Sahrawi refugee camps
The Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, are a collection of refugee camps set up in the Tindouf Province, Algeria in 1975-76 for Sahrawi refugees fleeing from Moroccan forces, who advanced through Western Sahara during the Western Sahara War. With most of the original refugees still living in the camps, the situation is among the most protracted in the world; the limited opportunities for self-reliance in the harsh desert environment have forced the refugees to rely on international humanitarian assistance for their survival. However, the Tindouf camps differ from the majority of refugee camps in the level of self-organization. Most affairs and camp life organization is run by the refugees themselves, with little outside interference; the camps are divided into five wilayas named after towns in Western Sahara. In addition comes the smaller satellite camp "February 27", surrounding the boarding school for women, the administrative camp Rabouni; the encampments are spread out over a quite large area.
While Laayoune, Awserd, February 27 and Rabouni all lie within an hour's drive of the Algerian city of Tindouf, the Dakhla camp lies 170 km to the southeast. The camps are the headquarters of the 6th military region of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic; the refugee camps are governed by Polisario, being administratively part of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. SADR's government in exile and administration are located in the Rabouni camp; the Tindouf camps are divided into administrative sub-units electing their own officials to represent the neighbourhoods in political decision-making. Each of the four wilayas are divided into six or seven daïras, which are in turn divided into hays or barrios. Local committees distribute basic goods and food, while "daïra" authorities made up by the representatives of the "hays" organize schools, cultural activities and medical services; some argue that this results in a form of basic democracy on the level of camp administration, that this has improved the efficiency of aid distribution.
Women are active on several levels of administration, UNHCR has appraised their importance in camp administration and social structures. According to Polisario, Algeria does not intervene in their organization, treating the area as under Sahrawi self-rule, though statements by former Polisario responsibles contradict that. While the Algerian military has a significant presence in the nearby city of Tindouf, Algeria insists that responsibility for human rights in the camps lies with the Polisario. Camp residents are subject to the constitution and laws of SADR. A local justice system, with courts and prisons, is administered by Polisario. Local qadis have jurisdiction over personal family law issues. Polisario has prioritised education from the beginning, the local authorities have established 29 preschools, 31 primary and seven secondary schools, the academic institutions of ‘27 February’ and ‘12 October’ as well as various technical training centres. While teaching materials are still scarce, the literacy rate has increased from about 5% at the formation of the camps to 90% in 1995.
Children's education is obligatory, several thousands have received university educations in Algeria and Spain as part of aid packages. One former camp resident claimed to have been forcefully sent as a child to an indoctrination camp in Cuba, where he was taught to use firearms; the camps have a central hospital and four regional hospitals. Men perform military service in the armed forces of the SADR. During the war years, at least some women were enrolled in auxiliary units guarding the refugee camps; the number of Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf camps is politically sensitive. Morocco argues that Polisario and Algeria overestimate the numbers to attract political attention and foreign aid, while Polisario accuses Morocco of attempting to restrict human aid as a means of pressure on civilian refugee populations; the refugees' numbers will be important in determining their political weight in the possible event of a referendum to determine Western Sahara's future status. Algerian authorities have estimated the number of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria to be 165,000.
This has been supported by Polisario, although the movement recognizes that some refugees have rebased to Mauritania, a country that houses about 26,000 Sahrawis refugees. UNCHR referred to Algeria's figure for many years, but in 2005 concern about it being inflated led the organization to reduce its working figure to 90,000 based on satellite imagery analysis. UNHCR is in dialogue with the Algerian Government and the Sahrawi refugee leadership, seeking to conduct a census to determine the exact number of refugees in the camps. In 1998, UN's Minurso mission identified 42,378 voting-age adults in the camps, counting only those who had contacted the mission's registration offices and subsequently been able to prove their descent from pre-1975 Western Sahara. No attempt was made to estimate the total population number in the camps; the Moroccan government contends that the total number of refugees is around 45,000 to 50,000, that these people are kept in the camps by Polisario against their will.
The Tindouf area is located on a vast desert plain of the Sahara Desert. Summer temperatures in this part of the hammada known as "The Devil's Garden", are above 50°C and frequent sand storms disrupt normal life. There is little or no vegetation, firewood has to be gathered by car tens of kilometers away. Only a few of the camps have access to water, the drinking sources
Río de Oro
Río de Oro was, with Saguia el-Hamra, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969. Its name seems to come from an east–west river, supposed to have run through it; the river was thought to have dried out – a wadi, as the name indicates – or have disappeared underground. The Spanish name is derived from its previous name Rio do Ouro, given to it by its Portuguese discoverer Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia in 1436; the Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator dispatched a mission in 1435, under Gil Eanes and Baldaia, to find the legendary River of Gold in western Africa. Going down the coast, they rounded the al-Dakhla peninsula in present-day Western Sahara and emerged into an inlet, which they excitedly believed to be the mouth of the River of Gold; the name continued to be used for the inlet and the surrounding area although no gold was found there, neither in the water of the narrow gulf mistaken for the river itself, nor in its neighborhood. Occupying the southern part of Western Sahara, the territory lies between 26° to the north and 21° 20' to the south.
The area is 184,000 km, making it two thirds of the entire Western Sahara. The former provincial capital founded by the Spanish was Villa Cisneros, renamed under Moroccan administration in 1976 "ad-Dakhla"; the Battle of Río de Oro was a single-ship action fought in August 1914 during the First World War. A British protected cruiser attacked a German auxiliary cruiser off the small Spanish colony of Río de Oro. In 1975, as Spain retreated from the territory, Western Sahara was split under the Madrid Accords between Mauritania and Morocco if this division was bitterly contested by the Polisario Front; the dividing line ran halfway through Río de Oro, with Morocco taking the northern part plus Saguia el-Hamra, Mauritania annexing the lower third of the colony as a northern province called Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Its provincial capital was called Dakhla. After a disastrous four-year war with the Polisario, Mauritania relinquished Tiris al-Gharbiyya, withdrew from Western Sahara, left Morocco and the Polisario as the sole belligerents in the conflict, not yet resolved.
This area is today divided by the Moroccan military berm, with Morocco occupying the parts to the west of it, the Polisario Front-held Free Zone, under the control of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to the east. These zones are temporary divisions negotiated as a part of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara ceasefire
Foreign relations of Morocco
Morocco is a member of the United Nations and belongs to the African Union, Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States. Morocco's relationships vary between African and Western states. Morocco has had strong ties to the West in order to gain political benefits. France and Spain remain the primary trade partners, as well as the primary creditors and foreign investors in Morocco. From the total foreign investments in Morocco, the European Union invests 73.5%, the Arab world invests only 19.3%. Many countries from the Persian Gulf and Maghreb regions are getting more involved in large-scale development projects in Morocco. Foreign relations have had a significant impact on social development in Morocco. Certain evidence of foreign influence is through the many development projects, loans and free trade agreements that Morocco has with other countries; some free trade agreements include the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area agreement with the European Union.
An example of recent foreign influence is through loan agreements. Morocco signed three loan agreements with the French Development Agency in 2009, totalling up to 155 million euros; these were for the purpose of reforming the education system, rural roads and rehabilitation, as well as infrastructure projects. Policies associated with foreign relations are determined by the king, King Mohamed VI, his advisors, despite the fact that Morocco has a constitutional monarchy. Morocco has had a history of monarch rule. For example, the king of Morocco in 1965 ruled as a dictator for two years; this was in response to the discovery of a plot on the king's life, of which the political party, UNFP, was accused. Foreign relations with western powers became strained as a result of this. Portraying Morocco as a democratic state became important if Morocco wished to receive loans and investments by foreign powers. Morocco's current relations with some countries are related to its colonial history. Morocco was secretly partitioned by Spain and France and in 1912 Morocco became a protectorate.
