Western Sahara: Wikis

  
  
  

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Coordinates: 25°N 13°W / 25°N 13°W / 25; -13

Western Sahara
الصحراء الغربية
As-Ṣaḥrā' al-Ġarbiyyah
Sahara Occidental
Capital N/A
Largest city El Aaiún (Laâyoune)
Official language(s) Arabic de jure1, Spanish and French de facto
Demonym Sahrawi
Disputed sovereignty2
 -  Relinquished by Spain November 14, 1975 
Area
 -  Total 266,000 km2 (77th)
103,000 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  2009 estimate 513,000[1] (168th)
 -  Density 1.9/km2 (236th)
5/sq mi
Currency Moroccan dirham, Sahrawi Peseta
Time zone (UTC+0)
Internet TLD .eh is reserved but not used
Calling code +2123

1Arabic is the only official language of both Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which claim sovereignty over the territory.
2 Mostly under administration of Morocco as its Southern Provinces. The Polisario Front controls border areas behind the border wall as the Free Zone, on behalf of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
3 Code for Morocco; no code specific to Western Sahara has been issued by the ITU.

Western Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الغربية; Amazigh: Tanẓṛuft Tutrimt; Spanish: Sahara Occidental) is a largely Moroccan-controlled territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The largest city is Laâyoune, which is home to over half of the population of the territory, in total estimated at just more than 500,000.[1]

Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.[2] The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, dispute control of the territory.

Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, backed by France[citation needed], and the remainder by the Polisario/SADR, backed by Algeria.[3] Internationally, major powers such as the United States have taken a generally ambiguous and neutral position on each side's claims, and have pressed both parties to agree on a peaceful resolution. Both Morocco and Polisario have sought to boost their claims by accumulating formal recognition, essentially from African, Asian, and Latin American states in the developing world. Polisario has won formal recognition for SADR from 81 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won recognition for its position from the Arab League.[4][5] In both instances, recognitions have over the past two decades been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.

Contents

History

Early history

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the Western Sahara were agriculturalists called the Bafour.[6] The Bafour were later replaced or absorbed by Berber-speaking populations which eventually merged in turn with migrating Arab tribes, although it is clear from the historical record that the Arabic-speaking majority in the Western Sahara descend from Berber tribes that adopted Arabic over time. There may also have been some Phoenician contacts in antiquity, but such contacts left few if any long-term traces.

The arrival of Islam in the 8th century played a major role in the development of relationships between the Saharan regions that later became the modern territories of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Algeria, and neighbouring regions. Trade developed further, and the region became a highway for caravans, especially between Marrakech and Tombouctou in Mali. In the Middle Ages, the Almohads and Almoravids movements and dynasties both were able to control the area.

Towards the late Middle Ages, the Beni Hassan Arab bedouin tribes invaded the Maghreb, reaching the northern border-area of the Sahara in the 14th and 15th centuries. Over roughly five centuries, through a complex process of acculturation and mixing seen elsewhere in the Maghreb and North Africa, the indigenous Berber tribes adopted Hassaniya Arabic and a mixed Arab-Berber nomadic culture.

Spanish province

This article is part of the series:
History of Western Sahara
Wi-map.png
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

Politics

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

Rebellions

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

  

After an agreement among the European colonial powers at the Berlin Conference in 1884 on the division of spheres of influence in Africa, Spain seized control of the Western Sahara and established it as a Spanish protectorate after a series of wars against the local tribes reminiscent of similar European colonial adventures of the period, in the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere. After 1939 this area was administered by Spanish Morocco. As a consequence, Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri, the Chief of Cabinet, General Secretary of the Government and Head of the palace for the caliph of Spanish Morocco cooperated with the Spaniards to select governors in that area. The Saharan Lords who were already in prominent positions such as the members of Maa El Ainain family provided a list recommending new governors. Together with the Spanish High Commissioner, Belbachir selected from the list of recommendations. During the prophet's birthday celebration these Lords paid their due respect to the caliph to show loyalty to the Moroccan monarchy. As time went by, Spanish colonial rule began to unravel with the general wave of decolonization after World War II, which saw Europeans lose control of North African and sub-Saharan African possessions and protectorates. Spanish decolonization in particular began rather late, but internal political and social pressures for it in mainland Spain built up towards the end of Francisco Franco's rule, in the context of the global trend towards complete decolonization. Spain began rapidly and even chaotically divesting itself of most of its remaining colonial possessions. After initially being violently opposed to decolonization, Spain began to give in and by 1974–75 issued promises of a referendum on independence. The nascent Polisario Front, a nationalist organization that had begun fighting the Spanish in 1973, had been demanding such a move.

