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flag A brief history of the Western Sahara conflict
1884 Spain colonises the territory later to be known as the Western Sahara (named by the UN in 1975) between Tarfaya and Villa Cisneros (or Dhakla) according to the Berlin conference which divided up Africa between the colonial powers. Spanish colonisation was limited to these two coastal areas.
1906 War between the Saharawi population and Spanish colonial power begins.
1934 The Saharawi resistance is defeated by France after twenty eight years of continuous war.
1956 Morocco starts claiming territory.
1960 The Saharawi population becomes progressively sedentary and begins exploiting the rich phosphate deposits. At the same time the first political Saharawi movement is formed which claims independence from Spain.
1970 June 17: the new political movement is banned. The repression gives a strong motivating force towards Saharawi nationalism.
1973 POLISARIO (the Saharawi liberation movement) is formed to speed up the slow process of decolonisation by waging a guerrilla war against the Spanish.
King Hassam II of Morocco starts officially claiming the territory to the North and Mauritania continues claiming territory to the south.
1974 A census of the Western Saharan population is undertaken (to see who is eligible to vote) in preparation for a referendum to be organised by the United Nations. December: The UN General Assembly who also asks the International Court of Justice to look into the dispute.
1975 The UN officially names the territory in dispute as the Western Sahara.
October 16: The International Court of Justice announced that neither Morocco or Mauritania should have sovereignty over the Western Sahara. The Saharawi population expressed the desire for independence and that POLISARIO should be the main political party.
October 16: Morocco started a "Green March" of 350,000 people as a means of advancing their army into the Western Sahara.
October 31: Moroccan forces enter the north west of the territory.
1976 November 6: The Green March crosses the border.
Mauritania, Morocco and Spain meet secretly in Madrid and on the 14 November sign the Madrid Accords which divide the territory into two; the nothern two thirds to Morocco and the southern one third to Mauritania. Spain and Morocco agree on exclusive rights to exploit the phosphate deposits.
February 26: The Spanish colonial mandate finally comes to an end.
February 27: POLISARIO forms the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and forms a government in exile.
1979 Mauritania abandons its territorial claims in the south and recognises the rights of the Saharawi people by signing a peace agreement.
1989 Ceasefire between POLISARIO and Morocco.
1990 A settlement plan, to be administrated by the UN peace-keeping force MINURSO, is set up by the UN. MINURSO is mandated to organise a poll asking the population of the Western Sahara whether they would prefer to be intergrated into Morocco officially or to be independent. MINURSO must compile a list of eligible voters who can vote in the referendum.

One month before the beginning of the settlement plan implementation, Morocco begins a series of violations against the ceasefire with POLISARIO that began in 1989.
Morocco also denies MINURSO free movement through occupied Western Sahara and submits an application on behalf of 120,000 of its citizens to take part in the poll (thus trying to rig the outcome). Morocco also moves thousands of new settlers into the region.

To this day a deadlock remains on who is eligible to vote.