The Tropas Nómadas (Nomad Troops) were an auxiliary regiment to the colonial army in Spanish Sahara (today Western Sahara), from the 1930s until the end of the Spanish presence in the territory in 1975. Composed of Sahrawi tribesmen, the Tropas Nómadas were equipped with small arms and led by Spanish officers, guarding outposts and sometimes conducting patrols on camelback.
A nomad is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation who regularly move to and from the same areas, including nomadic hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and tinker or trader nomads. As of 1995, there were an estimated 30–40 million nomads in the world.
Colonialism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of opening trade opportunities. The colonizing country seeks to benefit from the colonized country or land mass. In the process, colonizers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Some argue this was a positive move toward modernization, while other scholars refute this theory as being biased and Eurocentric, noting that modernization is a concept introduced by Europeans. Colonialism is largely regarded as a relationship of domination of an indigenous majority by a minority of foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.
Spanish Sahara, officially the Overseas Province of the Spanish 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.
Spain did not permanently maintain any military force in the Sahara until 1926. In that year a locally recruited gendarmerie called the Foot Police Company (Compañia de Policia a Pie) was established and based at Cape Juby. In October 1928 this coastal unit was replaced by the Saharan Police Troops (Tropas de Policia del Sahara) The new and expanded force was partially camel-mounted and operated inland. Roughly half of its personnel were recruited from the Saharan tribes, who were familiar with climate and conditions. The remainder were drawn from Moroccan Regulares and Mehal-la goumiers, seconded from the existing Spanish Army of Africa.
Cape Juby is a cape on the coast of southern Morocco, near the border with Western Sahara, directly east of the Canary Islands.
The Fuerzas Regulares Indígenas, known simply as the Regulares (Regulars), are volunteer infantry units of the Spanish Army, largely recruited in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Originally consisting of indigenous infantry and cavalry recruited in Spanish Morocco, forming part of the Army of Africa and officered by Spaniards, these troops played a significant role in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).
First raised in the early 1930s, this force was entitled "Tropas Nómadas del Sahara". It comprised a camel corps, modelled on the French "Meharistes" and serving as desert police. Later the Tropas Nómadas were partially mechanised but camel detachments remained in service until the 1970s. Most officer plus some NCOs and specialists were Spanish. With expansion and increased mechanism the proportion of Spanish personnel in the Tropas Nomadas increased substantially from the 1960s on, many of them conscripts doing their military service in the Western Sahara.
A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not earned a commission. Non-commissioned officers usually obtain their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. In contrast, commissioned officers hold higher ranks than NCOs, have more legal responsibilities, are paid more, and often have more non-military training such as a university diploma. Commissioned officers usually earn their commissions without having risen through the enlisted ranks.
In total, several thousand Sahrawis were given military training by the Spanish. In 1974, 1,374 Sahrawis were enrolled in the Spanish army (most of them in the Tropas Nómadas), according to Pazzanita & Hodges , out of a population of some 74,000 indigenous inhabitants of the territory, according to a Spanish census taken that same year.
While the Tropas Nómadas gave effective service during the greater part of the force's history, their loyalty was tested by the outbreak of the indigenous Polisario Front's rebellion (1973–75). In May 1975 increasing instances of indiscipline culminated with two mutinies when the Saharan personnel of two motorized desert patrols overwhelmed their Spanish colleagues and took them as prisoners to Algeria.
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 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.
Following the Spanish Government's decision to hand over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania towards the end of 1975, numbers of the indigenous soldiers deserted. The remainder were disbanded. Many of the former Tropas Nómadas soldiers are believed to have joined Polisario and Spanish-trained fighters formed the core of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army set up to fight Morocco and Mauritania after the Green March.
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, 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.
Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. 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.
Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.
The "askaris" of the camel units wore white flowing robes and blue turbans. Other indigenous personnel wore khaki uniforms with blue or khaki turbans.
A separate indigenous unit serving the Spanish colonial government was the Policía Territorial. This gendarmerie corresponded to the Civil Guard in metropolitan Spain. It was commanded by Spanish officers and included Spanish personnel of all ranks.
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.
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 Sahrawi, or Saharawi people, are the people living in the western part of the Sahara desert which includes Western Sahara, southern Morocco, most of Mauritania and the extreme southwest of Algeria.
The term Djema'a can refer to two things in a Western Sahara context.
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 was the name for the area of Western Sahara under Mauritanian control between 1975 and 1979.
Méhariste is a French word that roughly translates to camel cavalry. The word is most commonly used as a designation of military units.
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.
The Oulad Delim is a Sahrawi tribe of mainly Arab origins. They were formerly considered of Hassane status i.e. part of the ruling warrior stratum. The Oulad Delim speak Hassaniya Arabic. They traditionally live in the southern regions of Western Sahara, especially around the city of Dakhla. They have extensive tribal connections with northern Mauritanian tribes. They are Muslims, adhering to the Maliki school of Sunni Islam.
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.
Opération Lamatin was a December 1977 – July 1978 military intervention by France on the behalf of the Mauritanian government, in its war against Sahrawi guerrilla fighters of the Polisario Front, seeking independence for Western Sahara. Airstrikes were launched in the provinces, but the results of the operation were not significant. France used Jaguar combat aircraft from Dakar Airbase. The bombings were targeted in the rail route from the iron mines in Zouérat to the coast of Nouadhibou, which were obstructed by Polisario.
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.
"Greater Mauritania" is a term for the Mauritanian irredentist claim to Western Sahara, and possibly other Moorish or Sahrawi-populated areas of the western Sahara desert.
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 the 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.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic:
The First Battle of Amgala was fought between 27–29 January 1976 around the oasis of Amgala, Western Sahara, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) west of the border with Algeria. Units from the Algerian Army were attacked by units from the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces on the night of 27 January. The Algerians withdrew after fighting for 36 hours.
^ Anthony G. Pazzanita & Tony Hodges (1994) Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, 2 ed, Scarecrow Press, USA. ( ISBN 0-8108-2661-5 )