Dispute for control of Western
(to present day)
updated at February 2008
NOTE: Translated from Arab,
names can be written in many ways, according to
English, French or Spanish pronunciation. It is not always
clear which the current English version of them is.
words Sahrawi and Saharawi
are internationally used. We use
here only the Sahara/Saharawi form.
(Sahara Occidental in Spanish) is a territory
of north-western Africa, bordered by Morocco to the
north, Algeria in the northeast, Mauritania to the
east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west.
It is one of the most sparsely populated territories
in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands.
The largest city is Laâyoune (El
Aaiún), which is home to over half
of the population of the territory.
Western Sahara is mostly administrated by
Morocco as its
Southern Provinces. The
Polisario Front claims to control the area behind the
Moroccan wall (the red line in the map) as the
Free Zone on behalf of the
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.
The Polisario has its home
base in the
Tindouf refugee camps in
For administrative and political purposes Morocco has
divided Western Sahara into four provinces which have ten
seats, filled by Saharawis whose political views are
favourable to the regime, in the Moroccan Parliament. The
provinces of Laâyoune, Smara, and Boujdour have taken part
in elections since 1977 and Oued Ed Dahab province since
Read more on
The Kingdom of
Morocco and the
Polisario Front independence movement (and
government of the
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR)
dispute control of the territory. Since a
United Nations-sponsored cease-fire agreement in
1991, most of the territory has been controlled by
Morocco, with the remainder under the control of
Polisario/SADR. Internationally, the 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, from largely minor states. Polisario
has won formal recognition for SADR from roughly
45 states, and was extended membership in the
African Union, while Morocco has won formal
recognition for its position from 25 states, as well
as the membership of the
Arab League. In both instances, recognitions
have over the past two decades been extended and
withdrawn according to changing international
TYPE OF CONFLICT.
Dispute for state control
after Spanish colonisation
From 1884 to 1975
Western Sahara was a Spanish colony.
In 1975, following the Spanish withdrawal, Morocco occupied
the north of the territory and Mauritania the south of it.
In 1979, following
Mauritania's withdrawal, Morocco extended its control to the rest of
facing Polisario's guerrilla.
1991, hostilities ceased in a cease-fire.
The dispute is today between:
1) Moroccan government which has historical claims of
sovereignty over the territory;
2) The Polisario, Polisario Front, or Frente Polisario, from
the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía
el Hamra y Río de Oro ("Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia
el-Hamra and Río de Oro"), a Saharawi rebel movement working for the
indipendence of Western Sahara.
<Saharawi is the most commonly
used term for the natives of the Morocco-occupied Western Sahara.
Ethnic Saharawis are however found in southern Morocco and northern
Mauritania as well, the Western Sahara conflict having fractured
this tiny nomad people into several communities forced to exist
under wildly differing cultural and political conditions. The exact
size of the Saharawi ethnic group is unknown, and due to the
political dispute it is hard to find neutral accounts, but it is
probably somewhere over 500.000. Of which 200-250.000 are original
inhabitants of Western Sahara.
In Arabic, the word "Saharawi" means "of the Sahara", the word
Sahara itself meaning desert. Thus, the literal meaning is "desert
inhabitant". They are today of mixed Arab-Berber descend. They
speak the Arabic dialect of Hassaniya, notoriously difficult to
understand for non-Saharawi Arab speakers, and they also see Spanish
as part of their cultural legacy, Spain having colonized Western
Sahara whereas the rest of North Africa was under French rule.
Religiously, they are sunni muslims of the malikiya school. Their
way of life has always been nomadic and tribal, and they have
developed a Bedouin culture distinct from the settled Arabs in
Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco.> (sources from Wikipedia)
<Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of
Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. The Arabs invaded Morocco
in the 7th and 11th centuries and established their culture there.
Morocco's Jewish minority has decreased significantly and numbers
about 7.000. Most of the 100.000 foreign residents are French or
Spanish; many are teachers or technicians.
Arabic is Morocco's official language (it is the "classical" Arabic
of the Qur'an, literature and news media). The country's
distinctive Arabic dialect is the most widely spoken language in
Morocco. Approximately 10 million Moroccans, mostly in rural areas,
speak Berber either as a first language or bilingually with the
spoken Arabic dialect. French, which remains Morocco's unofficial
third language, is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's
primary language of commerce and economics; it also is widely used
in education and government. About 20.000 Moroccans in the northern
part of the country speak Spanish.> (sources from Wikipedia)
Morocco's government was
basically supported by USA (Polisario
was believed to have communist leanings), Great Britain and France.
According to independent sources, an estimated 7,000
Moroccans and 4,000 Saharawis have died from 1975 to
an estimated 125,000 to 175,000 people live displaced in the refugee camps in Tindouf.
Spain started to sell weapons to Morocco in 1984. Israel sent
military advisers in 1985.
Today Moroccan troops in Western Sahara estimate
from 100,000 to 150,000.
Polisario received support by Algeria
and Libya (till 1984). Its troops are estimated 2,000 to 12,000 in the
Free Zone, but they were much more in the past years.
The social structure of the nomadic communities of the desert is
marked by constant migrations. Then, it is difficult to define
national borders within the territory of north-west Africa if not
using the boundary lines drawn by the colonisers. So the official
borders are with Algeria (42 km), Mauritania (1.561 km) and Morocco
(443 km. The length of the coastline is 1.100 km. The sandy Atlantic
coast in west, the Quarkziz and Oued Draa mountain chain in north
and the barren desert in east and south form natural boundaries to
the region, which has always been thinly populated by mainly nomadic
Over the centuries there have been historical links
between Morocco and Western Sahara. These connections were not in
the modern sense of a state or political rather more through
religious, cultural and personal contacts. The presence of the
trans-Saharan trade routes meant that the region was a place where
different cultures and peoples met as they passed through, each
leaving their mark. Then, as the history of the Saharawis and Moroccans is strongly mixed with that of all the
neighbouring countries, what really makes today a "people" out of
them, like for other African and no-African countries, is not the
reference to borders of the pre-colonial past but the will of people
who identify themselves in the same social, religious and linguistic
The earliest recorded
inhabitants of the Western Sahara in historical
times were agriculturalists called Bafour. The
Bafour were later replaced or absorbed by
Berber-language speaking populations which
eventually merged in turn with migrating Arab
tribes, although the Arabic speaking majority in the
Western Sahara clearly by the historical record
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 passage of caravans especially
Mali. In the Middle Ages, the
Almoravid dynasties both
originated from the Saharan regions and were able to
control the area.
the fall of the Almoravid empire in
1147 the new Moroccan empires (Almohad,
Wattasid) retained sovereignty
over the western part of the Sahara
but the effectiveness of it depended
largely on the sultan that ruled.
Towards the late
Middle Ages, the
Arab bedouin tribes invaded the Maghreb,
reaching the northern border-area of the Sahara in
the 14th and 15th century. Over roughly five
centuries, through a complex process of
acculturation and mixing seen elsewhere in the
Maghreb and North Africa, the indigenous Berber
Hassaniya Arabic and a mixed Arab-Berber nomadic
the coming to power of the
Saadi Dynasty the sovereignty of
Morocco over the western part of the
Sahara became formally complete
again: the Portuguese colonisers
were expelled from Cape Bojador and
from Cap Blanc and the borders of
Morocco were moved up to the Senegal
River in the south-west and to the
Niger River in the south-east (see:
Battle of Tondibi in 1591). The
situation did not change with the
coming of the (present)
Alaouite Dynasty in 1659.
