History of the region

Included in the history of the Moroccan  Sahara is the time when Islam arrived in the region in the 8th century, the region however remained in its original state for some time after with little development. It was seen for Centuries as one of the main links between the Sub- Sahara and North Africa regions. In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc, extending this area at a later stage. In 1958 Spain combined these areas to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

In 1975 Morocco addressed the International Court of Justice over the ownership of this region, who concluded and declared that  although there were tribes within this area that had historical ties to Morocco, these ties were insufficient to establish “territorial sovereignty” between the Moroccan Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. In response to this decision the people of Morocco rose up and in November of that year 300,000 unarmed Moroccans began to march south into the Moroccan Sahara followed by the armed Moroccan army in what has been named “the green march”. They arrived in the town of Tarfaya which is situated just 30km from the mapped border of Morocco and the Moroccan Sahara and here they waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result of international pressure from France, the USA and the United Kingdom (Great Britain), Spain retreated from Western Sahara on Nov. 14, 1975, going so far as to even exhume Spanish corpses from cemeteries. Morocco immediately occupied the northern two-thirds of Moroccan Sahara in 1976, and then the southern region of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania’s withdrawal.

In 1976 the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was set up by the Polisario Front they, formally proclaimed the formation of a government whilst in exile, initiating a guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco. This continued until 1991 when a cease-fire was negotiated with Morocco promising a referendum to be held among the indigenous people of the area offering them the option to vote for independence or inclusion to Morocco. To this date no such referendum has been held because of questions over who is eligible to vote.