Sunday, 5 February 2012
CASE 387 - The history of Western Sahara
Located in northern Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, Western Sahara is surrounded by Algeria to the east, Morocco to the north, and Mauritania to the south, it is mostly low, flat desert with some small mountains in the south and northeast. The Legal status of the territory is disputed and sovereignty unresolved; a UN referendum on the issue is planned. The territory is contested by Morocco and the Polisario Front, which in Feb. 1976, formally proclaimed a government-in-exile of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, now officially recognized by about 55 countries. In 1975 an international court of Justice granted Western Sahara, previously a Spanish Overseas Province, self-determination. Unfortunately, King Hassan of Morocco sent 350,000 people to take control of the territory. Initially partitioned by Morocco and Mauritania, it came fully under Moroccan control in 1979. Morocco has yet to comply with UN demands for the territory's complete release.
Since 1977 the Saharan provinces of Laayoune, Smara, and Boujdour have participated in local elections that are organized and controlled by the Moroccan Government. The southern province of Oued Ed-Dahab has participated in Moroccan-controlled elections since 1983. Sahrawis whose political views are aligned with the Moroccan Government fill all the seats allotted to the Western Sahara in the Moroccan Parliament.
The civilian population living in the Western Sahara under Moroccan administration is subject to Moroccan law. U.N. observers and foreign human rights groups maintain that Sahrawis have difficulty obtaining Moroccan passports, that the Government monitors the political views of Sahrawis more closely than those of Moroccan citizens, and that the police and paramilitary authorities react especially harshly against those suspected of supporting independence and the Polisario. The Moroccan Government limits access to the territory, and international human rights organizations and impartial journalists sometimes have experienced difficulty in securing admission.
Western Sahara depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan Government. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, which has angered the Polisario. Incomes and standards of living in Western Sahara are substantially below the Moroccan level.
Free Western Sahara network