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Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)


the official government-in-exile of polisario.

The founding of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was proclaimed at Bir Lehlou, a town in northwestern Western Sahara, on 27 February 1976, one day after the departure of Spain's authorities from the territory, by a previously established Provisional Sahrawi National Council. Its constitution, adopted at the third POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia ElHamra and Rio de Oro, a politico-military organization formed in 1973 to secure the independence of Western Sahara) congress in August 1976, proclaimed SADR to be a "democratic Arab republic," with a "republican political system." SADR was declared part of the Arab nation and Islam the state religion. Fundamental objectives included socialism, social justice, and the attainment of Maghrib unity as a step toward Arab and African unity. POLISARIO's executive committee was charged with presiding over SADR's executive organ until independence and sovereignty were attained. POLISARIO's August 1991 Congress adopted a new draft constitution for the future Saharan state, including provisions for a multiparty system, a free enterprise economy (with strategic resources controlled by the state), universal suffrage, a free press, and cooperative relations with Morocco. POLISARIO head Muhammad Abd al-Aziz was the first, and thus far the only, president of SADR. He was re-elected secretary-general, receiving 92 percent of the vote, at POLISARIO's 11th congress, held in October 2003 in Tifariti, the POLISARIO-controlled territory of Western Sahara.

SADR's main value for POLISARIO has been in the diplomatic sphere: At its peak, it attained recognition from more than seventy countries (the number had dropped to around sixty by 2003), and, after years of struggle, assumed its seat in 1984 as a full member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), triggering a Moroccan walkout. In contrast to the OAU, the League of Arab States (Arab League) kept SADR and POLISARIO at arm's length.

see also league of arab states; maghrib; organization of african unity (oau); polisario; western sahara.


Damis, John. Conflict in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Dispute. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1983.

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

Pazzanita, Anthony G., and Hodges, Tony. Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1982.

bruce maddy-weitzman

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