Skip to content

Morocco

Popular Documents

1959

The Internationalization of the Algerian Problem and Its Inscription on the Agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations from 1957-1959

Detailed summary charting the development of United Nations debates and discussions about the Algerian problem, from 1957-1959, told from an Algerian perspective. Narrates the context and time-line of key events spurring four UN debates on the Algerian problem (from the first, in February 1957, to the fourth, in 1959). Focuses heavily on the foreign policy of France, under Charles De Gaulle's government, highlighting France's reluctance to negotiate, and recognize the independence of Algeria, and France's objections to the United Nation's recognition of Algerian independence.

December 17, 1963

Record of the Second Meeting between Premier Zhou Enlai and President Nasser

Zhou and Nasser discuss developments in and relations with Libya, Tunisia, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Yemen, and Mauritania, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement and the proposed second Asian-African Conference.

July 2, 1957

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Senate, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1957

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa.

June 1958

Operations Conducted Since the 1st of January 1956

List of 47 paramilitary actions conducted or planned by the French Service Action between January 1956 and Summer 1958.

November 7, 1975

Report of the United Nations Visiting Mission to Spanish Sahara, 1975

Spain first entered the Western Sahara in 1884, but it took its troops five decades to firmly establish control over an area whose borders were drawn by agreements with France between 1886 and 1912. In the 1940s, engineers discovered that the area held important mineral deposits. Early hopes for oil did not quite materialize. Like its northern Moroccan neighbor, however, the West Sahara turned out to be one of the world’s largest sources of phosphate, a key ingredient for fertilizers. Financed by US and French capital, extraction began in the 1950s—the start of a story told in Lino Camprubi’s “Resource Geopolitics: Cold War Technologies, Global Fertilizer, and the Fate of the West Sahara” (2015).

Unlike Morocco, though, the West Sahara did not become independent in the 1950s. At the time, Sahrawis did not quite have a nationalist conscience. They were principally camel-herding nomads organized into fiercely autonomous tribes. It was as such, too, that some fought on Morocco’s side in short clashes with France and Spain in 1956. They were suppressed in 1958 by the Franco-Spanish operation Ouragan. In the selfsame decade, the 1950s, the phosphate mines and the infrastructure around them started affecting the Sahrawis—first socioeconomically. Urbanization began in serious, an industrial labor force grew, and scholarization increased. By the later 1960s, these changes had political knock-on effects, as Tony Hodges has shown in his classic Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War (1983). Certain Sahrawis who had progressed to a university degree, some in Morocco, became politically active at home, together with some workers. Sahrawis began to develop a distinct national conscience. While somewhat open to ideas about associating with Mauritania, to the West Sahara’s south, they now sharply turned against Spain. Thus, although Madrid was able to organize some loyalists, in 1973 the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario) was founded, a liberation organization that immediately started a guerilla war backed by Algeria. Sahrawis’ crystallizing national conscience also faced Morocco, which claimed their homeland, arguing it had historically ruled that area. In October 1975, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague rejected this claim as irrelevant, asserting the primacy of self-determination.

This verdict mirrored the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) stance. From 1966, the UNGA had passed several resolutions asserting that the Spanish colony’s fate had to be settled by a popular referendum. This followed established procedure. Thus, in 1960 UN resolution 1514—which the ICJ would cite in 1975—stated that a decolonized area could be attached to another postcolonial state only after its people had been consulted by referendum. Though delaying the referendum, Spain accepted it in principle, and in May 1975 agreed to a UN mission of inquiry.

This mission, whose report constitutes the text here, turned out to be pivotal. It did not simply document Sahrawis’ demand. Rather, its very presence on the ground affected the political reality: it allowed Sahrawis in town after town to publicly and vociferously assert what they in their overwhelming majority wanted: independence. In November, however, the Spanish government made an about-face, weakened by the protracted moribund state of its head, General Francisco Franco (1892-1975; r. from 1939), and impressed by the force of Moroccan King Hassan II’s (1929-1999; r. from 1961) populist mobilization over the West Sahara, to which the UN reacted hesitantly. In return for a 35% share in the biggest West Saharan phosphate mine, Fosbucraa, Spain transferred power to Morocco and Mauritania. The two states divided the West Sahara, and Polisario continued its war. In 1979 Mauritania sued for peace and withdrew from its territory—of which Morocco rather than the Polisario was able to take control, however.