Marches of November 7 (in green) and military action of October 31 (in red)
Morocco International support
|Commanders and leaders|
|Juan Carlos de Borbón||Hasan II|
|Royal Armed Forces|
|5000 legionaries|| 350,000 civilians |
The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the Western Sahara territory. Morocco later gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.
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Morocco, to the north of the Spanish Sahara, had long claimed that the territory was historically an integral part of Morocco. Mauritania to the south argued similarly that the territory was in fact Mauritanian. Since 1973, a Sahrawi guerrilla war led by the Polisario Front (armed and financed by Algiers) had challenged Spanish control, and in October 1975 Spain had quietly begun negotiations for a handover of power with leaders of the rebel movement, both in El Aaiún, and with foreign minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri meeting El Ouali in Algiers.
Morocco intended to vindicate its claims by demanding a verdict from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which was issued on 16 October 1975. The ICJ stated that there were historical legal ties of allegiance between "some, but only some" Sahrawi tribes and the Sultan of Morocco, as well as ties including some rights relating to the land between Mauritania and other Sahrawi tribes.However, the ICJ stated also that there were no ties of territorial sovereignty between the territory and Morocco, or Mauritania, at the time of Spanish colonization; and that these contacts were not extensive enough to support either country's demand for annexation of the Spanish Sahara. Instead, the court argued, the indigenous population (the Sahrawis) were the owners of the land, and thus possessed the right of self-determination. This meant that regardless of which political solution was found to the question of sovereignty (integration with Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, partition, or independence), it had to be explicitly approved by the people of the territory. A UN visiting mission had concluded on 15 October, the day before the ICJ verdict was released, that Sahrawi support for independence was "overwhelming".
However, the reference to previous Moroccan-Sahrawi ties of allegiance was presented by Hassan II as a vindication of his position, with no public mention of the court's further ruling on self-determination. (Seven years later, he formally agreed to a referendum before the Organisation of African Unity). Within hours of the ICJ verdict's release, he announced the organizing of a "green march" to Spanish Sahara, to "reunite it with the Motherland".
In order to prepare head off any potential counter-invasion from Algeria (interested by the access to the Atlantic and the potential gas resources), or in order to invade the land and kill or deport the Sahrawi population (according to the Polisario Front), the Moroccan Army entered the northeast of the region on October 31, where it was met with stiff resistance from the Polisario, by then a two-year-old independence movement.
The Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On 6 November 1975 approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans [ citation needed ] As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed. The Spanish troops also cleared some previously mined zones.converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Sakiya Lhmra. They brandished Moroccan flags and Qur'an; banners calling for the "return of the Moroccan Sahara," photographs of the King and the Qur'an; the color green for the march's name was intended as a symbol of Islam.
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According to Morocco, the exercise of sovereignty by the Moroccan state was characterized by official pledges of allegiance to the sultan. The Moroccan government was of the opinion that this allegiance existed during several centuries before the Spanish occupation and that it was a legal and political tie.The sultan Hassan I, for example, had carried out two expeditions in 1886 in order to put an end to foreign incursions in this territory and to officially invest several caids and cadis. In its presentation to the ICJ, the Moroccan side also mentioned the levy of taxes as a further instance of the exercise of sovereignty. The exercise of this sovereignty had also appeared, according to the Moroccan government, at other levels, such as the appointment of local officials (governors and military officers), and the definition of the missions which were assigned to them.
The Moroccan government further pointed to several treaties between it and other states, such as with Spain in 1861, the United States of America in 1786, and 1836 and with Great Britain in 1856
The court, however, found that "neither the internal nor the international acts relied upon by Morocco indicate the existence at the relevant period of either the existence or the international recognition of legal ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State. Even taking account of the specific structure of that State, they do not show that Morocco displayed any effective and exclusive State activity in Western Sahara."
