Independence Manifesto Day on 11 January is controversial holiday in Western Sahara. It is the day on which Morocco, which controls most of Western Sahara, demanded its independence from Spain and France back in 1944. Morocco didn’t actually win its freedom until 1956.
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Meanwhile, Morocco claimed Western Sahara as rightfully part of its land and wrested it out from Spanish control through the Green March of 1975. The Green March is when 350,000 Moroccans marched across the border into Spanish Sahara and claimed it for Morocco. Spain capitulated and gave the territory partly to Morocco and partly to Mauretania. The Polisario Front also declared Western Sahara an independent country in February of 1976.
Independence Manifesto Day is observed by those in Western Sahara favouring continued Moroccan control of the region. Those who support an independent Western Sahara, however, see Independence Manifesto Day as a foreign holiday that is being imposed on them. The UN does not recognise Western Saharan independence, but the African Union (AU) does. For this reason, Morocco refuses to join the AU. Thus, this holiday is part and parcel of a dispute that divides the region and has impacts worldwide.
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