. And to people less in the know, like visiting Western delegations, I bet a pocketful of dirhams that they're going to claim these negotiations were in fact really between CORCAS and POLISARIO.
However, since it has been made eminently clear, even by Morocco's main supporters, that the CORCAS is not, and will not be treated as, a party to the conflict, my guess is Morocco will include Ould Errachid in the delegation simply as an extra (along with Sahel). The set number of delegates is four, but Polisario also sent six people to the meeting, including two who are not part of the official delegation (the four official delegates are the same men who negotiated the referendum agreement in Houston in 1997; I'm sure they'll take the opportunity to remind people about what Morocco agreed to then).
Having the CORCAS leader as a non-official delegate could work as a face-saving arrangement for both sides -- Polisario can just ignore him and deal with the real negotiators instead, while the Moroccan government will be able to falsely claim to its people that the world community has welcomed the CORCAS as a party to the negotiations. Everybody wins.
And despite everything, they say they're going there with 'great optimism'. Call me cranky, but I wouldn't.
-- -- -- --
On another note, Morocco has hastened to deny what the US congress was told about its acceptance of US military bases. Turns out the Islamist semi-opposition (PJD) wasn't at all happy about it. No surprises there, and I'll still put my money that the back-channel message to Washington was a hearty ahlan wa sahlan.
Jun 13, 2007
- It is headed by Mahfoud Ali Beiba, president of the Sahrawi National Council and former interim secretary general of Polisario, between El Ouali and Mohamed Abdelaziz.
- The rest of the delegation is Emhamed Khaddad, Brahim Ghali, Ahmed Boukhari (all three among the top historic leaders), plus Bachir Sgheir and Sidi Mohamed Omar (of smackdown fame).
Jun 12, 2007
[Abdelhaqq] Layada, a former car mechanic, took over the GIA leadership in the autumn of 1992, months after the cancellation of elections and the start 'armed action' against the regime. But his leadership was short-lived, as Morocco arrested him in the summer of 1993 and handed him over to the Algerian authorities in August 1993. He said he was not detained in Morocco, but he met with senior Moroccan officials that tried to make an agreement with him on matters "I rejected", in a reference to the conflict in Western Sahara and Algeria's support for the Polisario Front that seeks the territory's independence from Morocco. "They told me I am worth a hundredweight of gold", before being handed over by Moroccan officials to the Algerians. (al-Hayat)For those of you not into Algerian civil war affairs, the GIA, or Armed Islamic Group, is perhaps most famous for declaring the entire Algerian people "infidels" and butchering tens of thousands of civilians in order to purge the country of sin. Not everyone were happy about it:
Their brutality, particularly to civilians, drew criticism from the global jihadi community, including from bin Laden, which felt they were giving "holy warriors" a bad name.Today, thankfully, the group has been reduced to hilltop rabble in northern Algeria, and it is no longer considered a serious threat to the country. Mr. Layada himself was recently set free under a government amnesty, as part of Bouteflika's national reconciliation strategy, and that's why he's out giving interviews. Anyway, the whole thing sort of puts the Moroccan government's constant accusations against Polisario for having "secret ties" to Islamism in perspective.
If you're not too shocked and awed by the recent ICG reports, then this is to let you know that two of the main pro-Polisario pages have launched pretty new English-language sites:
- AFAPREDESA -- the association for the families of the disappeared.
- UPES -- the Sahrawi writers' union.
But what has happened to Cahiers du Sahara, once the proud battleship of Arabic-language Sahrawi Internet propaganda? It's been down for quite some time, and the page now only displays a message that says that the page has been suspended. Fill me in on the thinking behind this one.
UPDATE: Without Larbi, we'd all be lost. Apparently, here's where you find Cahiers du Sahara nowadays, tempting us with a soon-to-come English version (alhtough they've been doing that for over a year). He also tells us that trusty old Western Sahara Online has been redesigned: lo and behold! With a direct link to Western Sahara Info on the front page, and the new ICG reports still on my desk, it's beginning to feel like Christmas eve in June.
That most eminent of foreign policy think-tanks, the International Crisis Group, has suddenly and out of the blue released no less than two reports on the Western Sahara conflict: Western Sahara: the Cost of the Conflict and Western Sahara: out of the Impasse.
I've just had a brief look so far, but it looks like very solid work. I'll read up and return; until then, they're mandatory reading for you lot.
Jun 7, 2007
To underline that Algeria isn't afraid of a long-term commitment to Polisario -- if anyone still wondered, after 32 years -- Bouteflika insisted that the Arab Maghreb Union (a very long-term affair) can never be built as long as Morocco conditions it on a dismissal of Sahrawi national rights. That, of course, was also intended as a snipe at Morocco's scuttling of the latest Union meeting. King Muhammad VI then cancelled his attendance in the last minute, explaining that he had been shocked by learning that Algeria supported self-determination for Western Sahara. Not everyone felt the argument was convincing.
[Unrelated but fun: don't miss this cheesy, yet entertaining, fusion of Spanish solidarity and schlager.]
Jun 2, 2007
To top off today's posting spree, I would simply like to recommend the latest article by Anna Theofilopoulou, Western Sahara - How to Create a Stalemate. Theofilopoulou is a former UN decolonization specialist that worked on Western Sahara's peace process from 1994-2004. Having followed both the Settlement Plan and Baker's seven-year peace effort from start til finish, she is one of very few to really know the Saharan negotiations game inside out.
