Spanish Sahara

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Province of the Sahara

Provincia del Sahara  (Spanish)
إقليم الصحراء الإسبانية ما وراء البحار  (Arabic)
1884–1976
Flag of Spain 1945 1977.svg
Flag of Spain (1945–1975)
Spanish Sahara.png
Green: Spanish Sahara.
Dark grey: Other Spanish possessions.
Darkest grey: Spain.
Capital El Aaiún
Common languagesSpanish
Hassaniya Arabic
Religion
Roman Catholicism
Sunni Islam
Royal Commissioner  
 1885–1886
Emilio Bonelli
Subgovernor  
 1886–1902
Emilio Bonelli
 1902–1903
Ángel Villalobos
Governor  
 1903–1925 (first)
Francisco Bens Argandoña
 1974–1976 (last)
Federico Gómez de Salazar y Nieto
History 
 Established
26 December 1884
14 November 1975
 Disestablished
26 February 1976
CurrencySpanish peseta
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Spanish West Africa
Southern Provinces Flag of Morocco.svg
Tiris al-Gharbiyya Flag of Mauritania (1959-2017).svg
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Flag of Western Sahara.svg
Today part ofFlag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.svg  Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
(claimed by Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco)

Spanish Sahara (Spanish : Sahara Español; Arabic: الصحراء الإسبانيةAs-Sahrā'a Al-Isbānīyah), officially the Province of the Sahara, was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was occupied and ruled by Spain between 1884 and 1975. 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 Philippines and East Asia.

Spanish, or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain, the Americas and a small part of Africa. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Western Sahara Disputed Territory

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa, partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially occupied 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.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a European country located in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of Spanish territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Contents

Spain gave up its Saharan possession following Moroccan demands and international pressure, mainly from United Nations resolutions regarding decolonisation. There was internal pressure from the native Sahrawi population, through the Polisario Front, and the claims of Morocco and Mauritania. After gaining independence in 1956, Morocco laid claim to the territory as part of its historic pre-colonial territory. Mauritania claimed the territory for a number of years based on its history, but dropped all claims in 1979.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a sovereign state located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction. The capital is Rabat and the largest city Casablanca. Morocco spans an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi) and has a population of over 36 million.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN), is an intergovernmental organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international cooperation, and being a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. It is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. The UN is headquartered on international territory in New York City; other main offices are in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague.

Decolonisation of Africa process wherein colonial powers withdrew their administrators from Africa following World War II

The decolonization of Africa took place in the mid-to-late 1950s and 1960s, with sudden and radical regime changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states; this was often quite unorganized and marred with violence and political turmoil. There was widespread unrest and organized revolts in both Northern and sub-Saharan colonies, especially in French Algeria, Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and British Kenya.

In 1975, Morocco occupied much of the territory, now known as Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front, promoting the sovereignty of an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), fought a guerrilla war for 16 years against Morocco. In 1991, the UN negotiated a ceasefire and has tried to arrange negotiations and a referendum to let the population vote on its future. Morocco controls the entire Atlantic coast and most of the landmass, population and natural resources of Western Sahara.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Partially recognised state of Western Sahara

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, is a partially recognized de facto sovereign state that claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, but controls only the easternmost one-fifth of that territory. Until 1976, Western Sahara was known as Spanish Sahara, a Spanish colony.

Western Sahara War conflict

The Western Sahara War was an armed struggle between the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front and Morocco between 1975 and 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.

Spanish occupation

Spanish and French protectorates in Morocco and Spanish Sahara, 1912. Morocco Protectorate.svg
Spanish and French protectorates in Morocco and Spanish Sahara, 1912.

At the Berlin Conference (1884-5), the European powers were establishing the rules for setting up zones of influence or protection in Africa, and Spain declared 'a protectorate of the African coast' from Cape Blanc to Cape Bojador on 26 December 1884. It officially informed the other powers in writing on 14 January 1885. [1] It began establishing trading posts and a military presence. In July 1885, King Alfonso XII appointed Emilio Bonelli commissioner of the Río de Oro with civil and military authority. On 6 April 1887, the area was incorporated into the Captaincy General of the Canary Islands for military purposes. [1] In the summer of 1886, under the sponsorship of the Spanish Society of Commercial Geography (Sociedad Española de Geografía Comercial), Julio Cervera Baviera, Felipe Rizzo (1823–1908) and Francisco Quiroga (1853–1894) traversed the territory, which was called Río de Oro, and made topographical and astronomical observations. At the time, geographers had not mapped the territory and its features were not widely known. Their trek is considered the first scientific expedition in that part of the Sahara. [2]

Berlin Conference international conference that regulated European colonisation and trade in Africa

The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, also known as the Congo Conference or West Africa Conference, regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. The conference was organized by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany; its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, can be seen as the formalisation of the Scramble for Africa, although some scholars of history warn against an overemphasis of its role in the colonial partitioning of Africa, drawing attention to bilateral agreements concluded before and after the conference. The conference ushered in a period of heightened colonial activity by European powers, which eliminated or overrode most existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance.

