Western Sahara is situated in the north-western part of Africa, surrounded by
Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Until 1976, Spain controlled the area, but left
following a protracted armed conflict with the guerilla movement Frente Polisario
(Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro). Following Spain's departure, Mauritania and Morocco advanced into the area, and the Frente Polisario took up battle against the new rulers.

The instrument panel is melting in the heat. Photo: Patric Magnusson/Försvarsmakten
Personnel from seven different countries. Photo: Patric Magnusson/Försvarsmakten

Since 1976, the UN and the Organization for African Unity (AU) have been negotiating with Morocco and Mauritania. In 1979, Mauritania left the area. A political solution was accepted by the parties in 1990, and the following year saw the establishment of MINURSO, an agreement stipulating how Morocco and Polisario shall monitor the ceasefire, verify the reduction in Moroccan troops in the territory, monitor the confinement of Moroccan and Polisario troops to designated locations, monitor the release of political prisoners and exchange of prisoners of war, implement a repatriation programme and organise registration of people entitled to vote prior to forthcoming elections.

Military observers were deployed to monitor the ceasefire agreement. In the process of establishing an electoral roll, the UN police were responsible for security in respect of encounters between the authorities and the local population. General elections were to intended to have been held in 1992, but the process was delayed as the parties were unable to agree on who would be allowed to participate in the election.

In early 1998, the Secretary-General resumed work on the electoral roll and also ordered clearance of mines in locations where future UN troop would support the return of refugees.

Sweden carried out mine clearance, but as the parties were unable to reach a resolution on who would be allowed to vote, no progress was made. As of 21 July 2017, Sweden is once again providing personnel for the mission.