Area: 272 190 sq km
Population: 542 100 inhab. (estimate 2018)
Density: 1.99 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 27° - 21° N; long. 17° - 9° W
Capital: Laayoune=El Aaiún (chief town) 232 388 inhab. (2018);
President: Brahim Ghali (Polisario), since 12 July 2016
Prime Minister: Abdelkader Taleb Omar (Polisario), since 29 October 2003
Member of AU
Aș-Șaḥrā’ al-GharbīyahUseful informationGMT
+1DST duration (start-end)
late March-late OctoberPolitics and current affairs
Western Sahara comprises the territories of the former Spanish Sahara, which were annexed by Morocco in 1976. They include the provinces of Boujdour, Laayoune=El Aaiún and Es-Semara, and those annexed in 1979 (formerly Río de Oro, once administered by Mauritania under the name of Western Tiris), now forming the province of Oued ed Dahab (capital Dakhla). Moroccan sovereignty has not been recognised by the international community and it has been disputed by means of armed uprisings by the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Río de Oro).
On 27 February 1976, with the support of Algeria, it proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (admitted to the OAU, now the African Union, in 1982). The Polisario camps are located in the region of Tindouf, in the south of Algeria. After years of armed conflict and about ten years of negotiations, on 16 September 1997, representatives of Morocco and the Polisario signed a preliminary agreement for the self-government of the region, though nothing came of it due to Morocco’s clear opposition to having a popular referendum (in 2000, the UN recorded just over 84 000 eligible voters). The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been deployed in the region since 1991.