Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

The Sahrawi (or Saharawi) Arab Democratic Republic (/səˈrɑːwi/ sə-RAH-wee; SADR; Arabic: الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية, romanized: al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʿArabīyah aṣ-Ṣaḥrāwīyah ad-Dīmuqrāṭīyah; Spanish: República Árabe Saharaui Democrática), also known as Western Sahara, is a partially recognized state, recognised by 45 UN member states, located in the western Maghreb, which claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, but controls only the easternmost one-fifth of that territory. Between 1884 and 1975, Western Sahara was known as Spanish Sahara, a Spanish colony (later an overseas province). The SADR is one of the two African states in which Spanish is a significant language, the other being Equatorial Guinea.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
  • الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية (Arabic)
  • República Árabe Saharaui Democrática (Spanish)
Motto: الحرية والديمقراطية والوحدة
"Libertad, Democracia, Unidad" (Spanish)
"Liberty, Democracy, Unity"
Anthem: Yā Banī al-Ṣaḥrāʼ
¡Oh hijos del Sáhara! (Spanish)
Oh Sons of the Sahara
Areas controlled by the SADR in dark green, claimed but uncontrolled areas in light green
Location of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (dark blue)

 in Africa (light blue & dark grey)
 in the African Union (light blue)

StatusPartially recognized state, Recognized by 45 UN member states
Capital-in-exileRabuni, Tindouf
LargestEl Aaiún (de jure)
Official languages
Sunni Islam
GovernmentUnitary one-party semi-presidential republic[6]
Brahim Ghali
Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoun[7]
LegislatureSahrawi National Council
 Western Sahara relinquished by Spain
14 November 1975
 Republic declared
27 February 1976
 Sovereignty disputed with Morocco
266,000 km2 (103,000 sq mi) (77th)
 Water (%)
 2021 estimate
612,000 or 712,000c (165th)
0.37 or 1.9/km2 (1.0 or 4.9/sq mi) (236th)
GDP (PPP)estimate
 Per capita
Time zoneUTC
Date formatd/m/yy (AD)
Driving sideright
ISO 3166 codeEH
Internet (reserved)
  1. Article 4 of the Sahrawi constitution. The SADR government is based in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria. It controls the area east of the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara, which it labels the "Free Zone".
  2. Area of the whole territory of Western Sahara claimed by SADR.
  3. 612,000[8] is the estimate given for the population of Western Sahara based on UN projection growth since 1975, the date when the last census took place in Western Sahara. excluding 100,000 the estimated number of people living in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria where the SADR is headquartered.
  4. 75% to 80% of the claimed territory is de facto under Moroccan administration.
  5. TLD of .eh is reserved for Western Sahara but not yet granted to any claimant.[9]

The SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front (a former socialist liberation force that has since reformed its ideological and political views) on 27 February 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara. The SADR government controls about 20–25% of the territory it claims.[10] It calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or the Free Zone. Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory, and calls these lands its Southern Provinces. The SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory to be occupied territory, while Morocco considers the much smaller SADR-held territory to be a buffer zone. The claimed capital city of the SADR is El-Aaiún (Laayoune) (the former capital of Western Sahara). Since SADR does not control El-Aaiún, they have a temporary capital that moved from Bir Lehlou to Tifariti in 2008. The seat of the SADR government is located in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

The SADR maintains diplomatic relations with 45 United Nations states, and is a full member of the African Union.


The name Sahrawi is the romanization of the Arabic word Ṣaḥrāwī صحراوي, meaning 'Inhabitant of the Desert'. The word Ṣaḥrāwī صحراوي then is derived from the Arabic word Ṣaḥrāʼ (صحراء), meaning 'desert'.


