Rabat - The massive outburst of the protests in Jerada has flustered the Government. Its spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi said that Saad Eddine El Othmani, head of the government, is “closely monitoring” the situation in Jerada.
Rabat – The massive outburst of the protests in Jerada has flustered the Government. Its spokesman, Mustapha El Khalfi said that Saad Eddine El Othmani, head of the government, is “closely monitoring” the situation in Jerada.
“The government is very concerned about the situation in Jerada, and works continuously for the realization of projects in progress, and this in the framework of a direct and meticulous follow-up,” said El Khalfi on Thursday in Rabat.
The city that has been wounded by the deaths of two young miners, “has seen the launch of multiple development projects prior to the death of the brothers,” he said.
“The Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development had submitted data demonstrating the efforts deployed [by the government] in Jerada, while a governmental delegation had traveled to this region before the incident, to explore ways to enhance the potential of the region in collaboration with local authorities,” he explained.
Between delusion and reality
However, the grim reality of Jerada, its associative workers and miners draw a picture radically different from El Khalfi’s accounts.
Jerada, which “has been wounded” by more than just the death of two miners, suffers, with each passing year, several and frequent death tolls in its clandestine mines.
The rate of poverty in the mining town, standing at an alarming 11.3 percent, is one of the highest in Morocco.
At an attempt to decrease the socio-economic desolation in the town, a budget of MAD 10 billion was granted by King Mohammed VI for the implementation of development projects between 2006-2010 and another MAD 17 billion between 2011-2015.
The projects were launched with the intention of reducing disparities in access to basic infrastructure, equipment and local services, including rural roads, health, education, electricity, and drinking water.
When watchful eyes refuse to see
Echoing the initial failure of Al Hoceima Manarat Al Motawasit project, Jerada’s development projects began only to remain in the initial stages.
“The King gave them [officials] money and they stocked it in their pockets while the inhabitants simply starred as their city withered in absence of an overarching political solution,” Esmahan Ait Ben Heda, president of the Human Rights Center in Jerada told Morocco World News.
The investments were minimum. “They designed and built gardens. What is a population starving for a piece of bread going to do with gardens? We need infrastructure and economic activity. We need hospitals.”
If the miners are fortunate enough not to die by flood, lack of oxygen or being crushed by the collapse of the clandestine mining wells, they still risk developing scoliosis, other breathing diseases or cancer. With only one specialised medical center in town, many miners survive only to die later due to the lack of adequate medical care.
One of the main targets of the 2011 governmental program was aimed at “strengthening health services through the creation of a unit specializing in the management of silicotic diseases” in the region.
When it was first inaugurated, the center paved the way for a scoliosis free future. “The inhabitants were ecstatic and life appeared to be taking a positive turn. But that didn’t last for long,” Ben Hada said.
White collars tainted by greed
Only a few months after the royal visit to the center, “they began to remove the new equipment and to head to the former provincial hospital,” a miner, suffering from silicosis told Moroccan newsdaily LesEcos.
“The center is barely operational. It lacks adequate equipment and staff,” Ben Hada explained.
According to associative actors, 80 percent of the city is not covered by water sanitation networks. The municipal slaughterhouse and the bus station are not always operational, reported LesEcos.
The communal landfill is not functional either, while access to drinking water in Jerada and its surrounding regions continues to be a decade long problem.
And to fan the flames, the only economic activity in the town isan electricity factory that employs workers from outside of Jerada.
“It doesn’t make any sense that while Jerada’s youth are very bright and willing to work, the factory owners employ people from outside of the region. And to make things worse, we pay up to MAD 1000 for the electricity bill, when most people are too poor to afford electronics or even use light bulbs,” added Ben Hada.
Under the watchful eyes of El Othmani and El Khalfi, a movement mimicking the beginning of the Hirak Rif is in its starting point. Relatives of the victims, friends and sympathizers have taken to the streets of the city, along 20,000 other demonstrators to protest against the injustices, the lack of infrastructure, the diligence of the authorities and the prospects of safe economic activity in the region.