Archive | Morocco

Is Morocco Being Groomed For Another Arab Spring?

NOVANEWS

…from SouthFront

In nearly every case of a forcible, West-led, regime change in the Middle East or Ukraine, the process began with low level public protests against a real or imagined abuse of power by security forces. Morocco’s current situation appears to follow the same scenario. The killing of Mouhcine Fikri, a fisherman who was crushed by a truck while attempting to retrieve fish that was confiscated by the police in October 2016, had sparked several waves of unrest and civil disobedience initially in the city of Al-Khoseima which later spread to other parts of the Rif region.

These protests quickly produced an informal leader, Nasser Zefzafi, a 39-year-old unemployed man with considerable rhetorical skill and a populist touch. Zefzafi’s demands quickly escalated beyond the initial case of Fikri’s death and included Morocco’s corruption, repressions, absence of investments and subsidies to the Rif region, onerous security forces’ presence, even Morocco’s foreign aid to African countries and the King Mohammed VI’s claim of supreme spiritual authority.

Zefzafi, moreover, demanded to enter into negotiations with the king himself rather than his representatives, a demand that was bound to be rejected due to its unprecedented nature. Interestingly, Zefzafi accused the king of having entered a scheme with Gulf Arab states in order to settle Arabs in Morocco, thus displacing the native Berbers.

Morocco’s government responded by dispatching a delegation with promised 1 billion euro over the course of five years and by accusing the protesters of separatism and, on May 29, arresting Zefzafi and other protest leaders who now stand accused of promoting separatism, encouraging rebellion, obtaining financial support from foreign powers, attempting a forcible regime change, which under Morocco’s criminal code may be punished by death.Ultimately 32 of the key activists were sentenced to 18 months of prison, while others received 2 or 3 month sentences.

Alas, far from tamping down on the unrest, the trial proved a rallying point for a variety of forces which hope to capitalize on the protests and turn them to political advantage. About 600 attorneys representing the vast majority of legal offices in the country expressed willingness to challenge the ruling. In Rabat there was held a solidarity protest with up to 40 thousand participants which included such organizations as the February 11 Movement which appeared during the original Arab Spring, the Istiqlal Party which is now much diminished in spite of having won the country independence in the 1950s, and the Al Adl Wa Al Ihssane (Justice and Spirituality), a semi-legal Islamist association, which is tolerated by the Moroccan authorities. It also took part in protests of the Arab Spring with the slogan of introducing Sharia law in Morocco which refuses to participate in the legitimate political process and has a strong presence in Rif. Mohammed VI, clearly not wishing to see the situation escalate into bloodshed, recognized the right to protest and indicated the need to investigate why the 650 million euro development plan for Rif was not implemented.

Indeed, the economic situation in the Rif region is the reason why so many segments of society jumped on the bandwagon of protest, which is a recurring phenomenon in this part of Morocco. The most important form of economic activity is the…cultivation of cannabis and smuggling of Latin American narcotics from West Africa. Even though this is fairly lucrative trade, little of it trickles down to ordinary citizens, with government officials being accused of skimming off the profits. The poverty also prompted many of the region’s young men to join various terrorist factions in Iraq and Syria, and with the fighting in these two countries slowly coming to a close, these men now pose a threat to the long-term stability of Morocco.

Morocco is fortunate in that, unlike in the other cases of regime change, the wave of protests did not coincide with an effort by the US or other Western powers to overthrow its government. Washington appears pleased with the monarchy and is not calling on Mohammed VI to step down. Morocco’s main strategic rival is Algeria which seeks to wrest away Western Sahara, but is in no position to mount major actions of any kind. The unrest in Morocco did coincide with the Saudi-Qatari confrontation and, considering that various Moroccan factions have ties to either Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the future of this country’s politics will be influenced by the outcome of the Gulf power struggle. Mohammed VI is fairly close to the House of Saud and the UAE which are major investors in Morocco (investments in 2016 France – 22%, UAE – 15,2%, SA – 11,2 %, USA – 9,6%, Qatar – 7,8%). According to some experts, in this situation, protests could be initiated by Qatar through several religious movements which are under its control.

One of the weakest aspects of royal power is the religious sector. The king has complicated relations with Islamic movements within the country. After the terrorist attack in Casablanca in 2003, Mohammed VI began actively strengthen personal power in religious institutions trying to achieve firm control over the religious sector. During his reign, new Islamic governance bodies were established, and many Islamic research centers were opened. Currently Mohamed 6, being a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohamed, is viewed as the highest religious authority in the country and the commander of the faithful (amir al-muminin). He positions himself as a defender of traditional moderate ‘maliki’ Islam. The Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidine and Morchidate, which was established in 2015, annually trains hundreds of imams from Nigeria, Chad, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia and France. Morocco, along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is one of the world leaders in the field of Islamic education. This allows the country to influence foreign states. However, the king was not able to substitute fully for his control of the religious sector.

According to some experts, a significant part of Muslims within the country are affected by the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar. Qatar’s possible link to Morocco’s politics is the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) which has been pressing the king to relinquish part of its powers by allowing a new constitution. The PJD leader Abdelilah Benkiran for several years (November 2011- april 2017) was the prime minister of Morocco. The current prime minister Saadeddine Othmani is the incumbent PJD Secretary-General. It is known that PJD has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Though PJD didn’t take part in the protests and there is no direct evidence Qatar was involved in stoking the protests, Qatar’s involvement cannot be ruled out. The Moroccan protests would have been advantageous to Qatar as a means of demonstrating the country’s ability to destabilize Morocco and therefore compel the Mohammed VI to stray from his Saudi-friendly position and, indeed, Morocco has not joined the Saudi economic and political blockade of Qatar.

For the moment, Morocco’s political future is not facing any clear threats. The country’s economy is performing reasonably well and the king is popular and has the backing of the army and security forces. The wild card, as usual, is the United States which has been known of turning on its own allies without a moment’s notice in order to achieve its economic objectives. It is possible that Morocco owns a golden share in the current conflict in the Gulf, this may affect the future of Morocco which may yet find itself the battleground for the struggles between the world giants. The Rif protests may have been simply the first volley of that war.

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Re-trial of Saharawi nationalists resumes

International pressure urged to ensure fair re-trial for ‘unfairly convicted’ Saharawis
Peter Kenworthy

International presence and pressure is necessary to ensure a fair re-trial, set to continue on March 13, against the Gdeim Izik Group from Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, who Amnesty International says were “unfairly convicted.” The Group strenuously denies the charges, claim that they are politically motivated, and insist that confessions used at the trial were obtained using torture.

In 2013, 21 members of the so-called Gdeim Izik Group were given sentences of between 20 years and life imprisonment in a military court for allegedly belonging to a “criminal group” and for acts of “deadly violence” against Moroccan “public forces in the line of duty.”

The offenses allegedly happened during and after the violent Moroccan raid of the Saharawi Gdeim Izik protest camp outside El Aaiun in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, where over 15,000 Saharawis peacefully protested against Moroccan occupation in late-2010. The Group strenuously denies the charges, claim that they are politically motivated, and insist that confessions used at the trial were obtained using torture.

Amnesty International stated in 2016 that the 2013-trial was “grossly unfair,” that the Gdeim Izik Group were “unfairly convicted”, and that the claims of confessions obtained by torture must be independently investigated for the re-trial to be fair.

Unfair trial
But the re-trial of the Gdeim Izik Group has so far been biased and politically motivated, the most basic principles of a fair trial have not been met, and a court representing a colonial power does not have any jurisdiction in their homeland, Western Sahara.

