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keskiviikko 26. elokuuta 2015

Western Sahara, Cool Facts #62

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1. Undisputed State

Western Sahara is an undisputed state which is currently recognized by 45 UN member states and South Ossetia. 

39 UN member states have withdraw or suspended the recognition. 

Currently the Western Sahara, or Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic like it is called, is a part of Morocco. 


Red = supports Morocco, Green = recognizes Western Sahara

2. Partition of Western Sahara

1973 The Polisario liberation front started the fight for independence against Spain.

1976 Spain made a partition plan together with Morocco and Mauritania. As Morocco and Mauritania split Western Sahara, Polisario declared the country as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and started the guerrilla war against Morocco. Polisario got support from Algeria.

1979 Mauritania withdrew from the southern parts of Western Sahara and thereupon Morocco occupied the whole territory of Western Sahara. Morocco isolated the population centers of the northern parts from the mining areas and the coastal cities with a barriers. The rest of the country, which is practically dead desert, was left to Polisario's control.

1991 cease-fire between Polisario and Morocco. A referendum considering the independence of Western Sahara was scheduled but up to this day, it has never happened. The main dispute concerning the referendum, is how is eligible to participate the referendum.

Polisario troops

3. Morocco and Polisario controlled areas

Western Sahara is divided into two areas, which are divided by a 2720 kilometers long wall. The western part is controlled by Morocco and the most important cities and phosphate mines are there. The rest of the country is just deserted deserts and no-mans land, which is controlled by Polisario.








4. Western Sahara Economy

Western Sahara became a Spanish province called Spanish Sahara in 1958 and in 1965 vast phosphate deposits were found in Bou Craa, in Spanish Sahara. These findings transformed the dead land valuable and Spanish Sahara started even competing with Morocco, which was the biggest producer of phosphate in the world. Later Western Sahara became part of Morocco and currently Morocco controls these phosphate mines being overwhelmingly the number one country in the world with the biggest phosphate deposits. 

Otherwise Western Sahara is more of an economic burden for Morocco as it has to subsidy Western Sahara with a huge 800 million dollar subsidy program. The subsidies are used to support life in this territory with scarce natural resources like water and it's extremely costly. Fuel is also sold at half the price and basic goods are heavily subsidized. Without Morocco's support it's believed that Western Sahara would be economically unviable and therefore unable to support the life of the Western Saharan people. 



Bou Craa phosphate mine


5. People of Western Sahara

The population of Western Sahara is estimated to be around 550,000 people. The indigenous people are called Sahrawis, who are of Berber origin. The Sahrawis speak either Hassaniya Arabic or Berber languages. Many of them are mixed Berber-Arab heritage. The census is hard to carry out in Western Sahara because of political issues but also because the Sahrawis are nomadic Bedouins constantly moving from place to place. Their lifestyle resembles to that of the Tuareg Berbers, from whom the Sahrawis most likely have descended.

The people of Western Sahara speak Spanish (because of the colonial past), Berber and Hassaniya dialect of Arabic.



Timeline

1000s Moroccon Almoravids conquer northwestern Africa
1400s The Portuguese visit Western Sahara
1500s The Spanish establish settlements and trade posts
1524 Moroccon Sultans banish the Spanish
1860 The Spanish return and declare the coastal area of Rio de Oro as their protectorate
1958 Western Sahara becomes a Spanish province
1965 Large phosphate deposits are found in Bou Craa
1973 Polisario liberation front starts the fight for independence against Spain
1976 Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania, Polisario starts the guerrilla war against Morocco and declares Western Sahara independent getting support from Algeria
1979 Mauritania abandoned all claims on Western Sahara
1991 War ends with a cease-fire between Polisario and Morocco

Sources: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Sahara
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_recognition_of_the_Sahrawi_Arab_Democratic_Republic
"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

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