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History of Western Sahara

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Background

The Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. Phoenician colonies established or reinforced by Hanno the Navigator have vanished with virtually no trace, and the increasing desertification of the Sahara, before the camel was introduced in north Africa at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, made sporadic contact with the outside world almost impossible. The camel revolution made this region one of the main routes of transport of the world. Salt and gold were transported between North Africa and West Africa.

Islam arrived in the 8th century and was an immediate success. Al-Murabitun, also known as the Almoravides, were a group of strict Koranic interpreters from this region who ended up controlling all of North Africa.

More recently, Ma-al-Aynayn started a counter insurgency against the French in the 1910s. He was finally beaten when he tried to conquer Marrakesh.

Spanish Sahara

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cap Blanc. The area was later extended. In 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.

See also Lagouira.

1975 till present

On November 6, 1975 the so-called Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, repatriating even the Spanish corpses from its cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. On February 27 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and set up a government in exile. A guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco ended in a 1991 cease-fire; though the Polisario Front still holds 408 Moroccans as the oldest POWs in the world (http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20050516-091554-4601r.htm). Several POW's that have been released have been turned away by the Moroccan government and denied their citizenship.

The 1991 peace accords included an agreement on the carrying out of a referendum among the indigenous population. The referendum was planned to give the population the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. The referendum has, however, to this date not been carried out due to the conflict over who is entitled to vote.

November 6 is now a holiday in Morocco, the Anniversary of the Green March.

