We go back to 1884, specifically to the famous Berlin conference, when the most powerful countries shared out Africa. We are going to focus on Spain, which colonised Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea. On 10 January 1958 Spain decided to provincialize the Sahara, making it the 53rd Spanish province. After many years of colonisation and exploitation of the natural resources of these countries, the United Nations advised the decolonisation of Africa. Far from fulfilling its responsibilities and carrying out a proper decolonisation, Spain decided to sign the tripartite Madrid accords on 14 November 1975, in which it shared out Western Sahara with Mauritania and Morocco.
That same year Spain abandoned Western Sahara, giving way to a Moroccan kingdom willing to occupy it and exploit its natural resources, as Western Sahara is the territory with the largest phosphate mine and the largest fishing grounds in the world. The Moroccan kingdom began the so-called “green march” in which a veritable genocide was carried out against the Saharawi, forcing them to flee their land and take refuge in the neighbouring country, Algeria. The Polisario Front, the only representative of the Saharawi, and the Moroccan army merged in a war that would last 16 years. Morocco allied with Mauritania, and after Spain abandoned it, wanted to share the Sahara with Mauritania; but the latter refused, accepting that the Sahara is a country and should not be illegally occupied. Morocco, who ignored this, occupied two-thirds of Western Sahara during the war, with the support of the USA and France; as opposed to the third over which the Polisario Front had control. By occupying Western Sahara, Morocco built the biggest defensive structure after the Chinese wall, the so-called “wall of shame”, which measures 2,700 km and is surrounded by millions of anti-personnel mines that have taken the lives of thousands of the Saharawi during these years of refuge and exile, and which has separated Saharawi families since 1980, on one side of the wall the Saharawi in the occupied territories, on the other side the Saharawi in the liberated territories, which are nothing but hectares and hectares of desert.
This is of course completely illegal as the Saharawis themselves are the only ones who have the power to decide on their land and their future and that is why on 14 December 1991, the UN approved the resolution 1514 giving the right to self-determination to the Saharawi people. In the same year, the signing of the ceasefire was carried out by both sides in the conflict and the waiting for the self-determination referendum began. Since that year until today, the Saharawis are still waiting for this referendum to take place.
Since the beginning of the occupation in 1975 until today, the Saharawis who remained under the occupation of the Moroccan regime are experiencing serious violations of their human rights on a daily basis; they are being tortured and imprisoned simply for peacefully demonstrating for the holding of the referendum and fighting for the freedom of their land.
On the other side of the wall, in the refugee camps of Tindouf, are the Saharawis who have survived the war, exile and the undignified living conditions they have endured for 45 years. These refugees live on humanitarian aid, they live in camps that while the soldiers were at war to liberate their land, the women stayed in that inhospitable desert and built a camp out of nothing. With a shortage of water and under extremely high temperatures in summer and low in winter.
Since last October, a group of Saharawi activists have been demonstrating peacefully in the illegal gap of the Guerguerat. This area is a demilitarised zone and, despite not being occupied by Morocco, the Moroccan country used it as a trading route. The Saharawis, fed up with the situation, demonstrated to close this gap. While the demonstrators were there, the Moroccan army burst in on 13 November 2020, attacking civilians and burning their camp. By intervening violently and opening fire on Saharawi civilians, they were violating the ceasefire signed in 1991, to which the Polisario Front responded in the same way and to this day, the Saharawi people are at war.