Western Sahara


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Western Sahara,

territory (2005 est. pop. 273,000), 102,703 sq mi (266,000 sq km), NW Africa, occupied by Morocco. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, on Morocco in the north, on Algeria in the northeast, and on Mauritania in the east and south.

Land and People

The territory is divided into four districts: Laayoune, Essemara, Boujdour, and Oued Essemara. Part of the Sahara, it is extremely arid and is almost entirely covered with stones, gravel, or sand. Rocky highlands in the east reach c.1,500 ft (460 m). The main towns are Laayoune (formerly El Aaiún), Dakhla (formerly Villa Cisneros), Boujdour, and Essemara. The population is predominantly made up of Arabs and Berbers, both of Sahrawi (Western Saharan) and Moroccan origin; during the rainy season pastoral nomads migrate into the territory. Both Hasaniya Arabic and Moroccan Arabic are spoken; most of the population is Sunni Muslim.

Economy

The traditional economy is limited to the raising of goats, camels, and sheep, and the cultivation of date palms. There is coastal fishing. Large deposits of phosphates at Boukra (near Laayoune) were first exploited by a Spanish-controlled firm in the early 1970s; Morocco has since taken primary control of the firm. Potash and iron deposits exist at Agracha. There is a growing tourist industry. The region has a limited transportation network; the main seaports are Dakhla and Laayoune. Phosphates and dried fish are exported, while fuel and foodstuffs are the main imports.

History

There is evidence of trade between the Western Sahara and Europe by the 4th cent. B.C. Portuguese navigators reached Cape Bojador on the northern coast of present-day Western Sahara in 1434. However, there was little European contact with the region until the 19th cent. In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cap Blanc (at the present border with Mauritania). The boundaries of the protectorate were extended by Franco-Spanish agreements in 1900, 1904, and 1920. Essemara was not captured until 1934, and the Spanish had only slight contact with the interior until the 1950s. In 1957, a rebel movement ousted the Spanish, who regained control of the region with French help in Feb., 1958.

In Apr., 1958, Spain joined the previously separate districts of Saguia el Hamra (in the north) and Río de Oro (in the south) to form the province of Spanish Sahara. In the early 1970s, dissidents formed organizations seeking independence for the province. At the same time, neighboring nations (notably Mauritania, Morocco, and Algeria) pressured Spain to call a referendum on the area's future in accordance with UN resolutions. Continuing guerrilla warfare in the 1970s, and a march of over 300,000 Moroccans into the territory in 1975, led to Spain's withdrawal from the province in 1976, when it was renamed Western Sahara.

Upon Spain's withdrawal, Morocco and Mauritania divided the region, with Morocco controlling the northern two thirds and Mauritania the southern third. A nationalist group, the Polisario Front, waged guerrilla warfare against the two nations with support from Algeria, calling the territory the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. In 1979, Mauritania withdrew from its portion, which was absorbed by Morocco. Polisario continued its attacks on Moroccan strongholds; the protracted warfare caused thousands of refugees to flee into neighboring Algeria, and eventually Morocco built a defensive sand berm around the much of the area, securing its control of about four fifths of the territory.

A UN-monitored cease-fire was implemented in 1991, and a referendum was to decide the territory's future. Disputes regarding who would be permitted to vote delayed the referendum in the following years, during which time the region was integrated administratively into Morocco. UN attempts to broker a peace agreement have been unsuccessful, with Morocco, which has spent significant sums on development since the 1990s, generally rejecting any plan that might end its sovereignty over the area. Beginning in 2007 both sides participated in UN-sponsored talks, but the intermittent negotiations produced no breakthrough. In Nov., 2010, violent clashes between Sahrawis and security forces broke out after government forces moved to clear a Sahrawi protest encampment outside Laayoune.

Bibliography

See J. Damis, Conflict in Northwest Africa (1983); T. Hodges, Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War (1983).

Western Sahara

a disputed region of NW Africa, on the Atlantic: mainly desert; rich phosphate deposits; a Spanish overseas province from 1958 to 1975; partitioned in 1976 between Morocco and Mauritania who faced growing resistance from the Polisario Front, an organization aiming for the independence of the region as the Democratic Saharan Arab Republic. Mauritania renounced its claim in 1979 and it was taken over by Morocco. Polisario agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire in 1991 but attempts to settle the status of the region have failed. Pop.: 316 000 (2004 est.). Area: 266 000 sq. km (102 680 sq. miles)
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In this context, the Council requested Kohler to relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit leading to the resumption of a political process with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.
In its latest resolution on Western Sahara this year, the U.
WLQwom8rLcs) for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Cairn described the exploration area in a 2013 media release as 'offshore Morocco' and failed to mention Western Sahara.
Rather than reiterate the call to allow the MINURSO to fulfill its mission to oversee a referendum by the people of Western Sahara on whether to be an independent country or be incorporated into Morocco, however, Cooper referred to the much-maligned Moroccan proposal to grant the territory some limited "autonomy" in return for international recognition of Moroc co's illegal annexation.
The settlement plan provided for a transitional period for the preparation of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.
Ross's visit is clearly intended to raise the political pressure on Morocco, which has been consistently opposed to granting any such referendum to those living in Western Sahara.
Rabat accused Ban earlier this month of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara dispute when he used the word "occupation" to describe its annexation of the region in 1975, when Morocco took over from colonial power Spain.
It's a major backer of the Polisario Front, and regularly reaffirms its "resolute" support of the Western Sahara.
In 2002, the UN's top legal officer, Hans Corell, determined that if "further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed without respect to the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, the contracts would be in violation of the international legal principles dealing with non-self-governing territories.
He covers the right of peoples to self-determination in international law and the Western Sahara case, the background of the conflict, the constitutive elements of statehood and their application to Western Sahara, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in October 1975, the failure of the decolonization process, the mission of the United Nations for the Western Sahara referendum, the problem of consulting the population, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Western Sahara as a consequence of the failure of the decolonization process.
Two officers of the Kazakhstan's Kazbat peacekeeping battalion have been sent to the Western Sahara as observers of the UN mission, the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan reported on Friday.