North Africa Theater

Long-delayed peace deal for Niger's restive Tuaregs

Ten years after Niger's government and insurgents signed an accord to end the Tuareg rebellion, authorities have launched an economic assistance program for more than 3,000 ex-combatants in the country's north—the final phase as laid out in the peace pact. Under the project, 3,160 former combatants will be granted around US $300 each in the form of micro-loans for projects in animal husbandry, local crafts and vegetable gardening, said Michele Falavigna, Niger representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Moroccan security forces kill African migrants; crisis grows over Spanish enclaves

Moroccan troops killed six undocumented African migrants attempting to reach the Spanish-controlled enclave of Melilla on the Mediterranean coast Oct. 6. Citing Abdellah Bendhiba, the governor of Nador province, news accounts said the Africans were killed in a "violent" assault by 400 migrants on guard posts outside the enclave. Security forces responded in self-defense, the report said. 290 were reported arrested, and Spain pledged to deport another 70 migrants from Mali who had reached the enclave "illegally." (EiTB24, Spain, Oct. 6)

Western Sahara prisoners on hunger strike

Morocco's leading independent human rights group called on the government Aug. 29 to start talks to try to end a hunger strike by prisoners from Morocco-occupied Western Sahara who are demanding better conditions. The Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) said 29 prisoners in three prisons—one in the disputed territory and two in northern Moroccan cities—had refused to eat for three weeks. "The strike has started to seriously take its toll on their health," said MDH spokesman Abdelilah Benabdeslam. "Their lives are at risk now."

Last Moroccan POWs freed by Western Sahara guerillas

After more than 20 years in captivity, 404 prisoners of war have returned home to Morocco, the last of more than 2,400 freed by Western Sahara's Polisario Front independence movement. Two privately chartered planes carrying the prisoners, some of them more than 60 years old, landed in the southern city of Agadir. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the prisoners' release in Tindouf, southwest Algeria, followed US mediation. They were captured by the Polisario in the guerrilla war sparked by Rabat's 1975 annexation of the desert territory. The soldiers' return home could ease tension between Morocco and the Polisario's main backer Algeria, major players in a region where the West seeks stability and cooperation against Islamic militants.

More arrests, torture in Western Sahara

In an Aug. 1 statement, Amnesty International expresses concern about the recent arrest and detention of six human rights defenders in Western Sahara, and reports that two of them had been tortured. Some of those arrested are former "disappeared", others are former prisoners of conscience.

Libyan opposition meets to demand Qaddafi's ouster

It seems that Mommar Qaddafi's Libya, of all places, has been overlooked by the current Bush "regime change" offensive. Now that sanctions have been lifted, an opposition is starting to emerge, and appears (in contrast to its counterparts in Syria, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Cuba, etc.) to be independent of Washington and the West.

Collaborationist protests in Western Sahara

Excerpt from a report by Moroccan news agency MAP (via M&C News):

Laayoune, 19 June: Hundreds of citizens today Sunday held a protest at the Hassan I Airport in Laayoune against the scheming intentions and provocative attempts of the Spanish pro-separatist activists who are trying to visit the town despite the Moroccan authorities' refusal to let them step on national soil.

Morocco bars Western Sahara investigation

Speaking in Algeirs, Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz called for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. "We won't opt for violence. We will continue to fight through peaceful means," he told a news conference. But he also called on the international community to investigate the recent repression and especially the ongoing detention of dozens of people following last months protests in Western Sahara.

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