After achieving independence in 1956, Morocco still has a strong relationship with its former colonizers. Spain and France are the largest exporting and importing partners to Morocco. French is still popularly spoken and remains the second language in Morocco whilst Spanish is widespread in the northern regions. France now is home to more than a million Moroccans residing in the country; this is the largest population of Moroccans in a country, followed next by Spain. These former colonizers remain influential in economic matters, such as development projects, investments and loans. Relations with foreign powers with the West, have been strengthened as Morocco has liberalized its economy and implemented major economic reforms. In 1993 there was major privatization and markets were opened up to foreign powers. Morocco now is focusing more on promoting foreign direct investments. In 2007, Morocco adopted the Hassan II Fund for Development, which are measures that simplify procedures to make the process easier and more financially beneficial for foreign investors.
This was done with financial incentives, as well as tax exemptions. These policies make it beneficial for other countries to have relations with Morocco so that they can take advantage of their goods. Morocco's exports are agriculture, it is one of the largest exporters of phosphate in the world. In addition, Morocco has rich fishing waters, a tourist industry, a small manufacturing sector. Morocco gains financial support from countries that it assists. For example, Morocco has had a long history of supporting the United States and it has received financial support as a result. Moroccan troops were involved in Bosnia as well as during the operation Desert Storm. Morocco was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States and declare solidarity with the American people in the war against terror, it has contributed to UN peacekeeping efforts on the continent. In 1998, the U. S. Defence Secretary, William Cohen, said that Morocco and the U.
S. have "mutual concerns over transnational terrorism" as well as interests in "the effort to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction". In recognition of its support for the War on Terrorism, in June 2004 U. S. President George W. Bush designated Morocco as a major non-NATO ally. Another case of mutual foreign policy interests is with Saudi Arabia. Ties between these countries were strengthened when Morocco sent troops to help Saudi Arabia during the 1992 Gulf War; this was perceived as a "gesture to support Western and Arab allies". Morocco's relationship to countries in the Middle East and its contribution to the Palestinian cause have created stronger relations between these countries. Another factor determining relations is; the beginning of major migration to Europe began during the colonial era. During World War I and II, France had an urgent need for manpower, which led to the recruitment of tens of thousands of Moroccan men to work in factories, in the army. Another increase in immigration from Morocco to France was during the Algerian war of independence.
France stopped recruiting workers from Algeria and instead accepted more Moroccan factory and mine labourers. Immigration increased further from 1962–1972 when economic growth in Europe occurred, wh
The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, meeting little response by the Sahrawi Polisario Front; the events escalated into a waged war between Morocco and the militias of the Polisario, the Western Sahara War, which would last for 16 years. Morocco gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold. Morocco, to the north of the Spanish Sahara, had long claimed that the territory was an integral part of Morocco. Mauritania to the south argued that the territory was in fact Mauritanian. Since 1973, a Sahrawi guerrilla war led by the Polisario Front had challenged Spanish control, in October 1975 Spain had begun negotiations for a handover of power with leaders of the rebel movement, both in El Aaiún, with foreign minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri meeting El Ouali in Algiers.
Morocco intended to vindicate its claims by demanding a verdict from the International Court of Justice, issued on 16 October 1975. The ICJ stated that there were historical legal ties of allegiance between "some, but only some" Sahrawi tribes and the Sultan of Morocco, as well as ties including some rights relating to the land between Mauritania and other Sahrawi tribes. However, the ICJ stated that there were no ties of territorial sovereignty between the territory and Morocco, or Mauritania, at the time of Spanish colonization. Instead, the court argued, the indigenous population were the owners of the land, thus possessed the right of self-determination; this meant that regardless of which political solution was found to the question of sovereignty, it had to be explicitly approved by the people of the territory. Complicating matters, a UN visiting mission had concluded on 15 October, the day before the ICJ verdict was released, that Sahrawi support for independence was "overwhelming". However, the reference to previous Moroccan-Sahrawi ties of allegiance was presented by Hassan II as a vindication of his position, with no public mention of the court's further ruling on self-determination..
