Between 1958 and 1975, thousands of Moroccan patriots sacrificed their lives for Western Sahara’s independence from Spanish colonization.
The town of Tarfaya, approximately 780 kilometers south of Marrakech, symbolizes Morocco’s first milestone towards reaching complete independence, from Tangier in the North to Lagouira in the South.
When Morocco obtained independence and recovered its sovereignty, the decolonization processes with France and Spain took different paths.
While Morocco recovered all territories that were under French Protectorate in 1956, Spain held onto its colonies, especially in the southern regions of Western Sahara.
Morocco achieved its decolonization process in Western Sahara in several stages. The first step was recovering the towns of Tan-Tan and Tarfaya in 1958.
The country recovered Tarfaya during the Ifni War, fought between the Moroccan Liberation Army and colonialist Spain, backed by French troops. The war started in October 1957 and ended in June 1958, with the Moroccan resistance suffering 8,000 deaths.
The recovery of Tarfaya Province marked the start of Morocco’s decolonization process, which took over 17 years.
Morocco went on to recover the town of Sidi Ifni, approximately 400 kilometers north of Tarfaya, from Spain in 1969, after international pressure from the UN Security Council. Resolution 2072, adopted on December 16, 1965, urged the Spanish government to take all the necessary measures for the liberation of the territory of Ifni, along with the rest of Western Sahara.
The remainder of the region was recovered following the historical Green March in November 1975. The march brought together over 350,000 Moroccans from all over the country, demonstrating against the Spanish colonization of Western Sahara.
Morocco, Spain, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Agreement in response to the March, which ended the Spanish presence in Western Sahara and Morocco’s decolonization process.
Unlike what the current tension between Morocco and Algeria suggests, the two countries lived a short alliance between 1969 and 1972.
Algeria agreed to support Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. In return, Morocco gave up its territorial claims over Tindouf in southwestern Algeria.
However, soon after Morocco regained its territorial integrity, Algeria switched its support to Spain and to the separatist Polisario Front, in an attempt to retaliate against Morocco for the territorial disputes that led to the Sand War in 1963.
Algeria, hoping to impose itself as a regional power in the Maghreb, was also intimidated by the growing strength and influence of Morocco in the region, and wished to gain direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and its resources through its support to separatists in Western Sahara.
Today, Tarfaya not only represents a landmark in Morocco’s modern history, but is also home to several pioneering projects.
The town hosts the Tarfaya Wind Farm, the largest wind farm in Africa. The project, achieved in December 2014, appeared on the list of ten “Most Outstanding African Projects in 2015” by Jeune Afrique magazine.
Tarfaya is also the closest city to the Khnifiss National Park, a site added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 1998. The ecological site is home to over 20,000 birds from 211 different species.
The town is also the closest point to Sebkha Tah, Morocco’s lowest altitude point at 55 meters below sea level.