Following the evacuation of the Spaniards, due to the Moroccan Green March, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords on 14 November 1975, six days before Francisco Franco died. Morocco and Mauritania responded by annexing the territory of Western Sahara. On 26 February 1976, Spain informed the United Nations (UN) that as of that date it had terminated its presence in Western Sahara and relinquished its responsibilities, which left the region devoid of any Administering Power.[11] Neither Morocco nor Mauritania gained international recognition, and war ensued with the independence-seeking Polisario Front. The UN considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the people of Western Sahara have a right to "self-determination and independence".[12]

The creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 27 February 1976, as the Polisario declared the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political void left by the departing Spanish colonizers. While the claimed capital is the former Western Sahara capital El-Aaiún (which is in Moroccan-controlled territory), the proclamation was made in the government-in-exile's provisional capital, Bir Lehlou, which remained in Polisario-held territory under the 1991 ceasefire (see Settlement Plan). On 27 February 2008, the provisional capital was formally moved to Tifariti.[13][14] Day-to-day business, however, is conducted in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf Province, Algeria, which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.


A new 1999 Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic took a form similar to the parliamentary constitutions of many European states, but with some paragraphs suspended until the achievement of "full independence". Among key points, the head of state is constitutionally the Secretary General of the Polisario Front during what is referred to as the "pre-independence phase", with provision in the constitution that on independence, Polisario is supposed to be dismantled or separated completely from the government structure. Provisions are detailed for a transitory phase beginning with independence, in which the present SADR is supposed to act as Western Sahara's government, ending with a constitutional reform and eventual establishment of a state along the lines specified in the constitution.

The broad guidelines laid down in the constitution for an eventual Western Saharan state include eventual multi-party democracy with a market economy. The constitution also defines Sahrawis as a Muslim, African and Arab people.[15] The Constitution also declares a commitment to the principles of human rights and to the concept of a Greater Maghreb, as a regional variant of Pan-Arabism.

Government structure

Since August 1982, the highest office of the republic has been the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a post held by the secretary-general of the Polisario Front, presently Brahim Ghali,[16] who appoints the Prime Minister, presently Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoun. The SADR's government structure consists of a Council of Ministers (a cabinet led by the Prime Minister), a judicial branch (with judges appointed by the President) and the parliamentary Sahrawi National Council (SNC; the present speaker is Khatri Addouh). Since its inception in 1976, the various constitutional revisions have transformed the republic from an ad hoc managerial structure into something approaching an actual governing apparatus. From the late 1980s the parliament began to take steps to institute a division of powers and to disentangle the republic's structures from those of the Polisario Front, although without clear effect to date.

Its various ministries are responsible for a variety of services and functions. The judiciary, complete with trial courts, appeals courts and a supreme court, operates in the same areas. As a government-in-exile, many branches of government do not fully function, and has affected the constitutional roles of the institutions. Institutions parallel to government structures also have arisen within the Polisario Front, which is fused with the SADR's governing apparatus, and with operational competences overlapping between these party and governmental institutions and offices. A 2012 report mentioned the existence of the Sahrawi Bar Association.[17] In 2016, the bar association (going by the name Union of Sahrawi Lawyers) issued a report calling for the implementation of political and civil rights.[18] Unfortunately, there is no clear indication as to how certain demographic groups, such as women, have fared in the legal field.

The SNC is weak in its legislative role, having been instituted as a mainly consultative and consensus-building institution, but it has strengthened its theoretical legislative and controlling powers during later constitutional revisions. Among other things, it has added a ban on the death penalty to the constitution, and brought down the government in 1999 through a vote of no-confidence.

The Sahrawi National Council is composed of 53 members, all from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro.


The Sahrawi People's Liberation Army is the defence force of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and previously served as the armed wing of the Polisario Front prior to the foundation of the Republic.


The SADR in its controlled territories uses the Sahrawi Peseta although the majority of the country uses the Moroccan Dirham.

Area of authority

The SADR acted as a government administration in the Sahrawi refugee camps located in the Tindouf Province of western Algeria. It is headquartered in Camp Rabouni, south of Tindouf, although some official events have taken place in towns in the Free Zone, including the provisional capitals, first Bir Lehlou until 2008, then Tifariti. The government of the SADR claims sovereignty over all of the Western Sahara territory, but has control only within the Free Zone. Several foreign aid agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations, are continually active in the camps.

