Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT


World: Africa

King proposes Western Sahara council

The King proposes an advisory council for Western Sahara

By Nick Pelham in Rabat

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has reacted to renewed clashes between police and demonstrators in the disputed Western Sahara, saying the unrest would be dealt with according to the rule of law.

The Polisario Front has said that the disturbances were an uprising for independence.

But the King, speaking in a televised address on the anniversary of Morocco's takeover of Western Sahara in 1975, said such interpretations were unjust.

'Brutal behaviour'

King Mohammed used the broadcast to unveil a package of reforms designed to end the first unrest of his reign.

He proposed holding elections for a royal advisory council in the disputed Western Sahara and he is offering the territory free transport for students and the handicapped.

But while the new king of Morocco appears to be offering concessions, his police are resorting to force.

Western diplomats in Rabat say the Moroccan security forces again used what they call brutal behaviour to disperse demonstrations one week ago, in El Ayun, the main town of Western Sahara.

Photographs from the troubled region portray what diplomats describe as systematic beatings of men and women, in many cases to the back of the head. Several victims had broken bones.

Diplomats say they are concerned that police brutality will exacerbate already high tensions in the region.

Referendum

King Mohammed said that Morocco was committed to implementing a UN-sponsored peace plan on the future of the disputed Western Sahara so long as all would-be voters could take part in a planned referendum.


[ image: King Mohammed played down the unrest]
King Mohammed played down the unrest
"We are committed to the UN plan on the condition that all those who are entitled to take part in the referendum are allowed to do so," the King said.

A UN-brokered ceasefire ended a long war between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario in September 1991 and was due to be followed in January 1992 by a referendum on independence or integration with Morocco.

The referendum has been delayed due to differences between the two sides over who is eligible to vote.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security Council last month an analysis of appeals filed by more than 79,000 would-be voters could take 10 to 12 months and affect the timetable for holding the referendum, now tentatively scheduled for 31 July 2000.

Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz, has said he hopes the long-delayed referendum on the future of the territory will not be postponed again.

Liberalization

Last week students from the Western Sahara demonstrated outside parliament in Rabat to demand an end to what they called Moroccan military rule.

Ironically, the violence in El Ayun comes as Moroccan police have been responding to protests in the north with unprecedented restraint.

Since ascending the throne in July, King Mohammed has embarked on a programme of political liberalization and in his address on Saturday he reiterated his commitment to democracy and decentralisation.

Whether that will be enough to satisfy the demonstrators of the Western Sahara, however, still remains to be seen.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



Relevant Stories

08 Nov 99 | Monitoring
King's speech in excerpts

28 Aug 99 | Africa
Polisario pins hopes on Moroccan king

24 Jul 99 | Africa
New king - new Morocco?

27 Jan 99 | Africa
Background: The forgotten conflict





Internet Links


Western Sahara campaign

Western Sahara Resource Page

United Nations

Morocco on the Internet


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief