Western Sahara


Western Sahara is a contested territory in north-west Africa. Formerly known as Spanish Sahara, it covers 266,000 sq km and is mainly desert, with a traditionally nomadic population. The land is rich in phosphates and is believed to have oil deposits off-shore.

1884: Area comes under Spanish rule

1934: Area becomes a Spanish province

1973: Polisario Front established as representative of the Sahrawi people

1975 (October): International Court of Justice rejects territorial claims by Morocco and Mauritania, recognises Saharawis' right to self-determination and Spain agrees to referendum

1975 (November): King Hassan II of Morocco orders a "Green March" into the territory. Spain agrees to end colonial rule and negotiates partition of the territory between Morocco and Mauritania ("Madrid Agreement")

1976: Polisario proclaims the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) announces a government.

1978: Mauritania signs peace deal with Polisario and renounces all territorial claims; Morocco moves to occupy areas previously allocated to Mauritania; guerilla war continues until 1991

1991 (April): UN establishes Minurso, the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara

1991 (September): UN-brokered ceasefire declared

1996: UN suspends preparations for referendum

2001: Following mediation between Morocco and the Polisario, former US secretary of state James Baker (acting under UN auspices) proposes a compromise solution known as the "Baker Plan" or the "Third Way"

2004: Baker resigns as UN envoy. Deadlock ensues

Further information

Western Sahara - Wikipedia

Western Sahara - CIA Factbook

Western Sahara - BBC

History of Western Sahara - Wikipedia

Western Sahara - Moroccan government web page

The Green March - Wikipedia

Polisario Front - Wikipedia

International Court of Justice
Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara, 16 October 1975

United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara - official website

MINURSO- Wikipedia

Elections in Western Sahara - Wikipedia

Human rights in Western Sahara - Wikipedia

The Baker Plan - Wikipedia

Western Sahara Online
A variety of information about the Sahrawis and their struggle.

A large website produced by the Association de soutien à un référendum libre et régulier au Sahara Occidental (in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese)

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)

SADR's television channel

SADR's news agency

Sahara Update
A Yahoo group monitoring news about Western Sahara

The Western Sahara Archaeology Project

Western Sahara photographs
A large and varied collection of images

Forced Migration Online
Pictures of refugee camps

Cultural website featuring "voices and visions from Western Sahara".

Sahrawi art
Pictures by Ofei Dako

Sahara Marathon
"Solidarity race for the Sahrawi people"