Nevertheless, the judge has said that he did not see the international agreements that Morocco has signed as legally binding in the trial and furthermore refused the defendants bail, even though they have been in prison for six years after a trial that was declared null and void. The most basic principles of a fair trial have thus not been met.

These are the overall conclusions, made by Norwegian law student Tone Moe and Portuguese human rights activist Isabel Lourenco, who were present at the initial court sessions of the re-trial on December 26, 2016 and 23-25 January in Sale near Rabat.

Hostile environment
Other findings made by Moe and Lourenco were that the defence team were not given access to the full contents of the case file, were interrupted “numerous times” by the judge and prosecutor while the prosecution was allowed to speak freely, were not allowed to speak about the political background for the Gdeim Izik protest camp, and that the defendants were often unable to speak with their lawyers, to hear what was said in the courtroom or to take notes due to being denied pens and paper.

There was also a lot of hostility directed towards the Saharawis who took an interest in the case, according to Moe and Lourenco.

The Moroccan press referred to the defendants as “criminals” and seemingly regarded them as guilty before the case was concluded. Saharawis who wished to protest or enter the court room had dead rats and other objects thrown at them or were threatened by Moroccan bystanders, and some were refused admission to the court room.

Business as usual
According to Abba Malainin, the representative in Denmark of Saharawi liberation movement Polisario, these conclusions are consistent with how Morocco deals with matters regarding Western Sahara, or “the southern provinces” as the colony is usually called by the Moroccan authorities and in the Moroccan media.

He therefore doubts if they will receive a fair trial without any real pressure being put on Morocco, both in regard to the case and Western Sahara in general.

“Many of the accused are leading members of Saharawi organizations and were conducting negotiations with the Moroccan authorities prior to the violent dismantlement of the Gdeim Izik camp. The real reason for their detention is their activism for human rights in occupied Western Sahara, their support for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, and their work to expose the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources by Morocco and third parties such as the EU, says Malainin.

Even so, the spirits of the 21 Saharawi defendants were apparently still high during the court sessions. On more than one occasion upon arriving in court, where they appeared dressed in traditional Saharawi Daraa’s, they chanted “Labadil, Labadil, Antakrir El Masir” – “there is no other solution than self-determination.”

Morocco invaded Western Sahara and suppressed the indigenous Saharawi population in 1975 in violation of international law. They have consistently stalled UN demands for a referendum on the status of the colony since the cease-fire with Polisario in 1991. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Freedom House regard the Moroccan regime in Western Sahara as one of the most repressive in the world, and the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Juan Mendez, reported “systematic patterns of acts of torture and ill-treatment during the detention and arrest process” in Western Sahara in 2013.

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Western Sahara: Self-determination delayed

BBC

Western Sahara stands out today as Africa’s last colony, occupied illegally and forcefully by Morocco with the backing of France. Everyday Saharawi people suffer horrendous human rights violations by the occupying power. This is one of the world’s forgotten conflicts. The only peaceful solution is for Morocco to accept the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

[Radhi Bachir, the Ambassador to South Africa of Western Sahara, or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), delivered this speech on 27 February 2017 during a panel discussion at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. The panel included Ambassador Ghulam Asmal, Director NEPAD and Partnerships in the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation and José Nascimento, an international law expert.]

First let me thank Pretoria University and the Human Rights Department for keeping an eye on this issue.

I would like to thank the Dean for opening this discussion, which we are sure is a contribution that will promote peace and respect for human rights in our corner of Africa.

For years the University has contributed to enlightening on the complexities that seem to characterize the Western Sahara question. Complexities because geographically we are called Western and this area is called South of the same continent and distances can be overcome only by travelling or by information and understanding. This meeting is thus auspicious, especially when lack of clarity is fueled by full speed propaganda and contradicting information spread by Morocco and its Western allies’ machines of misinformation.

If we start by situating the theme of the day, let us say, the Sahrawi Republic is located in northern Africa bordering the Atlantic Ocean (1200 km), Mauritania to the South (over 2000 km) and the Kingdom of Morocco in the North (400 km). With Algeria, the territory has a border of only 50 km.

For more that five decades, the question of Western Sahara, its people’s struggle for independence, has remained unanswered, and the conflict that opposed for years the Sahrawis and Spain (1970-1975) then the Sahrawis and Morocco and Mauritania, (1975-1979) and the Sahrawis and Morocco (ever since) has become a forgotten and neglected international crisis. Still, it is a conflict that cannot and will not go away so long as injustice is committed against a people that do not want to give up despite the complexities and the means used to subdue them. Freedom is indivisible; if one part of African suffers injustice then all of African is enduring the same pain and anguish.

The question of Western Sahara was since 1963 a simple question of decolonization: a people, the Sahrawi people, who live in the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro, have been colonized by a declining European power, the Kingdom of Spain. Ever since, the United Nations, which registered the territory, some 110 000 square miles as a Non-self- governing territory, to which the right to self-determination, a God-given right, should apply which has been enforced into law, during long debates, in 1960, nevertheless adopted in Resolution 1514 (XV) of the United Nations General Assembly.

The right to self-determination provides for a people to determine freely their destiny at a time when the colonizer prepares for its withdrawal for the territory it occupies. The colonial power has nevertheless the responsibility to prepare the people to be able to exercise that right in a “civilized” manner, which means that the colonizer should invest time and funds for the setting up of a reliable administration and infrastructure as well as education for the colonized people to enjoy that inalienable right without coercion.

This did not happen in Spanish Sahara. Spain was, as I said, a declining power associated with the worst of regime, Hitler’s nationalism, and suffering from a long civil war that left the country depleted of its potentialities. No civilized manners, customs or administration was introduced in our homeland. To the contrary, Islam was targeted because it provided a very strong alternative to colonialism and exploitation.

All along the past century, the Spanish Sahara went through several uprisings and organized intermittent resistance against colonialists in West Africa. In early 1900s, a long war was launched from the “Land of saints” against the new colonial attempts. The Sahrawi resistance against the French colonial army is very well known and French tombs could be found today from Saguia el Hamra to the river of Senegal and within today Mali. They are the cemeteries witnessing the battles between the Sahrawi Gazia and the French colonial army.

Western Sahara was occupied and “pacified” only thanks to French intervention at the turn of last century. Under Spanish colonial presence the territory was managed by the ejercito the Spanish foreign legion, i.e. a military administration, for that matter, the same military administration was operating in metropolitan Spain, under the command of Generalissimo Franco.

Madrid was poor and provided very little and was doing very little and spending very little “to modernize” the colony. Education was a luxury. The Sahrawis created their own Koranic schools, where most of the leadership of the Polisario Front got its first education. The infrastructure was non-existent. Whatever Spain built in the territory was a long conveyer belt to exploit the huge deposit of phosphate of Bucraa. Asphalt roads were limited to the capital EL Aiun, and the population movements were limited to the colony, for fear that the wind of liberty could blow into the colony. The borders were strictly controlled by the tropas nomadas and visiting the neighboring states was prohibited for nationals.

All this exposes the reality on the ground at the time Spanish Sahara became known as the Western Sahara in 1975. Recent history will tell you that the Sahrawis continued their struggle for national liberation and fought a violent war against the Moroccan army, which has enjoyed the backing of France, and the United States when their army was pushed way beyond their borders. The war from 1975 to 1991 resulted in dozens of thousands of deaths, perpetration by Morocco of genocide against the Sahrawi people who fled to neighboring countries (close to half of the population are refugees today in Algeria, where five refugee camps are installed in a barren land; other thousands fled to Mauritanian northern towns, and to Spain).

The Sahrawi government administers 40 per cent of the Western Sahara, liberated areas where some 20, 000 families live almost permanently and provides basic food, education and health care for the refugees, some 170 000 people. The refugee camps even though they represent a permanent challenge to the organization because of the lack of resources and the insufficient international humanitarian assistance, have been

recognized as the best organized refugee camps by the United Nations High commission for refugees.

The situation in the camps contrasts with that of the Sahrawi living under Morocco’s control. The Moroccan illegal administration comprises over 120, 000 troops, 20, 000 gendarmes, 20, 000 civil servants, including police, and over 120, 000 settlers who are the eyes and ears of the oppressor. The Sahrawis living in the occupied territories are outnumbered and are estimated to be less than two hundred thousand.

The colonial policy of Morocco in Western Sahara seeks to integrate at any cost and by any mean the Sahrawis to Moroccan society: prohibiting Sahrawi culture, limiting their freedom of movement, prohibiting peaceful demonstrations, and prohibiting contacts with foreign visitors. Visitors to Western Sahara must have a special permit, which can be obtained only after a long scrutiny. Media and NGOs are seen as enemy number one of the Moroccan administration and authorities. If they are permitted to visit, they will have to follow a fixed itinerary and be accompanied by plainclothes police from the point of entry to the territory to their exit. The United Nations personnel has complained several times and documented Morocco’s vigilance in Western Sahara. The territory is also under a constant media blackout even though the United Nations has been deploying both components of international civilian and military to prepare and organize a referendum on self- determination.

No change. While the UN is present, just as before, the Moroccan colonial administration oppresses, tortures and jails at will any Sahrawi suspected of presenting even the least challenge to Moroccan policy. Morocco rejected any human rights monitoring by the UN mission in Western Sahara. France provided the defense of Morocco’s colonialism in Western Sahara. France worked to defeat the UN referendum and it has succeeded so far. Since 1975 hundreds of civilians have disappeared and may have died in detention. Even today

Morocco’s colonial laws of arbitrary detention and life-long prison for peaceful activists are common practice.

The territory of Western Sahara stands out today as, ostensibly, Africa’s last colony. Colonialism is a mode of submission and exploitation of a people and their land. When the land is super-rich, phosphates, uranium, gold, fish, beaches, etc and when the people are rebellious and ungovernable, the repression becomes quite similar to the Apartheid regime during its heyday.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other European and African human rights non-governmental organizations have documented Morocco’s persistent violation of rights in occupied Western Sahara. This typical colonial aggressiveness and savagery are reported by any delegation that will visit the area.

Any discussion on the question of Western Sahara will lead to another. What about a peaceful resolution of the conflict? And since early this month because the Kingdom of Morocco has accepted to sit with the Sahrawi Republic within the African Unity one may think that the parties to the conflict are getting closer to settling their dispute peacefully.

Conflicting signals are emerging from Moroccan officials as to the existence of a real political will to be awaked from their long colonial dreams and face reality and accept the principles guiding African unity and work through decolonization practices and democratic methods to resolve this conflict peacefully.

On the one hand King Mohamed V of Morocco has limited experience in world politics but inherited tremendous centralized powers. By lobbying to be admitted in the AU, he seems to be willing to correct mistakes his father made when the Sahrawi Republic was admitted to the Organization of African Unity but His Majesty seems to be making other mistakes that could be judged as even worse – by expelling the United Nations mission from the Western Sahara, deployed to keep a badly needed ceasefire Morocco’s Hassan II strove for and was a witness of his army defeat. The UN mission was invited to help Morocco out of its quagmire to organize a referendum, as a face-saving formula, a formula

Morocco can only fear because its outcome is clear and will lead ineluctably to a confirmation of the Sahrawi independence.

On the other hand at Gergarat, an illegal aperture, the only land passage in the entire Moroccan land borders, in the Moroccan Chinese-type wall built in the heart of the Western Sahara, is used to unload tones of dissimulated dagga into Africa. In the last few months, and as reported today in the Pretoria News, tension has gone a notch higher; the UN peacekeepers have been deployed to keep the two armies at distance and prevent a spark that would unleash the resumption of the war. Yes, but the escalation is only the consequence of Morocco’s stubbornness and rejection of its previous commitment to a peaceful resolution and signing of many agreements negotiated officially with the Sahrawi side under UN supervision.

It is the result of recent refusal to receive the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and his Personal Envoy and UN mediator, Christopher Ross. Morocco has created “a dangerous situation” according to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General.

Morocco boycotted the ongoing peaceful negotiations to which the Sahrawi side has always adhered and continues to welcome. The talks represented the only glimmer of hope for a peaceful resolution. The deadlock is the result of Morocco’s attempt to dictate the outcome of any referendum and reject any internationally supervised but also organized referendum in the territory.

Because of their own colonial endurance, the majority of African countries have only witnessed and understood the colonial policy exercised on daily basis on the Sahrawi people. Whether through the African Unity approach to welcome both the Sahrawi Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco in its fold or through the advanced position of the United Nations and the European community, the framework of a final solution entailing the exercise of the right of self-determination by the sole people of Western Sahara remains the wise course for a peaceful resolution of this African dispute.

Never forget that expansionist Morocco sat for over six long years with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in the Organization of the African Unity without recognizing its independence. We hope that this time

Morocco would have learnt from its own colonial experience and shorten the time of the normalization of bilateral relations with the Sahrawi Republic.

The efforts the African states and peoples will make to bring that day closer will benefit Africa and speed up the huge task of unity and development our peoples have sacrificed for.

Thank you very much.

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Behind Morocco’s new tango with the African Union

Facebook/ King Mohammed

The next African Union summit will be on January 31, 2017 in Addis Ababa, where Morocco is hoping to achieve its sinister agenda against Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony. The honourable thing for the AU is to rebuff Morocco’s arm-twisting and vigorously support the self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Morocco is currently courting a number of African countries relentlessly, including Madagascar, Tanzania, Rwanda, and others. Morocco has signed 19 economic agreements with Rwanda and 22 with Tanzania—two countries that traditionally backed Western Sahara’s quest for decolonization. Nigeria and Morocco have signed a total of 21 bilateral agreements, a joint venture to construct a gas pipeline that will connect the two nations as well as some other African countries to Europe. It is easily clear that the economic agreements with these countries imply ulterior motives for increasing Morocco’s leverage in its campaign to return to the African Union (AU) and deal a blow to Western Sahara’s aspirations for self-determination. Morocco is waging a similar campaign internationally and in the halls of the U.S. Congress by hiring expensive lobbyists and sleazy public relations firms

In this endeavor, it appears Morocco is making significant progress in isolating Western Sahara. Kenya, which once supported Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), reversed course in 2007 and now Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed, candidate to head the African Union Commission, is calling for holding, as quickly as possible, “the referendum on Western Sahara people’s self-determination.” Zambia has similarly vacillated after early support for the cause of Western Sahara. According to WikiLeaks, at least until 2009 Ethiopia’s position was to recognize the SADR, declared by the Polisario (Western Sahara’s guerrilla army) in 1976 as its representative body. It still remains to be seen how countries will vote when it really matters.

Ironically, according to the WikiLeaks, Eritrea’s position is unknown but is not listed among the countries that recognized SADR, although the history of the territory bears striking resemblance to its own struggle for independence from Ethiopia and the independence struggles of Belize and East Timor. Both Belize and East Timor recognize SADR. Africa committed itself to maintain colonial borders, drawn arbitrarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, after the collapse of European colonialism. This commitment was not made because those borders made any sense: borders were rarely congruent with ethnic geographical homelands or previous historical delineations. One can debate the pros and cons of this but Africa made the decision in Cairo in 1964 to keep these borders in order to avoid disruptive and endless conflict of trying to rearrange colonial boundaries to fit language groups or ethnicities. For better or worse, that is what was decided with the Cairo resolution (AHG/Res. 16(I)). Nevertheless, Morocco is choosing to mess with that resolution by gobbling up Western Sahara.