Read more about the
in Western Sahara.
the second half of the 19th century
several European powers tried to get
a foothold in Africa. France
occupied Tunisia and Great Britain
Ottoman Egypt. Italy took possession
of parts of Eritrea, Belgium invaded
Congo while Germany declared Togo,
Cameroon and South West Africa to be
under its protection. It was the
Scramble for Africa, the very
start of a new wave of colonialism.
After the agreement among the European colonial powers at
Berlin Conference (1884 - 1885) on the division of spheres of
influence in Africa, Spain seized control of the Western Sahara and
declared it to be a Spanish protectorate in a series of wars against
the local tribes.
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 Africa possessions and protectorates. Spanish
decolonization in particular began rather late, as internal
political and social pressures for it in mainland Spain built up
towards the end of
Francisco Franco's rule, and in combination with the global
trend towards complete
involvement in the Western Sahara issue started
on December 16, 1965, when the General Assembly
adopted its first resolution on what was then
called Spanish Sahara, requesting Spain to "take
all necessary measures" to decolonize the
territory, while entering into negotiations on
"problems relating to sovereignty".
OAU Council of Ministers had adopted its first resolution on Western
Sahara, at its 1st summit in Cairo, July 1966, asking the Member
States "to respect the existing borders at the
time when they reached independence".
Between 1966 and
1973 the UN General Assembly adopted seven more
resolutions on the territory, all of which
reiterated the need to hold a referendum on
self-determination. Thus, the UN stated in
unambiguous terms from the start that the
Western Sahara conflict could be resolved only
through an act of self-determination, in keeping
with the Declaration on the Granting of
Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
This position has been maintained by the
organization up to the present day.
At the same time,
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.
Read more about the colonial-rule
in Western Sahara.
meanwhile a re-organization of the Saharawi indipendentist forces
brought to the foundation of "Harakat Tahrir Saguia El Hamra wa Uad
Ed-Dahab" or simply "Movement for the Liberation of the Sahara"
actions did not have military character and took the
shape of civil resistance.
17, 1970, the colonial government called for a Saharawi
manifestation in Laâyoune in order to express the adhesion to the Mother Native
The MLS took advantage of the occasion to mobilize the Saharawis on behalf of their
independence. This led to a large, peaceful manifestation openly
against Spanish colonialism. But the intervention in Zemla of
the police and later of the Spanish Foreign Legion caused incidents
at the end of which some eleven Saharawis were killed.
After the so-called
hundreds were arrested, some deported and others fled the country,
marking the death of MLS.
Until this moment, except the "heroic" period of resistance to
Europeans, the Saharawis were instruments in the hands of the
colonial powers or of brother countries. But the news of Zemla's
incidents created a lot more awareness among the Saharawis and in the
international community concerning the fight for
resolutions passed in 1972 (n. 2983) and 1973 (n.
3162), affirming the right of Saharawis to self determination and
didn't deny that right but it also didn't take any positive steps
Morocco, like Spain, didn't contest the right of self-determination,
but argued that the Saharawis had already exercised their right and
opted to be an integral part of the kingdom.
On May 10, 1973, the Constitutive Congress for the Frente Polisario, was
Polisario (Frente POpular para la LIberacion de
SAguia el Hamra y RIO de Oro) was born as a political
movement, coming from the meeting of survivors of the MLS with a
group of Saharawi students in Morocco.
Polisario created an armed division known as the Saharawi Popular
Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Popular Sahraoui - ELPS),
which began to fight against the
occupants following a guerrilla warfare.
By 1974, the Spanish regime was in serious difficulties at
home and feared
the consequences of a military confrontation with Morocco, while the General Franco was
old of 82 years and near to death. The
Spanish population was not laid out to accept a war, and if a
conflict burst, Spain would have been exposed to the diplomatic and
economic reprisals of the Arab world.
So, on August 20, 1974, Spain announced a
self-determination and took a census of the region in order to
assess the voting population.
Hassan II ousted the idea of a referendum including the option of
independence and, on September 17, 1974, announced his intention to
bring the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In December the UN General
Assembly adopted the
requesting "the International Court of Justice to give an
advisory opinion at an early date on the following questions:
Was Western Sahara (Saguia El-Hamra y Rio de Oro) at the time of
colonization by Spain a territory belonging to no one (terra
What were the legal ties between this territory and the Kingdom of
Morocco and the Mauritanian entity?"
On January 16, 1975, Spain officially announced the suspension of the
referendum plan, pending the opinion of the court. 65% of Bou-Craa
exploitation was sold to Morocco.
May-June an important
mission of enquiry
was sent by the UN secretary-general to Western Sahara, Spain, Morocco,
Mauritania and Algeria. After many days of travelling the
members of the mission could affirm in an unambiguous way that "there was an
overwhelming consensus among Saharans within the Territory in favour
of independence and opposing integration with any neighbouring
October 16, 1975 the IJC emitted its clear
advisory opinion: on one side
the Western Sahara was not a 'no man's land' before the Spanish
occupation, there was evidence of a tie of allegiance between some,
though not all, of the tribal chiefs and the Kingdom of Morocco and
the Mauritanian entity. "Thus the Court has not found legal ties of
such a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly
resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in
particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free
and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory."
Hours later the delivering of the
advisory opinion, King Hassan II
claimed the opposite. The IJC, he
told his subjects, had vindicated
his irredentism. Then he
announced the Green
March, and, on November 5, 1975, he ordered 350.000 unarmed Moroccans, Koran in hand,
protected by the army, to march into the north of Western Sahara to
reassert the sovereignty of the Territory. On November 6, the
UN Security Council "deplored" this action and ordered Hassan to
withdraw the marchers.
November 14, 1975, Spain, Morocco and Mauritania signed the
by which Morocco acquired the northern two-thirds of the territory,
while Mauritania acquired the southern third.
Moroccan troops occupied Smara and other centres in the north, then
they arrived in Laâyoune; Mauritanian army also attacked from the
south, helped by Moroccan and French military advisers.
Polisario attacked the conveyor belt from Bou-Craa, forcing a halt
to phosphate mining for several years.
Tens of thousands of people fled to Algeria, in the region of
Tindouf, to escape the violence of the fighting. On February 18,
1976, the columns of refugees
were victims of bombardments with napalm, phosphorus and cluster
bombs by Moroccan aviation. Many were reported dead near Guelta
Zemmour and Bir Lahlou.
Spain officially ended its
administration in Western Sahara on
February 26, 1976, as the UN
received communication of the end of
the Spanish presence in the
territory and Spain's last soldier
departed the territory. Spanish
Foreign Minister, Areilza, affirmed
that Spain did not transfer to
Morocco and Mauritania the
sovereignty over the territory but
only transferred its administration.
From this moment on, according to
the United Nations, Western Sahara
will form part of the non-autonomous
territories. The Special UN Envoy sent in February could only verify the
impossibility of a free consultation among the population.
Read more about the decolonisation of
February 27, 1976, the Polisario proclaimed the independence of Western Sahara and the birth of the
Saharawi Arabic Democratic Republic
was soon recognized by several dozens of countries, among which
During the time the international recognition of SADR changed
together with the global political alliances and it can be difficult
to list precisely the countries which formally recognise the new
spite of this, Morocco
and Mauritania officially divided Western Sahara on April 14, by a
bilateral act not recognized by the international community.
being completed the evacuation of the refugees, the Polisario
began offensive military actions.
