By Chloé Koura
By Chloé Koura
Rabat – The Moroccan government has announced decision to invest MAD 9.9 billion into the Al Hoceima region.
MAD 6.5 billion will go towards “Phare de la Méditerranée”, a programme King Mohammed VI launched in 2015 to develop the region. A further MAD 1.7 billion will be used to alleviate territorial inequalities, MAD 1.3 billion will build a dam overOuedGhiss, and MAD 400 million will be used to help renovate the roads.
How did it come about?
On Monday, the region’s wali Mohamed Yacoubi presented the progress of all projects renovating the areato both politicians and community representatives. Among these projects were investments in: creating jobs, education, involving youth in cultural activities, infrastructure, sanitation, and transport.
Whilst some projects were launched in April, many had been delayed, and others were due to be launched. Consequently, the sudden haste in investment indicates awareness of the angrylocal sentiment and the government’s will to appease protesters and their demands.
Dr Mohamed Chtatou, a professor at Mohammed V University, said on Saturday that an “all-out dialogue” between the government and the people of the Rif discussing their needs and demands was the most important thing to do first in order to build trust, and it appears the government took note.
Minister of Interior Abdelouafi Laftit said that his visit and thefollowing investments were “a clear message from the government that it intends to recognise the realistic and legitimate demands of citizens in the Al Hoceima region”.
In light of the government-rejected claims that Rif protests might have a separatist motivation, these investments show a new, less harsh approach by the government to appease those who have taken part in some of the 700 protests since the death of local fishmonger MohsinFikri in October 2016.
How will Al Hoceima react?
Although the government’s investment offers are good, it doesn’t appear that they are good enough.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Moroccan journalist Omar Radi said that it is the release of 10 protesters who have been imprisoned for over a month since a protest in Imzouren (the late Fikri’s hometown) that would have the strongest immediate positive reception. Radi adds that to “free the city and the people from the militarisation” is a strong demand of the protesters, and would help forge the way for a more peaceful Rif region.
The area has long been calling for an improvement in sectors including health, infrastructure, and in particular, employment, thus actions like the recent creation of over 200 jobs show that the government has been listening to their needs at least on a basic level.