Western Sahara Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the extreme northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over 500,000,the largest city in Western Sahara.

Early history


The original and earliest inhabitants of the Western Sahara are the Berber people. This is evident from toponymy like place names and regions' names, and also from tribes' names.

Other early inhabitants of the Western Sahara may be the Bafour[16] and later the Serer and some Arabian tribes. The Bafour were later replaced or absorbed by Berber-speaking populations which eventually merged in turn with migrating Beni Hassan Arabian tribe.

The arrival of Islam in the 8th century played a major role in the development of the Maghreb region. Trade developed further, and the territory may have been one of the routes for caravans, especially between Marrakesh and Tombouctou in Mali.

Politics

The legal status of the territory and the question of sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested between Morocco and the Polisario Front. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations.

The government of Morocco is a formally constitutional monarchy under Mohammed VI with a bicameral parliament. The last elections to the lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers[citation needed]. 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 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.

Human rights

A sangar (fortification) from the Western Sahara conflict. The fortification is built of rocks on top of a mesa overlooking the Grart Chwchia, Al Gada, Western Sahara. The Sangar is facing north and was probably built by the Sahrauis in the 1980s.
Sahrawi Human Rights defender Ali Salem Tamek in Ait Melloul Prison (Morocco) [35]

The Western Sahara conflict has resulted in severe human rights abuses, constantly reported by external reporters and HR activists,[36] most notably the displacement of tens of thousands of Sahrawi civilians from the country, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Moroccan civilians by the Algerian government from Algeria,[37] and numerous casualties of war and repression.

Geography

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.

Economy


Aside from its rich fishing waters, Western Sahara has few natural resources and lacks sufficient rainfall and fresh water resources for most agricultural activities. The territory has some phosphate deposits but their small quantities prevent further exploitation from being economically viable.[77][clarification needed] 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, which employs two thirds of its work force.[77] Some phosphate mining and to a 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 defacto southern province) The government has encouraged citizens to relocate to the territory by giving subsidies and price controls on basic goods. These heavy subsidies have created a state-dominated economy in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara.



Exploitation of natural resources


After reasonably exploitable oil fields were located in Mauritania, speculation intensified on the possibility of major oil resources being located off the coast of Western Sahara. Despite the fact that findings remain inconclusive, both Morocco and the Polisario have signed deals with oil and gas exploration companies. US and French companies (notably Total and Kerr-McGee) began prospecting on behalf of the Moroccan Office National de Recherches et d’Exploitations Petrolières (ONAREP).

Demographics

Morocco built several empty towns in Western Sahara, ready for Refugees coming back from Tindouf.
              The indigenous population of Western Sahara is known as Sahrawis. These are Hassaniya-speaking tribes of mixed Arab–Berber heritage, effectively continuations of the tribal groupings of Hassaniya speaking Moorish tribes extending south into Mauritania and north into Morocco as well as east into Algeria. The Sahrawis are traditionally nomadic bedouins, and can be found in all surrounding countries. War and conflict has led to major population displacement.

Culture

The major ethnic group of the Western Sahara are the Sahrawis, a nomadic or Bedouin tribal or ethnic group speaking the Hassānīya dialect of Arabic, also spoken in much of Mauritania. They are of mixed Arab-Berber descent, but claim descent from the Beni Hassan, a Yemeni tribe supposed to have migrated across the desert in the 11th century.

Physically indistinguishable from the Hassaniya speaking Moors of Mauritania, the Sahrawi people differ from their neighbours partly because of different tribal affiliations (as tribal confederations cut across present modern boundaries) and partly as a consequence of their exposure to Spanish colonial domination. Surrounding territories were generally under French colonial rule.

Western Sahara Tourist Attractions

  • Bir Gandus
  • Dakhla
  • Cape Bojador
  • Smara
  • Bou Craa
  • Lagouira
  • Ausert
  • Guelta Zemmur