Timeline of the conflict

  • 1884 - November 28 Treaty signed between three representatives of the Oulad Bou Sbaa tribe and Emilio Bonelli, representing the Sociedad de Africanistas y Colonistas (Society of Africans and Colonists), which formed the basis of Spain's legal conquest of the Sahara.
  • 1885 - December Spanish government places Rio de Oro, Angra de Cintra, and Bay of the West under its protection.
  • 1887 - April 6 Spanish jurisdiction extended 150 miles into the interior.
  • 1900 - June 27 Convetion signed between Spain and France defining borders of Spanish Sahara and French-to-be Mauritania.
  • 1904 - October 3 Franco-Spanish convention extends Spanish control into southern Morocco (see Ifni and Tarfaya Strip).
  • 1912 - November 12 Final convention defining Spanish and French zones in west Africa.
  • 1934 - May 15 Final pacification of Saharawi in Spanish Sahara. Spanish garrison installed at Smara.
  • 1944 - January Moroccan Nationalist Istiqlal party formed.
  • 1946 - July 20 Decree separated Spanish Sahara from Spanish protectorate in Morocco.
  • 1947 - Discover of phosphate reserves in Sahara.
  • 1953 - Nationalist Moroccan King Mohammed V deposed by French.
  • 1954 - November 16 King Mohammed V returned to Morocco from exile in Madagascar.
  • 1956 - March 3 Beginning of Army of Liberation insurrection.
    - March 27 Allal al-Fassi delivered speech calling for unification of Greater Morocco.
    - April 7 Spain recognizes Morocco's full sovereignty.
    - May Forces Armées Royales established.
    - July 7 Map of Greater Morocco first appeared in Istiqlal's daily newspaper Al-Alam.
    - August Istiqlal endorsed al-Fassi's claims at its first post-independence congress.
  • 1957 - July 1 Mokhtar Ould Daddah first staked Mauritanian claim to the Sahara.
    - November 12 Morocco officially laid claims to Spanish Sahara, Ifni, and Mauritania at United Nations. (see Spanish West Africa).
  • 1958 - January 10 Spanish Sahara and Ifni become Spanish provinces, rather than colonies; El Ayoun became administrative center.
    - February 10 Beginning of fortnight-long Opération Ouragan, a joint Franco-Spanish offensive against Moroccan irregulars of the Army of Liberation operating in Spanish Sahara and neighbouring French colonies.
    - February 25 Mohammed V first publicly endorsed Moroccan claim to the Sahara, at M'hamid.
    - April 1 Spain agreed to return Spanish Southern Morocco to Rabat.
  • 1960 - August 28 Arab League announced support for Morocco's claim of sovereignty over Mauritania.
    - November 28 Mauritania becomes independent from France.
    - December 14 UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) signed. (Declaration on the granting of independenceto colonial countries and peoples).
  • 1961 - King Hassan II becomes Moroccan sovereign.
    - October 27 United Nations General Assembly votes to admit Mauritania, thus frustrating Morocco's claim.
  • 1962 - July Algeria achieves its independence from France.
    - July-October Morocco attempts to occupy disputed border areas of Algeria by force.
    - October 9 Algeria drives Moroccan forces from Tindouf.
  • 1963 - May First provincial elections held in Spanish Sahara.
    - July 15 Three representatives of the Sahara take their seats at Cortes Generales.
    - October 1 Morocco again attempts to occupy Algerian border posts.
    - November 4 The Organization of African Unity brokers a cease-fire that comes into effect between Morocco and Algeria.
  • 1964 - October The UN urges Spain to decolonize the Sahara.
  • 1965 - The second round of elections are held.
    - Spain publicly announces the scale of Bou Craa phosphate deposits.
    - December 16 The UN General Assembly first calls on Spain to decolonize the Sahara.
  • 1966 - Referendum held in which Saharawi endorse Spanish occupation.
    - December 20 UN General Assembly Resolution 2229 calls on Spain to hold a referendum on the future of the Sahara.
  • 1967 - Sahara's number of seats in the Cortes increases from three to six.
    - May Djema'a is created with 82 members.
    - July 14-August 20 First elections to Djema'a.
    - September 11 Djema'a inagurated in El Ayoun.
  • 1968 - October 12 Spain's last remaining African colony other than the Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, achieves independence.
  • 1969 - Morocco recognizes Mauritanian independence.
    - June 30 Ifni returned to Morocco.
  • 1970 - June 8 Morocco and Mauritania sign a treaty in Casablanca, normalizing relations.
  • 1971 - Western powers recognize self-determination as a legal right and its denial as a violation of the United Nations Charter.
    - January Second elections for the Djema'a are held.
    - July 10 Attempted military coup in Morocco.
  • 1972 - June Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya announces he would back a war of liberation in the Sahara.
    - June 5-19 OAU echoes UN calls for a referendum, at a session in Rabat.
    - June 15 Morocco and Algeria sign a joint declaration of friendship, as border disputes settle.
    - August 16 A second military coup is attempted.
  • 1973 - May 10 Polisario Front founded.
    - May 20 First Polisario attacks against the Spanish army.
    - September 5-9 Non-Aligned Movement endorses UN resolutions, meeting in Algiers.
    - September 21 Francisco Franco announces that the Sahara will be prepared for internal autonomy.
    - December 20 Carrero Blanco, being groomed as Franco's successor, is assassinated by ETA.
  • 1974 - Spanish census, including the Saharan region.
    - January 26 Spanish capture first Polisario prisoners in engagement at Guelb Lahmar.
