sexta-feira, 17 de abril de 2009

President of Saharawi National Parliament addresses Basque youth group

During part of their week-long visit to the Saharawi refugee camps outside of Tindouf, Algeria, a group of 74 Basque young people and their Saharawi guides were received by Mahfud Ali Bayba, the President of the National Parliament of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), in the Parliament itself.

Amid flashing cameras and stunned silence, Mahfud spoke with the young Basque visitors, who were participating in a youth exchange with Saharawis from the Saharawi Youth Union (UJSARIO) and two volunteer youth organizations – the Sumud Brigades and the Freedom and Peace Group. The event was also attended by five other members of the National Parliament.

"You can’t imagine the energy you give us when young people such as yourselves come visit us and show your solidarity with our cause," confessed Mahfud.

Tailoring his discourse specifically for the audience, the President of the Parliament did not hesitate to accuse Spain of playing dirty politics with Morocco and refusing to take on its responsibilities under international law.

"It is unbelievable that the Saharawi conflict, which takes place a few dozen kilometers from the [Spanish] Canary Islands, is barely known among the Spanish people," Mahfud declared. "Morocco has always played games with Spanish politics.

"No Spanish government has been able to take a clear, pronounced stance on the issue of the Western Sahara."

Like all events here in the Saharawi refugee camps, the youth exchange must be seen through the larger lens of the Saharawi movement for independence, the root cause of any other issues and concerns of the Saharawi people. Therefore, politics remained the topic of the day during the parliamentarian’s speech.

"Our fight is a political one," Mahfud assured. "The support of the Spanish government is essential for the success of that fight. If we can fix the political problem, all the other problems about natural resources, human rights, etc., will be resolved in turn."

Highlighting the 30-year democratic experience that the Saharawis have been able to perfect, the President of the Parliament spoke on the merits of the government of the SADR.

"We are an Arab, Muslim, African and Third World people. No one expects a democracy to be born here," claimed the parliamentarian, "but theory is very different from practice, and we have been able to do something incredible here."

A government with no country

Responding to questions from the audience, the President of the Parliament gave a brief history lesson on the SADR, which is recognized as a sovereign nation by over 80 countries and the African Union (AU).

"The Saharawi Parliament was born before the country itself," asserted Mafoot.

The parliament was called together several months before the SADR was declared, and on February 27th, 1975, one day after the Spanish government illegally relinquished its control of the Western Sahara, the Saharawi Parliament gave birth to the fledgling nation.

"We had to fill the legal, political and administrative gap left by Spain’s departure," explained the President of the Parliament.

"Since the beginning, the Saharawis have been Polisario, and Polisario has been the Saharawis. The Saharawis are the government, and the government is the Saharawis," boasted Mahfud. "Every Saharawi is at once the majority and the opposition. It is an amazing experiment here in the Saharan Desert."

Trading cultures

The visit to the National Parliament by the group of 100-and-some youth was part of a week-long series of conferences, workshops and exchanges between young people from the Basque region of Spain and from the Saharawi refugee camps, primarily the camp of Ausserd.

The exchange, which is the first of its kind between Basques and Saharawis, is meant to be the first step towards a strong partnership of collaboration between the young people of the two nations.

"We have come here to show our solidarity with the Saharawi people," said one of the Basque organizers. "We will be the ambassadors for the Saharawi youth and all the people here in our own country."

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