Morocco is celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the Green March today, a patriotic event in the collective memory of Moroccan people and an emphasis of Moroccans’ determination to retake the remaining provinces in Western Sahara.
Rabat – Since Spain occupied Western Sahara in 1884, Morocco had severely resisted it to end the occupation and retake the southern provinces.
In the 1970s, King Hassan II decided to adopt a new peaceful strategy that would put pressure on Spain, especially since General Franco, Spain’s leader at the time, was sick.
On October 16, 1975, King Hassan II called upon his people to stage a peaceful march towards the southern provinces in Western Sahara and to gather in the Moroccan town of Tarfaya, 100 kilometers north of Laayoune.
Hassan II’s speech launching the Green March came on the date when the International Court of Justice ruled that the Western Sahara was a no-man’s land prior to Spanish occupation. The court also acknowledged the existence of legal ties of allegiance between the sultan of Morocco and the resident Sahrawi tribes.
“We have to do one thing dear people and that is to undertake a peaceful march from the north, the east, the west to the south. It behooves us to act as one man in order to join the Sahara,” King Hassan II said.
The purpose was to free the southern provinces from the remaining Spanish occupation.
What does the Green March mean for Moroccans?
On November 6, 1975, more than 350,000 unarmed Moroccan men and women rallied in Tarfaya to cross the border into Western Sahara.
Marchers carried Moroccan flags, green banners, Qur’ans, and pictures of King Hassan II throughout the march. Hundreds of trucks and buses transported people from different cities in Morocco to Western Sahara.
In a statement on the occasion of the Green March, Morocco’s High Commission for Former Resistance Fighters and Members of the Army of Liberation (HCAR) said the Green March showed the world King Hassan II’s brilliance and the determination of Moroccan people from the north to the south to achieve complete independence and territorial integrity.
Moroccans had sacrificed their lives to end colonialism for almost fifty years, HCAR added.
For King Mohammed VI, the Green March showed Moroccans’ true patriotism and a sacrificial spirit that should be remembered by the generations to come.
“As we commemorate the anniversary of the Green March and reminisce on the M’hamid al-Ghizlan Speech, we should draw inspiration from the ideals of true patriotism, from the spirit of loyalty to the nation’s sacred values and from sacrifice for the homeland,” King Mohammed VI said in his Green March speech last year.
“We need to remember those values today and to embody them everywhere—at school, in families and in society—in order to rise to the internal and external challenges our country is faced with,” the King added.
Colonization divided the country between the French protectorate in central Morocco and the Spanish protectorate in northern and southern Morocco, while Tangier was an international zone. This made the task of liberating the national territory difficult.
Green March completed resistance of Spanish occupation
After Morocco gained its independence in 1956, the liberation army was mobilized in the south of Morocco to complete the independence of the entire national territory.
Morocco then retook the province of Tarfaya and Tan-Tan in 1958 after Morocco and Spain signed the Treaty of Angra de Cintra in the same year. Spain was forced to sign the treaty because it faced strong resistance from the Moroccan Army of Liberation.
In 1965, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2072, urging Spain to negotiate with Morocco to liberate Sidi Ifni.
On June 30, 1969, Spain and Morocco signed the Treaty of Fez amid international pressure, allowing Morocco to regain Sidi Ifni.
The historic Green March crowned the Moroccan resistance on November 6, 1975.
The march succeeded in recovering the southern provinces peacefully and civilly. On February 28, 1976, the Moroccan national flag was hoisted in Laayoune. On August 14, 1979, Morocco regained the province of Oued Eddahab.
The Green March Day is a significant event in Morocco’s history. It is an occasion to remember the struggle of Moroccan people and King Hassan II against French and Spanish occupation and to pay tribute to Moroccans who devoted their lives to liberate the kingdom from colonization.
Western Sahara conflict not finished yet
One year after the Green March, the Polisario Front declared war against Morocco, after Spain’s withdrawal. The war continued until a ceasefire in 1991. Since then, the conflict over Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, has not yet ended.
The UN Security Council has adopted many resolutions but without realistic effect on the ground to end the long-lasting conflict.
However, the most recent Resolution 2440 that the Security Council adopted on October 31 included some slight change regarding Algeria.
Algeria, which the resolution mentioned three times on semi-equal footing with Morocco and Polisario, will participate in the Geneva round-table on December 5 and 6.
As for Morocco, the only way to resolve the Western Sahara conflict is the adoption of the autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty.