Home > Politics > Intellectual Opinion > The little told story of Western Sahara

Not much is really said about the Western Sahara. Not much. Western Sahara is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco. It also borders Algeria to the northeast.

Western Sahara was once a former colony of Spain, but was annexed by Morroco in 1975. Since then, there has always been a long ongoing struggle between the Morrocans and the locals of Western Sahara, the Saharawi, led by the Polisario Front.

A 16-year-long insurgency ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991 and the promise of a referendum on independence which has yet to take place.

A buffer strip, or “berm” with landmines and fortifications, stretches the length of the disputed territory and separates the Moroccan-administered western portion from the eastern area controlled by the Polisario Front.

The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by the Polisario Front in 1976, is now recognised by many governments and is a full member of the African Union.

Home to phosphate reserves and rich fishing grounds off its coast, Western Sahara is also believed to have as yet untapped offshore oil deposits.

Sovereignty over Western Sahara is contested between Morroco and the Polisario Front and its legal status remains unresolved. The United Nations considers it to be a “Non-Self-Governing Territory”.

Formally, Morocco is administered by a bicameral parliament under a constitutional monarchy. The last elections to the parliament’s lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers. Certain powers, such as the capacity to appoint the government and to dissolve parliament, remain in the hands of the monarch. The Morocco-controlled parts of Western Sahara are divided into several provinces that are treated as integral parts of the kingdom. The Moroccan government heavily subsidizes the Saharan provinces under its control with cut-rate fuel and related subsidies, to appease nationalist dissent and attract immigrants from Sahrawis and other communities in Morocco proper.

The exiled government of the self-proclaimed Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a form of single-party parliamentary and presidential system, but according to its constitution, this will be changed into a multi-party system at the achievement of independence. It is presently based at the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which it controls. It also controls the part of Western Sahara to the east of the Moroccan Wall, known as the liberated territories. This area has a very small population, estimated to be approximately 30,000 nomads. The Moroccan government views it as a no-man’s land patrolled by UN troops. The SADR government whose troops also patrol the area have proclaimed a village in the area, Bir Lehlou and Tifariti, as SADR’s former and actual temporary factual capitals.

MEDIA

Morocco’s state broadcaster RTM operates radio and TV services from Laayoune.

On the other side of the political divide, a Polisario-backed mediumwave (AM) radio station is on the air.

Radio

  • RTM Laayoune – operated by Moroccan state broadcaster
  • National Radio of the SADR – broadcasts in Arabic and Spanish; launched in the 1970s, the station supports the Polisario Front

Television

  • TV Laayoune – operated by Moroccan state broadcaster

News agency

  • Sahara Press Service – Polisario-run

Western Sahara is not yet independent, and calls continue to mount on Morocco to grant the Saharawi their independence.

 

Sourced from the BBC and Wikipedia

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