International recognition and membership

As of September 2022, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has been recognized by 85 states. Of these, 39 have since "frozen" or "withdrawn" recognition for a number of reasons. A total of 29 UN states maintain an embassy from the SADR, with Vietnam being the only nation not hosting an embassy but only sending their own mission[19] [Sahrawi embassies exist in 18 states]. 6 UN states have other diplomatic relations, while a further 9 UN nations and South Ossetia[20] also recognise the state either by previous regimes or through international agreements in the past, but do not have any active relations at the moment [See 'Foreign relations of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic' for more details].

Chile[21], Australia[22], Brazil[23][24][25][26], and Sweden[27] have all internally voted to recognise the SADR, but none have yet ratified it.

Although it is not recognised by the UN, the SADR has held full membership of the African Union (AU, formerly the Organisation of African Unity, OAU) since 1982. Morocco withdrew from the OAU in protest during 1984, and from the time of South Africa's admittance to the OAU in 1994 was the only African UN member not also a member of the AU, until it was readmitted on 30 January 2017.[28] The SADR participates as a guest in meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement[29][30] and the New Asian–African Strategic Partnership,[31][32] over Moroccan objections to SADR participation.[33]

The SADR also participated in a conference of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of the Latin American and the Caribbean (COPPPAL) in 2006;[34] the SADR ambassador to Nicaragua participated in the opening conference of the Central American Parliament in 2010,[35] and a SADR delegation participated in the meeting of COPPPAL and International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Mexico City in 2012.[36]

On 27 February 2011, the 35th anniversary of the proclamation of SADR was held in Tifariti, Western Sahara. Delegations, including parliamentarians, ambassadors, NGOs and activists from many countries participated in this event.[37][38]

The SADR is not a member of the Arab League, nor of the Arab Maghreb Union, both of which include Morocco as a full member.

Proposed Western Sahara Authority

Under the Baker Plan created by James Baker, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's personal envoy to Western Sahara, the SADR would have been replaced with a five-year transitional Western Sahara Authority (WSA), a non-sovereign autonomous region supervised by Morocco, to be followed by a referendum on independence. It was endorsed by the UN in 2003. As Morocco has declined to participate, however, the plan appears dead.

In April 2007, the government of Morocco suggested that a self-governing entity, through the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), should govern the territory with some degree of autonomy for Western Sahara. The project was presented to the UN Security Council in mid-April 2007. A stalemate over the Moroccan proposal led the UN, in an April 2007 "Report of the UN Secretary-General", to ask the parties to enter into direct and unconditional negotiations to reach a mutually accepted political solution.[39]

National holidays

DateName Original event / Notes
27 FebruaryIndependence DayProclamation of the SADR in Bir Lehlou, 1976
8 MarchFirst Martyr
10 MayFoundation of the Polisario FrontThe anniversary of the front's establishment in 1973
20 May20 May RevolutionStart of the armed struggle against Spain in 1973
9 JuneDay of the MartyrsDay on which El-Ouali died in 1976
17 JuneZemla IntifadaHarakat Tahrir riots in El-Aaiun, 1970
12 OctoberDay of National UnityCelebrating the commemoration anniversary of the Ain Ben Tili Conference, 1975


Sahrawi mostly colored baby blue (Maliki Sunni)

The predominant religion practised in Sahrawi territories is Islam.

Islamic dates

Dates kept according to the lunar Islamic calendar.

DateName Observance
Muharram 1Islamic New Year The anniversary of the Hijra from Mecca to Medina and the beginning of the lunar Islamic year
Dhul Hijja 10Eid al-Adha Sacrifice feast
Shawwal 1Eid al-Fitr End of Ramadan
Rabi' al-awwal 12Mawlid Birth of Muhammad

