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)
References in periodicals archive ?
Rabat appelA@ A faciliter le dA@roulement de la mission d'A@tablissement des faits sur le territoire du Sahara occidental
Mexico apoya la independencia del Sahara Occidental desde 1979; el Sahara es el unico conflicto internacional que no ha podido ser resuelto por las Naciones Unidas ni por ninguna otra instancia internacional; hasta la fecha, Marruecos es el unico pais que sigue reclamando soberania sobre el Sahara Occidental y mantiene la ocupacion militar en el territorio desde 1976.
El apoyo africano a la descolonizacion del Sahara occidental a traves de un referendum de autodeterminacion para el pueblo saharaui ha sido de nuevo consagrado por las Cumbre de Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno celebradas en los meses de enero y mayo de este ano.
Alger qui a manifestement instrumentalise les Sahraouis a encore du chemin a faire, mais c'est pour Rabat qu'il sera le plus difficile d'evoluer: le statut du Sahara occidental constitue une question qui touche au prestige national et releve du seul palais.
El hecho del que partimos en este trabajo es que el actual gobierno socialista del Reino de Espana pretende erroneamente que Marruecos es la "potencia administradora" del sahara occidental en virtud del ultimo tratado internacional firmado por el regimen franquista induciendo a creer ea tesis a la Comision Europea (1).
El veterano diplomatico norteamericano habia recabado un inusual y contundente apoyo del Grupo de Amigos del Sahara Occidental (EU, Gran Bretana, Francia, y Rusia y Espana como ex potencia colonial administradora) que promovi0 la declaracion conjunta del 15 de marzo y que tuvo como destinatario al gobierno marroqui.
Dans son rapport du 13 avril 2007 relatif au Sahara occidental, le responsable onusien, tout en faisant reference a l'Initiative d'autonomie, a appele, le Maroc et le Front Polisario a [beaucoup moins que](.
Al ano siguiente, el Consejo de Seguridad autorizo la Mision de las Naciones Unidas para el Referendum del Sahara Occidental (MINURSO) con el mandato especifico de celebrar un referendum sobre la libre determinacion en una fecha concreta "no mas tarde de febrero de 1991".
Los arabes estamos perdiendo el tiempo con el caso del Sahara occidental, puesto que obstaculiza la creacion de un frente politico, economico y cultural en momentos en que la mayoria de los paises del mundo busca su integracion hacia esquemas multinacionales", dijo.
Pese a que el gobierno marroqui ha aceptado que las Naciones Unidas realice un referendum en el territorio del Sahara occidental, con el que se decidiria si la poblacion "saharui" permaneceria bajo el esquema del Frente Polisario o regresaria al estatus de Marruecos los problemas se han agudizado debido a que se ha intentado introducir al padron electoral a los habitantes del Sahara argelino, en un intento por prevalecer como una nacion constituida y con el reconocimiento internacional abrumador, de la que hasta la fecha ha carecido.
Les Etats-Unis avaient propose au cours de cette derniere reunion de depecher une mission au Sahara occidental en vue d'accelerer le processus de l'ONU pour le reglement du conflit.
La resolution, adoptee a l'issue d'un debat general sur la decolonisation qui a dure plusieurs jours, a egalement reaffirme le soutien de l'Assemblee generale de l'ONU au processus des negociations initie par le Conseil de securite, en vue de parvenir a une solution politique juste, durable et mutuellement acceptable qui permette l'autodetermination du peuple du Sahara occidental.