History of Morocco: Control of the Sahara

History of Morocco: Control of the Sahara Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

In the 1970s, rumours of corruption in high places within the Moroccan government were becoming impossible to ignore, and King Hassan made a bid to rally support for the monarchy by putting pressure on Spain to relinquish its interests in the Sahara.

In 1974 Morocco embarked on a campaign aimed at forcing Spain to withdraw from the Western region of the Sahara (now known as the Moroccan Sahara), an area rich in phosphates. The International Court of Justice, meeting in the Hague in 1975, rejected Morocco's claim for full sovereignty over the region. Morocco ignored this decision and resolved to continue the fight alone, organising a massive demonstration known as the Green March. Spain entered into secret negotiations and a deal was struck, whereby the region was divided into three, and administered by Morocco, Spain and Mauritania.

The Polisaro front, a Saharan nationalist movement, hotly disputed Morocco's right to the territory and guerrilla fighting ensued. In 1978, the Polisaro Front succeeded in forcing Mauritania to relinquish its Saharan interests, but was unable to do the same with Morocco.

The United Nations continued to mediate in this dispute throughout the eighties, and by 1990 a referendum proposed self-determination by both sides. Although this was formally accepted by those concerned, Morocco continues to assert its claim for full control over the Moroccan Sahara.

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