The Green March and Resolution 377 calling for Spanish-Moroccan Dialogue

Once The Hague rendered its judgement, King Hassan II organised his Green March and threatened to send 350,000 unarmed men, women and children to march peacefully into the Western Sahara. After this announcement, the Spanish Government responded swiftly by addressing a letter to the Security Council, dated 18 October 1975, informing them of the Moroccan action and the threat to peace this act might create for international security. The Security Council adopted resolution 377 in 1975, in which it called for the secretary general to have preliminary discussions with the two parties and report to the assembly, as well as calling for moderation and caution in the region. France and the United States were in favour of Morocco recovering the territory and the Security Council urged the Spanish authorities to soften their stance on the negotiations. There were also elements from Spain who favoured a Moroccan solution, as Paul Balta writes about “A group of Spanish ultras headed by Jose Solis Ruiz, who was close to the Moroccan Royal family and also encouraged, for regional security reasons by the USA, were supporting the Moroccan case”. Jose Solis Ruiz visited Rabat on 21 October for consultations and for the negotiations to move to Madrid on 24 October when Ahmed Laraki, the Moroccan Foreign Minister, led a Moroccan delegation which was joined by the Mauritanians on 28 October 1975. Because of this high level diplomacy, the ‘Green March’ was postponed until 6 November. On the 29 October the Algerian Minister of the Interior arrived in Madrid with threatening messages from Boumediene and managed to stall the Spaniards for a very short time. In effect, he brought all negotiations to a halt, as Spanish negotiators feared Algerian retaliations. Spain relied heavily on Algerian hydrocarbon, as well as being confronted with the Algerian threat to extend their support to finance the separatists of the Canary Islands Movement for Independence (MPALAC). The Algerians were also pressing the movement to become part of Africa and not Europe, thus endorsing their call for independence. In addition, the Foreign Minister Pedro Cortina y Mauri, a close friend of the regime in Algiers, supported the Algerian view and was in favour of an independent Sahara linked to Algeria. The Algerians were outmanoeuvred by Morocco and their attitude hardened when two weeks after The Hague rendered its verdict, units of the Moroccan army entered the north-eastern region of Western Sahara on 31 October 1975 forcing the Algerian security services and the Polisario to retreat to the camp in Tindouf. They Moroccan units were given instructions to control the follow of movement of refugees entering Algeria and to be ready to repel any Algerian military infiltration into Morocco.

The Moroccans, for strategic and security reasons, had the support of the Americans and the French, who put pressure on Spain to resume negotiations with the Kingdom. The stalemate was broken with the help of Solis Ruiz who had the support of the Ultras as previously stated. He was able to negotiate with Hassan II on Spain retaining 60% of the assets at Bou-Cra’a phosphate mines and a guaranteed fishing rights on the Saharan coasts. It was this American and French strong support that helped a tripartite agreement to come to fruition. It appears that France put pressure on Spain in favour of Morocco because Paris, like the Americans, aware of the pressure of the Cold-War, preferred a pro-Western Moroccan-controlled Sahara to a progressive new weak state dominated by a reactionary committed ‘Communist’ inclined regime in Algeria. This would undermine the balance of power and change the geopolitics of the region where a hostile Algeria could surround Morocco in the East from Saidia to Tindouf and closing in with an open access in the south from Tindouf to the Atlantic shores, putting Morocco in danger from four directions; terrestrial East and South, and the Mediterranean Sea in the north with the Atlantic in the west, both accessible to Algerian Navy. On the other hand, as Stone writes: “Boumediene was concerned that Moroccan control of the Western Sahara, which is rich in phosphate deposits, would undermine Algeria’s developing economic, diplomatic and military pre-eminence in the Maghreb.” Spain realised that any deal struck with Morocco would also secure its interests in the Western Sahara, delay any negotiations on other occupied territories like Ceuta and Melilla; they accepted the deal and signed the agreement on 14 November 1975. The agreement acknowledged Spain’s shares in the Bou Cara'a phosphate, and secured an understanding resolving the frequent fishing disputes of the past or any in the future. The two countries also agreed on the defence of the Canary Islands and the safeguarding of its Spanish sovereignty. This agreement ensured a smooth transition of the coming succession in view of the protracted illness of the Caudillo, and guaranteed that Morocco would not press for the return of Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish military, on the other hand, received orders “not to resist Moroccan military infiltration and indeed to abandon the very territory they had been assigned to defend”. Balta writes: “Ces militaires ne souhaitent pas mourir pour un territoire qu’ils savent devoir abandonner un jour, mais ils ne veulent pas non plus être trompés ou ridiculisés”. The territory was lost for the Spaniards and therefore there was no need to lose a single life. All this was made easy by the nature of the peaceful march organised by the Moroccans, who in no way wanted or wished for a direct military confrontation. The agreement was not made public, but it was later revealed that though it did not contain any reference to a referendum, it did have a clause calling for the respect of the views of the Sahrawi people through the Yema’a. Subsequently, further details emerged outlining the main points of the agreement including the creation of a tripartite administration with the collaboration of the Yema’a; the end of the Spanish presence by 28 February 1976; the views of the members of the Yema’a to be respected and other final secret economic agreements concerning the allocation of 35% instead of 60% of shares of the Bou Craâ company to Spain originally demanded, as well as giving Spain fishing rights on the Atlantic shores as outlined above. They also maintained the right to two military bases in the region and for Morocco to freeze any call for the return of Ceuta, Melilla and the Jaaffarines islands.

