Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Travel Guide Africa Western Sahara Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic



The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a partially recognized state that controls a thin strip of landlocked area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara. The SADR government controls about 20–25% of the territory it claims. It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or the Free Zone. Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces. The SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory to be occupied territory, while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR-held territory to be a buffer zone.




Following the Spanish evacuation of Spanish Sahara, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords on November 14, 1975, leading to both Morocco and Mauritania moving in to annex the territory of Western Sahara. On 26 February 1976, Spain informed the United Nations that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities, leaving no Administering Power. Neither Morocco nor Mauritania gained international recognition, and war ensued with the independence-seeking Polisario Front. The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the people of Western Sahara have a right to "self-determination and independence."

The creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was proclaimed on February 27, 1976, as the Polisario declared the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political void left by the departing Spanish colonizers. While the claimed capital is the former Western Sahara capital El-Aaiún, in Moroccan-controlled territory, the proclamation was made in the government-in-exile's provisional capital, Bir Lehlou, which remained in Polisario-held territory under the 1991 cease-fire. On February 27, 2008, the provisional capital was formally moved to Tifariti. Day-to-day business, however, is conducted in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.




Bir Lehlou

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic administers Bir Lehlou as the temporary capital of the SADR, as long as the Sahrawi capital of El Aaiún is under Moroccan control. For example, it had been the scenario of reunions of SADR's National Secretariat. This is also from where the republic's existence was proclaimed over radio on the night of February 27, 1976, by its first president, El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed. Some sources list also Bir Lehlou as El-Ouali's birthplace.

Day-to-day business, however, is conducted in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.


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