The Conflict in Western Sahara

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  • Topic: Morocco, Western Sahara, History of Western Sahara
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POL 342E: Nationalism and Ethnicity:
Political Conflicts in Europe

Instructor: Dr. Tommaso Chiamparino

Final Paper: The Conflict in Western
Sahara (Morocco, Algeria,
Mauritania and Spain)

Written by: Tahiri Joutei Idrissi Hassani

July, 3rd

Western Sahara is a region located in the North West of Africa, occupying an area of around 260 000 km2. This land is subject to serious disputes between Morocco, Mauritania, Spain and Algeria since 1884. This complex problem, unsolved until now, has gone through many processes in order to establish peace and self determination in that territory. Before analyzing the major aspects of this conflict, it is important to introduce the parties involved as to know: Morocco, Mauritania, Spain and Algeria.

First, Morocco is a country located in the North West of Africa, occupying a total area of 713 000 km2 and counting around thirty million people. Morocco is one of the oldest monarchies in the world, founded twelve centuries ago in the Cultural Capital «Fez» by «Moulay Driss the First» who is the descendant of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The king Moulay Driss implemented Islam as the main religion of the country, the city of Fez as the capital and constituted the «Idrissides dynasty». Many dynasties have governed Morocco since then. Today, the «Alaouite Dynasty» has been governing Morocco for more than five centuries.

Second, Mauritania is a country located in the south of Morocco, occupying an area of 1,030,700 km2, and counting a population of 3,364,940. The main religion of the country is Islam and the spoken language is the Hassania dialect of Arabic. Western Sahara is the land of dispute between Morocco and Mauritania since every country is substantiating its own claims on that territory.

Third, Algeria, a country located in the east of Morocco, occupies a total area of 2,381,741 km2 and counts a population of 33,769,669 according to the 2008 estimate. The main religion of the country is Islam and the official language is Arabic. Regarding the Western Sahara Conflict, Algeria allowed refugees from Sahara to stay in the South of Tindouf, a city close to the borders of Western Sahara, where the Polisario Front has its main base.

Finally, Spain, a country member of the European Union, located in the South East of Europe, occupies an area of 504,030 km2 and counts a population of 46,661,950 people according

to the 2009 estimate. The official language of the country is the Spanish one and concerning the religion, the predominant one is the Christianity with 76% of the population being Christian. Spain was occupying Western Sahara since 1884, and after the Green March of November 1975 ordered by the Moroccan king Hassan the Second, where over 350 000 Moroccans participated, Spain gave up its colonization on that territory and negotiated with Morocco and Mauritania. This negotiation gave birth to the Madrid Agreement.

In the beginning of the Spanish colonization in 1884, Western Sahara was a Spanish property and became a Spanish province only fifty years later in 1934. In the 1960’s, many ethnic groups emerged in the Western Sahara. These nomadic tribes have different origins, some of them are Berbers, some are Arabs and some are Africans. Today, we can count three main ethnic groups living in this region that are: the «Reguibat», The «Ouled Bou Sba» and the «Ouled Delim».

The Western Sahara conflict is very harsh and complex in a way that each party is substantiating its claim on that territory. For Mauritania, the link between the country and Western Sahara is the existence of nomadic tribes sharing the same origins as the Mauritanian tribes. For Morocco, Western Sahara has always been a region of the country because of the historical links of the Sahrawi tribes and the allegiance to the...
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