[from a local Algeciras Fanzine, translated by Robert Ross]
Last Tuesday there was a celebration dinner held in the hotel Reina Cristina, Algeciras (Spain), to commemorate the third year of the current king of Moroccoâ€™s Mohamed the Sixthâ€™s ascension to the throne. This hotel is the place where European governments got together at the beginning of the 20th century to share out the African continent.
Lurking behind the ceremonial faÃ§ade, connotations can be found that are parallel to the colonial ambitions of those times. One of the connotations that dignitaries and guests avoided making reference to is the problem in Western Sahara. Many analysts consider that what is happening there is a contemporary example of internal imperialism in Africa.
A group of sympathisers of the Saharauian people gathered .in the main entrance to the hotel. Armed with placards, assorted colours and good faith, they handed out pamphlets to diners and guests. These handouts denounced the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and its policies of social exclusion and extermination of the Saharaui population. (* see the Royal Menu at the end of this interview).
Marejada-en-el-Estrecho asked the demonstrators the following 7 questions:
Q1. What is everyone doing here; what is this demonstration about?
The protest is about our condemnation of the obstructionist policies of the Moroccan regime with regard to implementing the agreement reached by the United Nations for the Peace Plan for Western Sahara. It is also a protest against the Moroccan military occupation of the area, and the genocide being carried out against the Saharauis that still live in the occupied zones, which are terrorized by 200,000 Moroccan troops, and against the blue-helmet peacekeepers (MINURSO), who are mere puppets of the invading authority.
The demonstration is also to show our solidarity (Andalusian) to those Saharauis exiled in the refugee camps of Tindouf, Algiers, who barely manage to stay alive in very harsh desert conditions waiting for the international community to mete out justice so that they can return to their country. We also want to show our support to the Polisario Front and the Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic (RASD) in their rightful claim for self-determination.
Q2. Are there many celebrations held in Spain for Moroccan dignitaries?
This protest is being held in Algeciras (province of Cadiz) because the only Moroccan Consulate in Andalusia (southern region of Spain) is to be found here. And today is the third anniversary of king Mohamed the Sixthâ€™s ascension to the throne. The celebrations are held every year and we come along every year, too. It was with Hassan II before, and now itâ€™s with his son Mohamed VI.
The monarchy governs with absolute power in Morocco. And it is precisely the monarchy that is responsible for these crimes against humanity. It is also equally to blame for the lack of democratic progress in Morocco.
Normally, some (local) officials turn up for the occasion, but this year it has been very low key as a result of bad current relations between both countries and the ridiculous business of Parsley Island.
Q3. How many fronts do you keep up against Moroccan pressure?
Our group is merely local (Algeciras). There are more than 600 members in it, and it is one of 19 associations in the province of Cadiz. It forms part of the wider Andalusian federation of associations of friends of the Saharauis, which is represented throughout the region. It is registered with the national Federation of Associations. There are collectives and associations nationwide. There is also a network of â€˜solidarity with the Saharauisâ€™ groups, where town councils acrtoss the country set up twinning ventures with Saharaui towns. And there is also a European Federation, which meets once a year. Last year it met in Seville.
The main focus of our efforts centres on two considerable humanitarian projects and one political one: the â€˜Human Caravan Projectâ€™ (which sends provisions and help to the camps in Tindouf); and the â€˜Holidays in Peaceâ€™ project, which arranges for Saharaui children to spend two months with Spanish families during the summer. The political undertaking is based on finding political support and institutions that will help us, as well as stimulating activism and organizing demonstrations.
Q4. How many fronts do the Moroccan services maintain against what you do?
In a place such as Algeciras, with a substantial residential Moroccan population, they are bound to be active. A few years ago we even had to report them for stalking and harassing us. Nowadays they just send people to watch what we get up to and to take notes, and little else. Last November at the European Conference for Solidarity with Western Sahara in Seville, a group of them tried to get into the hotel where it was being held, but they were apprehended and thrown out by the police. They have actually assaulted some of our Barcelona group members during an organized protest there. A month ago, a so-called Association for Victims of the Polisario group was set up here. They are opening an office that is going to be staffed by Moroccan government agents.
We have been informed that the Moroccan administration has contracted a British PR company dealing in presenting the unpresentable to tart up the corrupt Moroccan regime. There are no holds barred by this regime, particularly in Spain, where it has extensive inroads into publishing and a huge number of fifth columnists acting as its lobbyers.
Q5. How do the Saharauis feel towards Spanish governments with regard to what they have / havenâ€™t done to help?
The Saharauis make a clear distinction between what the Spanish government and the Spanish people do. The people are generally supportive. Successive governments, however, have swum in a sea of ambiguity, often betraying them. Felipe Gonzalez once deployed electoral images of himself brandishing a raised fist in the Tindouf refugee camps. Once in power he changed over to selling arms to the Moroccans, which were used to kill Saharauis in a desert war that lasted 15 years. Today Gonzalez is the most outstanding spokesman for the Moroccan lobby in Spain and is currently building himself a palatial home in Morocco. Mr. Gonzalez has placed his partyâ€™s stance of siding with Moroccan policy over and above the opinion of the Spanish electorate.
The current government, due to interests that are not very clear, appears to support self-determination for Western Sahara. However, its currently undefined position leaves everything in the air. Perhaps it will become clear by the time the United Nations meet again in January when it will have the right to vote.
Q6. How many countries actually support you?
There are some seventy countries that officially recognize the RASD, although they are not all necessarily political heavyweights. The recently formed African Union has recognized it officially, however, and it does carry some punch. The Saharaui president, Mohamed Abdelaziz, actually holds a vice-presidency in the AU, a state of affairs that led Morocco to leave the organization.
The main source of support for the Saharauis is to be found in Spain. But there are support groups and networks dealing with humanitarian and political issues elsewhere also, for example, in Italy, Belgium, France, Sweden and Norway. The Algerian government plays a major role in sustaining refugee camps in its country.
Q7. How could the influence of France and the USA affect the decision that the United Nations is to take in six monthsâ€™ time?
The influence of these two countries in the Security Council has a huge significance. They are the real obstacles in the process â€“ due to the obvious economic interests they defend. The oil companies, Total Fina (France) and Kerr MCGuee (USA), have signed (an agreement) with the Kingdom of Morocco to exploit oil reserves in Western Sahara. However, these agreements have been declared null and void by the legal services of the United Nations. These two countries, despite their high international political standing, have been taken down a peg or two with this issue, after seeing how their proposals for Moroccan annexing of Western Sahara was repealed by the Security Council.
It would be incomprehensible and unqualifiable if the United Nations were to legislate against the very right to self-determination that it officially recommends. And it would also be going against what the International Court in The Hague stands for, and against the basic principles of its own creation.
*THE ROYAL MENU* created & handed out by sympathisers to guests attending the dinner
Starter: Saharaui Fish with Parsley Sauce
Main dish: Human Lives, Phosphates and Oil
Dessert: Blood of the Missing; Dinghy of the Anguished
Price: Your Dignity (If thereâ€™s any left)