Morocco and, above all, Mauritania, by far the weaker of the two
The war opposed
at first Polisario's 2.000
dedicated desert guerrillas against 20.000 young Moroccan conscripts
and Mauritanian forces. Despite the obvious advantages of Moroccan
air power and army in the open desert, the Saharawis proved to be a
hard customer for the enemies. Their main advantages were their
knowledge of the territory; their use of physical and climactic
characteristics (e.g. sirocco sandstorms) to impede the use of
technological advantage; and their use of rapid hit-and-run style
tactics, choosing the location and timing of attack. Isolated
garrisons became vulnerable, being easily cut off and overwhelmed by Polisario forces.
The war spread beyond Western Sahara's borders into sou
In June a
column of Polisario guerrillas crossed 1,500 km of desert and
shelled Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.
February 1977 Spain and Morocco signed a fishing agreement;
consequently Polisario began attacking on Spanish fishing vessels.
Polisario attacked and held for over two hours in Zouerate, a small
Northern town in Mauritania where a very important iron ore mine
produced 1/6 of the country's GNP. Two French citizens were killed
and six others were taken captive. French were forced to evacuate
and mining came to a halt.
guerrillas severely weakened Mauritania by repeatedly cutting the
Zouerate-Nouadhibou railway line that was the main route for the
export of iron ore, on which Mauritania depended for 80-90% of its
export earnings. Impoverished Mauritania couldn't afford the costs
of the war.
consequence Mauritania signed a mutual defence pact with Morocco.
Nouakchott was attacked again by the Frente Polisario, and President
Daddah was forced to appoint a military officer to head the ministry
of defence. 9.000 Moroccan troops were airlifted into Zouerate to
reinforce Mauritanians, so that the Mauritanian military (15.000 to
17.000 troops) resented its role as a back-up force to the
October 1977, after two more French citizens were seized during a raid on
the railway, French President Giscard d'Estaing ordered the military action called
December 12, French aircraft used napalm on Polisario units and
their Mauritanian prisoners after attacking on the railway. Again,
six days after, Jaguar aircraft bombed a Polisario column after
attacking on the railway, killing 74 of 82 Mauritanian prisoners. So
Polisario released French prisoners to UN.
meanwhile Spain announced an end to arms shipments to Morocco and
10, 1978, in Mauritania, President Ould Daddah was deposed in a
coup led by army officers who pledge to restore peace. Then, Polisario declared a cease-fire in Mauritanian
territory and in one year the two belligerants
signed the Algiers Agreement, by which Mauritania renounced its
claim to Western Sahara and promised to withdraw completely within
seven months. The Polisario, in return, renounced all claims
1979, Polisario guerrillas overrun the Moroccan base of Lebouirate,
where they took 111 prisoners and destroyed 37 tanks T-54. Polisario hold the town for over a
year. They fought their way into Smara and captured another Moroccan
base at Mahbes.
Thanks to the Algerian key-support, at the
end of the 1970s the Polisario had under control the 90% of the Western
Sahara. In these years many Soviet-aligned countries supported
Polisario diplomatically and several, including Cuba, recognized the
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Novembre 11, 1980, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/35/19) urging Morocco to
"terminate the occupation of the Territory of Western Sahara".
beginning of the '80s, after Polisario's army (ELPS) defeated several times the
Moroccan FAR, France sent military advisers to King Hassan II. Followed
American advisers in 1982 and Israeli advisers in 1985.
Israeli advice and assisted by a billion dollar pay-out from the
USA, between 1981-1987 Morocco built the so-called
berm: a giant barrier over
1,600 km long,
separating the Polisario-controlled east from the Moroccan-controlled west.
The berm (Saharawis call it “the wall of shame”) is made of earth,
rock and sand and is in most places, three metres high. There are
Moroccan garrisons (strong points with over 120.000 troops in all)
regularly spaced every 5 Km along its length, protected by bunkers,
trenches, barbed wire fences, landmines and electronic detection systems. Mobile reserves
of Moroccan forces are located in garrisons behind the berm. The
areas adjacent to the wall, particularly on the east side, are
surrounded of electronic devices and lined on both sides by at least
200 metres of anti-personnel landmines.
attempted to disrupt the construction by some heavy fighting, but by
May 1982 it was operative. Bou-Craa phosphate mine reopened from
behind the safety of the wall and a heavy colonization started.
of the berm resulted in what amounts to a military
stalemate, so that military activity was scaled down in the mid-1980s. Polisario had
control of a big chunk of the country, but anything of any importance
(the fishing ports, the cities and the phosphate mines) is on the
Moroccan side of the wall.
February 22, 1982, the OAU admitted the SADR as the 51st
full-fledged member. As a consequence, by time, 73 states recognised
the SADR while Morocco left the Organisation.
and the OAU worked together in these years to allow a
self-determination referendum. Many resolutions were approved and
they declared to be available to cooperate in the organisation of a
11th, 1988, UN Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar proposed a
cease-fire and the organisation of a referendum under international
control, on the base of the 1974 Spanish census. On 30 August 1988,
Morocco and Polisario accepted the UN-OUA baked peace plan and in
November Polisario decreed a unilateral cease-fire. A UN resolution
approved the peace process, but when Spain voted in favour of the
resolution, for reaction King Hassan II cancelled its visit to the
Iberian country and, at the same time, the rivendications
on the official
and Melilla, the remaining
soberanía ("places of sovereignty"),
In March 1989,
the European Parliament pronounced
for the self-determination referendum
times expressed concern about the violation
of human rights in the occupied territories.
the UN Security Council approved the resolution
containing the "Settlement Plan" for Western Sahara.
the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in accordance with the Settlement
was created as an integrated group of United Nations civilian,
military and civilian police personnel; up to total 1.000 civilian
and 1.700 military personnel, it was mandated to:
reduction of Moroccan troops in the Territory;
confinement of Moroccan and Frente POLISARIO troops to
Take steps with
the parties to ensure the release of all Western Saharan
political prisoners or detainees;
exchange of prisoners of war (International Committee of the Red
repatriation programme (United Nations High Commissioner for
register qualified voters;
Organize and ensure a free and fair referendum and proclaim the
A long process of
identification began, towards the referendum on the
self-determination of the Saharawis which should be made in
In August 1991, few days
before the start of the UN negotiated cease-fire, Morocco triggered
a great offensive. The zones of the Western Sahara under Polisario
control were ravaged and many civilians were killed.
6th, 1991, the cease-fire started and MINURSO began to occupy their
Morocco controlled the areas west of the berm, the so-called
most of the territory's population and everything economically
the areas east of the berm,
the so called
mostly uninhabited desert.
Read more about the war in Western
THE DISPUTE FROM 1991 TO PRESENT DAY
The map below shows the situation in Western Sahara at the beginning
of the cease-fire in September 1991.
October/November 1991, in clear violation of the cease-fire norms,
Morocco sent thousands of settlers to the occupied territory and
attempted to block the referendum process by forcing the UN to
accept them as voters. The technical materials of the UN were
blocked in the Moroccan ports and the UN flag could not wave on
Laâyoune, capital of the occupied Western Sahara.