But why does Morocco need the AU? And why does it need to bribe the African countries in order to return to the continental body as dysfunctional and weak as it is? The explanation for this dubious posturing lies in Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara and its need to legitimize it by enlisting as many African countries as possible to accept Western Sahara’s fate as fait accompli. Morocco has been occupying or colonizing (take your pick) the territory since 1974. Recently, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon characterized Morocco as an occupying force in Western Sahara, which obviously did not sit well with Morocco.

Background

Western Sahara consists of the former Spanish colonies of Rio de Oro (River of Gold) and Saqiet al-Hamra (Red Creek) along the Atlantic coast, until the Spanish dictator Franco decided to leave the territories in 1974. The territory’s natural resources include phosphates, offshore fishing and potential oil. Morocco’s occupation has been aided by Spain and France (former colonizers) acting through the United Nations. Mauritania was also an early protagonist in occupying a part of Western Sahara but abandoned its claim after being soundly defeated by the Polisario, which precipitated the collapse of the Mauritanian government. Between Western Sahara and Morocco, there has been an impasse and a no-war, no-peace status quo since 1991, after a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. Morocco has proposed “internal autonomy” for Western Sahara, but the Saharawis insist on a United Nations supervised referendum vote, with independence on the table. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) after consideration of materials and information provided by both sides concluded there is no evidence:

“…establish[ING] any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity… the Court has not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.”

In a rare show of some backbone, the OAU welcomed Western Sahara’s membership, which incensed Morocco and caused its withdrawal from the organization in 1984—making it the only country to do so in the history of the organization. This was a strategic mistake by Morocco, which it seems to have finally realized. It is notable that the only country vocally supporting the Moroccan position at the time was the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire. Upon his overthrow, Mobutu was granted asylum in Togo but died in Morocco in 1997, where he was receiving medical treatment.

Morocco is now undergoing a change of heart and wants to join the successor to the O.A.U., the AU. Does this mean it wants to coexist with the Western Sahara within the “AU family,” perhaps rediscovering its African identity? The short answer is no. It is more like a change in tactics by trying to use the organization for its objective of neutralizing Western Sahara from inside the AU. Already, it has the backing of 28 African countries. However, it needs two thirds (36) of the votes from the 54 member countries of the AU to get SADR expelled. To return to the organization, it only needs a simple majority while overcoming resistance from powerful countries like South Africa and Algeria along with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. South Africa and Algeria have been reliable allies for SADR. This move by Morocco has become a terribly divisive wedge issue within the AU.

Outside Africa, Morocco has powerful support for its position from influential Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, which are not members of the AU, but which can still use their political influence and the power of the purse to coerce and lobby cash-strapped African countries and the United Nations. In a clear show of muscle, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and UAE walked out from a meeting of the Arab and African foreign ministers meeting, which was held in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, in preparation for the fourth Arab-African summit, because of opposition to the presence of a delegation from SADR. Notable here are Saudi Arabian and UAE’s forceful expressions of solidarity with Morocco.

Among African countries, Senegal strongly backs Morocco’s position, undoubtedly due to great pressure from France and Moroccan economic investors in Senegal. Morocco is also the largest investor in Ivory Coast and therefore can count on strong Ivorian support. Morocco has stronger support in Francophone Africa.

Tit for tat with Egypt

In a setback for Morocco, relations with Egypt have been strained visibly since the end of October due to President Abdelfattah El Sissi permitting a delegation from the Polisario Front to enter Sharm El-Sheikh in an official capacity. The delegation reportedly met with presidents of Arab and African parliaments and with members of the Egyptian legislature during its stay. The visit by the King of Morocco to Addis Ababa is likely in retaliation by Rabat to exploit Cairo’s ongoing dispute with Addis Ababa over the sharing of Nile waters and specifically over the issues surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia has been accusing Egypt of helping and stoking the ongoing ethnic rebellions in Ethiopia.

Illegal mining of Western Sahara’s potash

Morocco is exploiting and using Western Sahara’s potash resource to bribe and lobby countries like Ethiopia, casting doubt on the sincerity of its offer for “internal autonomy” to the territory.

According to the financialpost.com:

“Two Canadian fertilizer firms have become the dominant buyers of phosphate rock from the disputed territory of Western Sahara after other companies stopped the practice… Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) found that Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. shipped a combined 916,000 tonnes of phosphate from the territory last year. That accounted for 64.5 per cent of all purchases from Western Sahara in 2015. Potash Corp. shipped 474,000 tonnes and Agrium shipped 442,000…”

Unholy overtures

At a time when the Ethiopian government is gripped by nationwide protests and foreign businesses are fleeing the country, there have been headlines that “Morocco signed an agreement…to invest over two billion dollars in Ethiopia over a five year period to build a fertilizer factory.” The Financial Times reported that the OCP (Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company) sealed a deal to build $3.7bn fertilizer plant in Ethiopia. This is hailed as the largest investment of Morocco outside the country and as an example of South-South cooperation. The dubious clue for this motive is to be found in “Ethiopia’s support for Morocco’s return to the African institutional family …articulated in a joint statement issued following King Mohammed VI’s … visit to Ethiopia, the first since his accession to the throne.”

Here, it needs to be asked: where is this resource feeding the fertilizer company coming from? And why is Ethiopia chosen for such an investment? Is this deal another case of partnership-in-crime?

Moroccan robbery of Western Sahara’s resources is widespread. Hillary Clinton was complicit with relaxing U.S. foreign aid restrictions on Morocco during her tenure as Secretary of State, allowing U.S. funds to be used in the territory of Western Sahara where OCP operates phosphate-mining operations. Collaterally, Hillary’s favor to Morocco resulted in $12 million for the Clinton Foundation, courtesy of King Mohammed VI.

Morocco’s questionable commitment to South- South cooperation

Ethiopia is seen as key for Morocco’s goals, as a founding member of the OAU hosting the headquarters of the AU’s Chinese-funded 200-million-dollar building in Addis Ababa, showcasing Chinese soft power. Morocco is framing its charm offensive in Africa in terms of South- South cooperation. But what really is Morocco’s commitment to South-South cooperation? Like Ethiopia, Morocco’s commitment, first of all, is commitment to an extreme form of neoliberalism and to an environmental narrative that blames pastoralists and their overgrazing practices as an excuse for invading and appropriating land for commercial agriculture and other land grabs. In Morocco, state services such as health care and education have faced drastic reduction. The promotion of exports and the lowering of tariffs is the reality. For the majority of their populations, rampant degradation and poverty are the reality in both countries.

A central tenet of South-South cooperation is poverty reduction, but neoliberalist market fundamentalism is incompatible with reducing inequality and protecting the environment. The beneficiaries from these policies are the elite and international capitalists and their results are a far cry from South-to-South cooperation that would alleviate poverty. Even the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was used by Morocco to insert itself in the 16 November 2016 meeting of the Africa Action Summit in Marrakesh. King Mohammed VI was the new face in the meeting, clearly pushing his campaign to get rid of SADR from the AU.

The struggle to deal seriously with climate change should not be circumvented by the unjust political agendas of opportunistic leaders. As Hamza Hamouchene of War on Want articulates: there cannot be authentic environmental justice in Morocco when its government ignores the political rights of the Saharawi people.

