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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Saharawis in Morocco

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Date(s) Item
Feb 28, 1990 Guerrillas claimed that they have been launching daily small scale attacks upon Moroccan fortifications since November of 1989.
Apr 1990 The POLISARIO Front achieved a unilateral cease fire as a gesture of good faith in the UN peace plan.
May 15, 1990 The POLISARIO Front claimed that 39 prisoners died due to abuse in the Moroccan camps.
Oct 22, 1990 A spokesman for the POLISARIO Front warned that if the Moroccans decided not to hold the referendum or tried to interfere in the running of it, the POLISARIO would renew its armed struggle on all fronts. This threat was often repeated during the various pauses in hostilities between the two parties from this point onward.
Jun 13, 1991 King Hassan II granted a general amnesty to members of the POLISARIO Front.
Aug 4 - 5, 1991 Moroccan aircraft strafed the oasis of Tifariti. This results is renewed fighting throughout the month. This fighting resulted in the total destruction of Bir Lahlou and Tifariti (with a combined population of 2365). Many Saharawis fleeing from Moroccan troops died of thirst in the desert and many more were missing. Morocco called the action a mopping up operation.
Aug 20, 1991 King Hassan II called on the UN to delay the referendum, which was planned for January 1992, for four months due to the dispute over whether the Moroccan list of about 120,000 people it claims are refugees from the territory should be added to the UN's "consolidated list" of 72,000 people who were entitled to vote.
Sep 1 - Dec 31, 1991 The POLISARIO repeatedly accused Morocco of violating the cease fire by sending warplanes over the Western Sahara, illegally moving people across the borders, strengthening its defenses and intimidating inhabitants of the Western Sahara.
Sep 6, 1991 A cease fire came into effect despite accusations by both sides of renewed military activity in the preceding three days.
Dec 1991 It became clear that the referendum planned for January, 1992 would be postponed for at least nine months.
Jan 1 - May 31, 1992 The POLISARIO repeatedly accused Morocco of violating the cease fire by sending warplanes which occasionally opened fire over the Western Sahara, illegally moving people across the borders, strengthening its defenses, moving troops into the region and intimidating inhabitants of the Western Sahara.
Feb 1992 An agreement was reached between Algerian and Moroccan officials that Algeria would cease its military support for the POLISARIO Front.
Jun 21, 1992 The POLISARIO Front protested the inclusion of the Western Sahara in the upcoming Moroccan local and general elections.
Aug 11, 1992 Brahim Hakim, a leading member of the POLISARIO Front, defected to Morocco. This and other past and future defections was an indication that there was internal dissension within the organization.
Aug 25, 1992 The POLISARIO Front announced new senior leaders.
Oct 1992 The POLISARIO Front accused the Moroccans of killing 15 people demonstrating in southern Morocco and injuring even more. They were also accused of arresting and torturing hundreds of demonstrators.
Oct 27, 1992 POLISARIO Front defector Brahim Hakim accused the POLISARIO Front of detaining 10,000 Western Saharans.
Nov 11, 1992 The POLISARIO Front accused Morocco of arresting 120 demonstrators in Laayoune.
Mar 2, 1993 The UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 809 calling for a referendum on the self determination of the Western Sahara to be held by the end of the year.
Apr 1993 Amnesty International reported that more than 500 Saharawis have disappeared and are being held in Moroccan detention centers.
May 10, 1993 On the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the POLISARIO Front over 4000 POLISARIO troops marched with tanks and missiles through the desert in a show of strength.
Jun 11, 1993 The Association of Families of Saharan Prisoners and Displaced people accused Morocco of arresting dozens of Saharawis.
Jul 15 - 19, 1993 The first ever direct talks between the POLISARIO Front and the Moroccan government took place. Little was accomplished.
Oct 27, 1993 The second round of direct talks failed to take place due to the POLISARIO Front's objection to the inclusion of defectors among the Moroccan delegation.
