With the livelihood of Moroccan families on the line in Figuig, many Moroccans are calling on the government to adopt a more robust response to Algeria.
The Moroccan community in Canada is urging Morocco’s government to “reverse” its apparently apathetic attitude to the Figuig incidents and show more support for farmers whose lives have been upended by “Algerian provocations.”
Gathering on Friday in front of the Consulate of Morocco in Montreal, dozens of demonstrators with family links in Figuig protested against recent developments in El Arja, a region on the Algerian-Moroccan border.
As they held up posters in support of the farmers and the city of Figuig, participants in the demonstration urged civil and human rights organizations to support the demands of the people of Figuig, “especially the farmers of El Arja, to preserve their historical and legal rights to exploit their land.”
In a statement, the community of Moroccans from Figuig residing in Canada said they have been following “with interest the dangerous and painful events that our oasis of Figuig knows in recent days, especially in the region of El Arja.”
They also called on the Moroccan and Algerian authorities to review “their procedures on the ground, taking into account the rights of the city’s citizens to their land and property.”
The statement and demonstration come as fears mount over a potential remake of the Sand War, the 1963 territorial dispute between Morocco and Algeria.
Late last week, Algeria gave Moroccan farmers an ultimatum to vacate their domains in El Arja — a territory that lies within Algerian borders by virtue of the 1972 broder agreement signed between the two countries — by March 18.
With no official response from Morocco by the deadline Algeria had set for the farmer to vacate their lands, families in the region of El Arja have been “arbitrarily banned from working in their fields while they have spent years transforming these arid lands into a green paradise,” according to the statement from the Moroccan community in Canada.
It added, “This event reminds us today of what happened in the mid-1970s, when an important part of the agricultural land was taken, and today we clearly express our concern about the fate and future of the remaining land of the city of Figuig.”
The protesters also reiterated their “absolute and unconditional solidarity with the people of Figuig, especially with the farmers of El Arja, who are in a critical and worrying situation.”
Amid the confused, inflammable atmosphere, reactions to Moroccan authorities’ perceived “silence” over the Figuig incidents have been mixed.
Among commentators and online commenters, some have approvingly — and sometimes admiringly — spoken of Morocco’s restraint in the face of futile provocations from an Algerian regime looking to weather the legitimacy storms it is facing at home. Rather than reckleslly matching Algeria in its highly dangerous “diversionary foreing policy,” they argue, Rabat is responsibly opting to solve the crisis by diplomatic means.
Others, meanwhile, have lambasted Moroccan authorities for not appearing to be preoccupied enough with the ordeal of Moroccan citizens whose livelihood and decades- and centuries-long link to their “ancestors’ domains” have been turned upside down by Algeria’s “feckless” regime. According to this camp, Algiers is more likely to double down on its demands since it will interpret Morocco’s diplomatic response as apathy or even fear to engage.
A third, more hopeful group maintains that negotiations are probably ongoing between Rabat and Algiers to avoid dragging two of Africa’s strongest militaries in a conflict that would have devastating consequences for the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Their idea is that Algeria and Morocco can agree on compensation terms for the farmers instead of plunging the Maghreb into a catastrophic conflict over the livelihood of a few dozen families.