At the same time, Morocco and Mauritania, which had historical claims of sovereignty over the territory based on competing traditional claims, argued that the territory was artificially separated from their territories by the European colonial powers. The third neighbour of Spanish Sahara, Algeria, viewed these demands with suspicion, influenced also by its long-running rivalry with Morocco. After arguing for a process of decolonization guided by the United Nations, the Algerian government under Houari Boumédiènne committed itself in 1975 to assisting the Polisario Front, which opposed both Moroccan and Mauritanian claims and demanded full independence.

The UN attempted to settle these disputes through a visiting mission in late 1975, as well as a verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which declared that Western Sahara possessed the right of self-determination. On November 6, 1975 the Green March into Western Sahara began when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara.

Demands for independence

In the waning days of General Franco's rule, the Spanish government secretly signed a tripartite agreement with Morocco and Mauritania as it moved to abandon the Territory on 14 November 1975, mere days before Franco's death. Although the accords foresaw a tripartite administration, Morocco and Mauritania each moved to annex the territory, with Morocco taking control of the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces and Mauritania taking control of the southern third as Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Spain terminated its presence in Spanish Sahara within three months, even repatriating Spanish corpses from its cemeteries. The Moroccan and Mauritanian moves, however, met staunch opposition from the Polisario, which had by now gained backing from Algeria. In 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal due to pressure from Polisario, Morocco extended its control to the rest of the territory, and gradually contained the guerrillas through setting up the extensive sand-berm in the desert to exclude guerilla fighters. Hostilities ceased in a 1991 cease-fire, overseen by the peacekeeping mission MINURSO, under the terms of a UN Settlement Plan.

Stalling of the referendum and Settlement Plan

System of the Moroccan Walls in Western Sahara (territory outside them in yellow) set up in the 1980s.

The referendum, originally scheduled for 1992, foresaw giving the local population the option between independence or affirming integration with Morocco, but it quickly stalled. In 1997, the Houston Agreement attempted to revive the proposal for a referendum, but likewise has hitherto not had success. As of 2007, however, negotiations over terms have not resulted in any substantive action. At the heart of the dispute lies the question of who qualifies to be registered to participate in the referendum, and, since about 2000, Morocco's renewed refusal to accept independence as an option on the referendum ballot combined with Polisario's insistence that independence be a clear option in the referendum.

Both sides blame each other for the stalling of the referendum. The Polisario has insisted on only allowing those found on the 1974 Spanish Census lists (see below) to vote, while Morocco has insisted that the census was flawed by evasion and sought the inclusion of members of Sahrawi tribes with recent historical presence in the Spanish Sahara.

Efforts by the UN special envoys to find a common ground for both parties did not succeed. By 1999 the UN had identified about 85,000 voters, with nearly half of them in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara or Southern Morocco, and the others scattered between the Tindouf refugee camps, Mauritania and other places of exile. Polisario accepted this voter list, as it had done with the previous list presented by the UN (both of them originally based on the Spanish census of 1974), but Morocco refused and, as rejected voter candidates began a mass-appeals procedure, insisted that each application be scrutinized individually. This again brought the process to a halt.

According to a NATO delegation, MINURSO election observers stated in 1999, as the deadlock continued, that "if the number of voters does not rise significantly the odds were slightly on the RASD side".[7] By 2001, the process had effectively stalemated and the UN Secretary-General asked the parties for the first time to explore other, third-way solutions. Indeed, shortly after the Houston Agreement (1997), Morocco officially declared that it was "no longer necessary" to include an option of independence on the ballot, offering instead autonomy. Erik Jensen, who played an administrative role in MINURSO, wrote that neither side would agree to a voter registration in which they were destined to lose (see Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate).

