History of Western Sahara

The territory has long been inhabited by Berber tribes who came from North Africa and were engaged in cattle breeding. In the 7th-8th centuries. Western Sahara was affected by the Arab conquests. In the 9th-11th centuries. it is part of the medieval empire of Ghana; in the 11th-12th centuries. – Almoravid states. The arrival of the Makil Arabs accelerated the Islamization and Arabization of the local population, put it in a dependent position from the Arabs, who occupied a dominant position.

In the 15th century began the penetration of European (Spanish, Portuguese) colonialists. In 1884, Spain declared Rio de Oro its protectorate, called the Spanish Sahara. In accordance with the Spanish-French agreements of 1900, 1904 and 1912, Seguiet el-Hamra also ceded to Spain.

The Saharan tribes never put up with the domination of the colonialists and resisted them, which was headed by Maa al-Ainin. The armed struggle of the guerrilla type did not stop after 1959, when Spain renamed the Spanish Sahara, calling it its “African overseas province.” Legally, the form of government of Spain did not change: Western Sahara was still a Spanish colony.

After gaining independence (1956), Morocco, considering Western Sahara as its national territory illegally seized by Spain, laid claim to it, putting forward arguments of a historical, geographical, and ethnic nature. Mauritania also claimed similar rights to part of the Saharan territory. In December 1965, the UN recognized and subsequently repeatedly confirmed the right of the Saharan people to self-determination and called on the Spanish government to take measures to decolonize Western Sahara by holding a referendum among the local population under the auspices of the UN to determine their future.

In 1974, Spain granted internal autonomy to its “African overseas province” and declared its readiness to hold a referendum among the Saharan population on the question of self-determination. However, by the end of February 1976, she handed over her former colony to Morocco and Mauritania, which claimed it. A number of factors prompted this decision. K ser. 1970s the national liberation struggle in Western Sahara intensified noticeably, which Spain was unable to resist. Several political organizations led the anti-colonial struggle. The leading place among them was occupied by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Seguiet el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLIS-RIO Front; emerged in 1968, according to other sources – in 1973), which demanded internal autonomy for Western Sahara. In the beginning. 1970s took shape in a political organization with the aim of fighting for national liberation. In the spring of 1975, declaring himself as the only legitimate representative of the Saharan people, he proclaimed the goal of an armed struggle for the self-determination and independence of Western Sahara.

In October 1975, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, by decision of the 29th session of the UN General Assembly, considered the issue of the territorial belonging of Western Sahara. The court stated that before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Saharan territory was not “no man’s land”, and recognized the existence of certain ties that had existed since ancient times between the tribes of Western Sahara with the rulers of Morocco and Mauritania, in certain periods having the character of vassal dependence of the first from the second. However, the opinion stated that these circumstances could in no way prevent the Saharan people from exercising their legitimate right to self-determination.

Having accepted the conclusion of the International Court of Justice in his favor, King Hassan II in October 1975 organized a “green” (or peaceful) march of Moroccan volunteers in Western Sahara in order to prove the seriousness of Morocco’s intentions and encourage the Spanish government to negotiate the future of the Saharan territory. On November 14, 1975, the Madrid Agreement was signed, according to which Spain’s presence in Western Sahara ceased by February 28, 1976, after which its administration was transferred to Morocco and Mauritania. To confirm the “legality” of the decision taken by the parties on the fate of Western Sahara, at the end of November 1975, a local self-government body “dzhemaa” was created, which spoke out in support of the Madrid agreement. Dividing the territory of Western Sahara between themselves into two approximately equal parts, Morocco and Mauritania on February 26, 1976 sent their troops there.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front and the Provisional Saharan National Council (VSNC), which had been created by that time, proclaimed on the liberated Saharan territory the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic – SADR, recognized by Algeria on March 6, 1976, which supported the struggle of the Front for Self-Determination and Independence; granted him part of his territory in the area of Tindouf; provided weapons, medicines, food. In response, Morocco and Mauritania severed diplomatic relations with the PDR. The situation in the region has become even more aggravated.

In July 1978, in Mauritania, which was unable to participate in the Saharan conflict, a military coup d’├ętat took place. The new leadership of the IWW recognized the Polisario Front, signed a peace agreement with it on August 5, 1979, withdrew troops from the territory of Western Sahara and declared that it did not and would not have territorial or any other claims to Western Sahara. Taking advantage of the departure of Mauritania, Morocco also occupied the former “Moorish” part of Western Sahara. From now on, hostilities were conducted directly between the Polisario Front and Morocco.

To counter the Saharan guerrilla raids, the Moroccans changed tactics. By 1987, they had created earthen fortifications (the so-called security walls) in Western Sahara. Dividing the Saharan territory he occupied along the line of the length of St. 2.5 thousand km, Morocco occupied the populous west, cutting off the Polisario Front from most of the Saharan territory and leaving it only desert lands in the east. Thus, a stalemate arose in the war.

The world community (UN; OAU, of which the SADR became a member in February 1982) for many years insisted on holding a referendum on the future of Western Sahara. However, the parties affected by the conflict were suspicious of this solution to the problem, since it did not satisfy any of them. So, Morocco proceeded from the fact that the purpose of the referendum was to confirm the consent of the Sahara to join the kingdom, but not the question of the independence of Western Sahara. The Frente POLISARIO, on the contrary, defended precisely the right of the Saharans to independence. Andr supported him in this. The IWW feared that, if Morocco won the referendum, an invasion of armed Saharawis would not begin on its territory, which would not agree with such a solution to the problem, which would pose a serious threat to Nouakchott. The stumbling block was questions about the referendum participants and their numbers. As a result, repeated UN meetings of representatives of the parties affected by the conflict to resolve differences ended inconclusively, and the dates for the referendum were constantly postponed. As a result, UN Secretary-General K. Annan spoke about the need to find some new solution to the problem, the essence of which was the remaining Moroccan-Algerian contradictions. If they could be overcome, it would be possible to resolve the Western Sahara conflict, normalize relations between Morocco and Algeria, stabilize the situation in the region and return to the issue of integration of the Maghreb countries within the framework of the Arab Maghreb Union.

In order to achieve the goals set, the Moroccan side in February 2002 proposed its own plan for solving the Sahara problem. If Algeria recognizes the legitimacy of Morocco’s rights to Western Sahara. Rabat showed readiness to give the ANDR the opportunity to use Moroccan ports on the Atlantic coast on preferential terms. However, Algeria ignored this proposal. Under these conditions, time “worked” in Morocco. The part of the territory of Western Sahara occupied by him, declared by King Hassan II the “Saharan provinces” of Morocco, was actively developed by Moroccan citizens (120 thousand people). The military contingent of the Royal Armed Forces was also located there. In con. 1980s its number was 100 thousand soldiers and officers, by July 2000 it had increased to 200 thousand people.

History of Western Sahara