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. The last elections to the parliament's lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers. The Polisario Front said Moroccan security forces had killed a 26-year-old protester at the camp, a claim denied by Morocco. Western Sahara, a vast swathe of desert on Africa’s Atlantic coast, is a disputed former Spanish colony. [104] Spanish colonization lasted roughly from 1884 to 1976, following the creation of the Madrid Accords where Spain absolved all responsibility over the territory and left it to Morocco and Mauritania. It has received vocal support from France and occasionally (and currently) from the United States. The major ethnic group of Western Sahara are the Sahrawis, a nomadic or Bedouin ethnic group speaking the Hassānīya dialect of Arabic, also spoken in much of Mauritania. [92] Fuel is sold at half the price, and basic goods are heavily subsidized;[92] businesses operating in the territory do not pay taxes. 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. The African Union provides peacekeeping contingent to the UN mission which is deployed to control a buffer zone near the de facto border of walls built by Morocco within Western Sahara. [21], In the waning days of General Franco's rule, and after the Green March, the Spanish government signed a tripartite agreement with Morocco and Mauritania as it moved to transfer the territory on 14 November 1975. MESA inspired other Sahrawis to express themselves and embody their national struggle through art and graffiti. Nationalism and Intra-State Conflicts in the Postcolonial World. The precise size and composition of the population is subject to political controversy. There are also berms in the Moroccan-controlled zone, around Dakhla and stretching from Boujdour, including Smara on the Moroccan border. Both sides blame each other for the stalling of the referendum. Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991, two-thirds of the territory (including most of the Atlantic coastline—the only part of the coast outside the Moroccan Western Sahara Wall is the extreme south, including the Ras Nouadhibou peninsula) has been administered by the Moroccan government, with tacit support from France and the United States, and the remainder by the SADR, backed by Algeria. [6] In 1975, Spain relinquished the administrative control of the territory to a joint administration by Morocco (which had formally claimed the territory since 1957)[7] and Mauritania. The arrival of Islam in the 8th century played a major role in the development of the Maghreb region. 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. [29] This appeared to abandon Polisario's previous position of only negotiating based on the standards of voter identification from 1991 (i.e. [97], 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. Morocco extended its control to the rest of the territory. 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. Three Moroccan regions are within or partly within Western Sahara: Morocco controls territory to the west of the berm (border wall) while the Sahrawi Republic controls territory to the east (see map on right). It also provided further detail on the referendum process in order to make it harder to stall or subvert. 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. This second draft, commonly known as Baker II, was accepted by the Polisario as a "basis of negotiations" to the surprise of many. In 2011, leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the territory is somewhat of an economic burden for Morocco;[92] the Moroccan US$800 million subsidy program to Western Sahara was said to be one of the larger per-capita aid programs in history. 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. Morocco controls 80% of the territory, including its phosphate deposits and fishing waters. The UN uses a number of 90,000 "most vulnerable" refugees as basis for its food aid program. 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 which escaped from Spanish invasion to the north of Morocco by the 19th century. 15 DT-2004. Polisario leaders maintain that they are ideologically opposed to terrorism, and insist that collective punishment and forced disappearances among Sahrawi civilians[48] should be considered state terrorism on the part of Morocco. The Western Sahara conflict has resulted in severe human-rights abuses, constantly reported by external reporters and HR activists,[46] 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,[47] and numerous casualties of war and repression. Other early inhabitants of Western Sahara may be the Bafour[16] and later the Serer. Annual demonstrations against the Moroccan Wall are staged in the region by Sahrawis and international activists from Spain, Italy, and other mainly European countries. The Polisario Front is an Algerian-backed group that fights for the independence of the Sahrawi people and represents the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic from exile in Tindouf, Algeria. Rabat – To Algeria and Polisario’s dismay, South African President and current Chair of the African Union (AU) Cyril Ramaphosa defended the AU’s limited role in efforts to resolve the Western Sahara dispute on Sunday. There is a consensus among Sahrawi women that they have always enjoyed a large degree of freedom and influence within the Sahrawi community.[108]. The Algerian government has consistently refused, claiming it has neither the will nor the right to negotiate on the behalf of the Polisario Front. For example, Sahrawi Islam has traditionally functioned without mosques, in an adaptation to nomadic life. [40] United Nations MINURSO forces are also present in the area. [92] There is speculation that there may be 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-Self-Governing status of Western Sahara (see below). While the area can experience flash flooding in the spring, there are no permanent streams. Among the responsibilities women had were setting up, repairing, and moving the tents of the camp, and participating in major tribal decisions. [111], In the contemporary history of Western Sahara, women have occupied central roles and been highly represented in the political sphere. They were met by police. The UN forces oversee the cease-fire between Polisario and Morocco agreed upon in the 1991 Settlement Plan. [97] It concluded that while the existing exploration contracts for the area were not illegal, "if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law. Guterres has not had a personal envoy in Western Sahara since former German president Horst Köhler left the post in May 2019 for health reasons. This again brought the process to a halt. 