Saturday, July 16, 2005

History of Western Sahara

History of Western Sahara. This is a history of one of the largest pieces of disputed real estate in the world. Western Sahara is not a nation and never has been. It was formerly a Spanish colony. When Spain withdrew in 1975, Morocco promptly attempted to annex the area.

To this day, the sovereignty of the Western Sahara remains the subject of a dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro).

In 1991, a cease fire was agreed to with the understanding that their would be a referendum on the status of Western Sahara with a choice between annexation to Morocco or independence. The election was never held. In 2003, Morocco noted that it will no longer accept independence as one of the ballot options.

It is unfortunate that this matter is not in the news much. This matter should be put on the ballot with the people of Western Sahara being able to determine their own fate. A clear vote would end this dispute one way or the other. (And maybe that is why Morocco will not allow a vote?)

From the site:

In 1975, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion on the status of the Western Sahara. The Court held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, the ties were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. The Court added that it had not found "legal ties" that might affect the applicable U.N. General Assembly resolution regarding the decolonization of the territory, and, in particular, the principle of self-determination for its people. Most Sahrawis (as the majority of persons living in the territory are called) live in the area controlled by Morocco, but there is a sizable refugee population near the border with Morocco in Algeria, and, to a lesser extent, in Mauritania. The majority of the Sahrawi population lives within the area delineated by a Moroccan-constructed berm, which encloses most of the territory.

On November 6, 1975 the so-called Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, repatriating even the Spanish corpses from its cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and set up a government in exile.

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