In 2009, in his capacity as a designated negotiator, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi betrayed the G77’s and Africa’s collective stance in Copenhagen by making a back-door deal with France retreating from the agreed upon 1.5 degrees Celsius target to 2 degrees and thereby dealing a serious blow to the bargaining capacity of the global South. As Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones magazine wrote:

“The major powers welcomed Ethiopia’s defection from the 1.5-degree target. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown…endorsed the side deal with France….Obama placed a call to Zenawi [in which he] expressed his appreciation for the leadership [of] the Prime Minister… [In negotiating] with African countries on climate change.”

The truth was that Meles used Copenhagen to further his own immediate agenda at the expense of Africa in much the same way that King Mohammed VI used COP22 to support Morocco’s agenda of denying the rights of the Saharawi people.

Moroccan and Ethiopian versions of South-to-South cooperation is simply a repackaged version of neoliberalism based on extractive activities and destroying the lives of the most vulnerable. It is not a coincidence that both Ethiopia and Morocco are facing internal resistance from their populations, which they are trying to suppress with extreme violence.

The brutal death of the fish seller Mouhcine Fikri in the northern Moroccan town of Al Hoceima while trying to rescue his swordfish is being compared with the Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010, whose death sparked the Arab Spring uprisings. Neoliberal privatization is preventing and displacing folks who have been selling or consuming fish for as long as they have been living in the coastal towns of Morocco. In Ethiopia, it is land grab and extreme repression that is having similar effect on communities in Gambella, Benishangul, and the Amhara region, Sidama, Konso, Ogaden and Oromia.

January 31, 2017, in Addis Ababa is the next AU summit, where Morocco is hoping to achieve its sinister goal against SADR. The honorable thing for the AU to do is to rebuff Morocco’s arm-twisting and vigorously support the self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Posted in MoroccoComments Off on Behind Morocco’s new tango with the African Union

Recent Actions Of Moroccan Government On The Normalization Of Relations With the ‘Israel’

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Recent Actions Of Moroccan Government On The Normalization Of Relations With Israel

Moroccan protesters have burned Nazi flag while holding an international conference in protest of compromise policy with the occupying regime of Palestine.

The protest was in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. People demonstrated against condemnation of the Nazi Jewish regime participation at UN Local Weather Talks on the COP22 that is going to be held in Morocco.

Angry protesters torched Nazi flags shouting condemnation slogans of Nazi representatives’ admission at a conference that the United Nations runs.

The protesters stressed that hosting Nazi is a kind of compromise and called for an end to any kind of compromise and committing crime.

They knew the presence of Israel in Morocco as a violation of the country’s territory. Protesters cited war felonies and crimes against humanity that this regime has committed against Palestinians.

Participants said that people of Morocco will not accept any step towards compromise with the Nazi regime. They emphasized that the existence of the Nazi state is an existential void and never would be accepted as a fact.

“National Observatory for an anti-normalization” demanded authorities who allowed the presence of Israeli representatives in Morocco, not gambling with the stability and future of Morocco. The center stressed that Moroccans will not allow losing their dignity by welcoming the Zionists in Morocco. “National Task Force on Palestine” considered it as the Moroccan motivation in the house.

On Monday last week, the conference resumed their work and will continue until the 18th day of the current month. Rights and citizens’ organizations and political activists in various regions protest to the presence of the Nazi regime at the conference and flying Nazi flag.

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Morocco and the AU: When the King adds insult to injury

Morocco is seeking to rejoin the African Union, but its motives are suspect. As suggested by an arrogant letter to the AU Chairman, Rabat could be intending to use its membership to strengthen its colonial claims over occupied Western Sahara, an AU founding member state. Moreover, as an ally of Western powers Morocco could be used to sabotage effective African unity from within the AU.

The news about an imminent “return” of Morocco to the African Union has jammed the internet these recent days, leading the Moroccan means of “information” to invent scenes and scenarios that only exist in the minds of their writers about a victorious participation of an alleged Moroccan delegation at the opening of the African Union 27th Summit, held on 17-18 July in Kigali, Rwanda. Various Moroccan media pretended that the delegation gave a speech at the Summit – but it turned out to be a very long and incredible letter from the Moroccan King, Mohamed VI, that was handed over, on Sunday, to the Chadian President and current Chairman of the AU, Idriss Deby Itno, by the Speaker of Morocco’s Parliament, Mr. Rachid Talbi Alami.

Reading the letter was a painful exercise for me as an African first and Saharawi in the second place, because it is simply a long and rude message from Morocco, full of arrogant statements, insults to Africans, to the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) and to the AU.

In the following paragraphs we will try to draw the attention of the reader to the main insults, myths/lies and conditions the Moroccan King shamelessly composed in his letter. The letter was expected to be a formal request from his country to join the AU, but turned out to be a strange self-centered monologue containing open and arrogant insults against AU/Founding Fathers/Member States and erroneous information meant to mislead the Moroccan public more than anyone else to give them the illusion that Africa cannot survive without Morocco.

A necessary background

The Moroccan kingdom voluntarily and officially left the OAU in 1984 protesting against the recognition by the continental organization of the Saharawi Republic. In fact, the African Founding Fathers had been working hard then to decolonize many remaining African colonies, including Western Sahara. When Spain hastily and irresponsibly withdrew from its colony to cowardly leave it vulnerable and not decolonized to the Morocco-Mauritanian occupation, Africa was shocked and tried its best to convince the two African countries to put an end to this adventure and enable the Saharawi people to regain their freedom. Mauritania quickly withdrew from this unjust act of colonization, while Morocco persisted in its defiance and rejection of all African leaders’ initiatives from 1975 to this date.

In many reactions to the African positions and attempts to resolve the conflict, the Moroccan officials, including the highest ones, usually underestimated and even insulted the African institutions and personalities, the last of whom the AU Special Envoy, President Joaquim Chissano, or those leaders who may express positive opinions on the issue.

Lately it was whispered by the Moroccan media, and even some Africans and Europeans, that the Kingdom is coming back to the AU to occupy its place among African nations, having been the only African country outside the pan-African grouping for so many years. These sources also said that the King was convinced by many African leaders and his friends from all over the world that the policy of an empty chair was bringing no profits to the Moroccan case, and therefore the Kingdom must seek to return to the African organization. So, informal debates were going on within the African elite on the issue and many points of view were aired though never officially expressed.

Some said that there was no way Africa could accept the membership of Morocco since it is a colonial state militarily occupying a Member State of the AU, the Saharawi Republic. They argued that Africa and Africans had rejected the membership of South Africa for decades because of its apartheid regime and because of the massive and criminal oppression that regime was perpetrating against our sisters and brothers in South African and its illegal exploitation of the resources of Namibia. These hardcore Pan-Africanists consider that the Kingdom of Morocco has no place among the free nations of Africa unless it ends its illegal occupation and colonization of the territories of the Saharawi Republic. They believe that the fact that Morocco is an African nation cannot push Africans to tolerate or moderate their positions, because colonization and occupation are the same no matter who the colonizer is.

Others say that to the contrary Morocco is an important African State and it must return to the African Union. They further believe that Morocco is capable of bringing a lot to the organization and has many good experiences to share. But maybe they forget that if this same country becomes member it would sabotage all possible resolutions to the longstanding conflict in Western Sahara. It will even attempt to destroy and divide the organization from within with all its well-known and uncovered strategies of corruption and espionage. One can easily go back to the Wikileaks’ information on the methods used by the former Moroccan ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council to have a hint on this possible sabotage Morocco will certainly lead from within the AU if it becomes member.

