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Green March

GREEN MARCH

March of 350,000 volunteers to demonstrate Morocco's claim on Western Sahara.

The background to the Green March was a twofold struggle in the mid-1970s: (1) the sophisticated POLISARIO Front movement for nationalism by the Sahrawi people in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, and (2) a series of challenges against King Hassan II of Morocco, which culminated in two attempted coups in 1971 and 1972. Seeking to claim Western Sahara's mineral resources (mainly phosphates) and spurred by the ideology of a "Greater Morocco," Hassan succeeded in signing the Madrid Accords of 14 November 1975, which ceded the territory from Spain to Mauritania and Morocco.

A month earlier, however, a United Nations report had rejected Morocco's claims. In response, Hassan announced that he would seek volunteers to march into Western Sahara, in what his state-run press described as a demonstration of the will of the Moroccan people to reclaim its territory. By early November, some 350,000 volunteers had signed upmostly poor and unemployed, rural and urban, they were organized by regional quota. An enormous effort was launched to provide food and medical care for them. Amid intense diplomatic efforts over Western Sahara's future, and just after initial clashes between Moroccan and POLISARIO troops, the marchers crossed the border at Tarfaya. Tens of thousands reached Umm Deboa, where they halted.

On 14 November the Madrid Accords were signed. The march was recalled on 18 November; it had been a successful gamble by Hassan to pressure Spain into reaching an accord with himand to rally support within Morocco for his claim.

See also hassan ii; polisario.


Bibliography

Hodges, Tony. Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War. Westport, CT: L. Hill, 1983.

matthew s. gordon

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