Rabat - Ilyas El Omari, the president of the council of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, has reiterated his accusations of government negligence in the region of Rif, where social protests have been taking place for eight months, prompting a response from another member of government head Saad Eddine El Othmani’s cabinet.
Rabat – Ilyas El Omari, the president of the council of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, has reiterated his accusations of government negligence in the region of Rif, where social protests have been taking place for eight months, prompting a response from another member of government head Saad Eddine El Othmani’s cabinet.
El Omari, the leader of Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), appeared on a program on the first Moroccan state TV channel on Tuesday, where he accused the government of not engaging in a dialogue with protesters when demonstrations broke out in October 2016, following the death of Mouhcine Fikri, the local fish vendor from the city of Al Hoceima whose merchandise of swordfish was confiscated and tossed in a garbage truck.
Fishing swordfish was banned at the time due to a law placing the species under protection.
While attempting to retrieve the merchandise, Fikri was crushed by the truck’s compactor. The incident ignited wide protests demanding employment and a set of other social demands, including the construction of hospitals and higher education facilities.
“Lack of dialogue led to an escalation of the situation even though protests were civilized and peaceful and the people’s demands were simple,” said El Omari.
Former and current heads of government, both led by PAM’s main political rival the Justice and Development Party (PJD), were blamed by El Omari for the deterioration of the situation in Al Hoceima.
He said that he addressed a message to the former head of government and PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane to enquire about the circumstances surrounding Fikri’s death, but that Benkirane responded that he was entitled as the region president to enquire about such details.
“The government led by Benkirane punished Al Hoceima. The current head of government El Othmani is turning a blind eye to what is happening there,” said El Omari.
The president of the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region added that the government barely allocates the region MAD 4 billion.
His criticism of the government, occurring just three days before a national forum he called for to discuss the issue of Al Hoceima takes place, prompted the State Minister in Charge of Human Rights, Mustapha Ramid, to respond to El Omari via a Facebook post.
The PAM leader had directed similar accusations against the government on previous occasions, claiming he holds no responsibility in the current crisis in Al Hoceima.
The leading PJD member said El Omari made a “misstep” during his TV appearance, saying he should have waited until the forum he called for is over to see what comes out of it.
But instead, Ramid continued, El Omari chose allegations over constructive dialogue “in a desperate attempt to regain some sort of self-pride for him and his party.”
“I’m wondering, what’s the point of attending your forum,” said the minister. “I say farewell until you learn how to organize a better forum where you can show respect for your guests, and I’m one of them, and where you can keep your opinions to yourself until you face them in person and they can respond so that everybody knows the truth.”
El Omari’s previous accusation led the Minister of Housing Mohamed Nabil Benabdellah to respond by saying the PAM leader and his party should be “ashamed” of themselves, stating they are part of the problem in Al Hoceima but not part of the solution.