Rabat- While protesters have been flooding the eastern city of Jerada to decry social inequalities, local authorities are still promising to close all abandoned mines.
Secretary-general of the region’s prefecture Abderrazak El Gourji told French news agency AFP that the city of Jerada has more than 3,200 wells, 200 to 300 of which are active. “The others are abandoned and present a clear danger–they will all be closed,” he said.
Wave of protests have flooded the eastern city Jerada since December 2017, after the death of four local miners. Tensions, however, mounted last week between protesters and law enforcement, which resulted in the arrest of several demonstrators.
Demonstrations are mainly voicing dissatisfaction over social disparities, which led many people to risk their lives in the abandoned mines. Several videos circulating on social media show violent clashes between security forces, which erupted last Wednesday.
Nine people were reportedly arrested during the clashes. Several bodies condemned the security forces crackdowns, calling the law enforcement to “stop using excessive force” against peaceful protesters.
Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said that “The authorities must allow peaceful protest by prioritising the safety of protesters. People should be free to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and security forces should never be allowed to use excessive force against protesters.”
Amnesty International is not the only body that raised concerns over the arrests of protesters. In a statement published today, the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) directed a written question to Minister of Interior Abdelouafi Laftit regarding the “security approach” applied in Jerada against protesters on Wednesday, March 14. The party said that such an approach creates panic among citizens, urging the Ministry of Interior to adopt communication and dialogue approaches in order to solve the situation.
The PPS leader, Nabil Benabdellah, who is currently in Russia to observe the recent presidential election wrote on his Facebook yesterday, “I am following with great concern the painful and unacceptable events in Jerada. I Strongly condemn all acts of violence, and call for the activation of dialogue tofind appropriate solutions to the legitimate demands of citizens.”
The protesters in Jerada are demanding alternative sources of employment.
Meanwhile, the government has been pledging several development projects for the benefit of the eastern region. After a recent cabinet meeting held last week in Rabat, Morocco Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi offered a press conference emphasizing that the government is creating ambitious economic alternatives for the former mining town to respond to inhabitants’ demands for improved social conditions.