Baker Plan

As personal envoy of the Secretary-General, James Baker (who also had John R. Bolton in his delegation) visited all sides and produced the document known as the "Baker Plan".[8] This was discussed by the United Nations Security Council in 2000, and envisioned an autonomous Western Sahara Authority (WSA), which would be followed after five years by the referendum. Every person present in the territory would be allowed to vote, regardless of birthplace and with no regard to the Spanish census. It was rejected by both sides, although it was initially derived from a Moroccan proposal. According to Baker's draft, tens of thousands of post-annexation immigrants from Morocco proper (viewed by Polisario as settlers, but by Morocco as legitimate inhabitants of the area) would be granted the vote in the Sahrawi independence referendum, and the ballot would be split three-ways by the inclusion of an unspecified "autonomy", further undermining the independence camp. Also, Morocco was allowed to keep its army in the area and to retain the control over all security issues during both the autonomy years and the election. In 2002, the Moroccan king stated that the referendum idea was "out of date" since it "can not be implemented";[9] Polisario retorted that that was only because of the King's refusal to allow it to take place.

In 2003, a new version of the plan was made official, with some additions spelling out the powers of the WSA, making it less reliant on Moroccan devolution. It also provided further detail on the referendum process in order to make it harder to stall or subvert. This second draft, commonly known as Baker II, was accepted by the Polisario as a "basis of negotiations" to the surprise of many.[10] This appeared to abandon Polisario's previous position of only negotiating based on the standards of voter identification from 1991 (i.e. the Spanish census). After that, the draft quickly garnered widespread international support, culminating in the UN Security Council's unanimous endorsement of the plan in the summer of 2003.

Today

Landscape in northern Western Sahara.

Currently, the Baker II document appears to be a dead letter, and Baker resigned his post at the United Nations in 2004.[citation needed] His resignation followed several months of failed attempts to get Morocco to enter into formal negotiations on the plan, but he met with rejection. The new king, Mohammed VI of Morocco, opposes any referendum on independence, and has said Morocco will never agree to one: "We shall not give up one inch of our beloved Sahara, not a grain of its sand".[11]

Instead, he proposes, through an appointed advisory body Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), a self-governing Western Sahara as an autonomous community within Morocco. His father, Hassan II of Morocco, initially supported the referendum idea in principle in 1982, and in signed contracts with Polisario and the UN in 1991 and 1997; thus engaging to a referendum. However, no major powers have expressed interest in forcing the issue, and Morocco has historically showed little real interest in an actual referendum.

The UN has put forth no replacement strategy after the breakdown of Baker II, and renewed fighting has been raised as a possibility. In 2005, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported increased military activity on both sides of the front and breaches of several cease-fire provisions against strengthening military fortifications.

Morocco has repeatedly tried to get Algeria into bilateral negotiations, based on its view of Polisario as the cat's paw of the Algerian military. It has received vocal support from France and occasionally (and currently) from the United States. These negotiations would define the exact limits of a Western Sahara autonomy under Moroccan rule, but only after Morocco's "inalienable right" to the territory was recognized as a precondition to the talks. The Algerian government has consistently refused, claiming it has neither the will nor the right to negotiate on the behalf of the Polisario Front.

Demonstrations and riots by supporters of independence and/or a referendum broke out in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara in May 2005, and in parts of southern Morocco (notably the town of Assa). They were met by police. Several international human rights organizations expressed concern at what they termed abuse by Moroccan security forces, and a number of Sahrawi activists have been jailed. Pro-independence Sahrawi sources, including the Polisario, have given these demonstrations the name "Independence Intifada", while most sources have tended to see the events as being of limited importance. International press and other media coverage has been sparse, and reporting is complicated by the Moroccan government's policy of strictly controlling independent media coverage within the territory.

Demonstrations and protests still occur, after Morocco declared in February 2006 that it was contemplating a plan for devolving a limited variant of autonomy to the territory, but still explicitly refused any referendum on independence. As of January 2007, the plan has not been made public, even if the Moroccan government claims that it has been more or less completed.[12][13]

Polisario has intermittently threatened to resume fighting, referring to the Moroccan refusal of a referendum as a breach of the cease-fire terms, but most observers seem to consider armed conflict unlikely without the green light from Algeria, which houses the Sahrawis' refugee camps and has been the main military sponsor of the movement.

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 UN Security Council in mid-April 2007. The stalemating of the Moroccan proposal options has led the UN in the recent "Report of the UN Secretary-General" to ask the parties to enter into direct and unconditional negotiations to reach a mutually accepted political solution.[14]

Politics

Police checkpoint at suburbs of Laayoune.

