Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic: Wikis


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الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية
Al-Jumhūrīyya al-`Arabīyya aṣ-Ṣaḥrāwīyya ad-Dīmuqrātīyya
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Mottoحرية ديمقراطية وحدة  (Arabic)
"Liberty, Democracy, Unity"
AnthemYābaniy Es-Saharā  listen
Territory claimed by the SADR, viz. Western Sahara (the lower half of the section shaded yellow). The majority is currently administered by Morocco; the remainder is named the Free Zone by SADR, and is marked in yellow.
Capital El Aaiún[1]  (under Moroccan administration)
Bir Lehlou (temporary capital)
Tindouf Camps (de facto)
Tifariti (proposed new provisional capital)[2][3]
Official languages Arabic, Spanish
Demonym Sahrawi
Government Nominal republic1
 -  President Mohamed Abdelaziz
 -  Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Oumar
Disputed with Morocco 
 -  Western Sahara
   relinquished by Spain

November 14, 1975 
 -  SADR proclaimed February 27, 1976 
 -  Total 266,0002 km2 (83rd)
102,7032 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  July 2004 estimate 267 405 (182nd)
 -  Density 1.3/km2 (228th)
3.4/sq mi
Time zone UTC (UTC+0)
Internet TLD none3
1 The SADR government is situated in Tindouf, Algeria. They claim control of the area east of the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara which they label the Free Zone. Bir Lehlou is within this area.
2 Area of the whole territory of (Western Sahara) claimed by SADR.
3 .eh reserved.

This article is part of the series:
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


Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

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The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية‎) is a partially recognised state which claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976. The SADR government currently controls about 20% of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the "Liberated Territories" or "Free Zone." Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces. The SADR government considers the Moroccan held territory "Occupied Territory" while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR held territory to be a "Buffer Zone."



Following the Spanish evacuation of Spanish Sahara, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords, leading to both Morocco and Mauritania moving in to annex it. Neither state gained international recognition and war ensued with the independence-seeking Polisario Front, claiming to represent the Sahrawi people. The creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was announced in Bir Lehlou in Western Sahara on February 27, 1976, as the Polisario declared the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political void left by the departing Spanish colonizers. Bir Lehlou remained in Polisario-held territory under the 1991 cease-fire (see Settlement Plan) and has remained the government in exile's symbolic capital of the exiled republic, while Polisario continues to claim the Moroccan held city of El Aaiún, as the capital of a would-be independent Western Sahara. Day-to-day business is, however, conducted in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.

Government structure

The highest office of the republic is the President of Western Sahara, now Mohammed Abdelaziz, who appoints the Prime Minister of Western Sahara, now Abdelkader Taleb Oumar. The SADR's government structure consists of a Council of Ministers (a cabinet led by the Prime Minister), a judicial branch (with judges appointed by the President) and the parliamentary Sahrawi National Council (SNC, present speaker is Mahfoud Ali Beiba). Since its inception in 1976, the various constitutional revisions has transformed the republic from an ad hoc managerial structure, into something approaching an actual governing apparatus. From the late 1980s the parliament began to take steps to institute a division of powers and disentangle the republic's structures from those of the Polisario party, although without clear effect to date.

Its various ministries are responsible for a variety of services and functions. The judiciary, complete with trial courts, appeals courts and a supreme court, operates in the same areas. As a government-in-exile, many branches of government do not fully function, and has affected the constitutional roles of the institutions. Institutions parallel to government structures also have arisen within the Polisario Front, which is fused with the SADR's governing apparatus, and with operational competences overlapping between these party and governmental institutions and offices.

The SNC is presently weak in its legislative role, having been instituted as a mainly consultative and consensus-building institution, but it has strengthened its theoretical legislative and controlling powers during later constitutional revisions. Among other things, it has added a ban on the death penalty to the constitution, and brought down the government in 1999 through a vote of no-confidence.

Legislative branch

e • d  Composition of the Sahrawi National Council
Party Seats
Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro 101
Total 101

Area of authority

The SADR acts as a government administration in the Sahrawi refugee camps located in the Tindouf Province of western Algeria. It is headquartered in Camp Rabouni, south of Tindouf, although some official events have taken place on Western Saharan territory in the provisional capital of Bir Lehlou, Tifariti and other cities in Polisario controlled territories. Effective independence is unclear with Polisario and Algerian authorities claiming Algerian authorities respect the autonomy of the government in exile, and stay outside the Sahrawi refugee camps. This however is disputed by former members of Polisario and questioned by outside observers. Several foreign aid agencies, including the UNHCR, are continually active in the camps.