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

Ras Nouadhibou peninsula

Ras Nouadhibou is a 60-kilometre (37 mi) peninsula or headland divided between Mauritania and Western Sahara on the African coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is internationally known as Cabo Blanco in Spanish or Cap Blanc in French.

On entering the territory in 1884, Spanish forces were immediately challenged by stiff resistance from the indigenous Sahrawi tribes, Saharan Arabs who lived in many oases and coastal villages. The indigenous people worked mainly in fishing and camel herding, and speak the Hassaniya language, a Bedouin Arabic dialect. A rebellion in 1904 was led by the powerful Smara-based marabout , Shaykh Ma al-'Aynayn, was put down by France in 1910, which ruled neighbouring Algeria. This was followed by a wave of uprisings under Ma al-Aynayn's sons, grandsons and other political leaders.

Sahrawi people People living in the western Sahara desert

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.

Arabs are a population inhabiting the Arab world. They primarily live in the Arab states in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean islands, as well as Israel and Iran's Khuzestan Province. They also form a significant diaspora, with Arab communities established around the world.

Arabic Afro-Asiatic language

Arabic is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in Northwestern Arabia and in the Sinai Peninsula. The ISO assigns language codes to thirty varieties of Arabic, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is modernized Classical Arabic. This distinction exists primarily among Western linguists; Arabic speakers themselves generally do not distinguish between Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, but rather refer to both as al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā.

There is some dispute and ambiguity about whether the territory was under Moroccan royal sovereignty at the time when the Spanish claimed it in 1884. In 1886, Spain signed the Treaty of Idjil, by which the Emirate of Adrar ceded the land of the colony to Spain. This treaty was of no legal value, since the Emir had no claim to the territory, but since Morocco had no claim either (at least since the Hispano-Moroccan Treaty of 1767), the Spanish 'invented' a claim which the Emir could, with no harm to himself, immediately cede. [1]

Emir title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world.

An emir, sometimes transliterated amir, amier, or ameer, is an aristocratic or noble and military title of high office used in a variety of places in the Arab countries, West Africa, and Afghanistan. It means "commander", "general", or "High King". The feminine form is emira. When translated as "prince", the word "emirate" is analogous to a sovereign principality.

The borders of the territory were not clearly defined until treaties between Spain and France in the early 20th century. Spanish Sahara was created from the Spanish territories of Río de Oro and Saguia el-Hamra in 1924. It was not part of the areas known as Spanish Morocco and was administered separately.

Modern history

Sahrawi family in Spanish Sahara between 1970 and 1974 Saharan family.png
Sahrawi family in Spanish Sahara between 1970 and 1974

Given such tribal uprisings, Spain found it difficult to control parts of the territory's large hinterland until 1934. After gaining independence in 1956, Morocco laid claim to Spanish Sahara as part of its historic pre-colonial territory. In 1957, the Moroccan Army of Liberation nearly occupied the small territory of Ifni, north of Spanish Sahara, during the Ifni War. The Spanish sent a regiment of paratroopers from the nearby Canary Islands and repelled the attacks. With the assistance of the French, Spain soon re-established control in the area through Operaciones Teide-Ecoubillon (Spanish name) / Opérations Ecouvillon (French name) [3] .

It tried to suppress resistance politically. It forced some of the previously nomadic inhabitants of Spanish Sahara to settle in certain areas, and the rate of urbanisation was increased. In 1958, Spain united the territories of Saguia el Hamra and Río de Oro to form the overseas province of Spanish Sahara, while ceding the province of the Cape Juby Strip (which included Villa Bens) in the same year to Morocco.

In the 1960s, Morocco continued to claim Spanish Sahara. It gained agreement by the United Nations to add the territory to the list of territories to be decolonised. In 1969, Spain returned Ifni to Morocco, but continued to retain Spanish Sahara.

In 1967, Spanish rule was challenged by the Harakat Tahrir , a protest movement secretly organised by the Royal Moroccan Government. Spain suppressed the 1970 Zemla Intifada.

In 1973, the Polisario Front was formed in a revival of militant Sahrawi nationalism. The Front's guerrilla army grew rapidly, and Spain lost effective control over most of the territory by early 1975. Its effort to found a political rival, the Partido de Unión Nacional Saharaui (PUNS), met with little success. Spain proceeded to co-opt tribal leaders by setting up the Djema'a , a political institution loosely based on traditional Sahrawi tribal leaders. The Djema'a members were hand-picked by the authorities, but given privileges in return for rubber-stamping Madrid's decisions.[ citation needed ]

In the winter of 1975, just before the death of its long-time leader Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Spain was confronted with an intensive campaign of territorial demands from Morocco and, to a lesser extent, from Mauritania. These culminated in the Marcha Verde ('Green March'). After negotiating the Madrid Accords with Morocco and Mauritania, Spain withdrew its forces and settlers from the territory.