In his report to the Security
Council S/22464 of 19 December 1991, just before finishing his
Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar accepted Moroccan positions, essentially asking for a
revision of the electoral body opening the right to vote to
The Secretary-General regretted that slow
progress in the accomplishment of certain tasks had
made it necessary to adjust the timetable of the settlement plan,
largely due to the complexity of the identification process, aimed
at establishing the list of those who would vote in the referendum,
parties’ different interpretations of the plan in that regard." (UN
The largest most permanent social unit was the Tribe
that, in that part of the world, is also known as Kabil. The Tribes
break down into Fractions and the latter into Sub-fractions.
Fractions and Sub-fractions go back six to eight generations. The
smallest meaningful social structure is the Ahel, or family unit,
that gathers the last three to four generations. The Head of the
Tribe or Tribal Fraction is the Sheik. Every tribe has its own laws
and deliberative bodies (the Assembly of Notables or Djema'a). The
tribes are the sole structures at which the claim of sovereignty
could be laid.
Openly protesting against this new
position, Secretary-General's Special
Representative for the Western Sahara, the Swiss Johannes Manz,
resigned. For the
first time a Secretary-General report was not immediately accepted
by the Security Council. Only at the
end of the year the Security Council approved the new position of the Secretary-General
and dismissed him; the new Secretary-General,
Boutros-Ghali, was given
mandate to present a new report before February 1992.
Before December 1991, the
3 accepted criteria to be registered as qualified voter for the referendum were:
being included in the 1974 Spanish census
being born to somebody inscribed in the
owning a Spanish passport dating before the
In his 19 December 1991 report, just
few days before the end of his mandate, Pérez de Cuéllar accepted 2
being born to somebody born in Western Sahara (it included
many Saharawis living in Morocco)
having been living in Western Sahara since at least 6 years (it
included all the Moroccans settled by the Green March)
*** A scandal occurred when, in
February 1993, Pérez de Cuéllar became vice-director of the French
Society OPTORG, belonging to the Moroccan Omnium Nord Africain (ONA),
a large holding company whose President was
Fouad Filali, the son of the Moroccan Prime Minister,
Filali, and young husband of
Lalla Meryem, King Hassan II's daughter.
Mundo, 27 May 1996, Tambores de tragedia en el Sahara)
Later, the new UN
Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali introduced a further criterion: the
oral recognition by a tribe chief (Sheik).
In this conditions some notables of the Polisario affirmed that the
UN were working for the auto-determination of a people which was not
January 1992 the referendum was delayed "sine die" following disputes
about who is eligible. The UN collapsed under the debts, MINURSO was impotent while Moroccan
authorities repressed independentist demonstrations and moved new
farmers to the occupied territories.
of the US Senate in the Western Sahara, published on February 5th,
affirmed: "The responsibilities of the serious delays of the peace
plan are to be given to Morocco, to its wish not to collaborate and
to the missed support of the UN Secretary-General to the MINURSO". Boutros-Ghali proposed a delay of at least
three months to save the UN-baked plan. The Pakistani Sahabzade
Yaqub Khan, generally considered pro-Morocco, was named as new
Special Representative for the Western Sahara.
On May 29, 1992, in the report S/24040, Boutros-Ghali indicated the greatest
obstacle for the realization of the referendum in the criteria of
identification of the eligibles to the vote. In answer the UN
Security Council invited the parts in conflict to "exceptional
efforts to assure the success of the plan of peace."
main issues related to the diplomatic efforts of the period 1991/92
can be read in the
September 4, 1992, in Morocco was held a referendum for the approval of
the new Moroccan Constitution, extended to the Western Sahara, with
which the King Hassan II kept on reserving himself interior, foreign
and religious politics. Followed the Moroccan town elections,
extended to the Sahara. The civil Saharawi population of the
occupied territories started to manifest against the Moroccan
presence. The intervention of the Moroccan special forces was hard
and hundreds of Saharawis disappeared following the repression.
January 28, 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali delivered the report S/25170, where three possibilities were proposed to
improve the peace plan:
intensify the dialogue among the parts so that to arrive to an
accord on the way to organize the referendum;
celebrate the referendum the first possible substantially modifying
the electoral body;
abandon the actual plan of peace and look for an alternative
2, 1993, the
resolution 809 of the UN Security Council welcomed the
first proposal contained in the relationship of the
Secretary-General, it confirmed the preceding resolutions and
expressed strong worry for the persistent divergences among the two
parts. Confirming that the 1974 Spanish census is the base to
establish the eligibles to the vote it didn't admit the criteria of
amplification pretended from Morocco; the Special Representative was
entrusted of to swiftly proceed to the application of the
In those months, reports from US Department of State, the European
Parliament and Amnesty International expressed worry for the lack of
respect of human rights in Morocco. On May 31st, 1993,
Boutros-Ghali visited the region. Followed legislative
elections in Morocco, extended also to the occupied Western Sahara.
16, 1993, there was a meeting in Laâyoune among delegations of
Frente Polisario and Morocco, publicized by Rabat as a meeting
between monarchy-faithful Saharawis and dissident Saharawi, with no
discussion about the Moroccanity of the Sahara. In the report
S/26185, Boutros-Ghali expressed satisfaction for the meeting of
Laâyoune, also admitting fundamental divergences among Polisario and
Morocco. On October 25th, a following meeting in New York among the
Polisario and Morocco failed. Rabat, at the last moment, changed the
composition of the delegation inserting dissidents from the
Polisario and excluding representatives of its own government. For
Morocco the problem of the Western Sahara existed only for the
Saharawis that had to find, among them, a pacific solution in the
frame of the Moroccan community. This attitude was harshly
criticized by the members of the UN Security Council; particularly
the representative of the United States defined the behaviour of
Morocco "provocative and unacceptable" affirming that "the patience
of USA is at the limit."
10, 1994, Boutros-Ghali delivered the report S/1994/283 (not
available in the UN database but quoted in successive reports), making
the point on the work of the Committee of Identification and
proposing three options to go out of difficulties:
organize the referendum at the end of 1994 without the collaboration
of one of the two parts and following the attached calendar;
continue the job of the Committee of identification on the base of
the criteria established by the Secretary-General and to try, in the
meantime, to get the cooperation of the two parts,
with the intention to hold the referendum
by the end of 1994
progressively put an end to the operation of the MINURSO, to suspend
the process of identification and to maintain a shortened military
presence in the territory only to preserve the cease-fire.
of the UN Security Council opted for the solution b) asking the
Identification Commission to complete the analysis of all
applications received and proceed with the identification and
registration of potential voters by 30 June 1994, with a view to
holding the referendum by the end of 1994.
12, 1994, Boutros-Ghali delivered the
report S/1994/819 according
to which around 76.000 potential electors were enrolled in the
lists. The identification of these electors was not begun for the
difficulties risen with the designation of the observatories of the
OAU, undesirable to Morocco.
Boutros-Ghali proposed a new calendar:
31, limit to receive the applications for registration;
December 15, partial withdrawal of the Moroccan army and end of the
work of identification;
January 25th, 1995, date of the referendum and term for the
repatriation of all the electors;
February 14th, 1995, date of the referendum;
1995, end of the role of the MINURSO.
On May 26, 1995,
the political stalemate brought the UN Security Council to approve
the resolution 995 (1995) and send a mission to Western Sahara, from
3 to 9 June.
The mission report
S/1995/498 of 21 June 1995 can be read on UN website.
