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News in Brief

Western Sahara

The situation in Western Sahara turned even more grim on 11 December, when outgoing US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. 

This was a major shift in official US policy, but the US has always unofficially supported the Moroccan occupation – as has the EU, which benefits from illegal fishing in Sahrawi waters.

On 10 January, two senior US officials (including the top US state department official for the region, David Schenker) took part in a ceremony in Dakhla which paved the way for a US consulate in the occupied zone.

There has continued to be gunfire between Moroccan security forces and militants from Polisario, the Sahrawi national liberation movement. (See PN 2648 – 2649.)

On 19 January, Polisario said it was willing to join UN talks, but it would not halt armed action. Spokesperson Sidi Ould Oukal said: ‘We have waited 30 years. Thirty years of broken promises, prevarication and untenable waiting.’

Meanwhile, a Norwegian financial services group has banned the Spanish subsidiary of Siemens Gamesa and two other green energy companies from assets it holds – because of their operations in Western Sahara. 

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has a wind turbine factory in Hull.

More PJs

Yet another ‘peace & justice’ group, on top of the (Catholic) National Justice & Peace Network, the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, the Milton Keynes Peace & Justice Network and many others! 

Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the Labour party (and current CND vice-president), started up a ‘Project for Peace & Justice’ in January. 

It aims to ‘combine analysis, campaigning and networking’, and has four priorities, two of which are COVID-related: ‘Climate Justice – Green New Deal’; ‘Economic Security – Pandemic solidarity’; ‘Democratic Society – Media reform’; and ‘International Justice – Vaccine equality’. 

Faith-based braves!

Are you an activist who has been inspired by your faith to take a stand for peace?

The Fellowship of Reconciliation’s ‘Testimony of Peace’ project aims to inspire a new generation of peacemakers by telling the stories of previous and current generations. 

Whether it is your story, or you were inspired into activism by someone else, FoR want to hear from you. Please contact Jack Woodruff with your story or ideas: jack@for.org.uk

Büchel

On 7 December, a German court found Margriet Bos, a Dutch Catholic Worker, and Dennis DuVall, a US military veteran, guilty of cutting through a fence to enter the air force base at Büchel last summer. Büchel houses 20 B61 nuclear bombs, owned by the US but available to the German air force.

Margriet and Dennis argued that the German state should be on trial, because German pilots at Büchel are trained to drop H-bombs on Russian cities, a crime against humanity.

A third defendant, Susan van de Hijden (also from the Amsterdam Catholic Worker), did not appear.

COVIDiot nukes

A convoy carrying Trident nuclear warheads to the Coulport nuclear weapons store north of Glasgow was spotted entering Scotland on 18 January during a tightened COVID lockdown.

A Scottish Greens MSP, Mark Ruskell, said: ‘The transportation of nuclear weapons can hardly be described as an essential journey, and there are serious questions about the ministry of defence’s risk assessments if these convoys are allowed to pass through Scotland during challenging weather and while we are in the grip of a deadly pandemic.’

The convoy was seen returning to Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield in England by Oxford Nukewatchers on 21 January.

One step back

On 16 December, the UK’s supreme court overturned a previous court of appeal ruling, re-opening the possibility that there could be a third runway at Heathrow. 

The Good Law Project and Plan B have both said they will launch legal action to stop Heathrow expansion (Plan B at the European court of human rights). 

The local grassroots campaign, ‘Stop Heathrow Expansion’, is continuing to fight (with its arguments strengthened by the government’s ‘Net Zero emissions by 2050’ target), pointing out that there are still hurdles remaining for the third runway.

Seed pods

The Resist+Renew training collective have been putting out a podcast, where facilitators interview social movement organisers about how they do their work – ‘along with a good chunk of geeking out about different tools in our training toolbox’. 

The first episode was ‘Abolishing prisons in the UK’ with Kelsey from CAPE (Community Action on Prison Expansion) in November. 

The latest episode, on 16 January, was on ‘Hand signals’ in meeting: ‘what hand signals are useful in facilitation, when they’re useful, and their limitations’.