Mar 24, 1994 Morocco planned to invest 340 million Dirhams ($40 million) to build 10,000 houses in the Western Sahara Capital.
Mar 29, 1994 THE UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 907 calling for further negotiations if the referendum could not be held by the end of 1994. The POLISARIO Front objected to this Resolution and threatened the resumption of hostilities if the referendum was not held.
Jul 8, 1994 King Hassan announced that he would grant a general amnesty to all political prisoners except "those who do not recognize that the (Western) Sahara is Moroccan."
Aug 28, 1994 A UN force called MINURSO began registering voters in the Western Sahara.
Jan 21, 1995 The POLISARIO Front halted work on registering voters in the Western Sahara. This was done as a protest against Morocco's alleged banning of an elderly tribal chief from traveling to refugee camps controlled by the POLISARIO Front to work with the UN identification commissioner. This was an extension of the ongoing dispute over who should be allowed to vote in the upcoming referendum. The POLISARIO Front felt that Morocco was stacking the deck by moving large numbers of Moroccans into the region. The POLISARIO Front resumed work on registration after a few days.
Mar 15, 1995 The POLISARIO Front threatened war against Morocco if the referendum did not take place as planned in October.
May 1995 Saharawis demonstrated demanding an early referendum. The POLISARIO Front claimed that Moroccan forces arrested more than 100 people. A Moroccan military court convicted 8 students who took part in the demonstration on charges of threatening state security and sentenced them to 15 to 20 years in jail.
Jun 23, 1995 The POLISARIO Front announced that it was withdrawing its observers and tribal chiefs from the UN-backed peace process because of what they called violations by Morocco. POLISARIO grievances included the settling of about 100,000 Moroccan nationals in the disputed territory as well as the conviction of 8 Sharawi protestors for threatening the state security. Since the process required observers from both sides as well as tribal chiefs, this effectively halted the registration process for the upcoming referendum on independence.
Jul 9, 1995 King Hassan reduced the sentences of the 8 Saharawi protestors convicted of threatening the state security to 1 year.
Jul 13, 1995 The POLISARIO Front announced that it had decided to resume the peace process. Voter registration resumed within about 2 weeks.
Aug 1995 The POLISARIO Front's ambassador to the Canary Islands defected to Morocco.
Aug 22, 1995 Reuters reported that the POLISARIO Front had threatened to take up arms again.
Aug 24, 1995 The POLISARIO Front said that the European Union was risking future access to Western Saharan waters by accepting Moroccan Sovereignty over those waters in current fish talks.
Aug 29, 1995 In a party congress in Algeria, The POLISARIO Front re-elected veteran leader Mohamed Abdelaziz as its head for 4 more years.
Sep 8, 1995 Morocco moved a professional soccer team from its national league to the Western Sahara.