The terms of reference of the mission, as set out by the Security
Council (S/1995/431), were as follows:
(a) To impress upon the parties the necessity of cooperating fully
with MINURSO in the implementation of all aspects of the settlement
plan and to underline the fact that any further delay would put the
whole operation at risk;
(b) To assess progress and identify problems in the identification
process, bearing in mind the deadline for the referendum of January
(c) To identify problems in other areas relevant to the fulfillment
of the settlement plan (including the reduction of Moroccan troops,
the confinement of
troops of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra
and Río de Oro (the Frente POLISARIO), the release of political
prisoners and detainees, the exchange of prisoners of war and the
return of refugees).
The mission left New York on 3 June and visited Morocco, Algeria and
Mauritania where it held meetings with senior government officials
of those countries, including an audience with Mr. Maaoya Ould
Sid’Ahmed Taya, President of Mauritania. In addition, the mission
visited Tindouf, where it met with the leadership of the Frente
POLISARIO. In Tindouf, the mission also held a briefing session with
officials of MINURSO and some of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
observers currently there and witnessed the identification operation
in two centres. The mission then went to Laayoune, where it attended
a meeting with local Moroccan government officials, was briefed by
the MINURSO Force Commander and Civilian Police Commissioner and met
with the remaining OAU observers and some MINURSO staff. While in
Laayoune, the mission also witnessed the identification operation.
The Mininster of Interior of Morocco, Driss Basri, pointed out that
that the 100,000 applicants currently not residing in the Territory
would have to be identified, because, according to Mr. Basri, the
Spanish census did not take into account the structure of the
Saharan society, hence Morocco’s position that additional criteria
were needed for the identification of potential voters.
Instead, in the Frente POLISARIO’S view, the list of voters should
be based on the 1974 census, with a small margin of increase to
allow for population growth. The mission was said that the Frente
POLISARIO had expressed serious reservations about the
implementation of criteria 4 and 5 and about the admission of oral
testimony by the sheikhs.
In May 1996,
situation (lack of transparency, trust and goodwill) didn’t change, the UN suspended the
identification process blaming both sides for problems and recalled
most MINURSO civilian staff. Military personnel stayed to oversee
of stalemate, the deadlock was broken thanks to the
appointments taken by the new UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and
his new envoy to Western Sahara,
James Baker III, former US Secretary of
After three rounds of talks were hold in London and Lisbon, on
September 14-16, 1997, three days of talks at the Baker Institute in
Houston resulted in the so-called
a significant step forward, with agreement reached for the first
time on a proposed code of conduct for the Referendum on
the Western Sahara, guidelines for the role of the United Nations
during the transition period, and the principles that will govern
the process of identifying voters who can participate in the
referendum. The negotiations included high-level delegations from
the United Nations, Morocco, and the Polisario, with additional
delegates from Algeria and Mauritania serving as observers.
After the talks, the Secretary-General updated the UN Security
Council through the Report
the referendum, set for December 7, 1998, was suspended after
After the arrival
Mohammed VI of Morocco to the throne, in July 1999,
Morocco had reneged on its 1991 and 1997 agreements on a vote on
independence. Polisario argued that Morocco had thus broken a main
condition of the 1991 cease-fire agreement, which had wholly hinged
on the independence referendum.
In December 1999,
the lists of the eligibles to the vote were published with 86,425
applicants eligible. The
identification process was finished but MINURSO had to face 131,038 appeals
to be analyzed.
Polisario asked to
fix a date for the referendum menacing
to return to the armed struggle.
In 2000, negotiations between Polisario and Morocco failed in
London and Berlin. Agreements were reached only on the release of
Prisoners Of War (POWs,
1,800 Moroccans according to
ICRC 1998 report),
a code of conduct for a
referendum campaign and
UN authority during a transition period. Further talks in Geneva broke down.
In the words of Kofi Annan (S/2002/178,
paragraph 30), "neither party had shown any disposition (...) to
discuss any possible political solution in which each could get
some, but not all, of what it wanted and would
allow the other side to do the same".
In few words (S/2002/178,
Polisario was not ready to discuss anything outside the settlement
plan, which included the self-determination referendum with
independence option. In the meanwhile, Morocco wanted to work out a
lasting and definitive solution, in a frank and sincere dialogue
with the Polisario, taking account of Morocco's sovereignty and
territorial integrity (no independence option).
The negotiations on the future of Western Sahara had turned to the
Baker Plan (formal name, Peace
Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara)
which was intended to substitute the Settlement Plan of 1991.
The first version of the plan (Baker I
or the Framework Agreement) was delivered by UN special envoy
James Baker in May 2000. It was meant to give the people of Western
Sahara self-determination through a large autonomy within the
Moroccan state. Except for defense and foreign policy, all other
capacities would be in the responsibility of a local government. Morocco accepted the plan while Algeria and the Polisario front
rejected it. Algeria even countered by proposing that the territory
be divided between the parties, resisted by Morocco.
In May 2001, Morocco
presented to the United Nations a new proposal, commonly known as
"third option" on Western Sahara; the Moroccan project provided a
«substantial devolution of authority» to local people with final
status to be determined by a referendum five years later. Polisario agreed to enter autonomy as a third option on the
referendum ballot, but refused to discuss any referendum that did
not allow for the possibility of independence, arguing that such a
referendum could not constitute self-determination in the legal
sense of the term.
20th, 2001, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented his report
He proposed UN to abandon the 1991 settlement plan by offering
instead a "framework agreement" following the "Baker I"
Security Council approved a resolution extending the mandate of the
UN Mission in Western Sahara by five months, until the end of
2001 the OAU ministerial session firmly rejected a request from the
Senegalese foreign affairs minister backed by his counterparts from
Gambia, Gabon, Burkina Faso, to register on the agenda of the OAU
summit of Lusaka the question of Morocco admission to the African
end of August 2001, James Baker III, met in Wyoming with representatives of
the Polisario and the Governments of Algeria and Mauritania
in Pinedale, Wyoming. Baker considered that the only way to put an
end to the stalemate was through a negotiated solution based on an
autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty. Baker
proposed to drop the referendum for the time being and let Morocco
guaranteed sovereignty over the territory for four years, including
Moroccan control of internal security and the judicial system. In
exchange, the Saharawis were offered some
leeway in controlling their own economic and social affairs,
some regional autonomy prior to moving towards an unspecified
political settlement at some point in the future.
which had given its approval to this project as a base for further
negotiations, was not asked to attend this round of talks.
The Polisario rejected categorically the project of "outline
agreement", and reaffirmed its attachment to the "UN Settlement
Plan", which both sides, Morocco and Polisario, had already agreed
upon. Polisario warned that if the referendum option would be not
restored, it may revert to war.
In 2001 Morocco divided offshore oil exploration
rights on the Western Saharan coast between a US and a French oil
company. On December 2, French President Jacques Chirac of France
described the Western Sahara as Morocco's Southern Provinces. If in
the 1990s the Moroccans paid lip service to international law and
the principle of self-determination, in this moment they overtly
scorned it, buoyed by the knowledge that France will always back
them to the hilt and the US are unlikely to alienate one of their
few close Muslim allies.
in the region as the referendum had been delayed 12 times.
On January 2, 2002,
the Polisario released 115 of the 1,477 Moroccan POWs hold in Tindouf.
They were repatriated under the auspices of the International Committee of Red
Cross. Despite the political stalemate, both sides showed the only
willingness to implement the UN-baked Settlement plan.
