Western Sahara War

The Western Sahara War (Arabic: حرب الصحراء الغربية, French: Guerre du Sahara occidental, Spanish: Guerra del Sahara Occidental) was an armed struggle between the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front and Morocco from 1975 to 1991 (and Mauritania from 1975 to 1979), being the most significant phase of the Western Sahara conflict. The conflict erupted after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accords (signed under the pressure of the Green March), by which it transferred administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, but not sovereignty. In late 1975, the Moroccan government organized the Green March of some 350,000 Moroccan citizens, escorted by around 20,000 troops, who entered Western Sahara, trying to establish a Moroccan presence.[22] While at first met with just minor resistance by the Polisario Front, Morocco later engaged a long period of guerrilla warfare with the Sahrawi nationalists. During the late 1970s, the Polisario Front, desiring to establish an independent state in the territory, attempted to fight both Mauritania and Morocco. In 1979, Mauritania withdrew from the conflict after signing a peace treaty with the Polisario Front. The war continued in low intensity throughout the 1980s, though Morocco made several attempts to take the upper hand in 1989–1991. A cease-fire agreement was finally reached between the Polisario Front and Morocco in September 1991. Some sources put the final death toll between 10,000 and 20,000 people.[23]

Western Sahara War
Part of the Western Sahara conflict

Map of the Western Sahara; the red line is the military berm built by Morocco
Date30 October 1975 – 6 September 1991
(15 years, 10 months and 1 week)
  • Spanish withdrawal under the Madrid Accords (1976)
  • Mauritanian retreat and withdrawal of territorial claims and peace agreement with the Polisario Front (1979)
  • Military Stalemate[1][2][3]
  • Ceasefire agreed on between the Polisario Front and Morocco (1991)
Morocco controls 75% of the territory, the Polisario Front controls 25%
 Mauritania (1975–1979)
 France (1977–78, Operation Lamantin, aid from 1978)
Supported by:
 Saudi Arabia
 United States
 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
 Algeria (1976, Amgala Battle,[4] aid from 1976)
Supported by:
 Libya (until 1984)
Commanders and leaders
Hassan II
(Supreme Commander and Chief-of-Staff)
Ahmed Dlimi
Abdelaziz Bennani
Mohamed Abrouk
Housni Benslimane
Hammou Arzaz
Mokhtar Ould Daddah
Mustafa Ould Salek
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Mohamed Ould Bah Ould Abdelkader
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
(President and Commander-in-Chief)
Michel Claude Forget
Mohamed Abdelaziz
El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed 
Brahim Ghali
Lahbib Ayoub
Mohamed Lamine Uld Bujari
Mohamed Ali El Admi
Houari Boumediene
Lounes Arib
30,000 (1976)[5]
60,000 (1980)[6]
150,000 (1988)[7]
120,000 (1991)[8]
3,000[9]–5,000[5] (1976)
12,000 (1977)[9]
18,000 (1978)[10]
5,000 (1976)[11]
15,000 (1980)[6]
8,000 (1988)[7]
Casualties and losses
Unknown; 2,155[12]–2,300 captured[13]
2,000 soldiers killed[14]

Civilian Casualties:

More than 3,000 Sahrawis killed (Eckhardt,1985)[15]

3 West German pilots killed[16]

853+ (Project Disappeared)[17] – 1,500 (International Federation of Human Rights)[18] Sahrawis missing

40,000 (1976)[19] – 80,000 (1977)[20] Sahrawis displaced

Estimated death toll: 10,000–20,000[21]

The conflict has since shifted from military to civilian resistance. A peace process, attempting to resolve the conflict has not yet produced any permanent solution to Sahrawi refugees and territorial agreement between Morocco and the Sahrawi Republic. Today most of the territory of Western Sahara is under Moroccan occupation, while the inland parts are governed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, managed by the Polisario Front.

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