Within hours of the ICJ verdict's release, he announced the organizing of a "green march" to Spanish Sahara, to "reunite it with the Motherland". In order to prepare the terrain and to riposte to any potential counter-invasion from Algeria or in order to invade militarily the land and kill or deport the Sahrawi population, the Moroccan Army entered the northeast of the region on October 31, where it met with hard resistance from the Polisario, by a two-year-old independence movement; the Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On 6 November 1975 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Sakiya Lhmra, they brandished Qur ` an. As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed; the Spanish troops cleared some mined zones. According to Morocco, the exercise of sovereignty by the Moroccan state was characterized by official pledges of allegiance to the sultan.
The Moroccan government was of the opinion that this allegiance existed during several centuries before the Spanish occupation and that it was a legal and political tie. The sultan Hassan I, for example, had carried out two expeditions in 1886 in order to put an end to foreign incursions in this territory and to invest several caids and cadis. In its presentation to the ICJ, the Moroccan side mentioned the levy of taxes as a further instance of the exercise of sovereignty; the exercise of this sovereignty had appeared, according to the Moroccan government, at other levels, such as the appointment of local officials, the definition of the missions which were assigned to them. The Moroccan government further pointed to several treaties between it and other states, such as with Spain in 1861, the United States of America in 1786, 1836 and with Great Britain in 1856 The court, found that "neither the internal nor the international acts relied upon by Morocco indicate the existence at the relevant period of either the existence or the international recognition of legal ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State.
Taking account of the specific structure of that State, they do not show that Morocco displayed any effective and exclusive State activity in Western Sahara." The Green March caught Spain in a moment of political crisis. The caudillo General Franco, who had led the country for 36 years, was dying. Despite the overwhelming military and logistic superiority of the Spanish armed forces based in Western Sahara in relation to the Moroccan armed forces, the Spanish government feared that the conflict with Morocco could lead to an open colonial war in Africa, which c
Free Zone (region)
The Free Zone or Liberated Territories is a term used by the Polisario Front to describe the part of Western Sahara that lies to the east of the Moroccan Berm and west and north of the borders with Algeria and Mauritania, respectively. For Morocco, it is a buffer territory; the area is separated from the rest of the Western Sahara territory by "a 2,200 kilometer -long wall...flanked by one of the world's largest minefields." The border is referred to as the "Berm". The zone was established as a Polisario-held zone in a 1991 cease-fire between the Polisario Front and Morocco, agreed upon together as part of the Settlement Plan. Morocco controls the areas west including most of the territory's population; the cease-fire is overseen by the United Nations' MINURSO forces, charged with peacekeeping in the area and the organization of a referendum on independence. The status of Western Sahara is hotly disputed between Polisario and Morocco, this includes the names used to refer to areas under the control of the different sides.
Morocco refers to the Polisario-held region as a "buffer zone", or "buffer strip", claims that Polisario forces are not allowed entry, that both military activities and civilian construction in this area constitute violations of their cease-fire agreement. The Polisario Front, on the other hand, claims this does not correspond to the provisions of the agreement regulating the territory's status, which Morocco signed in 1991, regards the "buffer strip" as only a slim portion of the entire territory; this zone serves as a division-of-forces no-man's land. Areas outside this zone are open to activity by the side that controls them, provided they adhere to some restrictions on military movements. Polisario call the areas a "liberated territory" or the "free zone", but this is not an official designation; the UN calls it "east of the Berm", refers to territories under Moroccan control as "west of the Berm", thus not giving sanction to the claims of either party. According to the Settlement Plan, the movement of Polisario fighters is restricted to how Moroccan forces face restrictions on their side of the Berm.
