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View series: Decolonization after 1945

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Independence for Spain’s African territories

This map is part of a series of 14 animated maps showing the history of Decolonization after 1945.

Spain’s colonial empire in Africa was limited to only a few territories.

In Morocco, the Treaty of Algeciras, signed in 1906, gave Spain control of the northern part of the Rif Mountains.

When Morocco obtained its independence, Madrid decided to withdraw from the Rif, but kept the coastal towns of Ceuta and Melilla.

In Black Africa, Spain held Equatorial Guinea, which consisted of a group of islands and an enclave on the mainland that was landlocked by Cameroon and Gabon. The liberation process took place in two phases: semi-autonomous regime in 1964, and finally independence in October 1968.

The third Spanish possession was Western Sahara, an under-populated desert region rich in phosphates and, for this reason, coveted by neighbouring countries.

In November 1975, Spain withdrew from Western Sahara, two-thirds of this territory was to be governed by Morocco, and the remaining third by Mauritania.

This decision was immediately denounced by Algeria and the Sahrawi Independence Party, POLISARIO, which proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976. As a result, a long war broke out in the region, during which Mauritania decided to hand the region it held over to Morocco.

Since the end of the war in 1991, the United Nations has insisted that the people living in Western Sahara be consulted by referendum on its future, but the date for this consultation has been postponed several times.