A third opinion says that it may be good to have Morocco back into the African sphere so as Africans can easily and openly express their opinions to the Moroccan officials who have always refused to listen to any point of view that criticizes or condemns the Moroccan colonial expansionism. And in the end, they argue that the very entry of Morocco to the AU will be a clear recognition of the Saharawi Republic as an irrevocable fact and will even serve to convince many states to recognize the Saharawi government.

Now, Morocco has led a huge campaign in Africa, targeting all influential countries, including the closest supporters of the Saharawi’s freedom such as Algeria, Nigeria, and Kenya, to mention only these three that were formally declared by the Moroccan media. But the letter of the King that the medias have been talking about all this week turns out to be just a long text suggesting that Africa without Morocco was nothing and will be nothing. It is a letter full of insults to the Founding Fathers, to the OAU and to the AU.

Morocco is putting a condition in its letter against the presence of the Saharawi Republic; tomorrow we do not know against which other Member State it may ask the same thing. As an organization the AU may have to create a category of Permanent Member States that have veto right, and of course, if we read between the lines, Morocco sees itself as the one entitled to such possible right.

When the King adds insults to injury

To add insults to injury the Moroccan government arrogantly published the letter in the official Press Agency, MAP, as if it was an open letter and not an official one especially sent to the AU officials and Heads of State and Governments.

“…. with respect to the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and of a cumbersome legacy.”(The error here is the membership of the Saharawi Republic).

“This ethical requirement means we should reject and condemn the misjudgments of the past and whatever acts that go against the course of history.” (I cannot imagine anything more insulting to the whole Pan African history and achievements. Morocco estimates here that the Founding Fathers of the OAU were not mature enough when they decided to recognize the Saharawi Republic.)

“Surely the African Union is out of step with international law since this so-called state (SADR) is not a member of the United Nations Organization, nor of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League or any other sub-regional, regional or international institution.” (We wonder what is the international legality Morocco refers to? Also, we wonder whether the King knows that the SADR is hindered from getting membership in many international organizations because it is still colonized!)

“The African Union is thus completely out of step with developments in the Sahara issue at the level of the United Nations Organization. A process is underway, under the auspices of the UN Security Council, to reach a final political solution to this regional dispute.” (The same process Morocco never stopped hampering.)

Worse, the King believes that “the AU is the only organization prejudging the outcome of that process”! How could he possibly come out with this conclusion? Is he expecting Africans to support colonialism in their own continent?

Moreover, he deepens the insult, adding that “history will remember this episode as an act of deceit and as a misuse of procedures to serve interests that are yet to be elucidated – an act similar to the abduction of a child, since the OAU was fairly unseasoned at the time.” (Because it seems that His Majesty sees our Founding Fathers and the OAU as unseasoned and immature when they decided to oppose the Moroccan colonial adventure).

For the King the OAU decision to recognize SADR is an “immoral fait accompli, that coup against international legality, led the Kingdom of Morocco to seek to avoid the division of Africa”.

The Moroccan people and the nation’s driving forces unanimously felt that the admission of a non-sovereign entity, by means of transgression and collusion, was something they simply could not accept.

Insults to Member States of the AU

Morocco is seeking membership to the AU, but it persists in insulting the Member States that do not adhere to Rabat’s colonial claims and fait accompli in Western Sahara.

The King insulted the Saharawi Republic, a founding member of the AU, by saying: “Indeed, it is difficult to admit that the Kingdom – a nation steeped in history – could somehow be compared to an entity that meets none of the attributes of sovereignty and that is deprived of any representativeness or effectiveness.” (So, should Morocco come back to the AU Africans must give it a special Status in the organization because it has finally decided to be modest and humble to accept to join our deteriorated and sick organization. It cannot be compared to other Members, and especially not to the Saharawi Republic, which is under its colonial dominance. Can’t we easily hear here the old arrogant statements of European colonial powers in the early sixties and beyond in this statement?)

The King also insults all other countries that support the Saharawi legitimate rights to freedom, accusing them of being racists: “And yet, notwithstanding all of the above, some countries continue to claim that Morocco is not in a position to represent Africa, arguably because its population is not predominantly black.”

Even among the group of 26 countries that chose the ‘division camp’ in 1984…” (That means that an African country is only good if it supports the Moroccan colonial dreams, otherwise, it is in the division camp?)

Moroccan coming strategy to destroy the AU from inside

“The time has come to reject manipulations and funding for separatist movements and to stop sustaining timeworn conflicts in Africa.”

 “From within, Morocco will contribute to making the AU a more robust organization – one that is both proud of its credibility and relieved of the trappings of an obsolete era.”

“Through this historic, responsible act, Morocco seeks to work within the AU to transcend divisions.”

All these statements indicate that Morocco is now convinced that it has to enter the AU to blow it from within since it could not reverse its principled position on Western Sahara from outside. It should be recalled here that Morocco has never stopped creating and encouraging all sorts of continental structures, conferences or initiatives that have a possibility to divide Africans, or give some continental powers to alternative structures to AU. The debate within the AU about the different partnerships is just a small and revealing example, since Morocco has always made sure all partners deal with Africa as individual states instead of dealing with the AU as a union.

Misleading statements

Mine is a country whose commitment to just causes needs no further proof. Indeed, my country has been and always will be guided by an unshakable faith in Africa.” (I am wondering, when that was ever the case? Morocco colonized an African member State, has always supported the colonial conspiracies in Africa, has always supported the French neo-colonial plans in North Africa, has abandoned Africans during the most critical decades of the life of the OAU…etc)

Finally, true to a longstanding tradition of solidarity and commitment to peace in the world, the Kingdom of Morocco, even after it left the OAU, has continued to launch initiatives to promote stability and security.” (This is perhaps why Morocco has problems with all its neighbors: Algeria, Mauritania, Western Sahara, even some European countries, with the UN, the EU..etc. North Africa is the only region in Africa that never succeeded to build a real African Region rightly because of Morocco’s expansionist tendency and territorial claims in all of these countries during the seventies.)

This is particularly true regarding issues relating to security and the fight against terrorism. The Moroccan expertise, which is widely recognized at the international level and is sought by many countries – including European ones – would be leveraged to promote security and stability in all African countries, particularly those in West and Central Africa.” (Morocco is considered by the UN as the biggest producer and exporter of Cannabis. It is widely known that this criminal production and commerce injects billions of dollars into the Moroccan black boxes and many sources accuse Moroccan officials of being involved in this dirty business. Everyone agrees now that drug trafficking is financing terrorism and organized crime, so how can the above-mentioned statement be relevant? A very big number of terrorists are originating from Morocco and members in all sorts of terrorist groups etc.)

Finally, the King persists and signs that, Morocco firmly believes in the wisdom of the AU and its ability to restore legality and correct mistakes along the way. As the French proverb says, the only proof of truth is obviousness.

For him, Morocco will join the AU with the condition that the later restores a presumed injustice through expulsing the Saharawi Republic outside the AU and paving the way to the great enlightened Morocco in. Because in his view,“On reflection, it has become clear to us that when a body is sick, it is treated more effectively from the inside than from the outside.” And so he ends his letter with a further insult to the AU asserting that it is sick and unable to cure its sickness unless Morocco steps in as the savior and the doctor.

Conclusion

It is obvious that Morocco is trying to get the membership of the AU just to stop the Saharawis from getting support in it, or in the worst cases to destroy it from within. Morocco is getting ready to commit all sorts of dividing acts inside our organisation trying to impose its colonialist views on the organization with or without support from other countries. And more important is that it is asking for the membership, but with conditions. Finally, instead of presenting the request humbly and officially and legally, it opted for the public spreading of this humiliating letter not to Saharawis only, but to Africans and to the AU.