On February 19, 2002, Kofi Annan presented the report
S/2002/178 to the Security Council with four options
to break the impasse in the Sahara:
implementation of the
settlement plan without requiring the concurrence of both parties;
revise the framework
agreement taking into account the concerns expressed by the parties, but
without requiring the concurrence of both parties;
explore with the parties
one final time a possible division of the territory;
terminate MINURSO without
any result after 11 years and 500,000$ of expenditures.
the UN Legal Department declared Western Sahara as a Non
Self-Governing country awaiting decolonisation. Neither UN nor OAU
considered Morocco the legal administering power in the territory.
president of the Spanish Government, Jose Maria Aznar, affirmed that
there are no reasons to change Spain's traditional position on
Western Sahara, that maintains its support to the effective
implementation of the UN settlement plan, which calls for a
self-determination referendum. So the Moroccan army briefly
occupied the small and uninhabited
Isla Perejil, but
left without fighting shortly afterwards, when Spain sent in
SADR and the Democratic Republic of East Timor established
27th, 2002, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) announced
that it has signed a Technical Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the
British-Australian exploration company, Fusion Oil & Gas plc, that
will lead to a detailed assessment of the oil and gas potential of
the offshore territorial waters of the state. So, oil
exploration were being conducted in earnest both on and offshore,
with rival transnational companies seeking rights from Morocco (Kerr-McGee)
and Western Sahara (Fusion and Premier).
In July 2002 the Security Council voted to extend the
mandate of MINURSO.
November 6th, 2002, in his first public dismissal of the UN
Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, Morocco's King said it is
"obsolete" and "inapplicable". Speaking on the 27th anniversary of
the green march, supported by France, Mohamed VI said the territory
could be granted autonomy but should be part of Morocco.
In January 2003, the second version
of the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the
People of Western Sahara (Baker II) was
The UN Security Council accepted the plan in July 2003 (Resolution
1495), supporting it
"as an optimum political solution" and extended
the mandate of MINURSO till October 2003.
The plan aimed at instituting a semi-autonomous Saharan
self-rule by a "Western
Sahara Authority" for a period of five years, after which the
referendum had to be held, with all the population of Western Sahara allowed to
the 200.000 or so
Moroccan settlers who have been enticed to the territory by subsidies and
In a surprise move, the Polisario
accepted the document as a basis of negotiations;
Morocco stalled for several months, but
eventually rejected the plan, stating that the
kingdom will no longer accept independence as one of the ballot options.
In the same
1495 (comma 4) the UN called upon the Polisario to release
without further delay all remaining POWs in compliance with
international humanitarian law.
In January 2004 MINURSO's mandate was extended
until April and then for another year. But the peace process was
deadlocked, so that the envoy James Baker III, frustrated over the
lack of progress in reaching a complete settlement acceptable to
both the parties, resigned from his position in June 2004,
Peruvian Alvaro de Soto took his place.
On March 13, 2004, the leaders of eleven political parties
expressed unanimously "their dismissal of all manoeuvres of the enemies of the territorial unity that persists in
their vain attempts aiming to undermine the territorial integrity of
(Official Moroccan Agency MAP, March 9, 2004 -
Kingdom was in prey to a troubling rise of Islamism and to economic
problems, the Moroccanity of the Western Sahara was a key component
of the identity of the country, able to federate it on this point at
calculated that around 250.000 Moroccans lived in the occupied
territories among farmers, soldiers, police officers and
administrative personnel. Some say up to 300.000 among which 120.000
Government could never operate from Laâyoune, but from a small patch
of desert over the border in Algeria where over 160.000 Sahrawi
refugees, who have lived in refugee exile for almost three decades,
always dependent on UN food aid, named their own ‘temporary’ settlements after the major cities of
their homeland: Laâyoune, Smara, Aoserd and Dakhla. The real
the capital of Spanish Sahara, remained a dusty, modest place with
no notable architectural features, despite significant investment by
the occupying Moroccans over the past 30 years.
time 404 Moroccan POWs were still held by the Polisario. Some had been in captivity for more
than 20 years. In the
meanwhile something like 70,000 Saharawis were living in the
Territory under Moroccan rule.
On April 29th, 2005, the UN Security Council voted
unanimously to extend the mandate of MINURSO through October 31.
Personnel comprised then ca. 500 people, including local staff.
At the same time Reporters sans frontiéres denounced the
impossibility for journalists to make reports about Western Sahara,
because of Moroccan repression.
point, prospects for the Saharawis looked bleak. But in September
2004 South Africa announced that it was
formally recognizing the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, affirming
that its decision was in line with "the principles and objectives
enshrined in the African Union and United Nations Charters".
President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki’s letter to the UN explaining
the decision made it clear he believed Morocco was no longer to be
trusted on this issue.
Morocco promptly withdrew its
ambassador from Pretoria.
2005, the UN Secretary General stopped referring to the Baker Plan
in his reports, considering it largely dead. No replacement
plan was made, which could result in renewed fighting.
25, 2005, an uprising began in the cities of El Aaiun and Smara, and
student uprisings occurred in Moroccan universities, repressed by
police intervention resulting in an unspecified number of arrests.
Then a number of detainees in the custody of the Moroccan
authorities went on a hunger strike from early August to 29
In July 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
van Walsum of the Netherlands as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.
On August 17, 2005, Polisario
the release of all
all remaining 404
who were repatriated to Morocco by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In June 2005, Kenya
gave full recognition to the SADR, followed by Uruguay in December.
On the other side, the same month,
Sudan started to openly support
Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
At that time, the
international recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic
Republic was as follows:
45 states recognized
the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic
12 of these 45 were
home to Saharawi embassies
13 had "frozen"
22 had cancelled
list is based on several sources and it may be incomplete.
UN Security Council
Resolution 1634 (2005) followed the report of the UN
Secretary-General of 13 October 2005 (S/2005/648).
It only reaffirmed the UN "commitment to assist the parties to
achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution,
which will provide for the self-determination of the people of
Kofi Annan said in his report
"The lack of progress was compounded by the overall tense political
climate in the region. In addition to harsh public statements
emanating periodically from the parties, demonstrations and
allegations of human rights abuses in the Territory suggest that the
situation could deteriorate further in the absence of a mutually
acceptable solution that would provide for the self-determination of
the people of Western Sahara. I remain committed to helping the
parties to reach such a solution, but it is up to them to take
strategic decisions that would define, inter aha, the role that the
United Nations could play to assist them in overcoming their
differences. I urge them, after years of stalemate, to demonstrate
the necessary flexibility and to cooperate in good faith with my new
From October 2005 to February 2006 Peter van Walsum
consulted Polisario Algeria, Morocco and other
countries. On April 19, 2006, the
was delivered, containing no steps onward.
"On 6 November 2005, a ceremony was held in Laayoune to mark the
thirtieth anniversary of Morocco’s “Green March” into Western
Sahara. From 24 to 28 February 2006, the Frente Popular para la
Liberación de Saguía el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente Polisario)
held celebrations to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the “Saharan
Arab Democratic Republic” in Tindouf, Algeria, and Tifariti, Western
Sahara, about 70 kilometres east of the berm. On 20 March 2006, King
Mohammed VI arrived in Laayoune for a five-day visit to Western
Sahara. He announced the appointment of a new President and other
high-level officials to the
Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs
(CORCAS), in an effort to revive the body (CORCAS
was originally devised by King Hassan II in the 1970s, but
allowed to expire, and renewed by his son, King Mohammed VI in early
which comprises traditional leaders (sheikhs), civil society
representatives and elected members.