However, the peaceful ‘transfer of administration’ to the Moroccans (as the Spaniards carefully worded the agreement) was stillborn as Algeria took a radical stance on the issue for the reasons already outlined. As a result of the progress now achieved by Morocco, Algeria changed its views and started to cast doubts on Moroccan legitimacy over the territory and threatening peace in the region. It embarked on unfriendly attacks translating into violence that started to engage Moroccan forces and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, leading to two proposals being presented to the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1975. The first was proposed by Tunisia, Senegal, and Zaire and asked the signatories to respect the wishes of the Sahrawi people, which the Moroccans claimed to have done by consulting the Jema’a; as agreed and stipulated in the Madrid Accord, and the second proposal, emanated from Algeria, and called for the replacement of the Spanish administration by a four-member supervisory council, representing Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria, which Morocco rejected, as Algeria had no claim on the region. This stand-up hardened its position and officially took a different view and became engaged in diplomatic moves to counter Morocco’s claim and made the Sahara its champion and the raison d’être of what has become now a failed Algerian state.

As previously indicated, Morocco and Spain signed a Tripartite Agreement on 14 November 1975 whereby the latter handed over the administration of the Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania. The General Assembly approved the Spanish agreement on 10 December 1975 by resolution 3458 B (XXX). France was directly concerned with the Sahara question because of its ties with North Africa and was in favour of the agreement, considering that Algeria was not a party to the dispute, which prompted Giscard to make his views known at the end of January 1976. Pierre Messmer also was in support of the Moroccan claim and denied the existence of any Sahrawi state ever existed but the population always formed part of the Moroccan fabric within its geographical boundaries, linked with a common economy, language and religion. Similarly, Rezette, echoing Pierre Messmer, to conclude that: “geographically and historically the Spanish Sahara from North to South, is a graduated version of Morocco; from Goulmine to Tarfaya and Samara, it is the same country, the same people in ever smaller numbers and ever sparser agriculture.” In effect, according to Konstantinos Koliopoulos, it is only ‘a return to the governing Dynasty to its original place of birth’. On 26 February Spain ended its military presence there and later addressed a letter to the Secretary General of the UN in which it expressed its total withdrawal and no longer hold any administrative responsibility over the said territory. In the same day, the Yema’a met in an extraordinary meeting and ratified the Tripartite Accord as stipulated in the agreement. It sanctioned the closure of the Sahara file, for both Morocco and Spain, also giving legitimacy to Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, as required by the accord. The Moroccan Prime Minister and Negotiator in Madrid later said to a Newspaper, «Pour moi, il n’y a plus de problèmes du Sahara! Il a été réglé le 14 novembre 1975, par la signature solennelle de l’accord de Madrid», emphasising that «cet accord s’inscrit dans le cadre de la charte de l’ONU qui, dans le cas des contentieux relevant de la décolonisation, encourage des négociations directes. C’est ce que nous avons respecté et réalisé». And Ahmed Osman added that he was surprised to see the affaire given to different UN envoys and the latest being Christopher Ross. Morocco rejected Ross in 2012 for being more in favour of Algeria where he was Ambassador in the past, and was only accepted after receiving assurances from the Secretary General for the neutrality of the UN special Envoy. The plot thickens when there was further breach of the UN principles for impartiality, but this time, it was the gaff committed by Ban Kamoon himself in March 2016 when he ignored the Security Council Resolution 1754 passed in April 2007 and called for a referendum in the Moroccan Sahara and declared that the Sahara was occupied, entered a security zone without Moroccan permission and showed signs of victory when in Tindouf camp, provoking the anger of the Moroccans which led to more than 3 million people marching in the streets of Rabat on 13 March 2016.

As no solution was possible, an armed conflict broke involving the Polisario Front, the Algerian army, the Moroccan and Mauritanian armies which lasted until 10 July 1978, when the Mauritanian government was deposed in a military coup. The Polisario Front declared a cease-fire on 5 August 1979 and signed a peace treaty with Mauritania, thus putting an end to their mutual hostilities and Mauritania's involvement in the conflict. Shortly after that, Morocco moved to reunite the southern region of the Western Sahara that was formerly assigned to Mauritanian administration and ever since became part and parcel of Moroccan territorial claim. This in fact, increased violence and intensified the Algerian-Polisario-Morocco military conflict which lasted till 1988, when a cease-fire was declared by the UN, but no solution as yet reached in 2016.

