Western Sahara Overview
The legal status of the territory and the issue of sovereignty are issues to be resolved. It is almost entirely under the control of Morocco, but the Polisar Front, which was established in 1975 in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, claims it. The situation reaches the point where both sides dispute the management of the domain.
During the colonial era it was divided into Saguia el Hamra (capital: El Aaiun) and Golden River (capital Dajla, Old Villa Cisneros). Other more important localities are Samara, Bir Lehlu, La Güera (or La Agüera) and Guerguerat.
After Morocco’s occupation of the territory, it was divided into four provinces: Boujdour (Bojador), Laâyoune (El Aaiún), Es-Smara (Smara) y Oued Eddahab (Río de Oro). After the territorial reorganization of 1997, the territory of Western Sahara belongs to three Moroccan regions: (Oued Ed-Dahab – Lagouira, Laâyoune – Boujdour – Sakia El Hamra y Guelmin – Es-Semara). The latter two also include territorial parts of Morocco (a small portion of Cabo Juby and a large portion of southern Morocco).
According to clothesbliss, Western Sahara is found in North Africa, bounded to the north by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by Mauritania and Morocco (north). It borders Algeria to the northeast.
Crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, the territory is occupied by the Sahara Desert, being one part of sand desert and the other of stone.
The little vegetation is almost limited to oases. There are some animal species adapted to the arid desert environment, such as the desert mouse.
According to the WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature, most of the territory belongs to the desert ecoregion called the Trans- Saharan Steppe; except for the coastal zone, which is divided between Mediterranean dry forest and acacia bushes, in the extreme north, and Atlantic coastal desert, in the center and south.
Western Sahara has few natural resources and no rainfall to sustain most agricultural activities. Its economy centers on nomadic pastoralism, fishing and the mining of phosphates, which constitute the largest deposit in the world. Most food for the human population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. Incomes and living standards are lower than in Morocco.
In 1885, as a result of the provisions of the Berlin Conference, the territories of Western Sahara became a Spanish protectorate (since 1958 formally known as Spanish Sahara) in exchange for Spain’s recognition of the French protectorate over Morocco. Spanish rule in these areas lasted until the mid-1970s.
In 1973, with the support of Algeria, the pro-independence People’s Front for the Liberation of Saqiya al-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) was created, which undertook an anti-Spanish military campaign. In 1975, as part of the action called the Green March, about 300,000 Moroccans entered the Spanish Sahara. The Green March prompted the Spanish government to make concessions and transform the protectorate into a territory under joint Spanish-Moroccan- Moorish governance. In 1976, Spain finally withdrew from this part of the world, which led to the proclamation of independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic by the Polisario Front grouping the Sahrawi population.
The unilateral declaration of independence led to the outbreak of the Western Sahara War, with the Polisario clashed with Moroccan and Moorish troops. Polisario’s numerous victories led to the intervention of French troops in 1976–1977, which supported the Moroccan side. During this time, the Moroccans began bombing civilian targets with napalm. Thousands of civilians died in the attempts to pacify Western Sahara. The Polisario troops were supplied by the Algerian government, which was in conflict with Morocco.
Mauritania, which occupied the southern part of the territory of the former Spanish colony, withdrew from the country in 1979 as a result of the resistance movement, and in 1984 the Mauritanian government officially recognized the independence of Western Sahara. In September 1991, the war between Polisario and Morocco was ended by a truce. According to various sources, between 10,000 and 20,000 people died in the war. Since 1991, in order to stabilize Western Sahara and lead to a referendum, MINURSO, which is a UN peacekeeping mission, has been operating. The decision to establish it was included in UN Security Council Resolution 690.
Currently, Morocco controls most of Western Sahara and wishes to maintain this control due to the rich deposits of phosphate rock, as well as the significant funds invested in the territory. The eastern part of the country remains in the hands of the Polisario Front. This movement has currently suspended military operations as a result of the announcement of an independence referendum. Despite this, the status quo is still maintained with the western part of the country’s territory in Moroccan hands and the eastern part in the hands of the Polisario. These parts are separated from each other by a wall built by Morocco in the 1980s.