quinta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2008

Moroccan-Saharawi soap opera in Denmark

Based on Moroccan Ministry of Defence information, four Rabat media report that the representation of Western Sahara in Copenhagen has been ordered to close down by the Danish government. "Rubbish," say Danish sources, adding the false information comes as an answer to Danish media reports over a sex scandal at the Moroccan Embassy.

‘ASM’, a publication issued by the Moroccan Ministry of Defence, earlier this week was the first Rabat media to announce that "the government of Denmark" had taken the "decision" to "close down the office of Polisario in Copenhagen." Polisario, a movement fighting for the decolonisation of Western Sahara since the 1970s and which forms the exiled government of this African Union (AU) member country, has relatively good ties with Denmark and other Nordic countries, meaning that its ousting would mean a significant propaganda blow for the Saharawis.

During the week, also the government-close, but relatively credible Moroccan newspapers ‘Le Point’ and ‘Le Soir’ reported about the closure of the Polisario representation in Denmark. Finally today, the more radical ‘Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb’ celebrated the "news" as "a significant decision" by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to the Saharawis’ "undue political agitation" in the Nordic country.

But, neither the Danish Foreign Ministry nor the Danish press has reported about any decision to close a "Polisario representation in Copenhagen." Indeed, Danish journalist Ingrid Pedersen, who has followed the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict closely, told afrol News the Moroccan press reports were "pure rubbish."

Ms Pedersen explains that a closure would be impossible "because Polisario indeed does not have any [accredited] representation office in Denmark. They have a representative that lives in a two-room flat on Amager Island" just outside Copenhagen. "The Foreign Ministry has nothing to do with his businesses, except that he has permission to live and work in Denmark," she adds.

Polisario’s representative in Denmark, Abba Malainin, also denied the Moroccan reports, telling afrol News the "Polisario Representation still working as usual in Denmark." The stories had originated in "the Moroccan propaganda machine," he added.

Asking several sources in Denmark why Moroccan government-controlled media would publish such a story at this moment, all independently told afrol News that there had to be a connection with "the very amusing story" in Denmark’s conservative daily ‘Jyllands-Posten’ about a sex scandal at the Moroccan Embassy in Copenhagen.

Consul Raddad el Okbani at the Embassy is accused of sexual harassment and corruption by the Danish-Moroccan population, out of which around 200 took to the streets on 15 November to demand his resignation. Protesters told ‘Jyllands-Posten’ how the Consul repeatedly had demanded bribes and sexual services to get his signature on official documents. He was also reported to have taken photographs of visitors to the Embassy, threatening with reprisals in Morocco if his personal demands were not met.

The Consul has been removed from the Moroccan Embassy in Copenhagen, probably having been sent home to Rabat. But the demonstrators are not satisfied, still demanding legal actions to be taken against him.

Ms Pedersen, notably amused by the seldom scandal in the diplomatic landscape, holds that there may be a connection. The false Polisario office closure story was published "to take away the attention" from the Embassy scandal, she holds. Polisario representative Malainin agrees Moroccan officials had spread the false story "to cover and attract the public opinion from the scandalous shame in Morocco’s Embassy in Denmark."

But, Mr Malainin adds, the scam was also a reaction to Polisario’s relative successes in Denmark and other Nordic countries, where some political parties now even are in favour of recognising Western Sahara as a sovereign state, in line with the AU. "The Moroccan system is worrying about the raising awareness and solidarity of the just cause of the Saharawi people ... in all Scandinavia," he holds. "This increasing awareness and solidarity reached to a point that Moroccan system propaganda machine can not influence it," Mr Malainin adds.

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