The History of Cape Juby

Close to the Western Saharan border lies a semi-desert region that is known as Cape Juby. Cape Juby is located on the southern coast of Morocco and the landscapes that surround this cape are referred to as the Cape Juby strip, which is also referred to as the Tarfaya strip. During the early half of the twentieth century, the Cape Juby strip fell under the protectorate of Spain, and was later ceded to Morocco. It is a stretch of coastline that has a very fascinating history and was the centre of contention, as countries battled for control, promises of safe passage and diverting responsibility for the Cape Juby strip.

The Tekna tribes used to roam the Cape Juby Strip and in 1767, Mohammed ben Abdallah, the then Sultan of Morocco, was forced to sign a treaty to confirm that he was not able to keep fishermen from Spain safe in the river Nun, as he did not have any control over the tribes that resided in this region. The treaty was signed with King Carlos III. Morocco and Spain were once again at odds over the region in 1799, when Slimane of Morocco and Carlos IV signed documents confirming that both Cape Juby and Saguia did not form part of Slimane of Morocco’s empire. A trade post was erected in Cape Juby during 1879 by the British North West Africa Company. The post was attacked by the Moroccan forces in 1888, taking the life of the director, forcing the company to sell the trading post to the sultan.

France was in control of Moroccan affairs in 1912, and Spain approached the French to negotiate a compromise in regard to the southern region of Morocco. In 1916 the entire Cape Juby Strip was occupied by Spanish troops, separating the north and south zones. The area occupied by Spain covered thirty-three thousand square kilometers and Villa Bens became the capital of the region. Villa Bens later became known as Tarfaya.

Morocco gained its independence in 1956 and immediately went about trying to regain control of land occupied by other countries. Fights broke out in regard to Cape Juby but the Spanish eventually ceded the strip to Morocco two years later.