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Moroccan FM: Jordan-Morocco Ties Serve as Example for Arab Relations

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Moroccan FM: Jordan-Morocco Ties Serve as Example for Arab Relations
Moroccan FM: Jordan-Morocco Ties Serve as Example for Arab Relations

Rabat – Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita has conveyed Morocco’s satisfaction to Jordan for opening a Jordanian consulate in the southern city of Laayoune.

Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Al-Safadi chaired the consulate’s inauguration ceremony today along with Bourita.

In a post-inauguration press conference, Bourita emphasized the importance of the cooperation between Jordan and Morocco.

The official recalled that the Jordanian FM has visited Morocco for several events at different times.

“However, your visit today, to your second country, Morocco, is of special importance and has a distinct character, and will remain immortal in the memory and conscience of the Moroccan people,” Bourita stressed.

The Moroccan official also conveyed his thanks to Jordan for its steadfast position, supporting Morocco in its priority issues.

He said the visit of Jordan’s foreign minister for the inauguration ceremony embodies the “bonds and sincere” affection between the two countries’ monarchs.

King Abdullah II of Jordan announced his country’s decision to open a consulate in Laayoune on November 19, 2020.

The Jordanian King made the declaration just days after Morocco lifted a blockade Polisario caused in Guerguerat in October and the first weeks of November.

The blockade hampered commercial and civil traffic in the region and caused an uproar among the international community.

Jordan was among the countries that condemned Polisario’s maneuvers in Guerguerat, expressing support for Morocco and its action to restore peace.

He said Jordan’s position favors all of Morocco’s actions to protect its national interests, territorial integrity, and security.

Bourita reiterated Morocco’s determination to continue to work with Jordan to reinforce cooperation in all fields.

Read Also: Jordan Officially Opens Consulate in Morocco’s Laayoune

The relationship between Morocco and Jordan has “preserved its strength and distinction in a very sensitive Arab and regional circumstance. It is an occasion to make a high mention of the year of consultation and coordination between our two countries, regarding the various challenges facing our Arab region,” Bourita said.

Morocco aspires to turn the Jordanian-Moroccan cooperation as a model for Arab-Arab relations.

Jordan’s foreign minister Al Safadi also expressed satisfaction with his country’s decision to open the consulate in southern Morocco.

“Relations between the two kingdoms are historic, strategic, strong, and special,” the foreign minister said.

He emphasized cooperation at different levels, saying the relations are exemplary.

“We were and will always continue to support Morocco’s territorial integrity,” the Jordanian FM announced.

The official also announced support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan, describing it as a credible and serious initiative to end the conflict.

Jordan is the third Arab country that has established a diplomatic representation in Morocco’s southern provinces.

The UAE and Bahrain also inaugurated representations in the region.

A total of 20 countries have opened embassies or consulates in Laayoune or Dakhla to date.

Melilla Recovers Bodies of 4 Would-Be Migrants in 2 Days

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Four Bodies of Would Be Migrants Recovered Off Melilla, In Last Days
As other Meditarenean crossings have become too dangerous for passage, more irregular migrants choose to travel to Europe through the Spanish enclaves.(Photo credit: El Faro de Ceuta)

Rabat – An irregular migrant from Sub-Saharan Africa died attempting to swim to the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Tuesday, March 2; one of four who lost their lives in a span of two days.

InfoMigrants, an information website dedicated to fighting migration-related disinformation, reports that the sub-Saharan migrant tried to swim to Melilla from the Moroccan port of Beni Ansar, less than a kilometer away. The waters off of Melilla claimed a total of four lives in two days, it added. 

The organization also reported on two other people who attempted to cross, who initially survived but required hospitalization due to hypothermia. Following an alert from a nearby witness, rescuers brought them in from the sea later in the evening. Resuscitation was unsuccessful on one. 

Later the same evening, a third person was found in Melilla. She too had tried to cross by sea but required rescue and hospitalization.

Read also: The Deteriorating Conditions of African Migrants in the Mediterranean

Across the span of four days in February, Spanish authorities discovered 41 irregular migrants attempting to reach Europe by way of Melilla, some hiding among broken glass and toxic ash.

As crossings to Europe from Libya and Tunisia have become increasingly dangerous, many irregular migrants opt for Melilla instead, either by climbing the border fence or by swimming.  The two Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, represent the only land borders between the European Union and Africa.

Including the two enclaves as crossing points, thousands of migrants from Sub-Saharan and North Africa use Morocco as a transit country to reach Europe.

Videos documenting migrants’ risky journey have often gone viral online. The motives behind the decision are often linked to the economic crisis, poverty, and unemployment in their home countries.

