Frequently asked question on Western Sahara and fact proven answers
1- Is Western Sahara really the last colony in Africa?
Answer: “In 1963, Western Sahara was included on the list of non-self-governing territories under Article 73 of the UN Charter and Spain was the administering power. The UN General Assembly had demanded that Spain should undertake immediate steps to guarantee the exercise of self-determination by the people of Western Sahara. This underscored the right to a referendum on self-determination under UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) adopted in 1960, The General Assembly has always maintained that the people of Western Sahara are entitled to the right to self-determination.”
“The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion on the status of Western Sahara on 16 October 1975 at the request of the UN General Assembly. In the opinion, the ICJ dismissed the sovereignty claims by Morocco and Mauritania. After the ICJ delivered its opinion, Spain entered into a secret agreement with Morocco and Mauritania (Madrid Accords) which purported to authorize Spain’s withdrawal from the Territory of Western Sahara and permit the occupation by Morocco and Mauritania.”
2- What is the legal Status of Morocco in Western Sahara then?
Answer: “It should be noted that the UN General Assembly characterized Morocco as the occupying Power in Western Sahara in 1979 and 1980. However, Morocco denies the applicability of such law as it considers Western Sahara under its own sovereignty even though this claim had been dismissed by the ICJ.”
“Despite the fact that it occupies a large part of the Territory of Western Sahara, Morocco has never acquired the status of an administering Power of the territory in terms of Article 73 of the UN Charter. The UN list of non-self-governing territories confirms that after the withdrawal and abandonment of responsibilities by Spain on 26 February 1976, Western Sahara has not had any other administering power. Morocco has also never complied or purported to comply with the requirements of Article 73 of the UN Charter, in particular the transmission of statistical and other information.”
“With regard to Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over the Territory of Western Sahara. It should be recalled that on 16 October 1975, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an Advisory Opinion denying the claims of Morocco and Mauritania and affirming the right of the Saharawis to self-determination under international law (….) The ICJ found that both Morocco and Mauritania never displayed any effective and exclusive activity in Western Sahara. Both countries therefore failed to establish any tie to territorial sovereignty over the Territory of Western Sahara. The Court concluded that it had “not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the people of the Territory.” Accordingly, the UN Security Council called upon Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara when it occupied the Territory on 31st October 1975.”
“It should be also noted that the issue of Western Sahara is still dealt with by the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly, which addresses issues relating to decolonization.”
3- What is the Status of the legal Saharawi Republic (SADR)
Answer: “The SADR became a Member State of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1982. It should be recalled that membership to the OAU was open to any independent sovereign African state. The admission of SADR to the membership of OAU in 1982 signified that more than half of Member States of the OAU recognized Western Sahara as an independent sovereign African State. It should also be recalled that one of the purposes of the OAU was to eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa. Accordingly, the SADR is one of the founders and a member of the African Union, the successor organization to OAU.”
“Notwithstanding the membership of SADR to both OAU and AU, there is recognition that the people of Western Sahara are not fully liberated. The SADR controls only a part of Western Sahara. To this end, both the OAU and AU have undertaken efforts to conduct a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. “
4. What is the legal Status of POLISARIO Front in Western Sahara?
Answer: “The Polisario Front is a liberation movement fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.”
Polisario Front is recognized by the African Union and the United Nation and the international community as the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people in relation to the ongoing negotiations and peace processes for the resolution of this last case of decolonization in Africa.
You can access the AU Legal Counselor opinion here: