Green March: Wikis


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History of Western Sahara
Western Sahara

Historical background

Western Sahara War · History of Morocco · Spanish Sahara · Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic · Spanish Morocco · Colonial wars in Morocco · Moroccan Army of Liberation · Ifni War · ICJ Advisory Opinion · UN in Spanish Sahara · Madrid Accords · Green March · Berm (Western Sahara) · Human rights in Western Sahara

Disputed regions

Saguia el-Hamra · Río de Oro · Southern Provinces · Free Zone


Legal status of Western Sahara · Politics of Morocco · Politics of the SADR · Polisario Front · Former members of the Polisario Front · CORCAS · Moroccan Initiative for Western Sahara


Moroccan Army of Liberation · Harakat Tahrir · Polisario Front · Zemla Intifada · Independence Intifada

UN involvement

Resolution 1495 · Resolution 1754 · UN visiting mission · MINURSO · Settlement Plan · Houston Agreement · Baker Plan · Manhasset negotiations


The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan Spanish Province of Sahara to Morocco.


The Green March

A 100 dirham note from 1991 commemorating the Green March

The Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On November 6, 1975, approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans[1] converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into Western Sahara. They brandished Moroccan flags, banners calling for the "return of the Moroccan Sahara," photographs of the King and the Qur'an; the color green for the march's name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border Spanish troops were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed.

In order to prepare the terrain and to riposte to any potential counter-invasion from Algeria, the Moroccan Army entered the northeast of the region where it met with sporadic resistance from the Polisario, by then a two-year-old independence movement.[2]


Morocco, to the north of the Spanish Sahara, had long claimed that the territory was historically an integral part of Morocco. Mauritania to the south argued similarly that the territory was in fact Mauritanian. Since 1973, a Sahrawi guerrilla war led by the Algerian backed Polisario had challenged Spanish control, and in October 1975 Spain had quietly begun negotiations for a handover of power with leaders of the rebel movement, both in El Aaiún, and with foreign minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri meeting El Ouali in Algiers.[3]

Morocco intended to vindicate its claims by demanding a verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ stated that there were historical legal ties of allegiance between "some, but only some" Sahrawi tribes and the Sultan of Morocco, as well as ties including some rights relating to the land between Mauritania and other Sahrawi tribes. [1] However, the ICJ stated also that there were no ties of territorial sovereignty between the territory and Morocco, or Mauritania, at the time of Spanish colonization; and that these contacts were not extensive enough to support either country's demand for annexation of the Spanish Sahara. Instead, the court argued, the indigenous population (the Sahrawis) were the owners of the land, and thus possessed the right of self-determination. This meant that regardless of which political solution was found to the question of sovereignty (integration with Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, partition, or independence), it had to be explicitly approved by the people of the territory. Complicating matters, a UN visiting mission had concluded on October 15, the day before the ICJ verdict was released, that Sahrawi support for independence was "overwhelming".

However, the reference to previous Moroccan-Sahrawi ties of allegiance was presented by Hassan II as a vindication of his position, with no public mention of the court's further ruling on self-determination. (Until, seven years later, he formally agreed to a referendum before the Organisation of African Unity). Within hours of the ICJ verdict's release, he announced the organizing of a "green march" to Spanish Sahara, to "reunite it with the Motherland".

The Moroccan arguments for sovereignty


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According to Morocco, the exercise of sovereignty by the Moroccan state was characterized by official pledges of allegiance to the sultan. The Moroccan government was of the opinion that this allegiance existed during several centuries before the Spanish occupation and that it was a legal and political tie.[4] The sultan Hassan I, for example, had carried out two expeditions in 1886 in order to put an end to foreign incursions in this territory and to officially invest several caids and cadis. In its presentation to the ICJ, the Moroccan side also mentioned the levy of taxes as a further instance of the exercise of sovereignty.[5] The exercise of this sovereignty had also appeared, according to the Moroccan government, at other levels, such as the appointment of local officials (governors and military officers), and the definition of the missions which were assigned to them.[6]

The Moroccan government further pointed to several treaties between it and other states, such as with Spain in 1861, the United States of America in 1786, and 1836 and with Great Britain in 1856 [7] [2].