Posted in MoroccoComments Off on Morocco and the AU: When the King adds insult to injury

Former Guantanamo detainee facing possibility of ‘utterly baseless’ charges in Morocco

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Reprieve

Younous Chekkouri, who was released from Guantanamo last week, is facing the possibility of charges in Morocco that his lawyer has described as ‘utterly baseless’.

The prosecution in Morocco today announced that Younous – who has been held in detention since his release last week – is facing the possibility of charges of ‘attempts to disrupt the security of the country’. A judge will decide in two weeks whether to formally charge him. Meanwhile he has been placed in ‘provisional detention’ in Salé without bail.

Younous, 47, was cleared by the US government in 2010 – a process involving unanimous agreement by six federal agencies including the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA and FBI. He was never charged with a crime. His petition for habeas corpus was litigated through to a hearing, and saw the US government drop almost every allegation it had originally made against Younous.

Cori Crider, Younous’ attorney and director at Reprieve, said: “Younous facing charges is nothing short of an absolute disgrace. The US government, responsible for his being in this position in the first place, saw fit to clear him for release from Guantanamo following an exhaustive review. They never charged him with a crime and indeed they dropped almost every one of the ridiculous allegations they ever made against him while his case was being litigated in federal court. Any charges the Moroccan prosecutors are attempting to lay at Younous’ door are utterly baseless and must be revoked at once. Younous Chekkouri must go free.”

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Europe or Die

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Image result for KING Morocco’ CARTOON

A look at the migrants from several countries. For the segment about Morocco, keep in mind this description from the US State Department’s web site:

“Since 1957, the United States and Morocco have worked together to make real and substantial improvements in the lives of Moroccan citizens. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Morocco continues to make positive strides in pursuit of political reform and remains a strong U.S. supporter.”

and

“The United States is Morocco’s 6th largest trading partner, and Morocco is the 55th largest trading export market for U.S. goods. In 2006, Morocco and the United States Free Trade Agreement entered into force. Morocco has also signed a quadrilateral FTA with Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan, and a bilateral FTA with Turkey.”

“Morocco’s leading exports include phosphates and textiles. Morocco’s banking system is one of the most liberalized in North Africa; it is also highly concentrated, with the six largest banks accounting for 85 percent of banking sector assets.”

“Morocco is a moderate Arab state that maintains close relations with Europe and the United States. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), and in January 2012 it began a 2-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Morocco belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). King Mohammed VI is the chairman of the OIC’s Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee.” 

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Being a poor woman in Morocco: The intersectionality of oppression

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Moroccan women, especially in poor neighbourhoods, are entrenched in an oppressive system with no recourse.


Amina Filali committed suicide last year after she was forced to marry her rapist, who subsequently abused her [AP]
Amina Filali committed suicide last year after she was forced to marry her rapist, who subsequently abused her [AP]
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

The discussion surrounding women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa has gained greater steam these past two years in light of ongoing transitions and uprisings. These discussions are taking place across boundaries, from the streets to the screens. More importantly, women from the region are increasingly dictating the direction of these discussions, whether through their written words or unspoken actions. In Morocco, especially, the urgency to address women’s rights has not wavered despite the election of a new government and the implementation of a new constitution. On the contrary, it is becoming ever more imperative to improve the condition of women’s rights in Morocco, a place where oppression comes in bundles.

The greatest victim in Morocco is not only measured by her gender, but

The discussion surrounding women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa has gained greater steam these past two years in light of ongoing transitions and uprisings. These discussions are taking place across boundaries, from the streets to the screens. More importantly, women from the region are increasingly dictating the direction of these discussions, whether through their written words or unspoken actions. In Morocco, especially, the urgency to address women’s rights has not wavered despite the election of a new government and the implementation of a new constitution. On the contrary, it is becoming ever more imperative to improve the condition of women’s rights in Morocco, a place where oppression comes in bundles.

The greatest victim in Morocco is not only measured by her gender, but also by her marital status, and her class. The past two years alone have marred Morocco’s record of injustices towards this demographic, spanning from public self-immolations to rapes without charges, and suicides. And yet, these are but the stories that made their way beyond hospital walls and into the press.

When neoliberalism, patriarchy and authoritarianism collide

Fadoua Laroui’s self-immolation spread a wave of solidarity among Moroccans during a time of early mobilisation efforts for the beginning of the February 20 Movement. Fadoua Laroui was a single mother whose application for public housing was rejected in what was believed to be due to her marital status. Her self-immolation in front of her local municipal office was captured on video and shared widely on social media. In reaction to her self-immolation, Moroccan-American novelist, Laila Lalami, called her the “Moroccan Mohamed Bouazizi.

The political and economic context surrounding her self-immolation is two-fold. Firstly, her self-immolation deliberately took place in the front gates of her local municipal office, an extension of the authoritarian regime’s hegemony. Secondly, her socioeconomic conditions that initially placed her in a position to demand public housing stem from years of top-down neoliberal economic policies. These policies made way for the king and his allies’ vast amassment of personal wealth at the expense of a majority of Moroccans, following the privatisation of Morocco’s state-owned enterprises. Forbes placed the king’s wealth at around $2.5 billion in a country where the Gross National Income per capita is $4,910.

Moroccans call for end to rape-marriage laws

Only thirteen months after Fadoua Laroui’s self-immolation, reports emerged of Amina Filali’ ssuicide. Following a judge’s interpretation and invocation of article 475 from the penal code, Amina Filali was forced into a marriage with her rapist. Suffering abuse from her rapist and his family, Amina Filali ended her life by swallowing rat poison. Following news of her death, Moroccans mobilised throughout the country denouncing article 475 and demanding justice, to which the only female minister in the cabinet, Bassima Hakkaoui, responded with the claim that “sometimes marriage between a rapist and his victim causes no real harm”. It was not until January of this year that minister of justice, Mustapha Ramid,announced the article would be “changed”.

In a country where court rulings are made in the name of King Mohammed VI and where the lines that create the separation of powers are blurred, even with the 2011 constitution, the political forces against Amina Filali were present. Even as the ruling was made in the rural areas of the northern region, away from the centralisation of authority in Rabat, Amina Filali was a victim of multiple layers of oppressive forces. As poor young woman from a rural area in Morocco, little was at her disposable to oppose these other than reclaiming control over her existence and ending her life. The nature of economic development in Morocco over the past years, like other countries in region following independence, was primarily focused on urban development. The mass migration from the rural to the urban created spatial shifts that funnelled public and private resources at an unequal ratio.

A marriage of authoritarianism and feminism

Unfortunately, neither Fadoua Laroui nor Amina Filali had much to expect from the established women’s rights groups and associations in Morocco. To secure state-sanctioned accreditation and secure the interests of their leaders, these groups and associations existed to promote a framework for women’s rights that had skewed goals. In return for supporting measures introduced by the king, such as the personal status code law reforms of 2004, these groups and associations are able to maintain a source of funding and political legitimacy. The elitism of these groups has long been the topic of critical literature and carries unfortunate patterns across the region where authoritarian regimes imposed their power beyond the confines of government buildings.

At times, these groups will come to the rescue of victims once harm has already been inflicted. They rallied together in response to the suicide of Amina Filali, yet their demands narrowed in on simply reforming or abolishing article 475. The demands for steep political reforms or the rejection of structural adjustment programmes, which have shown to facilitate greater inequalities, were not spoken of.

