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Western Sahara
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Western Sahara

Western Sahara Weekly


Western Sahara

Background:  Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of
Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the
territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war
with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991
cease-fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed.

Geography Western Sahara

Location:  Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between
Mauritania and Morocco

Geographic coordinates:  24 30 N, 13 00 W

Map references:  Africa

Area:  total: 266,000 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 266,000 sq km

Area - comparative:  about the size of Colorado

Land boundaries:  total: 2,046 km border countries: Algeria 42 km,
Mauritania 1,561 km, Morocco 443 km

Coastline:  1,110 km

Maritime claims:  contingent upon resolution of sovereignty issue

Climate:  hot, dry desert; rain is rare; cold offshore air currents
produce fog and heavy dew

Terrain:  mostly low, flat desert with large areas of rocky or sandy
surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast

Elevation extremes:  lowest point: Sebjet Tah -55 m highest point:
unnamed location 463 m

Natural resources:  phosphates, iron ore

Land use:  arable land: 0% permanent crops: 0% other: 100% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:  NA sq km

Natural hazards:  hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind can occur
during winter and spring; widespread harmattan haze exists 60% of time,
often severely restricting visibility

Environment - current issues:  sparse water and lack of arable land

Environment - international agreements:   none of the selected agreements
signed, but not ratified: Geography - note:  the waters off the coast
are particularly rich fishing areas

People Western Sahara

Population:  256,177 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure:  0-14 years: NA% 15-64 years: NA% 65 years and over: NA%

Population growth rate:  NA (2002 est.)

Birth rate:  NA births/1,000 population

Death rate:  NA deaths/1,000 population

Sex ratio:  NA

Infant mortality rate:  NA deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:  total population: NA years male: NA years
female: NA years

Total fertility rate:  NA children born/woman

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:  NA%

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:  NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths:  NA

Nationality:  noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s) adjective: Sahrawian,

Ethnic groups:  Arab, Berber

Religions:  Muslim

Languages:  Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

Literacy:  definition: NA total population: NA% male: NA% female: NA%

Government Western Sahara

Country name:  conventional long form: none conventional short form:
Western Sahara former: Spanish Sahara

Government type:  legal status of territory and issue of sovereignty
unresolved; territory contested by Morocco and Polisario Front (Popular
Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro), which in
February 1976 formally proclaimed a government-in-exile of the Sahrawi
Arab Democratic Republic (SADR),led by President Mohamed ABDELAZIZ and
recognized by 54 nations; territory partitioned between Morocco and
Mauritania in April 1976, with Morocco acquiring northern two-thirds;
Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all
claims to its portion in August 1979; Morocco moved to occupy that sector
shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control; the
Polisario's government-in-exile was seated as an OAU member in 1984;
guerrilla activities continued sporadically, until a UN-monitored
cease-fire was implemented 6 September 1991

Capital:  none

Administrative divisions:  none (under de facto control of Morocco)

Suffrage:  none; a UN-sponsored voter identification campaign not yet

Executive branch:  none

Political pressure groups and leaders:  none

International organization participation:  none

Diplomatic representation in the US:  none

Diplomatic representation from the US:  none

Economy Western Sahara

Economy - overview:  Western Sahara depends on pastoral nomadism,
fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for
the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable
agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population
must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled
by the Moroccan Government. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed
contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, which has
angered the Polisario. Incomes and standards of living in Western Sahara
are substantially below the Moroccan level.

GDP:  purchasing power parity - $NA

GDP - real growth rate:  NA%

GDP - per capita:  purchasing power parity - $NA

GDP - composition by sector:  agriculture: NA% industry: NA% services:
40%-45% (1996 est.)

Population below poverty line:  NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:  lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices):  NA%

Labor force:  12,000

Labor force - by occupation:  animal husbandry and subsistence farming 50%

Unemployment rate:  NA%

Budget:  revenues: $NA expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures
of $NA

Industries:  phosphate mining, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate:  NA%

Electricity - production:  90 million kWh (2000)

Electricity - production by source:  fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0%
(2000) nuclear: 0%

Electricity - consumption:  83.7 million kWh (2000)

Electricity - exports:  0 kWh (2000)

Electricity - imports:  0 kWh (2000)

Agriculture - products:  fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases);
camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads)

Exports:  $NA

Exports - commodities:  phosphates 62%

Exports - partners:  Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara,
so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts

Imports:  $NA

Imports - commodities:  fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs

Imports - partners:  Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara,
so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts

Debt - external:  $NA

Economic aid - recipient:  $NA

Currency:  Moroccan dirham (MAD)

Currency code:  MAD

Exchange rates:  Moroccan dirhams per US dollar - 11.584 (January 2002),
11.303 (2001), 10.626 (2000), 9.804 (1999), 9.604 (1998), 9.527 (1997)

Fiscal year:  calendar year

Communications Western Sahara

Telephones - main lines in use:  about 2,000 (1999 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular:  0 (1999)

Telephone system:   NA international:  and satellite; satellite earth
stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) linked to Rabat, Morocco

Radio broadcast stations:  AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0 (1998)

Radios:  56,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations:  NA

Televisions:  6,000 (1997)

Internet country code:  .eh

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  1 (2000)

Internet users:  NA

Transportation Western Sahara

Railways:  0 km

Highways:  total: 6,200 km paved: 1,350 km unpaved: 4,850 km (1991 est.)

Waterways:  none

Ports and harbors:  Ad Dakhla, Cabo Bojador, Laayoune (El Aaiun)

Airports:  11 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways:  total: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2001)

Airports - with unpaved runways:  total: 8 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to
1,523 m: 4 under 914 m: 3 (2001)

Military Western Sahara

Military expenditures - dollar figure:  $NA

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:  NA%

Transnational Issues Western Sahara

Disputes - international:  Morocco claims and administers Western
Sahara, but sovereignty remains unresolved; UN-administered cease-fire
has remained in effect since September 1991, but attempts to hold a
referendum have failed and parties reject other proposals

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002




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