It is never over until it is over. Guns and bombs are blazing again in Africa’s most contested land of Western Sahara desert bringing an end to a ceasefire that has been in place for the past 29 years.
Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony mostly under Morocco’s control.
The ceasefire collapsed after Morocco said Friday that it had sent troops into no man’s land to reopen a road to neighbouring Mauritania.
An Algerian-backed independence movement — which holds a fifth of the territory — has campaigned for a vote on self-determination through decades of war and deadlock.
The north African territory sits on the western edge of the Sahara desert, stretching along about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) of Atlantic coastline.
At 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 square miles) it is relatively large — but its inhospitable terrain supports only around half a million people.
With Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east and Mauritania to the south and southeast, it boasts large reserves of phosphate and rich offshore fisheries.
As Spain withdrew in 1975, Morocco moved in, claiming the territory was part of the kingdom.
It was opposed by the Polisario Front, which took up arms to fight for independence.
The dispute was referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which ruled in favour of self-determination.
In November 1975, 350,000 Moroccans took part in the so-called Green March to the border to press the kingdom’s claim.
In February 1976, the Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with the support of allies including Algeria and Cuba.
– Huge sand walls –
The Polisario initially gained the upper hand, before being pushed back into the interior.
During the 1980s, Morocco built a series of concentric walls in the desert, most made of sand, to keep Polisario fighters out of territory where it had established control.
The outermost defensive line runs for 2,700 kilometres, ringing the 80 percent of the Western Sahara now under Moroccan control.
It is fortified with barbed wire and trenches and forms one of the world’s largest minefields.
The SADR is a member of the African Union, but controls just 20 percent of the territory, mostly empty desert.
– Troubled region –
The United Nations has repeatedly failed to find a lasting settlement since it brokered a ceasefire on the line of control in 1991.
The UN deployed its MINURSO mission to monitor the ceasefire, and to organise a referendum on the territory’s future status.
The vote was set for 1992 but was aborted when Morocco objected to the proposed electoral register, saying it was biased.
It now refuses to accept any vote in which independence is an option, and says only autonomy is on the table.
The conflict has long poisoned Morocco’s relations with neighbouring Algeria.
Their common border has been closed since 1994, and between 100,000 and 200,000 Sahrawi refugees live in camps around the Algerian desert town of Tindouf.
– Talks fail –
After years of deadlock, former German president and UN special envoy Horst Koehler gets the two sides together in Geneva, along with Algeria and Mauritania.
But two rounds of talks falter in March 2019. Koehler then retires for health reasons and has not been replaced.
In the meantime, some 20 African countries open diplomatic offices in the Moroccan-held cities of Laayoune and Dakhla.
– Rights abuses –
A 2018 UN report on Western Sahara cited accounts of “serious human rights violations” committed by Moroccan police against those pushing for self-determination.
It additionally highlighted concerns over rights abuses in the Tindouf camps run by the Polisario.
Libya Arrests 4,000 migrants
Libyan security forces arrested around 4,000 migrants, including hundreds of women and children.
The people were rounded up in the city of Gargaresch in the west of the country and taken to detention camps in the capital Tripoli and the surrounding area, authorities said.
According to the prosecutor, the operation was directed against drug and arms trafficking, among other things.
The special envoy of the UN refugee agency for the central Mediterranean region, Vincent Cochetel, told the AP news agency, according to initial reports, there were one dead and 15 injured in the action.
Transitional Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah welcomed the operation via Twitter as an “operation to eradicate drug trafficking”. Dbeibah said it would not be allowed to wage a “war against the youth” which was “a drug war”.
However, they left it open whether people smugglers or drug smugglers were also arrested. The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Libya, Dax Roque, had previously reported the arrest of “at least 500 migrants”, including women and children. On Saturday it was said that the number had risen to 4,000.
In some cases, security forces used excessive force to evict people from their homes. The shelters of illegal immigrants were razed to the ground during the operation.
“We shouldn’t be surprised if people are scared and try to go by sea (Libya).” Tarik Lamlum, a worker with the Libyan human rights group Belaadi, said there had been human rights abuses, particularly in the way women and children were arrested.
Massive assault and abuse
Gargaresch is known as a contact point for migrants and refugees and is located around twelve kilometers west of Tripoli.
The town has seen several waves of arrests against migrants in recent years, but activists have described the most recent as the toughest crackdown to date.
The Libyan Ministry of the Interior published pictures on social media on Friday, apparently showing some of the arrested.
They sat in groups on a street with their hands tied behind their backs. A bird’s eye photo showed men lying face down on the floor at an intersection. Military vehicles and guards surrounded them.
First, the migrants were taken to a facility in Tripoli called a collection and return center, said the head of the center, policeman Nuri al-Grettli. Then they were distributed to detention centers in Tripoli and surrounding cities.
According to human rights activists, these prisons are subject to massive assault and abuse. Dax Roque expressed concern that such martyrdom threatened the migrants who have now been arrested.
“Torture, sexual violence and blackmail are widespread in Libyan detention centers,” said the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Libya.
Transit country for migrants
A Libyan government official said the authorities would deport “as many migrants as possible” to their home countries. Many have lived illegally in Libya for years.
Activist Lamlum said many of the arrested migrants were registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as refugees or asylum seekers. The UNHCR did not comment at first.
For years, Libya has been a transit country for migrants from countries in Africa and the Middle East who fled war and poverty in their homeland and hope for a better life in Europe.
The country slipped into civil war and chaos as a result of a NATO-backed uprising, at the end of which the long-time autocrat Muammar al-Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Elections are scheduled for December 24th.
Field Marshal Idriss Déby Laid To Rest
Slain President of Chad has been laid to rest in his hometown Amdjarass.
On Friday, many Chadians dressed mostly in black, symbols of mourning, gathered at state House for the final farewell to Marshal Idriss Déby Itno.
Several heads of state and government but also presidents of major institutions were among the main presenters of condolences. Tribute after tribute, most remember the late Marshal as a daring man of conviction who put the interests of his country first.
Presidents Faure Gnassingbè, Alpha Condé, Félix Tshisekedi or Faustin-Archange Touadéra were thus present at Place de la Nation to pay tribute to the marshal.
On the other hand, Paul Biya and Ali Bongo Ondimba were represented, respectively by their Minister for Defense, Joseph Beti Assomo, and by the Prime Minister, Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda. The heads of state of the G5 Sahel were already there the day before.
One of his children, Colonel Abdelkerim Idriss Déby Itno, his deputy chief of staff, remembers an extraordinary father, endearing, caring and demanding.
“Chad loses in you a president marked by the spirit of patriotism and the Chadians have lost a father and a brother who loves them whom they love. President Idriss Déby is physically dead but the soldier and Marshal Idriss Déby went away honourably under conditions reserved for great warriors,” he added.
Inconsolable, First Lady Hinda Déby Itno remembers an exemplary husband, a caring father and a wise advisor. “An entire landmark has disappeared leaving us in perdition in a moving desert. Our guide is no longer, but the Shepherd’s Star is shining in the sky to direct us to the right port “, she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron remembers a friend and staunch ally of France.
“Dear Idriss, here we are gathered before your remains after three decades at the head of your country and so many battles fought with bravery. The battles you have fought have always been aimed at the defense of the territorial integrity of the motherland, the preservation of stability and peace, the struggle for freedom, security and justice. You lived as a soldier and you died as a soldier, weapons in hand “, adds Emmanuel Macron, who promises:” France will never let anyone question and will never let anyone threaten stability either today or tomorrow and the integrity of Chad ”.
The French president, held private talks with the son of the deceased, Mahamat Idriss Déby, now chairman of the Military Transitional Committee (CMT) which rules the country.
Striking Post Workers Paralyse Algeria
For the Fourth day today, Algiers the capital of Algeria has been on tension as Postal workers continue with a massive strike.
The management of Algeria Post announced that it was taking charge of the grievances of its employees. The Postal employees have deserted the counters.
No trade union or other collective of workers has claimed responsibility for this strike.
Employees are allegedly making certain demands such as the payment of bonuses, the 13th month bonus and compensation for weekend days worked, such as Saturdays and the few Fridays.
At the office of the Place du 1er-Mai, customers are received but the service does not follow; which created anarchy within.
Not admitting the unexpected, customers shouted their anger at employees who didn’t even flinch. “Are you on strike?” we ask a counter attendant who is not providing service.
“My shift is over,” she informs. And his replacement? She then evokes “a liquidity problem” before letting go: “We are on strike.”
In a statement made public yesterday, Algérie Poste announced the payment of the incentive bonus during this month of Ramadhan.
Affirming that it had dialogued and consulted with the social partner, Algérie Poste added that all measures for the satisfaction of the other demands have been taken, but will only be applicable once the union of the company is created.
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