Is Western Sahara a Country?


Western Sahara on a map
Western Sahara on a map.

For nearly one hundred years, Spain governed the territory in northwest Africa now known as Western Sahara as one of its colonies. Its location on the western edge of the Sahara Desert does not support much agriculture, and the population is only around 270,000.

Spain gave up its claim in 1975, and Morocco soon occupied much of the territory. The Polisario Front, a local political organization, opposed Morocco’s claim, wanting instead to create a newly independent country called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Since 1991, the two competing interests control different regions of the territory, but there is still no official solution. No other countries have recognized Morocco’s right to annex Western Sahara, but they also do not recognize the existence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

The United Nations lists Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory, meaning that it has a right to decide its own future but has not yet been given that right.