As if that wasn't enough, she also happens ot agree with me that with the autonomy initiative,
[...] the current impasse will go on for some more years. Given the absence of will by members of the Security Council to take a clear and determined position and the general preference for "make believe" action, this is quite probable. The UN has had a reasonable plan on the table that met all the specifications laid out by the Security Council to Baker when he was asked in July 2002 to pursue his efforts to find a political solution. It has expressed its readiness to consider any approach that would allow for self-determination. After initially supporting the Baker Peace Plan, the Council changed its position once one of the parties raised objections. Instead of taking a firm position, it vacillated. I would also add what she hints at but doesn't say: that starting endless, pointless negotiations in order to gain time, is in fact Morocco's first hand-option, and will remain so for as long as the UN will not surrender self-determination as a principle of decolonization. That is, as have written before, precisely the reason for this:
Morocco's current autonomy proposal, while not much different in substance to what was given to Baker in December 2003, follows a different strategy. Claiming to be open to negotiations, it does not go into the details of the previous autonomy project. Instead, it defines the outline and principles governing autonomy, allowing for the proposal "to be enriched by the other parties during the negotiations phase." [...] The conflict has been stuck since 1991 precisely because the two parties cannot agree on the definition of [anything].Still a great piece. Also check out some of her other articles.
- 1. "Al-Mahmoudi said
would buy British missiles and air defence systems, in what would be the largest British defence sale to the former outcast state since an international arms embargo on it ended in 2004." Libya
- 2. "Also inside the tent yesterday was Peter Sutherland, the chairman of BP, which subsequently announced that it will return to Libya more than three decades after Col Gaddafi, filled with revolutionary fervour, nationalised all the company's assets in the country. Officials travelling with Mr Blair said the oil firm had signed a £450 million agreement, with the prospect of 17 wells being drilled. They added that if all this exploration reached its full potential the deal could be worth £13 billion."
- 3. "Mr. Blair said [... ] 'The one thing I have come to despise more than anything else in my 10 years is cynicism.'"
According to Jeune Afrique, Morocco's purchase of French fighter jets (not because of this) is now looking less certain. The jets were supposed to be paid for by Saudi Arabia, in order to help balance Algeria's giant acquisitions of military hi-tech from Russia, but apparently the Guardian of the Two Holy Places is getting cold feet. As JA puts it, "The personal relations between M6 and king Abdallah [...] are certainly excellent. But from there to paying close to a billion dollars (the estimated cost of 14 Rafale), even if it's in the form of a loan..."
Strengthened by the oil boom of the 1970s, Saudi Arabia sponsored Wahhabi religious schools and distributed scholarships and religious literature to hundreds of students. The schools attracted students from the rest of the Arab world, and hundreds of Wahhabi-trained preachers returned home to spread their theories.Your bases are belong to U.S.
Morocco was also receiving much-needed financial help from Saudi Arabia to support its military effort in the western Sahara, a territory disputed by Morocco and the Polisario, a rebel independence movement. "When Saudi Arabia gave money [to Morocco], it had to welcome its ulemas [theorists]. There was a political price to pay," says Darif.
In other military-related news, Morocco has asked the US to place its planned African military command, AFRICOM, in Morocco, after both Algeria and South Africa rejected the proposal (because, as Ech-Chorouk El Youmi's English-language edition so delightfully puts it, "it has something to do with national sovereignty"). Joint Moroccan-US exercises were recently held in Tan Tan (which would be right next to the Western Saharan border if there still was one), and apparently that's where Morocco wants to see the US bases. We'll see how that goes down in Morocco, considering that the Istiqlal (at the time including UNFP/USFP) opposition spent the first three years of Moroccan independence doing little but railing against the US bases that were in the country then. They were eventually evacuated, after much angry protest, in 1959.
Today, African missions -- such as Maghariba.com, one assumes -- are split between the Stuttgart-based EUCOM and the Middle East's CENTCOM (itself split between Florida & Qatar, somewhat like the Bush family fortune) which is terribly unwieldy now that Africa is moving into focus. And oh, did I mention that this blog gets a lot of dot-mil hits from Stuttgart?
Boutef shuffles his cards
UPDATE: Yes, Belkhadem stays as prime minister, and there were very few changes in the government.
Sahara Occidental writes:
According to the Spanish daily ABC the Morocco-Saharawi negociations will start on June 18 near New York.See also Liberté (in French). Like Liberté, Le Journal Hébdo (also French) reminds us that Morocco is trying to seat CORCAS at the negotiating table. However, POLISARIO's UN representative Ahmed Boukhari has declared in no uncertain terms that if so, there will be no negotiations (which would suit Morocco fine). The United States, through Rabat ambassador Thomas Riley, has also stated that CORCAS has no place in negotiations. Quite so. Negotiations are supposed to be between leaders of Morocco and POLISARIO, the parties to the conflict, and if the Moroccan government insists on sending low-level figureheads instead, there's no point in having them. How would Morocco react if POLISARIO sent, say, the vice chairman of its youth organization to the table?
Information confirmed by the arabophone newspapers "El Charq El Aouassat" et "El Qods El Arabi", place: Manhasset 27 km far from New-York (where UN use to organise meetings). Four negociators by each of the parties.
Still, there's the distinct possibility that Morocco will try to squeeze in a couple of Sahrawis anyway, to promote its preferred image of the conflict (i.e. as being an internal affair between good and bad Moroccan Sahrawis, not between Morocco and the POLISARIO as representative of the people of Western Sahara -- and POLISARIO of course resists, for exactly the same reason). Remember the three pro-Rabat Sahrawis given fancy titles for unspecified reasons recently? Chances are their one and only real task will be to sit in at the negotiating table and make faces when the UN isn't looking.