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The Green March caught Spain in a moment of political crisis. The caudillo General Franco, who had led the country for 36 years, was dying. Despite the overwhelming military and logistic superiority of the Spanish armed forces based in Western Sahara in relation to the Moroccan armed forces, the Spanish government feared that the conflict with Morocco could lead to an open colonial war in Africa, which could put Francoist Spain into question and lead to an abrupt political change or a social instability and disaster. The Spanish government, directed by Prince Juan Carlos, who was acting Head of State in substitution of General Franco, and the incumbent Prime Minister Don Carlos Arias Navarro, was in no mood for troubles in the colony. Only the year before, the Portuguese government had been toppled by the Portuguese armed forces after becoming bogged down in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique. Therefore, following the Green March, and with a view to avoid war and preserving as much as possible of its interest in the territory, Spain agreed to enter direct bilateral negotiations with Morocco, bringing in also Mauritania, who had made similar demands. Under pressure from Morocco, Spain also agreed that no representatives of the native population would be present in the negotiations that resulted in the 14 November Madrid Accords. This was a treaty which divided Spanish Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco.In the agreements Spain agreed to cede the possession of the colony to Morocco and Mauritania, under the condition, expressed in point 3 of the Trilateral Agreement, that the views of the Saharan population had to be respected.
Spain received a 35% concession in the phosphate mines of Bou Craa and offshore fishing rightsthat were not respected by Morocco. Morocco and Mauritania then formally annexed the parts they had been allotted in the Accords. Morocco claimed the northern part, i.e. Saguia el-Hamra and approximately half of Río de Oro, while Mauritania proceeded to occupy the southern third of the country under the name Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Mauritania later abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979 and ceded this area to Popular Army of Saharwi Liberation (Polisario), but it was instead promptly occupied by Morocco. Nevertheless, Mauritania preserved for itself a small outpost at La Güera to preserve the security of its major port of Nouadhibou.
The Polisario, now with heavy Algerian backing, refused the Madrid Accords, and demanded that the ICJ's opinion on Sahrawi self-determination be respected; it turned its weapons on the new rulers of the country, sticking to its demand for independence outright, or a referendum on the matter. The conflict has still not been resolved. Currently, there is a cease-fire in effect, after a Moroccan-Polisario agreement was struck in 1991 to solve the dispute through the organization of a referendum on independence. A UN peace-keeping mission (MINURSO) has been charged with overseeing the cease-fire and organizating the referendum, which has still not taken place as of 2019 [update] . Morocco has rejected the idea of the referendum as not workable in 2000 and is suggesting an autonomy for Western Sahara within Morocco. That proposal been rejected by Spain, the Polisario, and also by its Algerian backers; it was presented to the UN in April 2007.
Spain is divided between its desire to preserve a good relation with Morocco, its southern neighbour with whom it shares terrestrial borders in Ceuta and Melilla, and its responsibility to the international legality as the former colonial power. The traditional position of all the Spanish democratic governments until the election of Prime Minister Zapatero had been that the wishes of the Saharian population have to be respected, and of support to the organization of the referendum requested by the United Nations. According to the US Department of State's documents leaked by Wikileaks, Spain, under Zapatero, has changed its traditional position concerning the organisation of the referendum for the Western Sahara, and now supports the Moroccan position. The documents also stated that Spain had been trying to broker an agreement between the two parties. However, in her speech to the Spanish Parliament of 15 December 2010, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Trinidad Jimenez denied that Spain supports the Moroccan position in Spanish Sahara. She also argued that Spain will support any agreement between the Polisario and Morocco.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa. About 20% of the territory is controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, while the remaining 80% of the territory is occupied and administered by neighboring Morocco. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over 500,000, of which nearly 40% live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara.
The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.
The politics of Western Sahara take place in a framework of an area claimed by both the partially recognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco.
The Polisario Front, Frente Polisario, FRELISARIO or simply POLISARIO, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro, is a rebel national liberation movement by the Sahrawi people aiming to take control of the Western Sahara, which had been controlled by Spain, Mauritania, and as of 2021 was under the rule of Morocco. It is a consultative member of the Socialist International.
The Sahrawi, or Saharawi people, are the people living in the western part of the Sahara desert which includes Western Sahara, southern Morocco, much of Mauritania and the extreme southwest of Algeria.
Spanish Sahara, officially the Province of the Sahara between 1958 and 1976, was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was occupied and ruled by Spain between 1884 and 1976. It had been one of the most recent acquisitions of the Spanish Empire as well as one of its last remaining holdings, which had once extended from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies.
