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Western Sahara

Basic info

  • Area: 266,000 sq km / 103,000 sq mi
  • Population: 538,755
  • Infant mortality: 51.9 per 1000 births
  • Life expectancy: Unknown
  • Urbanisation: 86.7%
  • Literacy: Unknown

History

The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.">The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups (living under Berber tribal rule and in contact with the Roman Empire) such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. It was home to Phoenician colonies, but those disappeared with virtually no trace. Islam arrived there in the 8th century, but the region, beset with desertification, remained little developed.

From the 11th to the 19th centuries, Western Sahara was one of the links between the Sub-Saharan and North African regions. During the 11th century, the Sanhaja tribal confederation allied with the Lamtuna tribe to found the Almoravid dynasty. The conquests of the Almoravids extended over present-day Morocco, Western Algeria, and the Iberian peninsula to the north and Mauritania and Mali to the south, reaching the Ghana Empire. By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire based on the Niger River. Some Trans-Saharan trade routes also traversed Western Sahara.

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, and the area was later extended. In 1958, Spain combined separate districts together to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

A 1975 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the status of the Western Sahara held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, they were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In November of that year, the Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans accompanied by the Moroccan Army armed with heavy weapons converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of pressure from France, the US, and the UK, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal.

On February 27, 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and set up a government in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco, which continued until a 1991 cease-fire. As part of the 1991 peace accords, a referendum was to be held among indigenous people, giving them the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. To date the referendum has not been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.

Environment

Western Sahara is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco. It also borders Algeria to the northeast.

The land is some of the most arid and inhospitable on the planet. The land along the coast is low flat desert and rises, especially in the north, to small mountains reaching up to 600 metres (2,000 ft) on the eastern side.

While the area can experience flash flooding in the spring, there are no permanent streams. At times a cool off-shore current can produce fog and heavy dew. The interior experiences extreme summer heat with averages highs reaching as high as 43–45 °C in July and August; during "winter", days are still hot, with averages of 25 to 30 °C. However, at night temperatures can drop below 0 °C.

Economy

Aside from its rich fishing waters and phosphate reserves, Western Sahara has few natural resources and lacks sufficient rainfall and freshwater resources for most agricultural activities.

Western Sahara's much-touted phosphate reserves are relatively unimportant, representing less than two percent of proven phosphate reserves in Morocco. There is speculation that there may be off-shore oil and natural gas fields, but the debate persists as to whether these resources can be profitably exploited, and if this would be legally permitted due to the Non-Self-Governing status of Western Sahara (see below).

Western Sahara's economy is based almost entirely on fishing and phosphate mining which employs two-thirds of its workforce. Some lesser-extent agriculture and tourism also contribute to the territory's economy. Most food for the urban population comes from Morocco. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government (as its de facto southern province).

In 2011, leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that the territory is somewhat an economic burden for Morocco; the Moroccan US$800 million subsidy program to Western Sahara was said to be one of the larger per-capita aid programs in history. Supporting life in a territory with scarce freshwater resources is extremely costly. For example, all drinking water for the city of Laayoune comes from desalinization facilities and costs 3 US dollars per cubic meter but is sold at the national price of 0.0275 US dollars; the difference is paid for by the government of Morocco.

Ethnic groups

Religion

Religion(%)

Islam

99%

Other

1%

Languages

  • unknown%

    Spanish

  • unknown%

    Arabic

  • unknown%

    French