The court, however, found that "neither the internal nor the international acts relied upon by Morocco indicate the existence at the relevant period of either the existence or the international recognition of legal ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State. Even taking account of the specific structure of that State, they do not show that Morocco displayed any effective and exclusive State activity in Western Sahara." [3]

The Madrid Accords

Spain feared that the conflict with Morocco could lead to war, and with its government in disarray (the dictator, Franco, lay dying), it was in no mood for trouble in the colonies. Only the year before, the Portuguese government had been toppled, after becoming bogged down in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. Therefore, following the Green March, and with a view to preserving as much as possible of its interest in the territory, Spain agreed to enter direct bilateral negotiations with Morocco, bringing in also Mauritania, who had made similar demands. This resulted in the November 14 Madrid Accords, a treaty [8] which divided Spanish Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco.

Spain received a 35% concession in the phosphate mines of Bou Craa, and offshore fishing rights [4]. Morocco and Mauritania then formally annexed the parts they had been allotted in the Accords. Morocco claimed the northern part, i.e. Saguia el-Hamra and approximately half of Río de Oro, while Mauritania proceeded to occupy the southern third of the country under the name Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Mauritania later abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979 and ceded this area to Popular Army of Saharwi Liberation but it was instead promptly occupied by Morocco.

The Polisario, now with heavy Algerian backing, refused the Madrid Accords, and demanded that the ICJ's opinion on Sahrawi self-determination be respected; it turned its weapons on the new rulers of the country, sticking to its demand for independence outright, or a referendum on the matter. The conflict has still not been resolved. Currently, there is a cease-fire in effect, after a Moroccan-Polisario agreement was struck in 1991 to solve the dispute through the organization of a referendum on independence. A UN peace-keeping mission ( MINURSO) has been charged with overseeing the cease-fire and organizating the referendum, which has still not taken place as of 2007. Morocco has rejected the idea of the referendum as not workable in 2000 and is suggesting an autonomy for Western Sahara within Morocco. That proposal been rejected by Polisario, and also by its Algerian backers; according to the Moroccan government, it will be presented to the UN in April 2007.

See also


  1. ^ (French) Hassan II lance la Marche verte :: Jeune Afrique
  2. ^ How the US and Morocco seized the Spanish Sahara, by Jacob Mundy
  3. ^ Jacob Mundy, "Neutrality or Complicity? The United States and the 1975 Moroccan takeover of the Spanish Sahara, p. 283; in Journal of North African Studies, Volume 11, No. 3 (Routledge/Taylor & Francis Publishing, September 2006)
  4. ^ ICJ, Reports 1975, p. 83. For more details, Cf. pp. 83-102. Cf. also individual opinion of Judge M. FORSTER. Idem p. 103 and Annex n° 7.
  5. ^ ICJ, Western Sahara Pleadings, Arguments, Documents, Volume 111, Written Statements and Documents, pp. 205 to 497.
  6. ^ - Nomination Dahirs, dating back to the reign of His Majesty Moulay Abdelaziz Bel Hassan, (Two Dahirs in 1886 and two in 1899), of His Majesty Abdelhafid Bel Hassan (1907 and 1909). - Dahirs of His Majesty El Hassan Ben Mohammed (1877 and 1886) of His Majesty Abdelaziz Ben El H~Hassan (1901)
  7. ^ The treaties are the following: - Trading Treaty between Morocco and Spain in Madrid in November 20, 1861. - Treaty with the USA in June 23 to 28,1786. - Treaty of peace and friendship between the USA and Morocco, signed in Meknes in September 16, 1856. - Anglo-maroccan Accords, December 9, 1856.
  8. ^ Trilateral Agreement concluded between the Spanish, Moroccan and Mauritanian Governments, the text of which has been transmitted to the Secretary General of the UN in November 18, 1975. (Resolution 3458 (XXX) B. 10/12/1975).

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