During the period under review, several demonstrations calling for
the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and respect
for their human rights were organized in Laayoune and other main
towns in the Territory. The demonstrations led to violent
confrontations between the participants and the Moroccan security
forces, resulting in arrests and detentions. Tensions were
particularly acute in late October, following the death of a young
Saharan demonstrator as a result of injuries incurred during a
protest held in Laayoune on 29 October 2005. Moroccan authorities
subsequently ordered the arrest and detention of two police officers
involved in the incident, pending the completion of a judicial
inquiry into the circumstances of the demonstrator’s death. In
response to the demonstrations, the presence of Moroccan security
and police forces increased in all the main towns in Western Sahara,
and in December, army troops were deployed in the Territory, for the
first time since 1999. In letters addressed to me on 17 November
2005, 14 and 20 December 2005 respectively, the Secretary General 2
S/2006/249 of the Frente Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz, called upon
the United Nations to intervene to protect the Saharan citizens and
guarantee their human rights, condemned the intervention of the
Moroccan police and military in the demonstrations and warned that
the deployment of Moroccan military officers to Western Sahara
constituted a dangerous development that could lead to additional
incidents, including “deadly confrontations” between Moroccan and
On 25 March 2006, the King of Morocco granted pardons to 216
prisoners, including 30 Saharan activists. Pro-Saharan
demonstrations were organized in Laayoune, Boujdour, Dakhla and
Smara to welcome the release of the Saharan activists and demand the
release of 37 more Saharan political prisoners. According to various
media reports, Moroccan security forces intervened to disperse the
demonstrators, leading to a number of arrests."
On March 25, 2006,
founding speech of the
Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS),
King Mohammed VI clearly affirmed the impossibility to go on with UN
peace plan; instead he proposed autonomy for Morocco's Southern
Provinces (Western Sahara), pointing out that Morocco will never
give up even not a grain of sand of its territory.
On 26 July, 2006,
the European Union signed a fisheries agreement with the Government
of Morocco whereby fishing vessels from countries in the Union would
gain access to the territorial waters off Morocco.
29 July 2006, seventh anniversary of his accession
to the throne, King Mohammed VI of Morocco gave a
speech in which he proposed a plan for the
autonomy of Western Sahara giving to CORCAS the
charge to submit a plan. Then he made visits
to a number of countries to explain the proposal.
The Spanish approach to regional autonomy was
named as a possible model for Western Saharan
autonomy, mentioning specifically the cases of
the Canary Islands, the Basque Country, Andalusia or
STATUS OF THE DISPUTE AT PRESENT
The Western Sahara conflict is both one of the
world’s oldest and one of its most neglected. More
than 30 years after the war began, the displacement
of large numbers of UN peacekeepers and a ceasefire
in 1991, its end remains remote. Analyzing the long
peace process in its entirety, somebody affirmed
that the United Nations were unable to stick to its
shifting its ground at every juncture with untoward
partiality, cloaked in the usual language of
compromise. UN were also accused to work not
on very public dossiers, but all the more in
semi-secretive ones. (http://www.gees.org/articulo/1314)
Then, in October 2006, former Korean
Minister Ban Ki-moon was appointed new
Secretary-General of the UN.
As in the
of April 13, 2007, both Morocco and Polisario presented
On April 10, Ban Ki-moon had received the
of the Frente Polisario for a mutually acceptable political
solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of
Western Sahara”. The proposal reaffirmed the right for a
self-determination referendum including the independence option,
recalling that the conflict is about decolonization.
On April 11,
Ban Ki-moon had received the “Moroccan
initiative for negotiating an autonomy statute for the Sahara
region”. The initiative proposed to Saharawis an autonomy
through legislative, executive and judicial bodies enjoying
exclusive powers. Morocco would keep the royal domains, especially
with respect to defense, external relations and the constitutional
and religious prerogatives of His Majesty the King.
Moroccan initiative received the backing of the USA
and France. In a letter to president Bush, 173
members of US congress endorsed the plan.
This initiative constituted the main ground for the
Moroccan proposal at
Manhasset negotiations, a series of direct talks
resulted from the UN Security Council
Resolution S/RES/1754 of April 30, 2007, which
called "upon the parties to enter into negotiations
without preconditions in good faith, with a view to
achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable
political solution, which will provide for the
self-determination of the people of Western Sahara".
The resolution also extended MINURSO's mandate until
October 31, 2007.
June 18-19, 2007, discussions
Manhasset, New York, between the
Moroccan government and the representatives of
the Polisario, involving the neighbouring
The parties held separate meetings with
Peter van Walsum,
as well as two sessions of face-to-face discussions,
for the first time since direct talks had been held
in London and Berlin in 2000.
first round of talks (Manhasset I)
both parties agreed to
resume talks on August 10-11. The second round (Manhasset
with no breakthroughs but parties agreed again to
meet for another round tough no date has been fixed
On December 14-16,
2007, the 12th Congress of SADR was held in the
isolated Polisario-controlled outpost of Tifariti.
More than 1,500 delegates discussed if resuming
armed struggle, pursuing negotiations or starting
preparations for the resumption of war while
pursuing negotiations at the same time. Moroccan
government officials addressed the gathering at
Tifariti as illegal, urging the UN to prevent it
from taking place.
general secretary, Mohamed Abdelaziz, stated at the congress that he
does not want a military solution. However, he warned that if
Polisario were to be forced to resume the armed struggle, it would
bring with it a fierce war of incalculable consequences for the
stability of the entire region. As international delegates and the
media left the congress after two days, intense discussions among
the Polisario representatives prolonged the congress an additional
48 hours. According to Polisario spokesperson Mhamed Khadad, the
result was a decision to meet again in six months, when a final
decision on taking arms will be determined.
On January 7-9, 2008, a
third round of peace talks
(Manhasset III) was held in
Manhasset, just outside New York City. UN mediator
Peter van Valsum said the parties continued to be
far apart on the question of independence. Morocco
maintained that its sovereignty over Western Sahara
should be recognized and affirmed that independence
cannot work as ethnic Sahrawis live in four
different countries and a referendum is impossible
to stage. The Polisario's position was
that the Territory's final status should be decided
in a referendum including independence as an option.
RIGHTS (from UN Secretary-General's
of April 13, 2007 - paragraphs 39/40)
During the period under review, demonstrations by
Saharans calling for respect for human rights and the right to
self-determination are reported to have continued in the Territory.
On 11 December 2006, Secretary General Abdelaziz wrote to my
predecessor, Secretary-General Annan, to protest the “brutal
repression” and arrest of demonstrators by Moroccan security forces
during protests to mark International Human Rights Day.
Subsequently, on 3 and 21 February 2007, respectively, I received
letters from Mr. Abdelaziz, protesting the “brutal intervention” by
Moroccan forces following demonstrations in Laayoune, and calling
for the immediate release of 38 Saharan prisoners, who had been on a
hunger strike in Laayoune’s “Carcel Negra” prison since 30 January,
in protest of their conditions of detention. On 3 March, the
prisoners reportedly suspended their hunger strike. On 2 April, Mr.
