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Thousands to march in Spain for freedom for Western Sahara

THOUSANDS are expected to join marches leaving four Spanish cities tomorrow in support of the people of Western Sahara, as relations between Madrid and Morocco continue to deteriorate.

The March for the Freedom of the Sahrawi People is calling for independence for Western Sahara, 80 per cent of which is occupied by Moroccan troops.

More than 400 social organisations are supporting the marches, which are expected to arrive for a rally in Madrid on June 18 before sending a delegation to the Foreign Ministry.

March supporters are demanding respect for international law and human rights; the organisers saying their action is a response to Morocco reigniting war in the the demilitarised Guerguerat area last November.

Diplomatic tensions grew after Spain admitted Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali into the country under a false name last month for medical reasons.

In the past few days Rabat has been accused of politicising the crisis by allowing 6,000 migrants to get to the Spanish enclave of Cueta, on the northern tip of Morocco.

Spanish actor Willy Toledo, a vocal supporter of the Sahrawi liberation cause, said the migrant crisis is “a direct consequence” of not having decolonised the territory properly.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 after the defeat of Spanish colonisers. The two nations signed the Madrid Accords with Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, a week before he died.

The Polisario Front proclaimed the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with a government in exile located in Algeria.

Mauritania withdrew its forces in 1979, but Morocco refused to give up its claim on the land, insisting that Western Sahara was an integral part of the country.

But a United Nations commission of inquiry found that “the majority of the population within the Spanish Sahara was manifestly in favour of independence.”

And the International Court of Justice delivered a damning verdict rejecting Morocco’s claim of precolonial historical sovereignty.

In 1991 the United Nations brokered a ceasefire on the basis that Morocco would hold a referendum on independence. But Morocco reneged on the agreement and later promises, instead offering regional autonomy to Africa’s last colony.

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