Washington DC - As protests in the Rif region in northern Morocco lose steam as smaller public gatherings of support continue to surface around the Kingdom, Prime Minister El Othmani and his government remain in hiding with no clear policy on how to address demonstrators’ demands.
Washington DC – As protests in the Rif region in northern Morocco lose steam as smaller public gatherings of support continue to surface around the Kingdom, Prime Minister El Othmani and his government remain in hiding with no clear policy on how to address demonstrators’ demands.
To understand the origins of these new kind of public campaigns in Morocco, I decided to look into the socio-economic situation, as stated in social media posts by locals, in the city of Kenitra where I grew up.
While the Hirak (the Arabic name used to describe the protests in the Rif) in the city of Al-Hoceima may seems somewhat removed from Kenitra, there is the one constant that unites the two cities and the future of social peace in Morocco. Unmet sensible social demands at the local level leads to major protests with serious political consequences on the nation as a whole.
Kenitra, like several other towns and villages in Morocco, tried to mirror the Rif protests but with emphasis on local problems which turned out to be simple to address and reasonable to resolve. While calling for an end to marginalization and asking for the right to dignified living standards, the population of Kenitra has been asking, first and for most for an increased level of security and an improvement of public transportation system to include newer, safer, reliable and plentiful buses.
It is sad to hear on the streets of a medium size city like Kenitra repeated calls for the simple demand for a descent public bus system. The city council, headed by Aziz Rabbah of the ruling PJD party and ironically a former Transportation Minister, should have addressed this simmering crisis a long time ago.
Pictures posted on Facebook of buses looking more like Soviet era tanks than a public ride are shameful and disgraceful. In fact, local officials’ inaction in addressing this basic demand is a testament to their apathy, and may be incompetence, to address the city’s primary concerns.
The local government indifference to the legitimate community demands for more security and better public bus transit system can fuel more protests that in turn can mushroom into a national movement. As we saw in the Rif, local non-political grievances can turn into an international campaign that hurts the image of the Kingdom and its institutions.
In the this coastal city where three international companies are about to open major plants and create thousands of jobs, the lack of reliable, decent and trustworthy public bus companies is mind-boggling and unacceptable. It proves the lack of leadership at the local level and a sign of the arrogance of city officials who are aware of this dramatic situation and yet remain unresponsive.
Moroccan officials keep repeating the same mistakes. They purposely and consistently ignore basic popular, social and economic pleas until these demands become political and security crises. They refuse to respond timely and fittingly to obvious injustices and ignore the potential “known” consequences of not keeping an eye on the bigger picture despite ongoing troubles, as we saw in the Rif.
The reality is that there are major problems in Kenitra and other regions in Morocco that are far more important than addressing the local public transportation crisis. However, the inability and the refusal to address such a fundamental public demand reduce the population’s trust and respect in the government, its symbols and institutions.
Such status quo is politically unsustainable for the long run, unless national and local officials tackle the peoples’ socio-comic demands timely and effectively. For now, the Kenitrians are asking for better and more reliable buses for a dignified commute.
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