[Documents menu] Documents menu

Polisario Unhappy At Further Two-Year Delay

Panafrican News Agency, 24 November 2000

Belgium, Brussels’Mohamed Ben Abdelaziz, the secretary general of the Polisario Front in Brussels regretted the decision made by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan and the Security Council to postpone until 2002 the referendum initially planned for 2000.

In a press conference held Friday, in the presence of members of the European committee for support to the Sahrawi people, among others, Abdelaziz stated that he was in the Belgian capital to draw the attention of Europe and the international community to the fate of of the Sahrawi people who are still waiting for the referendum on self-determination to be held.

Abdelaziz, who is also the president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic republic (Sadr), said he was also in Belgium to request an increase in European aid to Sahrawi refugees, who have been living outside the country for decades.

He accused Morocco of continuing to veto the holding of the referendum, adding that the Polisario Front adheres to the 1991 UN Peace Plan and the Houston Accords negotiated and signed in September 1997 under the auspices of James Baker, the UN secretary general special representative in Western Sahara and a former U.S. secretary of state.

His movement, he said, is prepared to accept the results of the referendum on condition that it is organised by the UN in a transparent, free and democratic manner and with only one question to answer: Are you for independence or for integration to the Moroccan Kingdom?

According to Abdelaziz, the identification commission set up by the UN after the population census, which lasted from 1993 to 1999, after interviewing over 200,000 people, identified 87,000 Sahrawi who are qualified to take part in the referendum.

Recalling the UN criteria for eligibility to the referendum, Abdelaziz said that those qualifying to vote must be listed on the Spanish population census of 1974, hold documents proving that they have lived in Western Sahara but could not be present for the census for specific reasons.

Voters, he added, must also have lived for six consecutive years in Western Sahara during the Spanish colonial era or during 12 years with interruption and their father, mother, son or daughter must have been listed in the 1974 Spanish census and must belong to one of the tribes living in Western Sahara.

The 87,000 people selected by the UN identification commission to take part in the referendum at least meet one of the five criteria listed, he explained, stressing that the list is provisional and is subject to change in case appeals are introduced.

For the SADR president, such claims would not drastically change the list.

On developments in Morocco following the death of king Hassan II and the enthroning of his son Mohammed VI, Abdelaziz stated that the situation in Western Sahara has worsened since the new monarch came to power as he has stepped up repression specially in September, October and November 1999.

The press conference ended in a tense atmosphere with the protests of many Moroccans present in the room and for whom the Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria, is just a detention centre.