Nevertheless, it appears that Morocco, as it did with France in 1955, signed a less than a perfect deal to a total recognition of the territories being Moroccan as the Spaniards recognised in the final Accord only the administration of Western Sahara and not sovereignty. This was mainly because they thought they could get away with it easily and present the case as a fait accompli, but regional pressure coming from two powerful oil countries in the region, Algeria and Libya, was even stronger and more significant than first anticipated or even agreed. Their actions opened the way to claims and counter claims from a small fully-fabricated Sahrawi opposition group, educated in Rabat and supported and financed by Algeria and Libya. Now that Kaddafi is no longer available, Algeria hit by physical and mental strokes, crippled by economic realities, the UN run by incompetent Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a corrupt Special Envoy, Christopher Ross; all these elements contribute to negative outcomes and run contrary to the positive and peaceful inspiration of the international community striving for peace and security in Tamazgha, Africa and the World, as set in the UN Charter.

The Call for Unity and Reunification
Ahmed Osman, a previous Moroccan Prime Minister, considers the Green March as a risk King Hassan II took but by May 1974 was able to gather a great national consensus on the Sahara question. His real campaign started with his speech to celebrate the Youth Day when he declared “that 1975 is the year of the Liberation of the Moroccan territory”. He was able to cut the grass under the Spanish feet, deflect the Algerian and the Polisario to reach their objectives, as well as causing serious problems of insecurity for the West. In order to explain his decision, King Hassan engaged a diplomatic campaign involving all Moroccan political parties to visit their counterparts across the world and gather support for the Moroccan legitimate historical right. So for this reason that when looking at the principles guiding international relations for negotiations, the issue of the Western Sahara may be analysed as an exercise of soft power through public diplomacy manoeuvring and not, strictly speaking, relying on hard power. Though Morocco had to make use of smart power strategy when some units of the Moroccan army infiltrated into the Eastern regions of the Sahara to face a desperate action that was taking place when the Algerian security services and Polisario militia, advised by Viguri, a Spanish General, were intimidating the people in the Sahara. The Polisario and its allies started to organise a diaspora campaign displacing by force Sahraoui residents on the borders and placing them in a concentration camp created in the Moroccan town of Tindouf, now administered by Algeria. As the Moroccan smart power strategy was activated, the Polisario, manipulated by the Spanish General, Viguri, and the Algerian government security services, had no choice but to flee the region, marking the first Moroccan military success. However, the Polisario resorted at kidnapping Moroccan Sahraoui people and others found in the region. In fact, they managed to take thousands of people by force but failed to attract the majority of the Sahraoui. Because of this second failure, they then embarked on taking in the Touareg, Mauritanians, Malians and Nigerians who were leading a nomadic life there fleeing drought in their regions in the 1980s and looking for pasture green in the Sahara. This was a deliberate kidnapping act perpetrated in order to put pressure on the international community as well as swell up the numbers to be placed in Tindouf at the newly created concentration camp.

The Sahara question was discussed at all political levels and diplomatic efforts were made at the UN, with the ICJ, at the Arab League and at the OAU. Hassan II also sent Ali Yata, the PPS (Communist Party) leader to Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany to gather support for the Moroccan cause, as Allal el Fassi was sent to Romania where he died of a heart attack on 19 May 1974, during a visit to meet President Nicolai Ceausescu. It was also a golden opportunity for the army to show its strength in its art away from politics and coups. It was deployed successfully in the border region, first, to organise and control the “Green March” of 1975 and, second, to put pressure on the Spaniards to negotiate. There, the army found its role and Dlimi, General Oufkir’s right hand man, was made the Commander of that region.

On the international front, the risk was considerable as the USA became worried after King Hassan’s 16 October announcement. The CIA, having an observatory bureau in Rabat were well informed (or were they?) and consequently informed the White House of a possible conflict between Morocco and Spain. As a result, the USA put pressure on Spain to negotiate with Morocco and reach an agreement as soon as possible. Nevertheless, Spain was in a state of paralysis as the Caudillo (Franco) was entering a comma he never recovered from and the government was in an internal political hot war which left no room for a hot war in Morocco it could not win. Nevertheless, they played a hard game to maximise their interests in the region driving a hard bargain to secure favourable shares in the Bou-Cra’a phosphate plant, on fishing, on the question of Melilla, Ceuta and other Islands as well as the security and sovereignty of Spain over the Canary Islands. The CIA, under its director, William E Colby informed Kissinger with his sketchy analysis of the danger that Hassan II is running into, and wrote, in a memorandum to the then Secretary of State, Dr Henry Kissinger, that: “King Hassan has decided to invade the Spanish Sahara within the next two weeks,” which was far from the truth. The memorandum speculated that King Hassan fearing the outcome of The Hague’s Opinion not to be in favour of Morocco, a military invasion is on the Moroccan planning. Nevertheless, he also pointed out that Hassan II was confident that Spain would not put a serious fight for a territory they will evacuate whatever the outcome and such a conflict would only strengthen the Moroccan case”.

