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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT1137 2006-06-12 18:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

WESTERN SAHARA: WHAT'S HAPPENING IN TINDOUF?

Tags:   KPKO MO PBTS PHUM PREL 
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1. (SBU) Two Sahrawi tribal leaders, Sheikh Abdi Salama
Nafaa of Laayoune and Idrissi Belali from Smara, previously
unknown to the embassy, called on Polcouns June 9 to seek US
support for what they alleged were injustices being committed
against members of the Rgiubat tribe, subgroup Layeshi
(phonetic), following an incident between a member of the
tribe and the Polisario police in the February 27 refugee
camp. Sheikh Nafaa, who described himself as the leading
Sheikh of the Layeshi, said that during the last week of May,
a Layeshi man was forced to pay a toll at two consecutive
checkpoints while traveling in his vehicle in the Tindouf
area. Paying one was fine, but the man felt that paying two
was excessive. He argued with the Polisario police. The
argument became heated, and the police hauled him out of his
car and beat him. Layeshi tribal elders then went to the
local police station and demanded an investigation, saying
they would return in two days for answers. When they
returned two days later, the police were rude and threw them
out. Fighting (unarmed) broke out, property was destroyed in
the fracas, and many people were injured, some severely.
Eighteen Layeshi tribespeople were arrested; some were taken
to the hospital, while others are languishing in the Taibiyeh
Rabuni prison, 30 kilometers from Rabuni, including minors
such as Sheikh Nafaa's eleven year-old nephew. Forty people
have fled February 27 camp and are being pursued by the
Polisario, the men alleged. Seventy-five women gathered
outside the police station to demand the release of their
husbands and relatives. The Algerians imposed a telephone
black-out, the Sheikh said, but people have been able to
communicate via satellite phones. The Sheikh claims he has
received many phone calls from the camp providing him the
details of the situation.



2. (SBU) The two leaders requested US support for sending an
international human rights organization to the camp to
investigate. They said the situation remained tense, and
they were not sanguine that the problem could be solved
locally and tribal dignity appropriately restored. Belali,
who claimed to have been a founding member of the Polisario
before "defecting" to Morocco in 1988, said people in the
camps were tired of Polisario injustice, and said a broader
uprising was perhaps underway. The two men said all the
evidence the international community needs to verify the
abuses and "torture" could be found among the detainees in
the Rabuni prison. They said the conditions at the prison
are abysmal: no medical care, no family visits, no tea, and
no protection from the heat. They planned to lobby other
embassies in Rabat.

CORCAS


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Polcouns asked whether the Royal Council for
Saharan Affairs (CORCAS) supported the call for international
action on Tindouf. The two men said they were not members of
CORCAS, nor had they specifically discussed the Tindouf
situation with CORCAS. They were decidedly unenthusiastic
about CORCAS, saying it is not representative of the Sahrawis
because "no one is elected" and "the people were not
consulted." They granted nevertheless that CORCAS represents
a start, though they said CORCAS has made some "mistakes."
They regretted not being members of CORCAS. Belali said he
was a member of the original CORCAS, and said the previous
council was better because some members were elected. The
two men advocated a dialogue among all Sahrawis ) Polisario,
those living abroad ) to find a solution to the Western
Sahara. But the solution, they said firmly, was autonomy
under Moroccan sovereignty. As for human rights, they said
the situation in the territory was improving slowly. People
can speak their minds more freely, they said, but there have
been abuses (neither denied the GOM beats demonstrators).
They were pleased that human rights organizations and
journalists visit the territory. They also said the UN-run
family visits program was helpful as a humanitarian
initiative. They believed the Algerians stopped the program
because of the situation they described in Tindouf.


4. (SBU) Poloffs also received on June 2 Sahrawi activist
Akay Dahi representing the Association des Portes Disparus Au
Polisario (APDP, "Association of those who disappeared by/to
the Polisario") based in Laayoune. He said APDP maintains
close contacts with Sahrawis in the Tindouf camps. He passed
to Poloffs the following letter (informal embassy
translation), addressed to Secretary Rice:

To the Secretary of State of America,

We are writing to ask the US administration for intervention
in the massacres perpetrated by the Polisario militias
against our sequestered brothers in Tindouf. Since May 30,
the security and oppression forces of the Polisario have
perpetrated violations against the inhabitants of the
February 27 camp in Tindouf in southern Algeria. Even
pregnant women, the elderly and children were subjected to
this torture. We are requesting the American administration,
people and organizations to intervene to stop the oppression.



5. (SBU) Dahi said he has contacts in the Tindouf camps
whom he has not been able to reach. Initially, these
contacts were calling on land lines, using different pay
telephones for no more than two minutes at a time. By June
1, Dahi said all contact had ceased. Moroccan press reports
in late May included televised interviews with Sahrawis
living in Europe saying they could not reach relatives in the
camps.



6. (C) In several conversations with Polcouns, MINURSO was
unable to verify Moroccan or Polisario claims of the
situation in Tindouf, other than to report that there was
clearly no uprising underway in any of the camps. In the end
MINURSO concluded, in a report to DPKO in New York, that an
incident had taken place following a dispute in one of the
camps, leading to fights, arrests, and injuries.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) Based on our contacts, it seems clear that there has
been an incident in February 27 camp, but it seems to fall
well short of an "uprising" or even a conflict between the
Sahrawi people and the Polisario, as the GOM would have us
believe. The most detailed report we have is the Sheikh's,
who framed the problem more as a tribal issue, normally
resolved by elders but now out of hand, than as a political
confrontation.
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Riley