The MINURSO details details the following restrictions for the different zones: One 5-kilometre-wide Buffer Strip to the south and east side of the Berm. The Buffer Strip is included in the Restricted Area on the POLISARIO side and the Berm is included in the Restricted Area on the Military of Morocco side; each of the five parts has specific restrictions as for the two parties' military activities:Buffer Strip: No entry of RMA and FPOL personnel and equipment, by ground or air. No firing of weapons in or over the area. Restricted Areas: No firing of weapons and/or military training exercises, with the exception of physical training activities of unarmed personnel. No tactical reinforcements, no redeployment or movement of troops, headquarters/units, equipment, weapons, no entry of military aircraft and no improvements of defence infrastructures; some exceptions apply and some activities are allowed after prior information to or approval by MINURSO. Areas with Limited Restrictions: All normal military activities can be carried out, except the reinforcement of existing minefields, the laying of mines, the concentration of forces, the construction of new headquarters and ammunition storage facilities.
MINURSO need to be informed if the parties intend to conduct military exercises, including the firing of weapons of a calibre above 9mm. The population of the territory east of the Wall is estimated to be between 30,000 -40,000 inhabitants. By comparison, it is estimated that 500,000 inhabitants live west of the Wall, of which Moroccan settlers make up at least two thirds. Following the 1975 Green March, the Moroccan state has sponsored settlement schemes enticing thousands of Moroccans to move into the Moroccan-occupied part; the major settlements on the zone are Tifariti, Bir Lehlou, Meharrize, Mijek and Zug. Access is difficult for Sahrawis due to the harsh climate of the Sahara, the military conflict and the abundance of land mines; the area is inhabited by Sahrawi nomads, that maintain the traditional camel herding of their ancestors, between the zone, northern Mauritania and the refugee camps. There is a small merchant population, who sell goods to travellers. Major Sahrawi political events, such as Polisario congresses and opening sessions of the Sahrawi National Council are held in the zone, since it is considered politically and symbolically important to conduct political affairs on Sahrawi land.
The Polisario troops (of the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army in the area are divided into seven "military regions", each controlled by a top commander reporting to the President of the Polisario proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The total size of the Polisario's guerrilla army present in this area is unknown; some sources claim between 3,000–6,000 men, while others rise the number up to 12,000, with additional combatants stationed in Algeria, Mauritania or having been demobilized due to the cease-fire. These forces are dug into permanent positions, such as gun emplacements, defensive trenches and underground military bases, as well as conducting mobile patrols of the territory. A concen
Laayoune is the largest city of the occupied territory of Western Sahara. It is administered by Morocco; the modern city is thought to have been founded by the Spanish colonizer Antonio de Oro in 1938. In 1940, Spain designated it as the capital of the Spanish Sahara. Laâyoune is the capital of the Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra region administered by Morocco under the supervision of the UN peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara; the town is divided in two by the dry river of Saguia el Hamra. On the south side is the old lower town, constructed by Spanish colonists. A cathedral from that era is still active. Laâyoune or El Aaiún are the French and Spanish transliterations of the Maghrebi Arabic name Layoun which means "the water springs". Laayoune has a mild desert climate, moderated by the Canary Current with an average annual temperature of 20 °C. Laayoune is the largest city in Western Sahara, it is a growing economic hub. The city is a hub for phosphate mining in the region. In 2010 the country was negotiating a new fishing agreement with Europe over offshore fishing.
The football club of the city is Jeunesse Massira. The club plays in the highest football league in the country. Jeunesse Massira uses Stade Sheikh Mohamed Laghdaf for training and games. Laayoune is served by Hassan I Airport. There is Colegio Español La Paz, owned by the Spanish government, it occupies a 17,000-square-metre property. In 2015 the parents' association, Asociación de Madres, Padres y Tutores de Alumnos del Colegio Español La Paz, asked for the establishment of secondary education so their children would not have to go to Las Palmas or Morocco to continue their education. Algiers, Algeria Almería, Spain Avilés, Spain Caracas, Venezuela Málaga, Spain Montevideo, Uruguay Lorca, Spain Sorrento, Italy List of cities in Western Sahara Official TV channel Official radio channel