The Polisario Front marks 30 years of struggle for an independent Western Sahara on Monday with little hope in sight of a solution to Africa’s longest-running territorial dispute. Here are key facts about the dispute :
26 Feb 2006
The Sahrawi are from nomadic tribes who traditionally wandered over vast areas including parts of Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Western Sahara. In the 1960s, however, they began to settle in the region, sparking calls for self-rule.
The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by independence movement Polisario in 1976, is now recognised by many governments and is a full member of the African Union. It is currently promising to give foreign oil companies exploration rights if it achieves independence.
There are 158,000 Sahrawi refugees living in five camps in Algeria near the southwestern city of Tindouf. In February 2006 torrential rains flooded three of the camps, destroyed much of the housing and left 50,000 refugees homeless.
The refugees come from Western Sahara, a Moroccan-controlled territory of 270,000 just across the border from Algeria. Most of them left in 1975 at the start of a lengthy war of independence between the Sahrawi group Polisario Front and Moroccan forces.
A limited diet over decades has left many of the refugees malnourished. The United Nations says malnutrition rates are high. Nearly a third of children under six have stunted growth and two-thirds are anaemic, while a UN survey in 2005 found hat 66% of women of child-bearing age had anaemia.