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."[31]. [115] One such artist was Spanish street artist MESA, who travelled to the Sahrawi refugee camps in 2011 and displayed his own graffiti throughout the landscape. Occupied by Spain until the late 20th century, Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 after a Moroccan demand. It aims to raise awareness of the humanitarian crises in the refugee camps, and expose the Sahrawi people to this medium of art and expression.[114]. Despite the fact that findings remain inconclusive, both Morocco and the Polisario have signed deals with oil and gas exploration companies. Morocco has been repeatedly criticized for its actions in Western Sahara by international human rights organizations including: The POLISARIO has received criticism from the French organization France Libertes on its treatment of Moroccan prisoners of war,[72] and on its general behaviour in the Tindouf refugee camps in reports by the Belgian commercial counseling society ESISC. As of 2017[update], no other member state of the United Nations has ever officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over parts of Western Sahara. Jacob Mundi. For example, all drinking water for the city of Laayoune comes from desalinization facilities and costs 3 US dollars per cubic meter but is sold at the national price of 0.0275 US dollars; the difference is paid for by the government of Morocco. 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. Rabat – President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa used his recent address against racism to vow support for the Polisario Front’s independence claims in Western Sahara. 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 from Sahrawis and other communities in Morocco proper.[39]. For the partially recognized state that controls the Free Zone and claims sovereignty over Western Sahara, see, disputed territory in northwestern Africa, Parts of this article (those related to the, Stalling of the referendum and Settlement Plan. However, the presence of land mines scattered throughout the territory by the Moroccan army makes it a dangerous way of life. Demonstrations and protests still occur, even 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. [93] The cable concluded that the territory is unlikely ever to be of any economic benefit for Morocco, even if offshore oil fields were to be discovered and exploited. Demonstrations and riots by supporters of independence 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). Morocco disputes this number, saying it is exaggerated for political reasons and for attracting more foreign aid. [11] In both instances, recognitions have, over the past two decades, been extended and withdrawn back and forth, depending on the development of relations with Morocco. Families were broken up by the dispute. The Spanish press was accused of mounting a campaign of disinformation to support the Sahrawi initiative, and all foreign reporters were either prevented from traveling or else expelled from the area. The earliest known inhabitants of Western Sahara were the Gaetuli. [110] Furthermore, Sahrawi women were endowed with major responsibility for the camp during long periods of absence by the men of the camp due to war or trade. Sahrawi women could inherit property, and subsist independently from their fathers, brothers, husbands, and other male relatives. 6 December 2020. The European Union fishing agreements with Morocco include Western Sahara. 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. The Sahrawis are traditionally nomadic Bedouins with a lifestyle very similar to that of the Tuareg Berbers from whom Sahrawis most likely have descended, and they can be found in all surrounding countries. In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara, asking Spain to decolonize the territory. President Buhari added that: “Nigeria remains committed to supporting the efforts of the AU and the UN towards finding a lasting solution to the Sahrawi problem.” The wide and active support by Nigerians for the liberation of Western Sahara is a warning to Morocco and its collaborators that they can no longer hold Africa down. [81][84] 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 combatants being demobilized due to the cease-fire. The most imminent problem is Western Sahara, a disputed region controlled by Rabat. Sayad's work tells a consistent story, one that draws on his experience of protracted conflict and a life under Moroccan occupation. Was Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet El Hamra) at the time of colonization by Spain a territory belonging to no one (terra nullius) ?” If the answer to the first question is in the negative, “II. [107] The program itself allows 7,000 to 10,000 Sahrawi children between the ages of 8 and 12 the opportunity to live in Spain for the summer outside of the refugee camps. [92] Most food for the urban population comes from Morocco. Las pretensiones de Marruecos sobre los territorios españoles en el norte de África (1956–2002)", "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 34/37, The Question of Western Sahara", "Arab League Withdraws Inaccurate Moroccan maps", "Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (paragraph 37, p. 10)", "Western Sahara not part of EFTA-Morocco free trade agreement – wsrw.org", "International law allows the recognition of Western Sahara – Stockholm Center for International Law and Justice", "Algeria Claims Spanish Sahara Is Being Invaded", "Western Sahara's Struggle for Freedom Cut Off By a Wall", "Is One of Africa's Oldest Conflicts Finally Nearing Its End? 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. 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