The Madrid Accords, also called Madrid Agreement or Madrid Pact, was a treaty between Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania to end the Spanish presence in the territory of Spanish Sahara, which was until the Madrid Accords' inception a Spanish province and former colony. It was signed in Madrid on November 14, 1975, six days before Franco died, although it was never published on the Boletin Oficial del Estado. This agreement was in conflict with the Law on decolonization of Sahara, ratified by the Spanish Parliament (Cortes) on November 18. In cause of the Madrid agreement, the territory would then be divided between Morocco and Mauritania, with no role for either the Polisario Front or the Sahrawi people generally. Following the accords, the Polisario relocated from the Mauritanian border to Algeria.
The International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara was a 1975 advisory, non-binding opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of two questions presented to it by the UN General Assembly under Resolution 3292 regarding the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Morocco had approached the UN to adjudicate its and Mauritania’s claims over the territory.
Tiris al-Gharbiyya was the name for the area of Western Sahara under Mauritanian control between 1975 and 1979.
To assist in the decolonization process of the Spanish Sahara, a colony in North Africa, the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 dispatched a visiting mission to the territory and the surrounding countries, in accordance with its resolution 3292.
The Western Sahara conflict is an ongoing conflict between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco. The conflict originated from an insurgency by the Polisario Front against Spanish colonial forces from 1973 to 1975 and the subsequent Western Sahara War against Morocco between 1975 and 1991. Today the conflict is dominated by unarmed civil campaigns of the Polisario Front and their self-proclaimed SADR state to gain fully recognized independence for Western Sahara.
The politics of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic refers to politics of the Polisario Front's proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, an unrecognized country in North Africa, controlling parts of the Western Sahara region.
Khalihenna Ould Errachid is the Sahrawi chairman of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), a Moroccan government body active in the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara.
The Coat of arms of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a symbol created by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of Western Sahara. The Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 27, 1976, and both the flag and the coat of arms were adopted as state symbols.
The Western Sahara War was an armed struggle between the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front and Morocco from 1975 to 1991, being the most significant phase of the Western Sahara conflict. The conflict erupted after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accords, by which it transferred administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, but not sovereignty. In late 1975, the Moroccan government organized the Green March of some 350,000 Moroccan citizens, escorted by around 20,000 troops, who entered Western Sahara, trying to establish a Moroccan presence. While at first met with just minor resistance by the POLISARIO, Morocco later engaged a long period of guerrilla warfare with the Sahrawi nationalists. During the late 1970s, the Polisario Front, desiring to establish an independent state in the territory, attempted to fight both Mauritania and Morocco. In 1979, Mauritania withdrew from the conflict after signing a peace treaty with the POLISARIO. The war continued in low intensity throughout the 1980s, though Morocco made several attempts to take the upper hand in 1989–1991. A cease-fire agreement was finally reached between the Polisario Front and Morocco in September 1991. Some sources put the final death toll between 10,000 and 20,000 people.
In the 1970s in Morocco, after two coup attempts in 1971 and 1972, the patriotism engendered by Morocco’s participation in the Middle East conflict and by the events in Western Sahara contributed to Hassan's popularity and strengthened his hand politically despite serious domestic turmoil. The king had dispatched Moroccan troops to the Sinai front after the outbreak of Arab-Israeli War in October 1973. Although they arrived too late to engage in hostilities, the action won Morocco goodwill among other Arab states. Shortly thereafter, the attention of the government turned to the annexation of then Spanish Sahara from Spain, an issue on which all major domestic parties agreed.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic:
This article is about the history of Mauritania from 1960 to 1978. Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is an Arab Maghreb country in West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which later became a province of the Roman Empire, even though the modern Mauritania covers a territory far to the south of the old Berber kingdom that had no relation with it.
Western Sahara peace process refers to the international efforts to resolve the Western Sahara conflict. The conflict has failed so far to result in permanent peace between Morocco and the Polisario Front. The standing issues of the peace process are the Sahrawi refugees, Human rights in Moroccan Southern Provinces and Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic–Spain relations refers to the current and historical relationship between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Spain.