Morocco and Mauritania took control of the region. Mauritania later surrendered its claim after fighting an unsuccessful war against the Polisario Front. Morocco began fighting the Polisario Front, and after sixteen years, the UN negotiated a cease-fire in 1991. Today, the sovereignty of the territory remains in dispute. Morocco has resisted allowing a referendum to be held, and has continued to offer its people jobs in controlled territory.

Present status

Postage stamp issued in 1924. Stamp Spanish Sahara 1924 40c.jpg
Postage stamp issued in 1924.

The United Nations considers the former Spanish Sahara a non-self-governing territory, with Spain as the former administrative power and, since the 1970s, Morocco as the current administrative power.

UN peace efforts have been directed at holding a referendum on independence among the Sahrawi population, but this has not yet taken place. The African Union (AU) and more than 80 governments consider the territory to be the sovereign (albeit occupied) state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile backed by the Polisario Front.

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Robert Rézette, The Western Sahara and the Frontiers of Morocco (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1975), p. 60.
  2. "Encuentro con Premiados SGE 2007". Sociedad Geográfica Española. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011.
  3. «Opération Écouvillon» : Dernière tentative coloniale pour en finir avec l'Armée de libération marocaine ? https://www.yabiladi.com/articles/details/50822/operation-ecouvillon-derniere-tentative-coloniale.html and « L’Opération « Ecouvillon » (1957-1958) et la mémoire des officiers sahariens : entre contre-discours colonial et sentiment national en Mauritanie », in G. Cattanéo (dir.) Guerre, mémoire et identité, Paris, Nuvis, 2014, p. 83-107. https://www.academia.edu/20623950/_L_Opération_Ecouvillon_1957-1958_et_la_mémoire_des_officiers_sahariens_entre_contre-discours_colonial_et_sentiment_national_en_Mauritanie_in_G._Cattanéo_dir._Guerre_mémoire_et_identité_Paris_Nuvis_2014_p._83-107


Commons-logo.svg Media related to Spanish Sahara at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 25°N13°W / 25°N 13°W / 25; -13

Related Research Articles

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.

Politics of Western Sahara

The politics of Western Sahara take place in a framework of an area claimed by both the partially recognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Polisario Front Military and political organisation in Western Sahara

The Polisario Front, Frente Polisario, FRELISARIO or simply POLISARIO, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y o de Oro, is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement aiming to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. It is an observer member of the Socialist International. The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination. The Polisario Front is outlawed in the parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control, and it is illegal to raise its party flag there.

Green March Event

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, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, and meeting very little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco later gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.

Elections in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Elections in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic gives information on election and election results in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Río de Oro territory of Western Sahara

Río de Oro was, with Saguia el-Hamra, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969; it had been taken as a Spanish colonial possession in the late 19th century. Its name seems to come from an east–west river which was supposed to have run through it. The river was thought to have largely dried out – a wadi, as the name indicates – or have disappeared underground.

Madrid Accords

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.

Djemaa

The term Djema'a can refer to two things in a Western Sahara context.

Southern Provinces Occupied territory of Western Sahara

The Southern Provinces or Moroccan Sahara are the terms used by the Moroccan government for Western Sahara. These two official Moroccan denominations explicitly include all of Western Sahara. The Moroccan government favours "Southern Provinces" for its geographical obviousness, and because of the sensitivity of the word "Sahara" in Morocco. A frequent use of the term "Southern Provinces" is found for example in Moroccan state television

Tiris al-Gharbiyya

Tiris al-Gharbiyya was the name for the area of Western Sahara under Mauritanian control between 1975 and 1979.

Reguibat tribe Nomadic Sahrawi tribe of Sanhaja-Berber origins

The Reguibat is a nomad Sahrawi tribe of Sanhaja-Berber origins.The Reguibat speak Hassaniya Arabic, and are Arabized in culture. They claim descent from Sidi Ahmed Rguibi, who lived in the Saguia el-Hamra region in the 16th century. They also believe that they are, through him, a chorfa tribe, i.e. descendants of Muhammad. Religiously, they belong to the Maliki school of Sunni Islam.

Western Sahara conflict Military conflict

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.

Politics of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

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.

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.

Outline of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Overview of and topical guide to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic:

Western Sahara history starts long before this below mentioned timeline. Timeline of Western Sahara history

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic–Spain relations Diplomatic relations between Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Kingdom of Spain

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic–Spain relations refers to the current and historical relationship between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Spain.

Moroccan settlers

Moroccan settlers refers to citizens of the Kingdom of Morocco of various ethnicities that have settled in Western Sahara. Following the 1975 Green March, on the course of Western Sahara conflict, the Moroccan state has sponsored settlement schemes enticing thousands of Moroccans to move into the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara. By 2015, it was estimated that Moroccan settlers made up at least two thirds of the 500,000 inhabitants in the Western Sahara region.