By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, Oct 11, 2012
Moroccan and Algerian activists staged a symbolic sit-in Sunday (October 7th) to seek the re-opening of their countries’ shared land border.
The protest was held on the side-lines of the second Maghreb Social Forum. The October 6th-7th forum in Oujda called for the unification of the Maghreb while the demonstration demanded the re-opening of borders between Morocco and Algeria, giving citizens the freedom to travel and reside in any of the Maghreb countries.
Hammoudi Farah, an Algerian participant, said that opening borders, especially nowadays, where openness and economic partnership are encouraged worldwide, would best serve the interests of the Maghreb and consequently allow visits and communication between Moroccan and Algerian families.
For Toufik Kebbaj, member of the Maghreb Co-ordination for the Defence of Human Rights, the sit-in was the expression of a fundamental and vital request, and the opening of the borders would be the first step toward a long-anticipated unification.
Demonstrators, hoping this would incite Maghreb countries to unite, emphasised linguistic and cultural similarities. They pointed to the European Union as the perfect example of countries who do not share the same language yet work together to advance economically.
A statement from the Oujda conference said that building the Maghreb was a top priority. “The idea here is to end up with a borderless and culturally, socially and ethnically diverse Maghreb that would welcome all its citizens,” the declaration read.
North African countries have everything to gain by joining forces, according to economist Soraya Rehmouni. “Five countries are being forced to co-operate economically in order to address major challenges, especially that of political stability, in a very unique international context,” she said.
“To be able to create jobs, you need to boost economic growth, and this cannot happen without developing a regional economy; that economy however is now at risk because its main partner, the European Union, is going through a major crisis. Maghreb countries can achieve more growth by working together,” Rehmouni said.
She added, “The opening of the borders is imperative in that is ensures a flow of people and merchandise. The Maghreb can benefit from this: it has a lot to offer in various areas and has a lot to gain by expanding its market and sharing its experiences with others.”
Sociologist Samira Kassimi explained to Magharebia that “these days, in order to get to where we want to be, people’s force of will coupled with that of wisdom must be top priorities.”
“It’s time to replace speeches with practical measures,” Kassimi added. “If you were to conduct a survey in Morocco and in Algeria on re-opening the borders, people would most likely be in favour of it. Politicians need to make room for the Maghreb’s economic and social welfare.”