Western Sahara Overview

Western Sahara Overview

Western Sahara (Arabic : الصحرة الغربية ‎) is a territory located in Northwest Africa, bounded by the internationally recognized borders of Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Most of its territory and population are under Moroccan control and organized as the Moroccan Southern Provinces, and its eastern outskirts along the borders with Algeria and Mauritania constitute the partially recognized state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, controlled by the irredentist Polisario Front.


According to Countryaah, Western Sahara is a country located in the northwestern part of Africa, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. To the north it borders with Morocco (border length – 443 km), to the northeast – with Algeria (42 km), and to the east, southeast and south – with Mauritania (1050 km). The total length of the land borders is 1535 km. To the west and northwest, it is washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean (coastline length – 1260 km).

The territory of Western Sahara extends between 20°46′ and 27°40′ N. and between 8°43′ and 17°06′W. The end points of the country are as follows:

  • extreme northern point – 27°40′ N, border with Morocco. The length of the border along the parallel is 443 km from 8°40′ to 13°10′ W.
  • extreme southern point – 20°46′13″ N 17°03′02″ W. e., border with Mauritania, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • extreme western point – 20°50′37″ N 17°06′17″ W. e., on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • extreme eastern point – 8°43′03″ W, border with Algeria and Mauritania. The length of the border along the meridian is 185 km from 26°00′ to 27°40′ N.

The topography of the country is mostly flat, flat in the west and slightly hilly in the east (the Mauritanian Adrar plateau, with a height of 300 – 350 m). The highest parts (500 – 700 m) are in the northeast (the maximum height is 823 m) and are part of the extreme southern branches of the Atlas Mountains. The coastal plain is characterized by a huge amount of coastal dunes.

In 1963, large deposits of phosphorites were discovered in the desert of Segiet el Hamra, with the largest deposit in the Bu Kraa region having reserves of 1.4 – 1.7 billion tons.

The climate of the country is tropical, desert. Average monthly temperatures vary from 17-20°C in winter to 25-30°C in summer. The climate in the coastal areas is a little milder under the influence of the ocean and the cold Canary Current passing along the coast. Annual rainfall varies from 50 mm inland to 200 mm along the coast. Rains are very rare and if they do occur, they fall in October and November or from March to May.

There are no permanently flowing rivers in the country. Only in the north do the waters of the wada (dry river) El Hamra occasionally reach the ocean. Xerophytic shrubs and grasses, developed on grey-earth, red-brown and yellow-brown soils, predominate. The vegetation is represented by palms, fig trees and acacias and is found only in rare oases and along the lower reaches of the El Hamra River. The animal world is poor and consists mainly of reptiles and small rodents. The coastal waters are rich in fish (mainly sardines). [1]

International status

Western Sahara is on the UN List of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which means it has not been decolonised. It is disputed whether this territory is an integral part of the Kingdom of Morocco, or is governed by a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government founded by the Front Polisario movement.

Western Sahara (or de facto SADR) is recognized by 82 countries, 45 of which have recognized it, 13 have “frozen” relations pending a future referendum decision, and 22 have renounced diplomatic relations with the republic. Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Panama, Mozambique, Algeria and Angola have embassies in the country.

  • Countries that have recognized Western Sahara:

Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, North Korea, Rwanda, Yemen, Panama, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Uganda, Mexico, Lesotho, Zambia, Cuba, Iran, Syria, Libya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, Venezuela , Suriname, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mauritania, Peru, Nigeria, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Namibia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, East Timor, Kenya, Uruguay, South Africa.

  • Countries that have “frozen” their relations with the country:

Madagascar, Burundi, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Siera Leone, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominica, Honduras, Paraguay.

  • Countries that have recognized Western Sahara but do not maintain relations with it:

Benin, Togo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Afghanistan, Saint Lucia, Eswatini, Chad, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Burkina Faso, Serbia, Montenegro (renunciation of relations in 2004, when both countries were in the Union Republic of Serbia and Montenegro), Liberia, India,Albania, El Salvador, Malawi.

  • Countries that previously recognized and then withdrew: Seychelles, Cape Verde.

Other countries, including Bulgaria, have not discussed or declared that they have a relationship on the subject of “Recognition of Western Sahara”.

Western Sahara is a full member of the African Union. It is currently mostly controlled by Morocco.

Current situation

As of August 31, 2008, Western Sahara was recognized as a country by the following independent countries: Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bolivia, Botswana, Belize, Burundi, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Grenada, Guyana, Guinea-Bissau, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Iran, East Timor, Cambodia,Kenya, Cuba, Laos, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, North Korea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Syria, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Uganda,Uruguay, Haiti, South Africa and Jamaica.

Western Sahara Overview