Nov 17, 1995 POLISARIO has released 185 Moroccan prisoners of war. So far the Moroccan government has refused to take them back. (ABC CLIO)
Jan 20, 1996 The UN Mission (Minurso) was given an extension in Western Sahara so that it can continue its work organizing a referendum on self rule. Continued interference by the Moroccan government is being reported and this interference is blamed for the referendum being four years behind schedule. (ABC CLIO)
Mar 17, 1996 Former U.S. Secretary of State Howard Baker was appointed special envoy to Western Sahara by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. (ABC CLIO)
Sep 12, 1996 POLISARIO met with representatives of the Morocco government for the first time in three years. (ABC CLIO)
Oct 29, 1996 All trade continued to be controlled by Morocco and freedom of expression and movement continued to be restricted in Western Sahara (Inter Press Services)
Apr 29, 1997 Amnesty International noted that the release of prisoners of conscience going on in Morocco was not happening in Western Sahara. (Independent)
May 16, 1997 Morocco rejected a compromise of limited autonomy for Western Sahara. (ABC CLIO)
Jun 1997 Amnesty International claimed that Morocco had many prisoners of conscience as well as engaged in torture in the Western Sahara. (Africa News, 6/10/97) Morocco was also accused of intimidating potential voters in Western Sahara. (Economist, 6/27/97)
Jun 12, 1997 Baker announced referendum talks to be convened in Lisbon on June 23. (ABC CLIO)
Jul 20, 1997 Baker said that an agreement had been reached concerning the issue of the identification process of eligible voters for a proposed UN supervised referendum on self rule in the Western Sahara. (ABC CLIO)
Jul 23, 1997 A Saharawi man who had been repeatedly arrested was reported to have disappeared. HAMMADA a new association in solidarity with the Saharawi was created in Italy. (Africa News)
Mar 1998 The UN special envoy restarted referendum talks based on the UN plans of the previous September. The referendum has not been held yet due to Moroccan stalling according to the news report. (IBCICR guide)
Apr 15, 1998 POLISARIO renewed calls for talks with Morocco in the hope that James Baker will be able to break the 21-year deadlock. (Inter Press Service)
May 4, 1998 UNHRC visited Morocco and called for respect of human rights in Western Sahara. (Africa News)
Jul 27, 1998 Moroccan Prime Minister called on all Saharawi citizens to get identified for the referendum. (BBC)
Sep 16, 1998 POLISARIO and Morocco agreed to rules for the upcoming referendum. (ABC CLIO)
Sep 26, 1998 POLISARIO and Morocco agreed to accept the outcome of the referendum regardless of the results.
Sep 27, 1998 An international conference in solidarity with Saharawi women was held in Europe with the Union of Saharawi Women. (Africa News)
Oct 3, 1998 US Senate Hearings on the issue of the Saharawi was held and the POLISARIO reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process. (Africa News)
Oct 17, 1998 A protest for employment by 100 Saharawi was met by violence from police. (Africa News)
Dec 7, 1998 Kofi Annan visited Smara in the Sahara and visited with the Saharawi refugees there. (The Herald)
Jan 10, 1999 The United Nations postponed the referendum on Western Sahara from December 1998 to December 1999. The delay was a result of the disagreements between the POLISARIO and Morocco over how the poll will be organized. The Moroccan Prime Minister announced that with or without a poll, Morocco had no intention of leaving the area. Morocco continued the policy of delaying the poll by dragging out the process of identifying who is and who is not a Saharawi. (Manchester Weekly Guardian)
May 13, 1999 UN announced an agreement between Morocco and the POLISARIO on a July 2000 referendum on the independence of Western Sahara. The identification process was scheduled to resume on 15 June and the appeals process would follow in July. (Africa News)
Jun 2001 U.S. Secretary of State James Baker proposes an alternative autonomy plan for Western Sahara known as the "third option." Polisario shows a potential willingness to accept, but Morocco does not. (BBC News. 2007. “Regions and Territories: Western Sahara.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/3466917.stm. Accessed 6/20/2007)
2003 The United Nations proposes that Western Sahara should become a semi-autonomous region for up to five years, after which a referendum on independence would occur. (Reuters Foundation – Alertnet. 2006. “Crisis Profile: Western Sahara.” http://www.alertnet.org/thefacts/reliefresources/114044949191.htm. Accessed 6/20/2007.)
2004 South Africa recognizes SADR as an independent state. (BBC Monitoring International Reports, 4/7/2005, “South African Foreign Minister Visits Western Sahara – Algerian Report.”)
Jun 12, 2004 Baker resigns from the position of Western Sahara special envoy (BBC News. 2007. “Regions and Territories: Western Sahara.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/3466917.stm. Accessed 6/20/2007; Afrol News. 2004. "Baker Resigns from Western Sahara Role." http://www.afrol.com/articles/13336. Accessed 6/28/2007.)