Constitution and characteristics

A new 1999 Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic took a form similar to parliamentary constitutions of many European states, but with some paragraphs suspended until the achievement of "full independence". Among key points, the head of state is constitutionally the Secretary General of the Polisario Front during what is referred to as the "pre-independence phase," with provision in the constitution that on independence, Polisario is supposed to be dismantled or separated completely from the government structure. Provisions are detailed for a transitory phase beginning with independence, in which the present SADR is supposed to act as Western Sahara's government, ending with a constitutional reform and eventual establishment of a state along the lines specified in the constitution.

The broad guidelines laid down for an eventual Western Saharan state in the constitution include eventual multi-party democracy with a market economy. The constitution also defines Sahrawis as a Muslim, African and Arab people,[4] The Arabic language is prescribed as the sole official language of the SADR.[5] The Constitution also declares a commitment to the principles of human rights and to the concept of a Greater Maghreb, as a regional variant of Pan-Arabism.

International recognition and membership

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is currently recognized as a sovereign representative of Western Sahara by forty-three states, mostly African and other governments in the developing world. Twenty-two states have withdrawn their former recognition, and twelve have "frozen" their diplomatic relations with the republic pending the outcome of the UN referendum. Sahrawi embassies exist in thirteen states. On the other hand, Moroccan territorial integrity, apparently meaning including Western Sahara, is explicitly recognized by the Arab League[6][7] and by twenty-five states.

Although it has no representation at the United Nations, the republic has been a full member of the African Union (AU, formerly the Organization of African Unity, OAU) since 1984. Morocco withdrew from the OAU in protest and remains the only African nation not within the AU since South Africa's admittance in 1994. The SADR is also a member of the Asian-African Strategic Partnership formed at the 2005 Asian-African Conference[8 ], over Moroccan objections to SADR participation.[9 ]

In 2006, the SADR participated in a conference of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of the Latin American and the Caribbean (COPPAL) [10].

The SADR is not a member of the Arab League, nor of the Arab Maghreb Union, both of which include Morocco as a full member.

A Western Sahara Authority?

In the most recent peace plan, the UN-endorsed Baker Plan, created by James Baker, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal envoy to Western Sahara, the SADR would have been replaced with a five-year transitional Western Sahara Authority (WSA), a non-sovereign autonomous region supervised by Morocco, to be followed by a referendum on independence. However, as Morocco has declined to participate, the plan appears dead.

In April 2007 the government of Morocco suggested that a self-governing entity, through the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), should govern the territory with some degree of autonomy for Western Sahara. The project was presented to the United Nations Security Council in mid-April 2007. A stalemate over the Moroccan proposal led the UN in an April 2007 "Report of the UN Secretary-General" to ask the parties to enter into direct and unconditional negotiations to reach a mutually accepted political solution.[11]

Foreign recognition

States Date of recognition Date of withdrawal of recognition
Algeria 6 March 1976
Angola 11 March 1976
Burundi 1 March 1976 withdrawn 4 July 2005
Benin 11 March 1976 withdrawn 21 March 1997
Guinea-Bissau 15 March 1976 withdrawn 2 April 1997
North Korea 16 March 1976
Togo 17 March 1976 withdrawn June 1997
Rwanda April 1976 withdrawn
Seychelles 25 October 1977 withdrawn 17 March 2008
Madagascar 28 February 1976 withdrawn 4 June 2005
Democratic Republic of the Congo 3 June 1978 withdrawn 13 September 1996
São Tomé and Príncipe 22 June 1978 withdrawn 23 October 1996
Panama 23 June 1978
Equatorial Guinea 3 November 1978 withdrawn May 1980
Tanzania 9 November 1978 withdrawn
Cambodia 10 April 1979 withdrawn 14 August 2006
Laos 9 May 1979
Ethiopia 24 February 1979
Vietnam 2 March 1979
Afghanistan 23 May 1979 withdrawn 12 June 2002
Cape Verde 4 June 1979 withdrawn 28 July 2007
Grenada 20 August 1979
Ghana 24 August 1979 withdrawn May 2002
Guyana 1 September 1979
Dominica 1 September 1979 withdrawn
Saint Lucia 1 September 1979 withdrawn March 1989
Jamaica 4 September 1979
Nicaragua 6 September 1979 withdrawn 21 June 2000
Mexico 8 September 1979
Lesotho 9 October 1979
Zambia 12 October 1979
Cuba 20 January 1980
Iran 27 February 1980 withdrawn [1]
Sierra Leone 27 March 1980 withdrawn 2002
Syria 15 April 1980 withdrawn
Libya 15 April 1980 withdrawn
Swaziland 28 April 1980 withdrawn June 1997
Botswana 14 May 1980
Zimbabwe 3 June 1980
Chad 4 June 1980 withdrawn 17 March 2006
Mali 4 June 1980 withdrawn
Costa Rica 30 October 1980 withdrawn April 2000
Vanuatu 27 November 1980 withdrawn November 2000
Papua New Guinea 12 August 1981
Tuvalu 12 August 1981 withdrawn 15 September 2000
Kiribati 12 August 1981 withdrawn 15 September 2000
Nauru 12 August 1981 withdrawn 15 September 2000
Solomon Islands 12 August 1981 withdrawn January 1989
Venezuela 3 August 1982
Suriname 11 August 1982 withdrawn
Bolivia 14 December 1982
Ecuador 14 November 1983 withdrawn
Mauritania 27 February 1984 withdrawn
Burkina Faso 4 March 1984 withdrawn 5 June 1996
Peru 16 August 1984 withdrawn october 1996
Nigeria 12 November 1984 withdrawn
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 28 november 1984 ceased to exist in 1992.
Colombia 27 February 1985 withdrawn
Liberia 31 June 1985 withdrawn september 1997
India 1 October 1985 withdrawn 26 june 2000
Guatemala 10 April 1986 withdrawn april 1998
Dominican Republic 24 June 1986 withdrawn 23 May 2002
Trinidad and Tobago 1 November 1986
Belize 18 November 1986
Saint Kitts and Nevis 25 February 1987
Antigua and Barbuda 27 February 1987
Albania 29 december 1987 withdrawn 9 November 2004
Barbados 27 February 1988
El Salvador 31 June 1989 withdrawn April 1997
Honduras 8 November 1989 withdrawn January 2000
Namibia 2 June 1990
Malawi 16 November 1994 withdrawn 16 September 2008
Paraguay 9 February 2000 withdrawn May 2000
East Timor 2002
South Africa 15 September 2004
Kenya 25 June 2005 withdrawn 19 October 2006
Uruguay 26 December 2005

National holidays

The Spanish actress Verónica Forqué at the Sahara Film Festival.
Date Name Original event / Notes
February 27 Independence Day Proclamation of the SADR in Bir Lehlou, 1976
May 10 Foundation of the Polisario Front Founded 1973
May 20 May 20 Revolution Start of the armed struggle against Spain in 1973
June 5 Day of the Disappeared Remembering missing Sahrawis
June 9 Day of the Martyrs Day on which El-Ouali died in 1976
June 17 Zemla Intifada Harakat Tahrir riots in El-Aaiun, 1970
October 12 Day of National Unity Celebrating the Ain Ben Tili Conference, 1975

Islamic dates

Dates kept according to the lunar Islamic calendar.

Date Name Observance
Dhul Hijja 10 Eid al-Adha Sacrifice feast
Shawwal 1 Eid al-Fitr End of Ramadan
Rabi`-ul-Awwal 12 Mawlid Birthday of Muhammad

See also


  1. ^ Article 4 of the Sahrawi constitution.
  2. ^ "Western Sahara: Polisario Front Continues Destruction of Its Aantipersonnel Landmine Stockpile and Clearance of Cluster Submunitions". Common Dreams. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  3. ^ Torquemada, Jesus (2008-06-23). "The Referee Rules in Favor of Morocco". Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  4. ^ Article 6 of the Sahrawi constitution. Article 2 prescribes that “Islam is the state religion and source of law”.
  5. ^ Article 4:La langue arabe est la langue nationale officielle.
  6. ^ "Arab League supports Morocco's territorial integrity". Arabic News. 1999-01-08. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  7. ^ "Arab League withdraws inaccurate Moroccan maps". Arabic News. 1998-12-17. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  8. ^ South African Broadcasting Corporation (2006-09-01). "Asia-Afro partnership meeting kicked off today" (in English). South African Broadcasting Corporation.,2172,134138,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-01.  
  9. ^ South African Broadcasting Corporation (2006-09-02). "Moroccan objections taint Asian-Africa meeting" (in English). South African Broadcasting Corporation.,2172,134161,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-02.  
  10. ^ Prensa Latina (2006-09-11). "LatAm, Caribbean Parties in Nicaragua" (in English). Prensa Latina. Retrieved 2006-09-11.  
  11. ^ "Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara". UN Security Council. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-18.  

External links

Official SADR pages

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Western Sahara article)

From Wikitravel

Africa : North Africa : Western Sahara
Quick Facts
Capital El Aaiun
Government Territory contested by Morocco and Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro)
Area 266,000 sq km
Population 273,008 (July 2006 est.)
Language Hassānīya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Castillian Spanish, spoken by the small Spanish expatriate community
Religion Sunni Muslim (Maliki school)
Electricity 127-220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code +212
Internet TLD .eh reserved, but unassigned
Time Zone UTC

Western Sahara is an area in Saharan Africa bordering the Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco. Its governance is disputed between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), but the majority of it is occupied by Morocco.

None of the content in this guide should be taken as a political endorsement of claims by either side in the dispute over the sovereignty of these territories.