The legal status of the territory and the question of its sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested between Morocco and Polisario Front. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations.

The government of Morocco is a formally constitutional monarchy under Mohammed VI with a bicameral parliament. The last elections to the lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers. Certain powers such as the capacity to appoint the government and to dissolve parliament remain in the hands of the monarch. The Morocco-controlled parts of Western Sahara are divided into several provinces treated as integral parts of the kingdom. The Moroccan government heavily subsidizes the Saharan provinces under its control with cut-rate fuel and related subsidies, to appease nationalist dissent and attract immigrants – or settlers – from loyalist Sahrawi and other communities in Morocco proper.[15]

The exiled government of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a form of single-party parliamentary and presidential system, but according to its constitution, this will be changed into a multi-party system at the achievement of independence. It is presently based at the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which it controls. It also claims to control the part of Western Sahara to the east of the Moroccan Wall, known as the Free Zone. This area has a very small population, estimated to be approximately 30,000 nomads.[16] The Moroccan government views it as a no-man's land patrolled by UN troops. The SADR government whose troops also patrol the area regard it as the liberated territories and have proclaimed a village in the area, Bir Lehlou as SADR's provisional capital.

Human rights

The Western Sahara conflict has resulted in severe human rights abuses, most notably the displacement of tens of thousands of Sahrawi civilians from the country, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Moroccan civilians by the Algerian government from Algeria,[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24] and numerous casualties of war and repression.

During the war years (1975–91), both sides accused each other of targeting civilians. Moroccan claims of Polisario terrorism has generally little to no support abroad, with the USA, EU and UN all refusing to include the group on their lists of terrorist organizations. Polisario leaders maintain that they are ideologically opposed to terrorism, and insist that collective punishment and forced disappearances among Sahrawi civilians [2] should be considered state terrorism on the part of Morocco [3]. Both Morocco and the Polisario additionally accuse each other of violating the human rights of the populations under their control, in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, respectively. Morocco and organizations such as France Libertés consider Algeria to be directly responsible for any crimes committed on its territory, and accuse the country of having been directly involved in such violations.[25]

Regions

Westernsaharamap.png

Three Moroccan regions overlap the territory of Western Sahara:

Morocco controls territory to the west of the berm (border wall) while the Polisario Front controls territory to the east (see map on right).

Dispute

The Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania in April 1976, with Morocco acquiring the northern two-thirds of the territory.[49] When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, Morocco moved to occupy that sector shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control over the whole territory.[49] The official Moroccan government name for Western Sahara is the "Southern Provinces," which indicates Río de Oro and Saguia el-Hamra.

Not under control of the Moroccan government is the area that lies between the border wall and the actual border with Algeria. (for map [4] see external links) The Polisario Front claims to run this as the Free Zone on behalf of the SADR. The area is patrolled by Polisario forces,[50] and access is restricted, even among Sahrawis, due to the harsh climate of the Sahara, the military conflict and the abundance of land mines.[51] Still, the area is traveled and inhabited by many Sahrawi nomads from the Tindouf refugee camps of Algeria and the Sahrawi communities in Mauritania.[citation needed] United Nations MINURSO forces are also present in the area. The UN forces oversee the cease-fire between Polisario and Morocco agreed upon in the 1991 Settlement Plan.[52]

The Polisario forces (of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, SPLA) in the area are divided into seven "military regions", each controlled by a top commander reporting to the President of the Polisario proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.[53] The total size of the Polisario's guerrilla army present in this area is unknown, but it is believed to number a few thousand men, despite many combantants being demobilized due to the cease-fire.[54] These forces are dug into permanent positions, such as gun emplacements, defensive trenches and underground military bases, as well as conducting mobile patrols of the territory.[55]

Tifariti, 2005

Major Sahrawi political events, such as Polisario congresses and sessions of the Sahrawi National Council (the SADR parliament in exile) are held in the Free Zone (especially in Tifariti and Bir Lehlou), since it is considered politically and symbolically important to conduct political affairs on Sahrawi territory. In 2005, MINURSO lodged a complaint to the Security Council of the United Nations for "military maneuvers with real fire which extends to restricted areas" by Morocco [56]. A concentration of forces for the commemoration of the Saharawi Republic’s 30th anniversary[57] were however subject to condemnation by the United Nations,[58] as it was considered an example of a cease-fire violation to bring such a large force concentration into the area. In late 2009, Morocco do military maneuvers on Umm Dreiga, in the exclusion zone, violating the cease-fire. Both parties have been accused of such violations by the UN, but to date there has been no serious hostile action from either side since 1991.

