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Western Sahara has an area of 266,000 square kilometers (103,000 square miles) along Africa's Atlantic coast. The population of Western Sahara is estimated at about 513,0000, most of which lives in the capital. The population is made up primarily of the indigenous Sahrawis, an Arab-Berber nomadic tribe, Moroccans, and Spaniards.
Historically, the region of Western Sahara was inhabited by the Bafour and Serer peoples, and later the Berbers and Beni Hassan Arabian tribes migrated into the region. Spanish established a colony in the Western Sahara in 1884, and became controlled by Spanish Morocco in 1939. The territory began to move toward independence from Spain, leading to promises of an independence referendum around 1974. Both Morocco and Mauritania, neighboring states to Western Sahara, each claimed control of Western Sahara as well, though Algeria refuted. Moroccan troops invaded Western Sahara in 1975, taking control of the northern two-thirds of the territory, and Mauritania controlling the southern portion. In 1979, Morocco extended its territory, taking control of Mauritania's holdings as well. The Polisario Front consists of the native Sahrawi, who are fighting for control of the territory and independence from Morocco.
Plans for the referendum on independence were renewed, but have been stalled for years due to disputes over who should be allowed to vote. Morocco has stated that it would allow Western Sahara to be an autonomous community of Morocco, but would not grant independence. Western Sahara's legal status remains unresolved.
Last Updated On : March 18, 2013