See also


  1. African Medicines Agency
  2. African Medicines Agency
  3. SADR. "Constitution of the SADR" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  4. Martos, Isabel. "Linguistic Policy in the Camps of Sahrawi Refugees". researchgate. Universidad de Alcalá. Archived from the original on 22 May 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  5. "El Español en los Campamentos de Refugiados Saharauis (Tinduf, Algeria)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  6. Until complete independence. Article 32 of the SADR constitution states: The Polisario is the sole political formation allowed for Sahrawis to exercise politics until complete independence "Constitution of the SADR". Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  7. "Bucharaya Hamudi Beyun assumes his duties as Prime Minister of the Saharawi Government". Sahara Press Service. 15 January 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  8. United Nations. "World Population Prospects 2019". Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  9. "Resources". Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  10. "Cuadro de zonas de división del Sáhara Occidental" (PDF) (in Spanish). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  11. "Letter dated 29 January 2002 from the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, addressed to the President of the Security Council". United Nations. 29 January 2002. Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  12. "A/RES/34/37. Question of Western Sahara" (PDF). General Assembly—Thirty-fourth Session. United Nations. 1979. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 January 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  13. "Sahara Occidental – Actualités 2008, février". February 2008. Archived from the original on 16 January 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  14. "Sahara Info" (PDF). March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  15. Article 6 of the Sahrawi constitution. Article 2 prescribes that "Islam is the state religion and source of law".
  16. Zunes S; Mundy J (2010). Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution Syracuse University Press. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  17. "Report of the Fact-Finding Mission to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic" (PDF). African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights. September 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  18. "تقرير موازي بمناسبة استعراض التقرير السادس للملكة المغربية حول تنفيذ مقتضيات العهد الدولي للحقوق المدنية و السياسية". اتحاد المحامين الصحراويين.
  19. "Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary Ambassador to the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, the Republic of Mali, the Republic of Senegal, the Republic of Gambia, the Republic of Niger and the Arab Republic of Sarahoui". 12 January 2017. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  20. "Semi-Recognized Western Sahara to Recognize South Ossetia | Eurasianet". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  21. "MRE | Declaración del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores". 14 February 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  22. "afrol News - Australia may recognise Saharawi Republic". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  23. "Portal da Câmara dos Deputados". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  24. "Portal da Câmara dos Deputados". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  25. "Portal da Câmara dos Deputados". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  26. "INS 3/2015 - Senado Federal". Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  27. "SWEDISH PARLIAMENT WANTS GOVERNMENT TO RECOGNISE WESTERN SAHARA". Newstime Africa. 5 December 2012. Archived from the original on 31 January 2023. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  28. "Morocco rejoins African Union". Worldbulletin. 30 January 2017. Archived from the original on 20 July 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  29. "NAM reiterates support to right of Saharawi people to determination". Sahara Press Service. 30 August 2012. Archived from the original on 29 April 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  30. "Algeria praises NAM's continued support to struggle of Saharawi people for self-determination". Sahara Press Service. 2 September 2012. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  31. "South Africa". ARSO – Association de soutien à un référendum libre et régulier au Sahara Occidental. 9 September 2006. Archived from the original on 29 August 2019. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  32. South African Broadcasting Corporation (1 September 2006). "Asia-Afro partnership meeting kicked off today". South African Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  33. South African Broadcasting Corporation (2 September 2006). "Moroccan objections taint Asian-Africa meeting". South African Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2006.
  34. Prensa Latina (11 September 2006). "LatAm, Caribbean Parties in Nicaragua". Prensa Latina. Archived from the original on 22 October 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006.
  35. "Saharawi Ambassador to Nicaragua receives delegation from Central American Parliament". SPS. 7 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  36. "Saharawi Representation to Mexico attends COPPPAL-ICAPP meeting". Sahara Press Service. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  37. "Western Sahara: 35 years of colonisation and exile is enough | Kenworthy News Media – development & socio-political issues". 3 March 2011. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  38. "Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara" (PDF). UN Security Council. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
Official SADR pages
SADR pages
  • (in Spanish) Sahara Today (Independent Digital Journal Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic)
  • (in Arabic and Spanish) Futuro Saharaui (Saharawi first independent magazine founded in 1999)
  • (in Spanish) FiSahara Festival de cine del Sahara – Sahara Film Festival]
  • (in Spanish) El Bubisher Bookmobile and permanent Libraries Project in the Saharawi refugee camps)
  • (in Spanish) EFA Abidin Kaid Saleh de la RASD Audiovisual Education School Abidin Kaid Saleh of the SADR)
  • (in Spanish) ARTifariti (International Meetings of the Art in the Liberated Territories of SADR)
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