And yet, with or without article 475, injustices against poor women in Morocco continue. Recently, the case of Nasma Naqash received widespread media coverage. The young domestic worker who was raped and rejected from her family, attempted to commit suicide by jumping off a building in Casablanca. She survived with sustained injuries, but spoke of the injustices committed against her, from her family’s pursuit of income forcing her into domestic labour work, to the man that raped her and continues to walk a free man. In the same week, it was also announced that a member of parliament, Hassan Arif [FR], was acquitted of rape charges while his victim faced charges instead. Even more recently, a mother and her two daughters set themselves on fire [FR] in Casablanca after their shantytown was demolished. Their story surfaces just a few days following news of the death of a young domestic worker who suffered burns believed to have been inflicted by the employer.

These young women, like Fadoua and Amina, share a position in Morocco’s working class. And as young women of Morocco’s working class, it is not enough that their economic welfare has come at the cost of their well-being and survival, but they must face immeasurable forces of entrenched power and patriarchy. Shifting away from culturalist arguments that suggest solely religion and traditions have shaped these and other young working class women’s conditions is a step towards acknowledging the causes of inequality and proposing measures for dignity.

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Western Sahara: Moroccan shame at UN human rights council

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King Mohammed VI Appoints Omar Hilal Morocco’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York

By: Malainin lakhal

The UN has over the past decades appeared to pursue a just solution to the crisis in Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony still illegally occupied by Morocco. But it now emerges that Moroccan diplomacy at the world body has employed corruption to push its agenda against Western Sahara.

The machinations undertaken by Moroccan diplomacy continue to be unveiled by the Moroccan hacker, who uses the pseudonym “Chris Coleman24” on his Twitter account. Through this account, details of the shameful strategies and conspiracies of Moroccan diplomats in New York and Geneva have been revealed. The information exposed by the mysterious hacker on the Moroccan actions within the office of Navi Pillay, the immediate former High Commissioner for Human Rights, disclose an unprecedented scandal. Navi served as head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) between 2008 and 2014.

Documents recently uploaded on the hacker’s Twitter account show that the Moroccan Mission to Geneva, led by its Ambassador Mr. Omar Hilale, has for long employed dishonorable methods to influence some high officials of the UN Human Rights Council against the interests of Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony still occupied by Morocco.

We learn thus that the Moroccan ambassador had infiltrated the entourage of the former High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, and could manipulate all her actions and positions concerning the case of human rights violations in Western Sahara.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The Moroccan ambassador did not hesitate to financially support Pillay and the members of her office to dissuade her from adopting any action that may go against the wishes of Morocco. Therefore Ms. Pillay seemed to be “very sensitive” to the wishes or orders of her generous Moroccan friends.

“I would like to remind of the imperative need to transfer the amount of $250,000 under the title of Morocco’s contribution to the budget of the OHCHR for 2011, which the High Commissioner had twice expressed the wish to receive (my faxes). This transfer will help make Pillay more attentive to our concerns about the content of the contribution of her office in the next report of the UN Secretary General on the Sahara,” Omar Hilale wrote in one of the diplomatic cables sent to his minister in January 2012.

The Moroccan ambassador did not hesitate to use financial means as a way to stop Navi Pillay from paying much attention to the repeated requests by her representative in New York, Evan Simonovic, and even by Christopher Ross. The two diplomats had tried in vain to convince her to visit Western Sahara.

THE PAWNS: KOMPASS AND NDIAYE

The Moroccan mission did not only use money, paid in the form of donations to the Council. The Moroccan Ambassador reveals in his messages to his superiors that he had succeeded to recruit “very good friends” within the staff of Mrs Pillay. The two main “friends” of Morocco are the Swedish Anders Kompass, Director of Field Operations, and the Senegalese, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of Special Procedures. According to Omar Hilale, the two men are more than just “friends”. They showed limitless zeal to serve the Moroccan plans and manipulations within the Human Rights Council against any attempt or opportunities to improve human rights in Western Sahara

“Thanks to the strategy followed by this Mission [Moroccan’s] to lock the entourage of Pillay, all the high officials of the High Commissioner in Geneva abide by the Moroccan concerns. However, the weakness of Ms. Pillay in front of Simonovic is the Achilles heel of our strategy,” Hilale reports.

Worse, in other cables from the Moroccan ambassador, we find out how he managed to obtain crucial information from his informants, Kompass and Ndiaye, two pawns who do not hesitate to bring their Moroccan friend secret information at his own embassy. For example, they provided him with crucial information about a meeting between Christopher Ross and Navanethem Pillay, the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara having apparently been trying to convince the High Commissioner to visit the occupied territory. Another example, revealed by the cables was about the conspirers’ meeting devoted to discuss the visit that the Saharawi President, Mohamed Abdelaziz, was about to undertake to the Human Rights Council in May 2013 to meet Navanethem Pillay. In both cases, the ambassador and his two friends maneuvered together to limit the impact of these two visits and influenced Pillay so as not to react positively to her two guests’ requests. The two pawns even suggested to their Moroccan friend ideas and arguments to use to convince Pillay.

NEUTRALIZING AND DISCREDITING

The documents also reveal how the “friends” of Morocco in the Human Rights Council managed to neutralize all honest officials, who tried to honorably do their duty, such as the Tunisian Frej Fennish, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Section in the OHCHR. The latter was considered by Omar Hilale as an enemy to the interests of Morocco. The Tunisian has apparently suffered from a secret campaign led by the Moroccan Embassy and its “friends” to discredit him before Pillay and therefore neutralize him.

Kompass and Ndiaye also used their authority to advise and act within the Council to discredit the Polisario and impede any possibility of support to the expansion of the mandate of MINURSO – the UN peacekeeping mission – to contain the protection of human rights.

Therefore, the two pawns – and other officials who were not cited by Hilale in his messages- influenced Navanethem Pillay in all her decisions following direct instructions from the Moroccan Embassy.

They acted, for example, to dissuade Pillay from undertaking a visit to Western Sahara in 2014. They ensured that the contribution of OHCHR to the report of the UN Secretary General on Western Sahara was fully in favour of Morocco. They lobbied to prevent Pilay from giving any “concessions” to the President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, during their meeting in Geneva on May 23, 2013. Kompass further insisted on Pillay to send a technical mission to Western Sahara in May 2014 under his lead so as not to allow the Representative of the Office in New York, Evan Simonovic, to lead this mission he had been calling for many times before, simply because Simonovic is considered by Morocco to be unfriendly.

FELONIOUS METHODS

These dangerous and compromising disclosures that undermine the reputation of the former High Commissioner and the two officials mentioned in this article corroborate, once again, the dishonorable and mafia-like methods used by the representatives of “his majesty” worldwide. Methods established on the corruption of some officials of the international bodies.

The case of the Senegalese, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the Special Procedures in the OHCHR, is revealing. He confessed to his friend Hilale his resolved allegiance to Morocco, considering himself a fervent “believer and follower of the Tijania Sufi brotherhood”. In fact, he admitted to Hilale his “dream” to go to Fez because: “he could not make the pilgrimage for 20 years.” It was a mere formality for the Moroccan ambassador, who immediately requested his Department of Foreign Affairs to send a formal invitation to Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye to fulfill the fervent believer’s dream.

Despite of the financial scandals and corruption that have come to light thanks to these leaked documents (Morocco has not denied their authenticity), the Sahrawi people continue suffering systematic violations of their basic rights. How many Sahrawi victims will continue enduring the worst violations committed by Morocco because of the corruption and lack of integrity within the UN bodies, which are supposed to ensure the respect of human rights in the world? What is worse is that those responsible for these shameful plotting will go unpunished as usual.

Posted in MoroccoComments Off on Western Sahara: Moroccan shame at UN human rights council

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