2005 Uruguay recognizes SADR as an independent state and establishes diplomatic relations. Morocco snubs Uruguay on a South American continent tour in 2006.(Agence France Presse, 12/28/2005, “Uruguayan Recognition of Western Sahara Angers Morocco;" United Press International, 1/19/2006, “Moroccan FM to Tour Latin American Countries.”)
May 1 - Jun 30, 2005 After a pro-Polisario/independence protest, clashes break out in May between Polisario and Moroccan police. Upwards of 33 people are arrested on "acts of vandalism." As a result of the arrests, more clashes break out between police and Polisario supporters, leaving 50 people injured and dozens arrested. 12 of the protesters received 8 year prison sentences; two received 1 year sentences and two received 5 month sentences. (The Independent (London), 5/31/2005, “The 5-Minute Briefing: Trouble in Western Sahara.")
Jun 2005 Throughout June, various groups of Spanish politicians, human rights activists and journalists attempt to visit Western Sahara. Each time, they are blocked from exiting the plane by Moroccan officials. (Agence France Presse, 7/13/2005, “Spaniards Again Refused Entry to Western Sahara.”)
Jun 25, 2005 - Oct 20, 2006 Kenya acknowledges SADR as an independent state and established diplomatic relations in 2005; by 2006, Kenya temporarily suspends its diplomatic relations to instead acts as a mediator. (United Press International, 6/25/2005, “Kenya Recognizes Independent Sahara"; Agence France Presse, 10/20/2006, “Kenya Suspends Ties with Western Sahara to Take up Mediation Role.”)
Jul 26, 2005 Kofi Annan names Peter van Walsum as the new special envoy to Western Sahara. (Agence France Presse, 7/26/2005, “UN Chief Appoints Dutch Diplomat as Personal Envoy to Western Sahara.”)
Aug 2005 Polisario Front releases all of its roughly 410 political prisoners after more than a decade of detainment and calls on Morocco to release its political prisoners. US Senator Richard Lugar visits with Polisario to aid with the prisoner release. (Agence France Presse, 8/17/2005, “Key US Senator to oversee W. Sahara Rebels’ Release of Moroccan Prisoners.")
Oct 31 - 31, 2005 A Polisario Front prisoner is tortured to death in a Moroccan prison. (United Press International, 10/31/2005, “Polisario Activist Tortured to Death.”)
Nov 3 - 3, 2005 Polisario claims it will no longer use landmines and signs Geneva Agreement; calls on Moroccan government to sign the international ban on weapons. Since 2001, 525 Western Saharans have been wounded and 30 killed by Polisario’s estimated 6,000 landmines, compared to the government’s estimated 7 million. (Agence France Presse, 11/3/2005, “WSahara’s Polisario Pledges Landmine Ban, Appeals to Morocco.")
2006 Polisario begins to destroy the landmines. (Agence France Presse, 3/3/2006, “Polisario Destroys Mines in W Sahara as ‘Peace Move.”)
Mar 18 - 18, 2006 Polisario signs agreement with Premier Oil, Ophir Energy, Europa Oil & Gas, Maghreb Exploration Limited, Osceoloa Hydrocarbon Limited, Nighthawk Energy Limited, Encore Oil Pic and Comet Petroleum Ltd, to explore the extensive reserves in Western Sahara.(BBC Monitoring International Reports, 3/18/2006, “UK Companies Sign Eight Oil, Gas Deals with Polisario Front – Algerian Paper.”)
Apr 12 - 12, 2006 SADR launches "Polisario TV" to counterbalance Moroccan media outlets. Polisario previously had a news agency and a radio station. (BBC Monitoring International Reports, 4/12/2006, “Western Saharan Government Launches TV Channel to Confront Moroccan TV.”)
May 30 - 30, 2006 Moroccan police set a Saharawi detainee on fire during his interrogation for raising the Polisario Front flag. (BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 5/30/2006, “Moroccan Police Set Sahrawi Detainee on Fire – Algerian Radio.”)

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Information current as of July 16, 2010