    - April Portuguese dictatorship overthrown following colonial wars.
    - June 21-25 Fifth Islamic Summit endorses UN resolutions at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
    - August 20 Spain announces it will hold a referendum in the first six months of 1975.
    - August 25-31 Polisario announces the goal of full independence at their second congress.
    - September 17Hassan announces that the Sahara question should be submitted to the International Court of Justice.
    - October 20 Polisario disable the Fosbucraa conveyor belt.
    - October 26-29 Algerian premier Houari Boumédienne declares support for a Moroccan-Mauritanian partition plan.
    - December Morocco convinces Spain to delay referendum until after ICJ ruling.
    - December 13 UN General Assembly approves Moroccan resolution urging postponement of referendum and requesting ICJ adivsory opinion.
    - December 17 Five Spanish soldiers killed in combat against Polisario.
  • 1975 - Algeria begins to oppose Moroccan policy on the Sahara.
    - January 16 Spain announces that it will suspend the referendum and give evidence to the ICJ.
    - January 27 Hassan asks the UN to examine the status of Ceuta and Melilla.
    - February Algeria begins to train Polisario guerillas.
    - February 16 The pro-Spanish Saharawi party Partido de la Union Nacional Saharui (PUNS) is officially registered.
    - March First Polisario deaths in combat.
    - May 10-11 Several Saharawi troops of the Tropas Nómadas (the Spanish-founded Saharawi paramilitary police force) desert to the Polisario.
    - May 12-19 UN mission of inquiry visits Sahara, Spain, Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco.
    - October 15 UN mission publishes report, saying majority of Saharawi are in favor of independence.
    - October 16 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara is published, contradicting Moroccan and Mauritanian claims to sovereignty over the Sahara, and claiming that the territory was not terra nullias (territory belonging to no one) upon colonization; rather it belonged to and was inhabited by the Saharawis and Tuaregs.
    - October 28 Spanish end entente with Polisario; Saharawi tropps dismissed from Spanish army.
    - October 31 Forces Armées Royales (FAR) forces occupy outposts evacuated by Spain.
    - November 2 Prince Juan Carlos vows to defend the Sahara from Moroccan invasion.
    - November 6 Green March crosses border; condemned by Algeria.
    - November 9 Algeria excluded from tripartite talks.
    - November 12 Resumption of tripartite talks.
    - November 13 Last of Green Marchers return to Morocco, FAR forces remain.
    - November 14 Tripartite Agreement (a.k.a. Madrid Accords) signed by Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania.
    - November 15 Polisario declares agreement null and void.
    - November 19 Algeria also declares agreement null and void.
    - November 20 Franco dies.
    - November 25 Hassan announces that Morocco would freeze claims to enclaves untilSpain had recovered Gibraltar, Moroccan troops arrives in El Aiun.
    - December 11 Polisario attacks conveyor belt for the first time since the accords.
    - December 17 Mauritanian troops occupy Lagouira.
  • 1976 - January 21 Morocco loses its first plane in the conflict.
    - January 29 Dozens of Algerian soldiers are killed by Moroccan attack on Amgala, inside Western Sahara.
    - January Conveyor belt put out of action for six years.
    - February French President Giscard d'Estaing declares opposition to "microstates".
    - February 26 Spanish troops complete withdrawl from the Sahara, two days early.
    - February 27 Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared by Polisario, flag of Western Sahara raised.
    - February 28 Madagascar becomes the first state to recognize the SADR.
    - February-April Morocco uses napalm on refugees during bombing raids, refugees move into Algeria.
    - March 6 SADR recognized by Algeria; Morocco and Mauritania break off relations with Algeria.
    - April 14 Moroccan-Mauritanian partition treaty signed in Fés.
    - April 19 Polisario first attack Nouadhibou-Zouerate railway line inside Mauritania. Morocco captures Guelta Zemmour, the final Spanish outpost.
    - April Polisario focuses efforts on Mauritania.
    - June 9 Polisario Secretary-General El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed dies in attack on Nouakchott.
    - August 26 Mohammed Abdelaziz elected Secretary-General during Polisario's third congress.
    - September New Frano-Mauritanian military agreement signed.
  • 1977 February 17 Spanish-Moroccan fishing agreement signed; beginning of Polisario attacks on Spanish fishing vessels.
    - May 1 Polisario attacked and held in Zouerate for over two hours, forcing French to evacuate and mining to come to a halt. Two French citizens killed.
    - May 13 Mauritania signs mutual defense pact with Morocco.
    - July 3 Nouakchott attacked again, few Polisario casualties.
    - July Moroccan troops airlifted into Zouerate to reinforce Mauritanians.
    - October 25 Two French nationals seized during raid on railway.
    - October 27 Giscard d'Estaing orders preparations for military action (Opération Lamantin) to begin.
    - November 19 Talks for release of French citizens held by Polisario break down.
    - December 2 First French airstrikes against Polisario columns in Mauritania.
    - December 12 French aircraft use napalm on Polisario units and their Mauritanian prisoners after attack on railway.
    - December 14 Spain announces an end to arms shipments to Morocco and Mauritania.
