By Brahim Koulila
By Brahim Koulila
Kenitra, Morocco – Kénitra is a city– as I once mentioned in my article “Kénitra, a Wronged city”– that has all the elements that could make of it a touristic city par excellence.
Being on the Sebou River, and being only eight miles away from Mehdia Beach as well as near to Maamoura Forest, which is almost in the heart of the city, Kenitra has great potential were it given the adequate attention by both the local authorities and the government. Still, from to what I see every day, this city is really wronged and has not been given its due yet. It has been suffering from all kinds of problems, especially security-related obstacles.
Kénitra has been infamous for crime in all its manifestations. For many years now, the word “Kénitra” has been typed in Moroccan tabloids to refer to crimes from all kinds: murder, rape, drug dealing, theft, to name but a few. Unfortunately, its name gets defiled, as it were, day after day as if it were cursed. This has really overshadowed the bright side of it and even made people forget that it is a pearl needing only some care to shine and light up what surrounds it.
Today, buses are a very important means of transportation, at least for the poor, who cannot afford to take taxis twice or three times a day. However, in my opinion, in Kénitra, they often become hell for some people – those unable to defend themselves. For instance, the Number 1 bus that goes from Sidi Taibi, an area in the outskirts of Kénitra, to Labita, a notorious neighbour, in Kénitra. This bus has benefitted people for a long time, for people working in Rabat or Salé often take it from Sid Taibi to Kénitra—they take another bus from Salé/Rabat to Sidi Taibi– and vice versa. Sometimes, the trip goes without problems, but sometimes, horrible things happen.
Personally, I have witnessed many incidents. Because a lot of drug dealers are active in Sidi Taibi, people addicted to smoking “Hashish” take the number 1 to buy their drugs from there. When the bus is crowded and this category of people is on it, some people will be robbed of their wallets, handbags or cell phones, which are normally the best booty for pickpockets. Strangely, most thieves do it in sight of passengers, for these latter seldom report them or try to intervene. This is so because they know that they could be stabbed with a knife, sword or whatever. It is typical of such pickpockets to scar the face of any good person trying to stop them from stealing one’s money or whatever.
I once got on the One bus after I had gotten off another bus coming from Rabat. At the beginning, the trip was fine until, at the entry of Kénitra, a gang of criminals aged between fourteen and twenty-five or so got on the bus – of course, they do not pay the fare—and started teasing people. At first, they looked like teens who were drugged trying to pick on the passengers, but when I saw an old, bearded man arguing with one of them, I realized they were a gang. The man accused one of them of having taken his wallet, and the pickpocket tried to convince him he had not. What shocked me is that the robber in question, along with one of his friends, spoke to the man in a very rude way and was almost going to punch him in his face or do something worse. When the gang did not get any important booty, they stopped at a bus station, and started threatening people, looking at any potential “hero” on the bus. They were trying to provoke the young people to start a brawl with them, not to mention the obscene words they uttered all the time.
Another time, I was coming from the gym when I saw a person near the Riad neighborhood, where people from the countryside come every Monday to sell chicken, turkey, eggs, etc, steal an old man’s wallet and run away. Again, he did it before tens of people, and no one went after to catch him for the reasons mentioned above. What shocked me again is the way he did it – I was told by some people that he had pushed the man down and took his money.
At another bus station near Beb Fes, a famous neighborhood in the city, pickpockets/robbers often gather there to “work”. I once saw some of them on a bus about to depart towards Sidi Yahia Algharb, a small town sixteen miles from Kénitra, checking people’s sacks, handbags and so forth as if they were doing a habitual or legal work. This, I am sure, might surprise some people, but it is true.
Such incidents are nothing if compared to what happens in this city all day long. It seems that buses are the favorite place for purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Very seldom does a pickpocket get on the bus alone, for he is sure he would be beaten up by the passengers. Mostly, a gang of, at least, two people and upward does its “work. “
Speaking of pickpockets, I think it is worth mentioning that carrying knives has become a widespread practice among certain people, and it is clear that some people have developed certain courage in this respect. There are some places in Kénitra where brawls with swords are the common language.
Nowadays, wherever I go in Kénitra I find this category. The art of begging has developed substantially so that beggars have become more creative than movie-makers. Usually, they like to stand at the doors of mosques, get on buses, and go to public administrations, among many other places.
Traditional beggars are not really worth speaking of, for we all know them and recognize them at first sight. What has drawn my attention recently is the method some people use to earn what I should call fortunes instead of bread. I have been stopped many times by some well-dressed people who pretend to ask me a question or for directions. Once they succeed in stopping me, they ask for money, and everyone comes up with a story: “I’m not from here and have lost my wallet; could you please help me,” one says. “Son, I have a health problem, and the doctor has prescribed some expensive medicine that I can’t afford; please help me,” another says.
I remember being once deceived by a young man who looked, without exaggeration, like a Hollywood star. I was walking in downtown Kénitra when he stopped me and told me that he was not from the city, that he was from Meknes and all he needed was a train ticket to return to his home city. Since I did not have enough money, I started asking some people whom I did not know to help him. Some days later, I discovered that he was from Kénitra and that he lived only a few blocks from my house.
People doing such things are rather numerous in this city, and beggary has really taken alarming dimensions.
Kénitra has been known for many years as the haven of the insane and homeless. Still, what a lot of people do not know is that these two categories do not come willingly to this city but are often forced to do it.
For many years, I have heard people say that they have seen a bus or big truck dropping a handful of insane people somewhere in Kénitra. I cannot understand the rationale behind such a decision. Is it because it is a bad city? Is it because it is dirty enough to be considered as a wasteland? I really do not know. When I consider the aforementioned potential it has, I really get perplexed: why Kénitra in particular? Incidentally, thanks to his two or three visits to this city within the last three years or so, King Mohamed VI has somehow pushed the local authorities to change things a little bit. However, altogether, it still needs much more ttention, especially at the level of security.
Sure, the problem of the homeless and mentally ill pose a lot of problems, but sometimes it really becomes dangerous. I have often seen some crazy people push people, spit on them, slap them on the face, among many other things. A mentally ill person recently caused a horrible traffic accident in the outskirts of Kénitra; the accident claimed the life of three people, and the fourth victim was seriously injured.
I know that all these problems exist in every single city nationwide. Still, in Kénitra, they seem to be rather rife. What pushed me to tackle this subject is that I am a native of this city and really feel sorry for it. Robbery, beggary and the problem of the homeless and the mentally ill certainly lessen the chances of Kénitra to move forward and join other prosperous Moroccan cities, such as Marrakech and Agadir.
There is an alarming security problem in Kénitra. A police officer who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity told me that Kénitra is considered as one of the most dangerous areas nationwide. The problem lies mainly in the increasing number of robberies. Sometimes, people are robbed of their belongings even in daylight. Maybe some people might not notice such things, but on the whole, the problems remain really serious, and the local authorities need to get down to work and try to change this situation. This should be done through a sustained campaign, and not only through a wave of arrests that lasts a fleeting moment.
Again, Kénitra is a good city, but such phenomena tarnish its image.
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