Western Sahara is last colony of Africa.
In February1975 Western Sahara was got freedom by Spain but Invaded by neighboringcountries after couple of weeks of Spain departure. Soon it became a subject ofrivalry between Morocco and Algeria and Western Sahara became state in crisis.Both powers sought to establish their hegemony over the natural resources richterritory of Western Sahara. Apart from Morocco and Algeria several otherstates too have their interest lying in the Western Sahara. Despite of UNproclaimed right to self determination the Sahrawi peoples have been strugglingfor their liberation since 1975.
Western Sahara lies in North Africa, on the eastern coast of the AtlanticOcean. It is bordered by Morocco inthe north, Algeria in the east and Mauritania from the east and south. Nohistorical record of Western Sahara can be traced before 4th centuryB.C. The Carthaginians were the first to record about the region followed byRoman’s in the 1st century C.
E. Polybies a Greek military historianin the second century writes about the region. His account gives detail aboutthe trade relations then Western Sahara shared with the Romans. After thedecline of Roman Empire, Barbarians conquered the region for a while and itsoon fall under the Arab Muslims by the seventh century.
Successive invasionsof the territory by the Arabs led to the gradually Islamisation and Arabisationof the indigenous people. This process gave rise to an ethnic, linguistic,religious and cultural symbiosis that gradually led to the formation of theconstitution of the Sahrawi people represented by the tribes and tribalconfederations that inhabited the area now known as Western Sahara. Western Sahara fell under Spanish rule in 1884 andbecame a Spanish province in 1934. Spain first occupied Rio de Oro the southerncoastal area of Western Sahara and later it also annexed interior Saguiaal-Hamra which culminated in the formation of Spanish Sahara in 1958.
A gradualincrease in consciousness and anti-colonial sentiment during the subsequentdecades led to a guerrilla insurgency by the Sahrawis in the early 1970s.Western Sahara has been in a state of political crisis since Spain granted theterritory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975.The International Court of Justice issued an advisoryover the legal status of Western Sahara that was ambiguous, and declined toaccept Morocco’s claim over the territory. In retaliation, Morocco’s KingHassan II led “Green March” catalyzed the transfer of Spanish controlof the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, enshrined in the tripartite MadridAccords of 14 November 1975. Spain formally withdrew its claim from theterritory on 26 February, 1976. According to Madrid Accord, 1976, the territorywas divided between Morocco and Mauritania.
Morocco established control ontwo-third of northern Western Sahara, however, Mauritania controlled one-thirdof southern part. The phosphate-rich territory has been under the control ofMorocco since 1976. POLISARIO FRONT (Frente Popular de Liberacion deSaguis el Hamra Y Rio de Oro or Popular Liberation Front for Western Sahara)was officially created on 10 May, 1973 with the purpose of putting an end tothe Spanish occupation of the Western Sahara. The POLISARIO front launched anarmed struggle against the attachment of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania.Soon POLISARIO compelled to Mauritania withdrawal from occupied territory ofWestern Sahara. From the point of natural resources, Western Sahara is a richcountry. The phosphate deposits near Bu Crâ are among the world’s largest (2.2billion tons) and, along with a lucrative fishing industry on the Atlanticcoast.
On 27th February, 1976, the Saharawi people formed SaharawiArab Democratic Republic (SADR) in exile to prove their readiness forindependence and statehood which was recognized by many African countriesincluding Algeria and Libya, as well as Cuba, states supported by the SovietUnion. Spain abdicated its legal responsibilities and relinquished its controlover the Western Sahara without organizing a referendum. In 1982, the SADR became member of the Organizationof African Unity (OAU) in 1982. The OAU acknowledged SADR’s status as thesovereign government of the Western Sahara.
Over the years, more than 80countries including Mexico and South Africa have recognized the SADR’ssovereignty. Mohammed Sidi Ibrahim Bassiri who imbibed nationalist idea fromWest Asian universities, returned to Morocco in 1966 and started a newspaper.He moved to Western Sahara and joined as a Koranic teacher at Smara in 1967.Bassiri founded the Harakat Tahrir Saguia el-Hamra wa Oued ed-Dahab (Organisation of the Liberation of Saguiael-Hamra and Oued ed-Dahab) or simply Harakat Tahrir.
A large number ofoffice employees joined Harakat Tahrir’s calls for reforms and progress towardsindependence. The demands made byHarakat Tahrir to the government were rejected. Some of the leaders includingBassiri were arrested led to a riot in which many people died perhaps Bassiriwas also killed. The shattered Harakat Tahrir had reignited Sahrawi nationalismthat re-emerged barely three years later as POLISARIO. Opposition to eventualSahrawi independence, however, came from two powerful sides that tried tosponsor alternative anti-colonial movements that would favour their interests.Morocco and Mauritania wanted anti-colonial movements that would lead toannexation, not independence.
El-Ouli Mustapha Sayed, a student at the Mohammed VUniversity at Rabat, Morocco was a one of the founder member of POLISARIO. Hewas influenced by the revolutionaries such as Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara.Later, El-Ouli Mustapha Sayed joined the leaders Mohammed Lamine Ould Ahmed,Mohammed Ali Ould el-Ouali, Mohammed Salem Ould Salek, Mohammed Ould Sadati,and Bashir Mustapha Sayed and they formed a network of Sahrawi students thatinitially approached Moroccan opposition parties such as the Istiqlal Party.Failing to get support in Morocco, they approached, the Sahrawi in WesternSahara and established contacts with former supporters of the Harakat Tahrir tostrengthen an anti-colonial militant movement. On 10 May 1973, POLISARIO (Popular Liberation Frontfor Western Sahara) was founded in the frontier of Mauritania and SpanishSahara and declared that it opted “for revolutionary violence and the armedstruggle as a means by which the Saharawi Arab African people can recover totalliberty and foil the manoeuvers of Spanish colonialism” and started attractingattention with attacks on Spanish installations in the territory.
It appearedto be more committed to the struggle than any other group and this increasedits popularity with the Sahrawi especially when in 1974 it clearly stated thatindependence was its objective. Its successes in sabotaging infrastructure andgetting support of the Sahrawi people forced a re-evaluation of positions bySpain and by other countries. Among those to change position on POLISARIO wasAlgeria which became the guerrilla movement’s biggest supporter against Spain,Morocco, and Mauritania.Algeria had tried to coordinate on Western Sahara with Morocco in thehope that Morocco would abandon claimsto Tindouf and other Algerian territories. It had refused to support POLISARIO,to allow transit of weapons, and had even locked up its leaders.
It hadreportedly funded Mauritanian activities and endorsed a secret deal betweenMorocco and Mauritania to share Western Sahara. Algeria, however, changedposition when it felt its security interests were seriously threatened. Thishappened when Morocco and Mauritania decided to frustrate a UN mandatereferendum and then excluded Algeria in a settlement with Spain over WesternSahara. With its interests ignored and seemingly threatened, Algeria decided tosupport POLISARIO in every way it could to defeat Mauritania and Morocco intheir expansionist designs. The Sahrawi people have been struggling to get accepted in the communityof nations from 1976.
Their identity was not clear whether they are Africans orArabs, as shown by two declarations in 1976 by POLISARIO leaders. On 27February, 1976 they asserted that their territory was the Sahrawi ArabDemocratic Republic (SADR) was a free, independent, sovereign state ruled by anArab national democratic system of progressive unionist orientation and ofIslamic religion. Later, POLISARIO described that the Sahrawi as having “Arab,African, and Islamic identity in opposition to imperialism, colonialism, and exploitation.