Spanish Sahara

Last updated

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)
Anthem:  National Anthem of Spain (1884-1931, 1942-1976)
Himno de Riego (1931-1942)
Spanish Sahara.png
Green: Spanish Sahara.
Light grey: Other Spanish possessions.
Dark grey: Spain.
Capital
and largest city
El Aaiún
Official languagesSpanish
Hassaniya Arabic
Religion
Roman Catholicism
Sunni Islam
Governor  
 1885-1902 (first)
Emilio Bonelli
 1974–1976 (last)
Federico Gómez de Salazar y Nieto
History 
 Established
26 December 1884
14 November 1975
26 February 1976
Currency Spanish peseta
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Spain 1945 1977.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 (Liberated territories)
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco

Spanish Sahara (Spanish : Sahara Español; Arabic: الصحراء الإسبانيةAs-Sahrā'a Al-Isbānīyah), 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.

Contents

Between 1946 and 1958, the Spanish Sahara was amalgamated with the nearby Spanish-protected Cape Juby and Spanish Ifni to form a new colony, Spanish West Africa. This was reversed during the Ifni War when Ifni and the Sahara became provinces of Spain separately, two days apart, while Cape Juby was ceded to Morocco in the peace deal.

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 on a historical basis, but dropped all claims in 1979.

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.

Spanish occupation

Spanish and French protectorates in Morocco and Spanish Sahara, 1935. Morocco Protectorate.svg
Spanish and French protectorates in Morocco and Spanish Sahara, 1935.

At the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), 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]

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.

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, the Spanish 'invented' a claim which the Emir could, with no harm to himself, immediately cede. [1]

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. According to the two sixteenth-century treaties, quoted by the historian Romeu (Vol. 1): the Treaty of Alcáçovas and the Treaty of Cintra, between Spain and Portugal, they recognize that the authority of Morocco extended beyond Cabo Bojador. Then there is the treaty between Morocco and Spain of 1 March 1767. [3] This treaty, according to Article 18 of which Sherifian sovereignty extended beyond the Wad Noun, Le., further south into the neighbouring region of Sakiet El Hamra, this is further establish in the Anglo-Moroccan Agreement of 13 March 1895 that Moroccan territory extends to Cabo Bojador, including Sakiet El Hamra. [4] The International Court of Justice found in their Advisory opinion on Western Sahara of 1975 they were legal ties of allegiance (Bay'ah) between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco but they didn't extend to sovereignty over the territory.

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). [5]

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 dictator 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. And referendum had not been possible to date due to dispute over who can vote [6]

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. Fouad Ammoun, Separate Opinion of Vice-President Ammoun, International Court of Justice, 1975, p. 79.
  4. Fouad Ammoun, Separate Opinion of Vice-President Ammoun, International Court of Justice, 1975, p. 81.
  5. «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
  6. Erik Jensen, Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate, p. 17.


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 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 a consultative member of the Socialist International.

Cape Juby

Cape Juby is a cape on the coast of southern Morocco, near the border with Western Sahara, directly east of the Canary Islands.

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.

Green March 1975 military 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 from 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.

Madrid Accords Treaty

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.

<i>Advisory opinion on Western Sahara</i> 1975 ICJ advisory body on Western Sahara

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. In 1969, Spain returned the region of Ifni to Morocco.

Tiris al-Gharbiyya

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

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.

Coat of arms 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.

Western Sahara War

The Western Sahara War was an armed struggle opposing the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front to Morocco between 1975 and 1991 and Mauritania from 1975 to 1979, 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.

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:

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 Settler population in the occupied portion of Western Sahara

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.

Morocco–Western Sahara border

The Morocco–Western Sahara border is 444 km in length and runs from Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the tripoint with Algeria in the east. The border has existed purely in a de jure sense since Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara in 1975.

Mauritania–Western Sahara border

The Mauritania–Western Sahara border is 1,564 kilometres (972 mi) in length and runs from the tripoint with Algeria in the north-east to the Atlantic Ocean in the south-west.

Algeria–Western Sahara border

The Algeria–Western Sahara border is 41 km in length and runs from the tripoint with Morocco in the north to the tripoint with Mauritania in the south.