The resistance of the Ait Baamrane tribes of Sidi Ifni was essential to Morocco eventually securing sovereignty over the territory.
By Taha Mebtoul and Morgan Hekking
Rabat – Morocco celebrates today the 51st anniversary of the recovery of the southern city of Sidi Ifni and the completion of Morocco’s territorial integrity.
On June 30, 1969, Spanish occupation forces left the city of Sidi Ifni, 169 kilometers south of Agadir, pursuant to the Fez Agreement of January 4, 1969.
The Moroccan High Commission for Former Resistants and Former Members of the Liberation Army marked the occasion by saying the commemoration of this historical event represents pride for all Moroccans, for its symbolic historical value.
This event brings back the epic of national combat, the value of resistance and global mobilization, and the solid attachment of the Moroccan people to their nation, from the Sahara to the North of the country, according to the commission.
The commission also praised the tribes of Ait Baamrane for the “high militant spirit” they showed in the fight against foreign occupation, highlighting the value of the battles for territorial integrity and religious sanctity.
The Ait Baamrane tribes are located in the province of Sidi Ifni, surrounded by Tiznit from the North and Guelmim from the South. These tribes contributed to the Moroccan resistance against the occupation by providing the northern provinces with weapons and ammunition.
Sidi Ifni played a major role in strengthening guerilla organizations and was a stronghold for the training and formation of the liberation army.
The liberation of Sidi Ifni marked a significant step in Morocco’s decolonization process in Western Sahara, following the recovery of all territories that were under the French Protectorate in 1956.
Spain’s occupation of Morocco’s south
Morocco first raised the question of Spain’s occupation of Morocco’s southern provinces — including Sidi Ifni and Western Sahara — at the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations in 1957.
The recovery process in Western Sahara ultimately went through several steps, including the recovery of Tarfaya and Tan-Tan in 1958 following the Ifni War.
The Ifni War started in October 1957 between the Moroccan Liberation Army and colonialist Spain, backed by French troops, and ended in June 1958, resulting in 8,000 fatalities among Moroccans.
Following the Ifni War, Morocco went on to target Sidi Ifni, 400 kilometers north of Tarfaya, with backing from the UN Security Council.
On December 14, 1960, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 1514 on the non-self-governing territories. The resolution called on Spain to take the steps necessary to end its presence in southern Morocco.
The following year, when Mauritania became a full-fledged member of the United Nations, Morocco took the opportunity to further raise the question of Spanish occupation in the South.
UN Resolution 2027, issued on December 16, 1965, urged Spain to take the necessary measures to liberate the Ifni territory, as well as the rest of Western Sahara. The General Assembly urged Spain to adhere to the provisions of Resolutions 1514 and 1541 and end its presence in southern Morocco.
During this period, the UN body never dissociated Western Sahara from Sidi Ifni or supported a referendum of self-determination to determine the fate of the territory.
Up until June 1966, all the relevant UN resolutions included Sidi Ifni and Western Sahara in the same package. That year, however, Morocco acquiesced to Spanish demands to dissociate the territory of Sidi Ifni from its quest for sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Spain did not consider the territory of Sidi Ifni to be of strategic importance and signed the Fez Agreement with Morocco on January 4, 1969. Pursuant to the agreement, Spain returned Sidi Ifni to Morocco in June 1969.
A new chapter in the Western Sahara question
After years of shouldering Spain’s aggressive diplomatic campaign against Morocco’s territorial integrity, King Hassan II, with the support of France and the United States, launched the historic Green March in November 1975. The march gathered over 350,000 Moroccans from all over the country, protesting against the Spanish colonization of Western Sahara.
The Green March led to the signing of the Madrid Pact on November 14 of the same year, marking the end of the Spanish military presence in Western Sahara.
Liberation from Spain’s colonial claws in the South, however, did not resolve Morocco’s territorial woes.
Years before Spain agreed to pull out of southern Morocco, Madrid sent delegations from Western Sahara to attend the deliberations of the United Nations Special Decolonization Committee in New York. During the deliberations, the delegations espoused their attachment to Spain’s presence in Morocco’s south, giving fodder to Spain’s artificial movement that sought to preserve its interests in the territory.
This move was the first step leading to the creation of the Polisario Front in 1973, the year the separatist movement began claiming to be the representative of the Sahrawi people and demanding their independence.
Polisario blossomed with the financial support of Algeria and Libya and eventually garnered the sympathy of the Spanish public, allowing it to wage a war against Morocco over Western Sahara just after the signing of the 1975 Madrid Pact.
Although confrontations between the two sides ended in 1991, Morocco is still striving to secure full sovereignty over its ancestral homeland in the Sahara, a stark reminder of the havoc inflicted upon the country and the greater Maghreb region by decades of colonization.