Western Sahara is situated in the north-western part of Africa and is surrounded by
Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Spain controlled the area up to 1976, 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). Mauritania and
Morocco advanced into the area, and the Frente Polisario took up the battle with the new rulers.

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

The UN and the Organization for African Unity (OAU, now known as AU) have been negotiating with Morocco and Mauritania since1976. Mauritania left the area in 1979. A political solution was accepted by the parties in 1990, and the following year saw the establishment of MINURSO in agreement between Morocco and Polisario in order to 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 grouped 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 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 future locations where the UN troop would support the return of refugees.

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