Western Sahara. Forty people were reportedly injured, ten of them seriously, when military forces forcibly dispelled a demonstration in the capital El-Aaiún in January. In February, the official news agency of the Western Saharan Republic reported that residents of parts of Western Sahara and the refugee camps in Algeria had voted in an election to the Republic’s parliament. All candidates belonged to the independence movement Polisario.
On April 29, 1991, the UN Security Council adopted a peace plan, which was based on a ceasefire, which was to take effect on September 6, as well as the formation of a mission to organize a referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The referendum itself was to take place in January 1992.
In the following months, the government of Rabat continued to send thousands of Moroccan nationals to Western Sahara to give them the right to vote; the ceasefire was violated on several occasions and obstacles were put in the way of the work of the international press. The Moroccan government also banned the entry of international observers, and the repression of the people of Western Sahara was stepped up, as well as intense propaganda, which called for the referendum to be a confirmation of Western Sahara’s affiliation with Morocco.
- AbbreviationFinder.org: Provides most commonly used acronyms and abbreviations for Western Sahara. Also includes location map, major cities, and country overview.
Hassan II also unexpectedly changed his foreign policy and decided to resume diplomatic relations with Algeria, which had been interrupted since March 1976. This gave rise to suspicions that Algeria would be on the verge of weakening POLISARIO’s support. well off until then. However, the result of the resumed relations was rather a strengthening of the peace process, because Algeria continually supported the direct dialogue between Morocco and POLISARIO.
MINURSO was tasked with drawing up the referendum that should form the basis of the referendum; it should be based on the census of 1974. This meant that an unknown number of people from Western Sahara could not vote; but in turn, Moroccans who immigrated after 1976 would also be excluded from the vote. The people of Western Sahara who were entitled to vote and who were in refugee camps in Algeria would be transferred from the camps to the villages from which they came.
In December 1991, the United Nations Special Envoy in Western Sahara, Johannes Manz, resigned, reflecting how many difficulties the decolonization plan was facing.
In January 1992, when the referendum was supposed to have taken place, MINURSO was still far from identifying the voters and the repatriation plan for refugees from Western Sahara could not be implemented. At the same time, there were still 60,000 Moroccan soldiers in Western Sahara. One of the members of POLISARIO’s leadership, Brahim Hakim, ended his exile in Algeria in 1992 and returned to Morocco. He stated that the armed struggle had proved futile and called for it to be abandoned. In recent years, an increasing number of dissidents have distanced themselves from POLISARIO as military setbacks occur.
Algeria, which had always supported POLISARIO’s struggle, also changed its policy, withdrawing its support and urging POLISARIO to resolve the conflict through UN negotiations.
POLISARIO accused Morocco of violating the UN-negotiated ceasefire. The capital of El Aaiún and Smara were both practically surrounded by the Moroccan army.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali told the Security Council in August 1992 that negotiations on the referendum had produced very few results until then.
On September 4, 1992, the third time Western Sahara residents had the opportunity to take part in a Moroccan vote when they participated in the vote on a constitutional amendment proposed by King Hassan (see Morocco). The event was interpreted by diplomatic sources as an attempt by the Moroccan authorities to incorporate the disputed area before the referendum to determine its future status.
Morocco continued to complicate the implementation of the referendum. According to many observers, it was in the firm belief that time worked for Morocco’s interests. After several postponements of the referendum in the following years, POLISARIO threatened to resume the war. POLISARIO President Mohamed Abdelaziz said in May 1996 that with that momentum, voter registration would not be complete until 2005.
According to countryaah, the population of Western Sahara in 2012 was 526,105, ranking number 171 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.840% yearly, and the population density was 1.9783 people per km2.