Annual demonstrations against the Moroccan Wall are staged in the region by Sahrawis and international activists from Spain, Italy and other mainly European countries. These actions are closely monitored by the UN.[59]

During the joint Moroccan-Mauritanian control of the area, the Mauritanian-controlled part, roughly corresponding to Saquia el-Hamra, was known as Tiris al-Gharbiyya.

Geography

Western Sahara is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco. It also borders Algeria to the northeast. The land is some of the most arid and inhospitable on the planet, but is rich in phosphates in Bou Craa.

Economy

Aside from its rich phosphate deposits and fishing waters, Western Sahara has few natural resources and lacks sufficient rainfall for most agricultural activities. There is speculation that there may be rich off-shore oil and natural gas fields, but the debate persists as to whether these resources can be profitably exploited, and if this would be legally permitted due to the non-decolonized status of Western Sahara (see below).

Western Sahara's economy is centred around nomadic herding, fishing, and phosphate mining. Most food for the urban population is imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. The government has encouraged citizens to relocate to the territory by giving subsidies and price controls on basic goods. These heavy subsidies have created a state-dominated economy in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara, with the Moroccan government as the single biggest employer.

Exploitation debate

Satellite image of Western Sahara, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library

After reasonably exploitable oil fields were located in neighbouring Mauritania, speculation intensified on the possibility of major oil resources being located off the coast of Western Sahara. Despite the fact that findings remain inconclusive, both Morocco and the Polisario have made deals with oil and gas exploration companies. US and French companies (notably Total and Kerr-McGee) began prospecting on behalf of Morocco.

In 2002, Hans Corell, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and head of its Office of Legal Affairs issued a legal opinion on the matter.[60] This opinion stated that while exploration of the area was permitted, exploitation was not, on the basis that Morocco is not a recognized administrative power of the territory, and thus lacks the capacity to issue such licenses. After pressures from corporate ethics-groups, Total S.A. pulled out.

In May 2006 the remaining company Kerr-McGee also left following sales of numerous share holders like the National Norwegian Oil Fund, due to continued pressure from NGOs and corporate groups.

Despite the UN report and the development regarding the exploration of oil, the European Union wants to exploit fishing resources in waters outside Western Sahara and has signed a fishing treaty with Morocco.

In a previously confidential legal opinion (published in 23 February 2010, although it was forwarded in July 2009), the European Parliament’s Legal Service has declared fishing by European vessels in Western Sahara’s waters to be in violation of international law [5].

Demographics

Town in Western Sahara

The indigenous population of Western Sahara is known as Sahrawis. These are Hassaniya-speaking tribes of mixed ArabBerber heritage, effectively continuations of the tribal groupings of Hassaniya speaking Moorish tribes extending south into Mauritania and north into Morocco as well as east into Algeria. The Sahrawis are traditionally nomadic bedouins, and can be found in all surrounding countries. War and conflict has led to major displacements of the population.

As of July 2004, an estimated 267,405 people (excluding the Moroccan army of some 160,000) lived in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara. Many Moroccans have settled the area, and the settler population is today thought to outnumber the indigenous Western Sahara Sahrawis. The precise size and composition of the population is subject to political controversy.

The Polisario-controlled parts of Western Sahara are barren. This area has a very small population, estimated to be approximately 30,000.[61] The population is primarily made up of nomads who engage in herding camels back and forth between the Tindouf area and Mauritania. However, the presence of mines scattered throughout the territory by both the Polisario and the Moroccan army makes it a dangerous way of life.

The Spanish census and MINURSO

A 1974 Spanish census claimed there were some 74,000 Sahrawis in the area at the time (in addition to approximately 20,000 Spanish residents), but this number is likely to be on the low side, due to the difficulty in counting a nomad people, even if Sahrawis were by the mid-1970s mostly urbanized. Despite these possible inaccuracies, Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed on using the Spanish census as the basis for voter registration when striking a cease-fire agreement in the late 1980s, contingent on the holding of a referendum on independence or integration into Morocco.