Abdelaziz wrote to me again with regard to his continuing concerns
about alleged human rights abuses in the Territory. On 9 April, I
received a letter from the Permanent Representative of Morocco to
the United Nations, expressing concern about increasing alleged
human rights violations in the Saharan refugee camps near Tindouf,
in Algeria. He also referred to allegations by international
non-governmental organizations of a deterioration of the human
rights situation in the camps.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights (OHCHR) has continued to follow the human rights
situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps and remains
committed to ensure that the rights of the people of Western Sahara
are fully protected. OHCHR continued to receive information alleging
that human rights defenders’ trials were falling short of
international fair trial standards. Allegations received from
several sources also related to incidents where the rights to
freedom of expression, association and assembly appear to have been
ASSISTANCE TO WESTERN SAHARA
(from UN Secretary-General's
of April 13, 2007 - paragraphs 29/32)
The assistance programme to the Saharan refugees, including food
distribution, continues to support those deemed most vulnerable in
the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria.
funding from the European Commission, the primary school
infrastructure that was heavily damaged by the floods in February
2006 was reconstructed under the auspices of the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The water
distribution system, hitherto supplied by tankers in most camps, is
being gradually replaced by more efficient and safe, piped water
systems. Hygiene will thereby be improved and the risk of infectious
diseases reduced. During the reporting period, a second stage of the
safer water supply system was under construction. A third stage will
be implemented in 2007 and a master plan for safe water adduction
will be designed during the year.
January 2007, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) sent a joint
assessment mission to Tindouf to verify the food requirements of the
Saharan refugees for the coming two years. The mission recommended
that the refugees should continue to receive emergency food
assistance. Pending a registration of refugees, the caseload would
be established at 90,000 beneficiaries. In line with the
recommendation of the mission, 35,000 supplementary rations would
also be distributed to women of child-bearing age, malnourished
children under 5 years and schoolchildren, in order to address
serious problems of chronic malnutrition and anaemia among these
particularly vulnerable sectors of the camps´ population.
food pipeline has been very fragile since September 2006, when the
food security stock in Rabouni, Algeria, was liquidated and not
replaced, due to lack of funding. Over 8,000 metric tonnes of food
commodities for the refugee camps are required for the coming six
months, but funding has not yet been pledged. I call upon donors to
contribute generously to the Saharan refugee assistance programme,
including the feeding operation, in order to make the living
conditions of the refugees tolerable and to prevent further
interruptions in their food distribution.
OF MINURSO (from UN
Report S/2007/202 of April 13, 2007 - paragraphs 45/46)
The General Assembly, by its resolution 60/280, appropriated the
amount of $44.5 million gross for the maintenance of MINURSO for the
period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007. Therefore, should the
Security Council approve my recommendation set out in paragraph 53
below as to the extension of the mandate of MINURSO, the cost for
the operation and maintenance of the Mission during the extension
period will be limited to the resources approved by the Assembly.
31 December 2006, unpaid assessed contributions to the special
account for MINURSO amounted to $52.1 million. As a result of the
outstanding assessed contributions, the Organization has not been in
a position to reimburse the Governments providing troops for the
troop costs incurred since April 2002. The total outstanding
assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at 31
December 2006 amounted to $1,889.6 million.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY (figures include together Morocco and
According to the
African Development Bank, the
Morocco accounts for 7% of the African continent. Morocco is
the fifth economic power of Africa with a 2006 GDP of $152.5 billion
PPP ($58.1 billion at official exchange rates), after South
Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria (2001 est.).
industry is the mining of
phosphates. Its second largest
source of income is from nationals
living abroad who transfer money to
relatives living in Morocco. The
country's third largest source of
revenue is tourism.
Morocco ranks among
the world’s largest producers and
cannabis, and its cultivation
and sale provide the economic base
for much of the population of
northern Morocco. The cannabis is
typically processed into
hashish. This activity
represents about 0.5% of Morocco's
Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A
UN survey estimated cannabis
cultivation at about 1,340 square
kilometres in Morocco's five
northern provinces. This represents
10 % of the total area and 27 per
cent of the arable lands of the
surveyed territory and 1.5 per cent
of Morocco's total arable land.
Morocco has signed
Free Trade Agreements with the
European Union (to take effect 2010)
and the United States of America.
The United States Senate approved by
a vote of 85 to 13, on July 22,
US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement,
which will allow for 98% of the
two-way trade of consumer and
industrial products to be without
tariffs. The agreement entered into
force in January 2006.
Western Sahara Online
Sahara Press Service
Read more about Polisario's
GEES - Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos
HIIK - Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research
ICG - International Crisis Group
ICRC - International Committee of the Red Cross
Le Monde Diplomatique
USIP - United States Institute of Peace
UNPO - Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
Morocco has a
total population of 382,617
as of July 2007.
has a total population of
as of July 2007 (70,000 of them might be
150,000 might be Moroccan troops, the rest Moroccans who entered the
territory during the occupation).
declares the number of Saharawi population in the camps to be
approxi-mately 155,000. Morocco disputes this number, saying it is
exaggerated for political reasons and for attracting more foreign
aid. On September 1, 2005, the number of assisted beneficiaries was
reduced from 158,000 to 90,000 "most vulnerable".
the political situation, there are no correct demo-graphic statistics
concerning the sole Western Sahara. Even not the UNHCR provides
trustable statistics concerning the refugee camps.
The major ethnic group of the Western Sahara are the
Saharawis, a nomadic or Bedouin tribal or ethnic group speaking
Hassaniya 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 indistingui-shable from the Hassaniya
speaking Moors of Mauritania, the Saharawi people differ from their
neighbours partly due to different tribal affiliations (as tribal
confedera-tions cut across present modern boundaries) and partly as a
conse-quence of their exposure to Spanish colonial domination.
Surrounding territories were generally under French colonial rule.
Like other neighbouring Saharan Bedouin and Hassaniya
groups, the Saharawis are Muslims of the Sunni sect and the Maliki
Hassaniya Arabic and Moroccan Arabic are spoken, together with
French and Spanish.
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.
Incomes in Western Sahara are substantially below the Moroccan
level. The Moroccan Government controls all trade and other economic
activities in Western Sahara. Morocco and the EU signed a four-year
agreement in July 2006 allowing European vessels to fish off the
coast of Morocco, including the disputed waters off the coast of
Western Sahara. (CIA)
For political reasons, no separated statistics are
available about GDP (PPP) and poverty. Anyway it is possible to say
that all the Saharawi refugees live in poverty as the area east of
the Moroccan defensive wall is mainly uninhabited. There is
practically no economical infrastructure and the only activity is
camel herding kept by Bedouins who depend on pastoral nomadism.
Refugees live on the
World Food Programme.
The government-in-exile of the Polisario front has
signed oil contracts of its own, but there is no practical
Statistics of Morocco (including Western Sahara,
so-called Southern Provinces)
GDP (PPP) (2006
- Total $152.5 billion
- Per capita $4,600-
40 (high)(CIA 2005)
0.640 (123rd) (UNDP 2006)
14.3% of the population
live on less than $2 per day (UNDP 2006)
19.0% of the population live below national poverty
7.7% (2006 est.)(CIA)
11% (5-14 year olds) (1999-2004) (UNICEF)
(Polisario affirms that all the refugee children go to school, on
historically has utilized child labour on a large scale. In 1999,
the Moroccan Government stated that over 500,000 children under the
age of 15 were in the labour force.)
Under-five mortality rate
(2006) 43‰ (UNDP)
5.0% of GDP (2003)(CIA)
US Dep State