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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fighting for Land, Oil, and People of Western Sahara

Africa's Western Sahara fight for freedom has been a 40 year battle with no resolution in sight. The disputed territory is on the northwest coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria

Africa's Western Sahara fight for freedom has been a 40 year battle with no resolution in sight.
Africa’s Western Sahara Disputed Territory

Western Sahara has a population of around 554 thousand people. After Spain withdrew from Western Sahara in 1976, Morocco seized the area in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. War broke out in the same year due to the Frente Polisario people's party contesting Morocco's self proclaimed rule over the territory. 

Since 1979, the Frente Polisario has been recognized by the United Nations as the representative of the people of Western Sahara. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic led by President Mohamed Abdelaziz is in exile in Algeria. About 95,000 Sahrawi refugees continue to be sheltered in camps in Tindouf, Algeria, which has housed Sahrawi refugees since the 1980s.

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara or MINURSO was initiated in 1985 and established by Security Council resolution 690 on April 29, 1991. 

MINURSO provided for the sole and exclusive responsibility over monitoring ceasefires, verifying reduction of Moroccan troops in the territory, overseeing exchanges of prisoners of war, identify and register qualified voters.

In August 1994, MINURSO began the process of identifying potential voters in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. In May 1996, the Secretary-General suspended the identification process but the military component remained to monitor and verify ceasefires.

The identification process was finally completed in 1999, however aspects of the identification process, the appeals process itself, return of refugees and other crucial aspects of the MINURSO plan remains in dispute by the Frente Polisario people's party and the Government of Morocco. 

Over 20 years later, the United Nations continues talks with the parties to seek a resolution, Western Sahara remains a hotly disputed territory in West Africa for land, oil and people to this day.

Did you know?
Western Sahara’s former names are Rio de Oro, Saguia el Hamra, and Spanish Sahara. 

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