While there is a large coastline, much of it is rocky and not fit for beaches or travel. Large-scale fishing and ports are at Ad Dakhla. Much of the territory is arid desert. The area near the sand wall created by the Moroccan military (also known as "the berm") is surrounded by land mines and should be avoided. Administratively, the territory was divided by Spain into two regions: the northern strip, known as Saguia el-Hamra, and the southern two-thirds, named Río de Oro.


Under Moroccan administration

  • Bir Gandús
  • Bir Lehlou, the temporary capital
  • Tifariti

Other destinations

For those interested in sight-seeing, there are few opportunities for wildlife or natural formations other than the dunes. The area controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) - known as the Free Zone or Liberated Territories - is of interest to those interested in the political conflict.

Map of Western Sahara
Map of Western Sahara


Morocco occupied and annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and much of the southern portion of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the liberation movement Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease-fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. The Polisario declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976, but the country has only been recognized by around 28 states and has actual control over only a largely uninhabited eastern slice of territory.


Western Sahara's inhabitants, known as Sahrawis, are of Arab and Berber ethnicity and speak the Hassānīya dialect of Arabic.


Western Sahara depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population must be imported. Virtually all trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, a move that has angered Polisario and international observers. Incomes and standards of living in Western Sahara are substantially below the Moroccan level.


Western Sahara is a hot, dry desert; consequently, rain is rare, but flash floods occur. Cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew. Due to the inability of sand to absorb heat, harsh cold nights are common.


Mostly low, flat desert, with large areas of rocky or sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast. Low-lying sand dunes cover the territory.

If you are travelling overland, you will find no border formalities between Morocco and Western Sahara. Your passport may be asked for at the many checkpoints on the road south, but will not be stamped and thus technically you are still in Morocco.

Get in

The vast majority of Western Sahara is administered by Morocco, which considers it an integral part of its territory, so the same entry conditions apply as for Morocco itself. However, independent travel in the region is restricted, and while crossing through Western Sahara while travelling overland between Morocco and Mauritania is usually OK, some travellers have been turned back when trying to enter, especially during periods of political strife.

Official entry requirements for SADR-controlled areas are unclear, but in practice the area is entirely off-limits to visitors: you cannot legally cross the heavily guarded and mined Berm from the Moroccan-controlled side, the land border with Algeria is closed, and there are no legal border crossings from Mauritania into SADR-controlled territory either.

By plane

The only international airport is in El Auin, the capital. Flights come from the Canary Islands, Morocco, and Spain. Other airports are located in Dakhla and Smara.

By train

No passenger train service available in Western Sahara.

By car

To arrive by car, one must either pass through Moroccan-controlled checkpoints along the border or enter into the Free Zone through Mauritania. The latter has virtually no roads, so driving will be possible only with a sport-utility vehicle. Several checkpoints through Mauritania are closed and there is a huge swath of landmines along the berm. Driving with a few miles of it is extremely dangerous. The Sahrawis have been destroying landmines on their side of the berm, but the territory still has one of the highest concentrations of landmines in the world.

By bus

Buses are present only in large metropolitan districts, such as El Aauin and Smara. There are direct services from Casablanca and Marrakech to Dakhla (running through Agadir, Tan Tan and Laayoune), frequent services run from Laayoune to major transport hubs in southern Morocco.

By boat

The only boats that go to or from Western Sahara come from the Canaries, but no passenger services currently exist.


The Sahrawis of Western Sahara speak the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic. The literacy level is likely lower than that of Morocco, which is 50%, so expect to speak rather than write. Some old signs are still written in Spanish. The Sahrawi population living in the refugee camps located in Algeria are over 90% literate, and some of the older Sahrawi generation still speak Spanish. As a consequence of Moroccan occupation, French can be used with a small business class.


The Moroccan dirham is the official currency of the Moroccan-controlled portion, although the SADR has also minted its own pesetas.


Prices are lower than in Morocco, in part due to Moroccan government's subsidization policy.


Traditional Sahrawi hospitality includes the serving of tea to all guests in one's home.

Stay safe

Hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind can occur during winter and spring; widespread harmattan haze exists 60% of time, often severely restricting visibility.


The culture is Islamic but not particularly strict; the form of Islam that developed among the nomad population is non-mosque-based. Political and social displays of Sahrawi nationalism are violently repressed by the Moroccan police and military.


Teleboutiques and internet cafes are not hard to find in the cities, but connection speed may vary from place to place.

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Simple English

File:Western sahara walls
Image showing the Berm, the walls that separate POLISARIO-held territory in Western Sahara from Moroccan-held territory. The large yellow area is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية, Spanish: República Árabe Saharaui Democrática) is a partially recognized state that claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara. SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976 in Bir Lehlu, Western Sahara. The SADR government currently controls between 20% and 25% of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or Free Zone. Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces. The SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory occupied territory, while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR held territory to be a buffer zone.

The United Nations calls all of the Western Sahara a dependency of Spain,[1],


  1. UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19


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