History, Language & Culture Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated area of mostly desert situated on the northwest coast of Africa. A former Spanish colony, it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front. A 16-year-long insurgency ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991 and the promise of a referendum on independence which has yet to take place. A buffer strip, or "berm" with landmines and fortifications, stretches the length of the disputed territory and separates the Moroccan-administered western portion from the eastern area controlled by the Polisario Front. The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by the Polisario Front in 1976, is now recognized by many governments and is a full member of the African Union.