A small shop in El Argoub, Western Sahara.

In December 1999 the United Nations' MINURSO mission announced that it had identified 86,425 eligible voters for the referendum that was supposed to be held under the 1991 Settlement plan and the 1997 Houston accords. By "eligible voter" the UN referred to any Sahrawi over 18 years of age that was part of the Spanish census or could prove his/her descent from someone who was. These 86,425 Sahrawis were dispersed between Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and the refugee camps in Algeria, with smaller numbers in Mauritania and other places of exile. These numbers cover only Sahrawis 'indigenous' to the Western Sahara during the Spanish colonial period, not the total number of "ethnic" Sahrawis (i.e., members of Sahrawi tribal groupings), who also extend into Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria. The number was highly politically significant due to the expected organization of a referendum on self-determination.

The Polisario has its home base in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, and declares the number of Sahrawi population in the camps to be approximately 155,000. Morocco disputes this number, saying it is exaggerated for political reasons and for attracting more foreign aid. The UN uses a number of 90,000 "most vulnerable" refugees as basis for its food aid program.

Culture

The major ethnic group of the Western Sahara are the Sahrawis, a nomadic or Bedouin tribal or ethnic group speaking the Hassānīya dialect of Arabic, also spoken in much of Mauritania. They are of mixed Arab-Berber descent, but claim descent from the Beni Hassan, a Yemeni tribe supposed to have migrated across the desert in the 11th century.

Physically indistinguishable from the Hassaniya speaking Moors of Mauritania, the Sahrawi people differ from their neighbors partly due to different tribal affiliations (as tribal confederations cut across present modern boundaries) and partly as a consequence of their exposure to Spanish colonial domination. Surrounding territories were generally under French colonial rule.

Like other neighboring Saharan Bedouin and Hassaniya groups, the Sahrawis are Muslims of the Sunni sect and the Maliki fiqh. Local religious custom ('urf) is, like other Saharan groups, heavily influenced by pre-Islamic Berber and African practices, and differs substantially from urban practices. For example, Sahrawi Islam has traditionally functioned without mosques in the normal sense of the word, in an adaptation to nomadic life.

The originally clan- and tribe-based society underwent a massive social upheaval in 1975, when a part of the population was forced into exile and settled in the refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria. Families were broken up by the fight. For developments among this population, see Sahrawi and Tindouf Province.

