Leading Africa expert and Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center on the 40th anniversary of the Green March:
This Friday is the 40th anniversary of one of the defining moments of the post-colonial history of Morocco and, indeed, all of Africa. At dawn on Nov. 6, 1975, some 350,000 Moroccans armed only with flags and copies of the Quran crossed the border arbitrarily imposed by 19th-century European imperialists to peacefully take back a sparsely populated, wind-swept territory that Spain claimed in the wake of the Congress of Berlin in 1885 and over which it only managed to impose a modicum of control in the 1920s.
Amid the scramble for Africa, the ancient kingdom of Morocco, for more than a thousand years the only state between the Mediterranean and the Senegal River, was itself carved up by the colonial powers. Tangier was made an international zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and, even briefly, the United States; Spain occupied the far north and the far south of historic Morocco; and France occupied the remainder of the country with the exception of Ifni, which the Spanish took because of its position on the Atlantic coast across from the Canary Islands.
In March 1956, the French protectorate ended and Morocco regained its independence under King Mohammed V. A month later, Morocco recovered the Spanish protectorate of Tetouan in the northern part of the country. In August 1956, Morocco succeeded in having the international control council for the international zone around Tangier repeal its status and then reintegrated the city into the kingdom. It took two more years, until April 1958, for Spain to return the Tarfaya district in south. And it was only in 1969, during the reign of King Hassan II, Mohammed V’s son and successor, that Madrid finally ceded back Ifni…[FULL STORY]