    - December 18 Jaguar aircraft bomb Polisario column after attack on railway, killing 74 of 82 Mauritanian prisoners.
    - December 23 French prisoners arrive back in Paris after being released by Polisario to UN.
  • 1978 January Beginning of continuous attacks on Comptoir Minier dy Nord (COMINOR) railway.
    - May 3-5 French Jaguars attack Polisario in Zouerate.
    - July 10 Military coup in Mauritania ends Moktar Ould Daddah's regime.
    - July 12 Coup leader announces that military will negotiate an end to conflict; Polisario announces temporary halt to military operations in Mauritania.
    - August Beginning of series of Polisario attakcs against targets in southern Morocco.
  • 1979 January 28 Polisario attack Tan-Tan, hold it for four hours.
    - May 1-5 OAU committee visits parties.
    - May U.S. company Northrop Page Communications is given a go-ahead by the U.S. State Department to build a $200 million electronic detection system to help Morocco detect Polisario fighters.
    - July OAU Wise Men's Committee adopt the idea of a referendum.
    - July 12 Polisario end year-long ceasefire with Mauritania, attacking Tichla in Tiris el-Gharbia.
    - August 3 Beginning ofpeace talks between Mauritania and Polisario.
    - August 5 Mauritania and Polisario sign peace agreement in Algiers.
    - August 14 Tiris el-Gharbia declared a Moroccan province.
    - August 24 Polisario's most devestating attack on FAR, at Lebouirnate in southern Morocco. Nearly one thousand are killed; Polisario hold the town for over a year.
    - October 9 Most notherly Polisario attack at M'Hamid in Draa valley.
    - December 26 Last Moroccan troops leave Mauritania.
    - December 27 Houari Boumédienne dies.
  • 1980 April Libya recognizes the SADR.
    - May 22 Polisario resumes attacks on Spanish boats fishing in Saharan waters.
    - July 29 Moroccan aircraft attack Boulanour, Mauritania, inresponse to Polisario attack on Guelta Zemmour.
  • 1981 January Spain withdraws boats from Saharawi waters due to Polisario attacks.
    - March 2 First stretch of defensive wall (or berm) completed between Smara and the Zini Mountains.
    - May 11 Berm extended to Bou Craa.
    - June 20 Riots in Casablanca, between 66 and 637 killed by FAR.
    - June 26 Hassan announces willingness to cooperate with OAU's referendum plan.
    - August 31 SADR admitted to OAU.
    - October-December FAR virtually paralyze Polisario after introducing ground-to-air missiles.
    - November 7 FAR evacuate Guelta Zemmour, the largest garrison outside the berm.
    - November 9 Evacuation of Bir Enxaren, the last garrison outside the so-called useful triangle (the region of Western Sahara with the most resources and infrastructure), Polisario hold five-sixths of Western Sahara.
    - December 1 Polisario open an office in Paris, following Francois Mitterand's election.
  • 1982 - Over 130 U.S. military advisors work with the FAR, several of those seen in Western Sahara.
    - January FAR begin to take offensive.
    - May Berm reaches Atlantic Ocean.
    - May 11 United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Commitee prohibit U.S. military advisors from working in Western Sahara.
    - October Partido Socialista Obrero Español (or PSOE, English: Socialist Workers Party of Spain), a Polisario-sympathetic party, win elections.
  • 1983 - Spanish-Moroccan fishing disputes settled by treaty.
    - January 25 General Ahmed Dlimi, commander of Moroccan forces in the Sahara, is killed in a mysterious car accident after numerous rumors of a coup attempt.
    - February 26 Summit of Akid Lotfi, the first meeting of Algerian and Moroccan leaders since the start of the conflict.
    - June New peace-plan launched by the OAU in a meeting in Addis Ababa.
    - October 31 Deadline set by OAU for implementation of peace plan.
  • 1984 - August 13 Treaty of Oujda signed by Morocco and Libya.
    - November 12 Admission of SADR to OAU after several stalled attempts; Morocco withdraws.
  • 1985 - September Start of revitalized UN role in Sahara.
    - October 23 Morocco offers cease-fire and referendum under UN auspices.
    - November 12 Morocco withdraws referendum offer.
    - December UN General Assembly Resolution 40/50 endorses the OAU's referendum plan.
  • 1986 - July Hassan II and United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar meet in Rabat, with no resolution.
    - August Treaty of Oujda abrogated.
    - October 31 UN General Assembly Resolution 41/60 asks Pérez de Cuéllar to examine the idea of a referendum, with a view to implementing it.
  • 1987 - April 16 Sixth berm section of the berm is finished by FAR.
    - May 4 Moroccan and Algerian leaders meet again at Akid Lotfi.
    - November-December UN-OAU tenchnical mission vists region.
  • 1988 - January Polisario announce temporary truce to facilitate UN's work.
    - May 4 Morocco and Algeria reestablish diplomatic relations.
    - June Spain and Morocco sign a framework agreement covering commercial ties.
    - July 12-22 Talks held between Moroccan and Saharawi delegates in Saudi Arabia.
    - August 11 Pérez de Cuéllar proposes his Settlement Plan.
    - August 30 Peace-Plan accepted by both sides.
    - September 16 Polisario launch heavy offensive against FAR at Oum Dreiga.
    - October United Nations Committee on Decolonization pass a resolution calling for direct talks between Morocco and Polisario.
    - November 20 UN General Assembly passes a similar resolution.
    - December Hassan II announcesthat he owuld meet Saharawi nationalists for discussions.
  • 1989 - January 4-5 Hassan II met Polisario leaders for the first time.
