History, Saharan War and Recent Developments
Spanish Sahara, Organization of African Unity, voter eligibility, King Hassan, eligible voters
During 1974 and 1975 Morocco exerted much pressure on Spain to relinquish Spanish Sahara. When the Spanish left in 1976, they ceded the northern two-thirds of the colony to Morocco, while Mauritania received the southern third. This disposal of the phosphate-rich territory was disputed by the Polisario Front, a Saharan nationalist guerrilla movement, which proclaimed Western Sahara an independent nation, called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Although burdened by the ensuing guerrilla warfare, Morocco resolved to continue the fight alone after Mauritania decided to withdraw from the conflict in 1979. Faced with mounting international opposition, King Hassan nevertheless committed additional troops and resources to the effort to protect the phosphate mines and major towns from Polisario harassment. In 1984 Morocco quit the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to protest its seating of a Polisario delegation. Efforts by the United Nations (UN) to mediate the dispute continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s. A cease-fire was implemented in Western Sahara in 1991, and a UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination was postponed repeatedly due to disagreements over voter eligibility. In the early and mid-1990s Morocco was criticized by the Polisario Front for encouraging Moroccans to migrate to Western Sahara in hopes of having them counted as eligible voters.
Hassan II died in July 1999 and was succeeded by his son Mohammed VI. The new king pledged to continue his fatherís policies.
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