Tropas Nómadas

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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.

Nomad member of a community of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another

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 Creation, and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

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 Former Spanish territory of Western Sahara

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 cape

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

Regulares Spanish colonial troops

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).

Establishment of Tropas Nómadas

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.

Non-commissioned officer Military officer without a commission

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.

End of Spanish rule

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.

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.

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.

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, 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 country in North Africa

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 Islamic republic in Northwest Africa

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.

Policía Territorial

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.

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^ Anthony G. Pazzanita & Tony Hodges (1994) Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, 2 ed, Scarecrow Press, USA. ( ISBN   0-8108-2661-5 )