    - January Polisario allowed to reopen Madrid office, improving ties with Spain. Later, Polisario announce that it will cease military actions in February.
    - February Maghreb Arab Union (UMA) founded without SADR participation.
    - May Morocco ratifies 1972 Treaty of Ifrane, ending border dispute with Algeria.
    - September 21 Hassan II delcares that there was no need for further discussion with Polisario.
    - Autumn Conflict intensifies.
    - September 24 Polisario launch major new offensive against Moroccan positions.
    - October-November Polisario attacks Guelta Zemmour, the Hawza section of the berm, and Amgala, causing heavy losses to FAR.
  • 1990 - Spring Moroccan-Algerian relations cool.
    - March Independence of Namibia increase the UN's involvement with decolonization issues.
    - Summer France becomes heavily involved with UN attempts to bring about negotiations.
    - June 18 UN Peace-Plan made public, detailed plan presented.
    - June 27 Security Council calls on both sides to cooperate with UN attempts to resolve the conflit, unanimously support Secretary-General.
    - June UN-sponsored meeting of Saharawi tribal leaders in Geneva, Switzerland. Meanwhile, Islamic Salvation Front win local Algerian elections.
    - July UN technical team visit region to lay grounds for referendum.
    - August Morocco sends troops to fight against Iraq in Gulf War.
  • 1991 - April General Assembly approves Secretary-General's referendum plan, establishing Mission des Nations unies pour l'Organisation d'un Référendum au Sahara Occidental (MINURSO) with a budget of $177 million.
    - April 29 UN Security Council Resolution 690 approves the establishment of MINURSO.
    - September 6 Provisional date for cease-fire.
    - December 19 Pérez de Cuéllar proposes changes to voter criteria, viewed as a capitulation to Moroccan demands.
  • 1992 - January Provisional date for referendum.
  • 1993 - May MINURSO's Voter Identification Committee established.
    - July Direct talks held between Morocco and Polisario.
  • 1994 - April Identification Committee begins to process voters.
  • 1995 - Partnership agreement signed by Morocco and the European Union.
  • 1996 - May Identification process suspended, most civilian staff withdrawn from MINURSO.
  • 1997 - March 17 American James Baker III installed as United Nations Special Representative in Western Sahara.
    - June 11-12 Baker holds first talks with both sides separately in London.
    - June 23-25 First official face-to-face talks held between Morocco and Polisario in Lisbon.
    - September Houston Accords apparently break impasse.
    - December Identification process re-started.
  • 1998 - September 3 Voter identification nearly completed, except for three contested tribes.
    - November 7-15 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visits Maghrebi countries in a search for a solution.
  • 1999 - June 15 Identification Committee begins to look at contested tribes.
    - July Death of Hassan II. His son Mohammed VI ascends to the throne.
    - July 15 Beginning of appeals process for voters.
    - November Driss Basri sacked as Minister of the Interior of Morocco.
    - December Completion of voter lists.
  • 2000 - May 14 Baker introduces "Third Way" Framework Agreement plan as an alternative to the referendum process.
    - June 28 Further talks in London end without agreement.
    - July Talks in Geneva break down.
    - December 22 Polisario threaten to attack a Paris-Dakar rally if it crosses Saharan territory.
  • 2001 - March Talks aimed at setting a date for the first meeting of heads of state of UMA countries since 1995 are abandoned after arguments between Algerian and Moroccan diplomats over the Sahara.
    - May 16 Morocco announce that it had presented a plan for Saharan autonomy to the UN.
    - June 22 UN present the Framework Agreement for autonomy.
    - December 2 French President Jacques Chirac describes the Sahara as Morocco's Southern Provinces.
  • 2002 - February 19 Kofi Annan presents the Security Council with four options to break the impasse in the Sahara: referendum, autonomy, partition, or complete withdrawl.
    - March MINURO's total expenditure exceeds $500 million.
    - July The Security Council votes to extend the mandate of MINURSO.
  • 2003 - January James Baker announces the "new Baker Plan", the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara. It describes a proposed Western Sahara Authority to administer the territory autonomously until 2007 or 2008, when the refernedum would be held. Both sides reject the the plan as biased to the other.
    - July UN Security Council Resolution 1495 announces support for Baker's latest plan, and extends the mandate of MINURSO to January 31, 2004.
  • 2004 - January MINURSO extended until April.
    - April MINURSO's mandate is extended for another year.
    - June 11 James Baker resigns.
    - August Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Foreign Minister of Spain, vows that Spain will support the Baker Plan.
    - September 15 South Africa recognizes the SADR.
  • 2005 - April 22 Foreign Minister of South Africa Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma visits the SADR on official business.
    - May 25 An intifada (or uprising) begins in the cities of El Aiun and Smara, and student uprisings occur in Moroccan universities. Police brutality, and kidnappings of peaceful demonstrators are reported.

The above text was adapted from the unpublished paper The Western Sahara: A Case Study by John Carthy, written for University of Portsmouth, with permission.

External links

Sources for timeline:

fr:Histoire du Sahara occidental

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