Title: The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Population: 567,402

Population Change: 2.55

National Average Age: 28

Urban Percentage: 87

Christian Population: 200

Christian Percentage: 0.04

Introduction: Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied bordered by Morocco proper to the north Algeria to the northeast Mauritania to the east and south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to 266000 square kilometres (103000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over 500000 of which nearly 40% live in Laayoune the largest city in Western Sahara.

Overview: Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast of Africa bordered by Morocco Mauritania and Algeria. After Spain withdrew from its former colony of Spanish Sahara in 1976 Morocco annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara and claimed the rest of the territory in 1979 following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Morocco's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease-fire and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation. As part of this effort the UN sought to offer a choice to the peoples of the Western Sahara between independence (favored by the Polisario Front) or integration into Morocco. A proposed referendum never took place due to lack of agreement on voter eligibility. The 2700 km- (1700 mi-) long defensive sand berm built by the Moroccans from 1980 to 1987 and running the length of the territory continues to separate the opposing forces with Morocco controlling the roughly 80 percent of the territory west of the berm. Local demonstrations criticizing the Moroccan authorities occur regularly and there are periodic ethnic tensions between the native Sahrawi population and Moroccan immigrants. Morocco maintains a heavy security presence in the territory.