See also

Notes and references

Cited references

  1. ^ a b Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (.PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2008/wpp2008_text_tables.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ Whitfield, Teresa. Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict. 2007, page 191.
  3. ^ Baehr, Peter R. The United Nations at the End of the 1990s. 1999, page 129.
  4. ^ Arab League supports Morocco's Territorial Integrity, Arabic News, Morocco-Regional, Politics, January 8, 1999. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  5. ^ Arab League Withdraws Inaccurate Moroccan maps, Arabic News, Regional-Morocco, Politics, December 17, 1998. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  6. ^ Handloff, Robert. "The West Sudanic Empires". Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/WestSud.html. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  7. ^ http://www.nato-pa.int/archivedpub/trip/as79gsm993-morocco.asp
  8. ^ United Nations Security Council Document S-2000-461 on 22 May 2000 (retrieved 2007-08-10)
  9. ^ CountryWatch - Interesting Facts Of The World
  10. ^ Shelley, Toby. Behind the Baker Plan for Western Sahara, Middle East Report Online, August 1, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ http://www.map.ma/eng/sections/politics/king_informs_governm/view
  13. ^ http://www.afrol.com/articles/18964
  14. ^ Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (13 April 2007)(ped). UN Security Council. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
  15. ^ Thobhani, Akbarali. Western Sahara Since 1975 Under Moroccan Administration: Social, Economic, and Political Transformation. Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0773471731. 
  16. ^ http://www.nrc.no/arch/_img/9258989.pdf Norwegian Refugee Council Report: Western Sahara, Occupied country, displaced people, 2008
  17. ^ Maroc/Algérie. Bluff et petites manœuvres, Telquel, not in English
  18. ^ Aljazeera.net, not in English
  19. ^ La "Répudiation massive" de l’Algérie des colonels! La Gazette Du Maroc, February 28, 2005, not in English
  20. ^ Jugement Dernier, Maroc Hebdo International, not in English
  21. ^ Le Drame des 40.000, cinemanageria.ifrance.com, not in English
  22. ^ Mohamed Elyazghi au Matin du Sahara: Solution politique au Sahara et refondation de nos relations avec Alger, USFP, not in English
  23. ^ La mal-vie des Marocains d'Algérie, Minorités.org
  24. ^ Revue de Presse des Quotidiens
  25. ^ Morocco's Memorandum to UN unveils Algiers' responsibility in Sahara conflict, political parties, Arabic News, Morocco-Algeria, Politics, September 29, 2004
  26. ^ http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/Mar-summary-eng
  27. ^ http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/morocco_and_western_sahara/index.do
  28. ^ http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/mar-summary-eng
  29. ^ http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/12/10/morocc12183.htm
  30. ^ http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/Wsahara.htm
  31. ^ http://www.omct.org/base.cfm?page=article&num=6130&consol=close&kwrd=OMCT&cfid=4407045&cftoken=75311945
  32. ^ http://www.omct.org/base.cfm?page=article&num=5983&consol=close&kwrd=OMCT&cfid=4407045&cftoken=75311945&SWITCHLNG=ES
  33. ^ http://www.omct.org/base.cfm?page=article&num=6233&consol=close&kwrd=OMCT&cfid=4407045&cftoken=75311945&SWITCHLNG=FR
  34. ^ http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2006&country=7106
  35. ^ http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14119
  36. ^ http://www.arso.org/OHCHRrep2006en.pdf
  37. ^ The Conditions of Detentions of the Moroccan POWs Detained in Tindouf (Algeria)
  38. ^ The Polisario Front – Credible Negotiations Partner or After Effect of the Cold War and Obstacle to a Political Solution in Western Sahara?
  39. ^ Report of an independent Committee of inquiry into allegations of violations of Human Rights against the Polisario Front
  40. ^ Sahrawi Refugees: caught between a humanitarian catastrophe and political manipulatio(s)
  41. ^ Gajmoula Ebbi raconte son aventure avec le Polisario, ses rêves, son calvaire et ses attentes (4)
  42. ^ Gajmoula Ebbi raconte son aventure avec le Polisario, ses rêves, son calvaire et ses attentes (5)
  43. ^ Guerre de clans et scission inévitable à Tindouf, selon trois ex-responsables du Polisario ayant regagné le Maroc
  44. ^ Les geôliers de Tindouf mis à nu
  45. ^ Polisario leadership lives in wealth to detriment of camps' populations, former Polisario member
  46. ^ Quatrème Commission: Le Maroc rest attaché au plan de règlement et a la tenue d'un référendum transparent au Sahara Occidental
  47. ^ Report: Clan wars and unavoidable scission in Tindouf, defectors
  48. ^ Mustapha Bouh, ex-membre du Bureau politique: «L¹histoire du «Polisario» est jalonnée de purges impitoyables»
  49. ^ a b https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wi.html CIA: The World Factbook: 2006. ‘Western Sahara’, 266.
  50. ^ http://www.newint.org/issue297/wall.html "Up Against the Wall", Chris Brazier, New Internationalist Magazine (297), December 1998
  51. ^ Landmine Action UK undertook preliminary survey work by visiting the Polisario-controlled area of Western Sahara in October 2005 and February-March 2006. A field assessment in the vicinity of Bir Lahlou, Tifariti and the berms revealed that the densest concentrations of mines are in front of the berms. Mines were laid in zigzags up to one meter apart, and in some parts of the berms, there are three rows of mines.[15] There are also berms in the Moroccan-controlled zone, around Dakhla and stretching from Boujdour, including Smara on the Moroccan border.[16] However, mine-laying was not restricted to the vicinity of the berms; occupied settlements throughout the Polisario-controlled areas, such as Bir Lahlou and Tifariti, are ringed by mines laid by Moroccan forces.
  52. ^ http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/minurso/mandate.html MINURSO homepage - mandate Accessed May 21, 2006
  53. ^
  54. ^ http://www.arso.org/bhatia2001.htm Western Sahara under Polisario Control: Summary Report of Field Mission to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps (near Tindouf, Algeria) by Michael Bhatia, 2001
  55. ^
  56. ^ http://www.canariasahora.com/documentos/8119b2af172030e86f14c5f746e9347d.pdf MINURSO complaint to the UN Security Council (Spanish)
  57. ^ http://www.spsrasd.info/sps-e270206.html Commemoration of the Saharawi Republic’s 30th anniversary in liberated territories of Western Sahara Sahara Press Service, February 27, 2006
  58. ^ United Nations Security Council Document S-2006-249 on 19 April 2006 (retrieved 2007-08-10)
  59. ^ http://www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp?m=S/2006/249 Secretary General's report to Security Council on Western Sahara, 19 April 2006 (pdf file)
  60. ^ United Nations Security Council Document S-2002-161 on 12 February 2002 (retrieved 2007-08-10)
  61. ^ http://www.nrc.no/arch/_img/9258989.pdf Norwegian Refugee Council Report: Western Sahara, Occupied country, + displaced people, 2008