On November 6, 1975, 350 000 unarmed Moroccans crossed from Tarfaya into the Sahara region called “ Spanish Sahara”, brandishing Moroccan flags, portraits of King Hassan II, and copies of the Koran. The green march demanded the return of Moroccan Sahara and this initiative of organizing a peaceful march facilitated the task for Madrid to reach an agreement of 14 November 1975; it was in practical terms, the first step towards the process of decolonization of the Saharan region, as provided for in the UN Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960. The green march (ⴰⵢⴰⴳⵓⵔ ⴰⵣⴰⴳⵣⴰ), could be described as the master stroke which resolved the dispute between Morocco and Spain. As we have seen, plans for the march were first announced by King Hassan II on 16 October 1975, recruiting offices were set up throughout Morocco, and by 20 of October as many as 524,000 volunteers were registered with enthusiasm throughout the country. The world found itself with a fait accompli even the King could not stop the people running with the Coran in their hands and the slogan of jihad and liberation in their calls. A general mobilisation no one could imagine possible and the logistics became the challenge and the nightmare for the military and the authorities in all aspects: health, food, water or the lack of it in the Sahara, travel arrangement, tents, security and above all restraint from zealous people to go beyond the remit set by the king. The military proved their organisational skills and the logistics were excellent and transport provided by public and all private individuals, small and big businesses, in other words it was the duty of all and the achievement was beyond expectation and the success was total. The Sahara was back with the will of 350 000 Mujahidin for Islam, as they see it, to triumph over the ideology of Philip II and III, ending thus the remnants of the supporters of the Inquisitions, making reparation for the victims of the Alhambra Decree of 1 March 1492 against Marrano Jews and winning the war set against the Edict of 9 April 1609 involving the freedom of all Moriscos converted Muslims to Christianity and back to the total liberation of the Land of Islam.

The marchers numbered 350,000 volunteers of Moroccan Amazigh, Marranos and Moriscos who gradually assembled in a vast tent city near Tarfaya. It became evident to the Spanish government as much as to western observers of this remarkable mobilization, that King Hassan II would be unable to call off the march or fail in his pledge to send the marchers across the border even if he had wished to do so, he said: “I cannot turn 350, 000 Moroccans who have responded to my call with enthusiasm into 350,000 frustrated Moroccans». Nevertheless, as soon as Spain accepted the reopening of negotiations, on 9 November 1975, King Hassan II was able to order the marchers to return to their homes and the response was jubilant and a peaceful return was as successful as the original march itself. Morocco now achieved its objectives an on 14 November 1975, an accord was signed in Madrid to crown the negotiations with Spain by Morocco and Mauritania, in accordance with article 33 of the United Nations charter, and resolution 380. The difference of opinion over Western Sahara which, until 1975, divided Morocco and Spain does not therefore date from the time when the United Nations organization took an interest in the issue. It dates back to the consolidation of the country by the Sahraoui Almoravids, the Almohads and the Merinids, on the one hand, and the European ambition of the nineteenth century, on the other. The European appetites for domination and their desire to colonise and divide Morocco might have worked in a very limited way, but could not subjugate the people even for a second as the free Imazighen have never been subjugated to anyone, and because of their will and confidence in themselves were able to rule Spain and beyond as well as cohabit with all within certain limits and not further for several centuries and longer than any European achieved to occupy Morocco for any such long period. The will of the Moroccans was stronger than European imperialism and with 350 000 marchers in 1975 defeated injustice and when Ban Kamoon, the UN Secretary general put the Sahara in doubt, more than 3 million Moroccans marched in Rabat on 13 march 2016 to denounce and protest against incompetence as well as the ignorance of the Secretary General to respect the UN Charter. Should anyone doubt the resolve of the Moroccans, these two events show the appropriate responses to different situation and if required, there would nearly 40 million Moroccans actively involved throughout the world and using all the means at their disposal to achieve their goals. The West is aware of the implications and the consequences; Daech would seem as tame as Qaeda is seen today compared to yesterday when it dominated world insecurity. The Turkish floodgates would seem a dwarf and more like canal gates to Moroccan real Thames barrier floodgates on Mediterranean coasts and free entry to occupy Ceuta and Melilla to become an international colonial presidios for Africans, Asians and the rest of the world with Morocco providing an existential visa-free entry as the case with some nationalities going Turkey.


Dr Ben Kirat