General references

  • Tony Hodges (1983), Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War, Lawrence Hill Books (ISBN 0-88208-152-7)
  • Anthony G. Pazzanita and Tony Hodges (1994), Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, Scarecrow Press (ISBN 0-8108-2661-5)
  • Toby Shelley (2004), Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa's Last Colony?, Zed Books (ISBN 1-84277-341-0)
  • Erik Jensen (2005), Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate, International Peace Studies (ISBN 1-58826-305-3)

External links

General information
United Nations
Human Rights
Other

French:

Spanish:


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : North Africa : Western Sahara
noframe
Location
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Flag
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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.

Regions

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.

Cities

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

History

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.

People

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

Economy

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.

Climate

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.

Landscapes

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.

Talk

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.

Buy

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

Costs

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

Drink

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.

Respect

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.

Contact

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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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia

Contents

English

Proper noun

Singular
Western Sahara

Plural
-

Western Sahara

  1. A territory in northern Africa and a former Spanish colony, now mostly occupied by Morocco.

Translations

See also


Simple English

Western Sahara
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: Liberty, Democracy, Unity
Official language Ḥassānīya Arabic and Spanish
Capital and largest city Laâyoune - Moroccan translitteration (El Aaiún, al-'uyūn)
Area
- Total
- % water
Ranked 83rd
266,000 km²
Negligible
Population
- Total
- Density
Ranked 182nd
267,405 (July 2004 est.)
1/km²
Independence
- Declared
- Claimed and controlled
From Spain
February 27, 1976
By Morocco
Currency Moroccan Dirham (MAD)
Time zone UTC 0
National anthem Yābaniy Es-Saharā (listen)
Internet TLD None (.eh is reserved)
Calling Code + 212 (same code as Morocco)

Western Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الغربية; Amazigh: Tanẓṛuft Tutrimt; Spanish: Sahara Occidental) is a territory in Africa. To the north is Morocco, to the east is Algeria, to the south is Mauritania, and to the west is the Atlantic Ocean. Its surface is 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world. Most of the territory is made of desert flatlands. The largest city is Laâyoune. More than half the population live there. The territory has a population estimated at just more than 500,000.[1]

Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.[2] The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, both want to control of the territory.

Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, backed by France[needs proof], and the rest by the Polisario/SADR, backed by Algeria.[3] Many important countries have pressed both parties to agree to a peaceful solution. Both Morocco and Polisario have tried to get recognition form other countries. Polisario has won formal recognition for SADR from 81 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won recognition for its position from the Arab League.[4][5] In both instances, recognitions have over the past two decades been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.

Some countries say that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic should be the government in Western Sahara. Morocco says that they own it. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was made by the "Polisario Front" a group of people who wanted Spain to leave, but now want Morocco to leave also.

The United Nations calls all of the Western Sahara a dependency of Spain,[6],

References

  1. Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division. "World Population Prospects, Table A.1" (.PDF). 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved on 12 March 2009.
  2. Whitfield, Teresa. Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict. 2007, page 191.
  3. Baehr, Peter R. The United Nations at the End of the 1990s. 1999, page 129.
  4. Arab League supports Morocco's Territorial Integrity, Arabic News, Morocco-Regional, Politics, January 8, 1999. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  5. Arab League Withdraws Inaccurate Moroccan maps, Arabic News, Regional-Morocco, Politics, December 17, 1998. Retrieved August 24, 2006.
  6. UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19

Other websites

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