Morocco has witnessed continued success in stopping attempted irregular migration operations bound for Spain, causing undocumented migrants passing through Morocco to seek new routes, such as crossing the Atlantic towards the Canary Islands.

The Western Mediterranean, primarily Spain, saw a marked decrease of irregular migration in 2020, recording 17,000 arrivals, a 28% decline compared to the previous year.

Economist Discusses Measures to Facilitate Informal Sector Integration in Morocco

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Economist Discusses Measures to Facilitate Informal Sector Integration in Morocco
Economist Discusses Measures to Facilitate Informal Sector Integration in Morocco

Rabat – The latest episode of The Policy Center for the New South’s weekly show interviewed Najib Saoumai on the challenges of integrating Morocco’s informal sector.

On August 6, 2020, Morocco announced its recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic with a budget of MAD 120 billion ($13.4 billion). The main focus of the plan is to relaunch the economy, safeguard and promote employment, preserve the health of workers, promote good governance, and speed ​​up the process of formalizing the economy.

The integration of the informal sector, a scourge that weighs heavily on the domestic economy, depends, among other things, on the ability of local authorities to create a “suitable” local business climate, according to economist Najib Saoumai. Saoumai was the guest of The Policy Center for the New South’s (PCNS) weekly program, “PCNS Tuesdays”.

“Informal activities need production areas and infrastructures that comply with health and safety measures, which local authorities can develop on the outskirts of cities, with easy access facilitated by an adequate transportation system,” explained Saoumai.

This statement only gains in relevance once applied to the way in which Morocco has been managing the COVID-19 crisis: there is a strong reliance on local authorities to both inform the public, and enforce government regulations.

Saoumai also spoke of the importance of the fiscal and financial factors to facilitate the transition from informal to formal sectors. Saoumai recommended that tax exemptions must remain intact if not improved upon.

He also advocates for the establishment of more flexible tax mechanisms and systems.

It’s important to note that Morocco has reduced its key interest rate to 1.5% and released $3.3 billion to fight against the pandemic Some would assume it could be wiser to raise taxes, especially for corporations and companies. But Saoumai argues that this will only hinder employment and the process of transitioning to a mostly formal national economy.

Saoumai also recommended the creation of incubators dedicated to the guidance of informal sector operators, that will help accompany and finance already existing informal businesses.

Businesses prospects in light of government’s social ambitions

In addition to the previously proposed measures, Saoumai emphasized the impact of subcontracting systems, as large companies use informal businesses to reduce costs, noting that the solution for this problem should be fiscal. By establishing value-added tax relating to subcontracting to startups, can largely contribute to tax revenues.

“Encouraging start-ups through privileged access to public procurement can also encourage more operators to enter the formal sector”, he said.

The promotion of e-payment is also an important factor in the fight against the informal, said Saoumai, noting that studies have revealed a correlation between electronic payment and GDP growth. Proving its relevance in impacting the growth of the informal sector, hence the need to build a strong electronic financial culture.

These propositions, as stated by the guest economist Najib Saoumai, are more relevant than ever in light of the implications of the current pandemic. Saoumai also noted the fragility of the Moroccan formal sector as witnessed in the early months of the pandemic. Many workers were unemployed following the reduced activity.

Mass unemployment rates are an unfortunate result of the pandemic worldwide and are in no way exclusive to Morocco. But it is important to state, as Morocco plans to recover from the effects of the pandemic, and wants to finally tackle some of its most pressing issues.

Considering King Mohammed VI’s announcement in his July 29 2020 speech, establishing social security “for the benefit of all Moroccans” over the next five years is now a national priority, important to stabilize the economy.

This would also contextualize the government’s latest bold decision: the regulation of national cannabis production. Decisions like these, and their committed follow-up by local authorities, are necessary to the success of Morocco’s newly announced endeavor.


Morocco Extends State of Emergency Until April 10

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Morocco Extends State of Emergency Until April 10
Morocco Extends State of Emergency Until April 10

Rabat – Morocco’s government announced a decision to extend the country’s state of emergency until April 10.

The cabinet announced the decision during Thursday’s government council meeting.

The measure is in line with Morocco’s preventive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Under the state of emergency, Morocco is allowed to take urgent proactive measures, including travel bans, curfew, and lockdown.

Morocco declared a state of emergency on March 19. The measure was in response to the first cases Morocco recorded after the outbreak of the pandemic in the country on March 2.

Morocco has recorded 484,753 COVID-19 cases to date, including 8,653 deaths and 470,425 recoveries.

The North African country has recently recorded fewer cases than during the first weeks of the outbreak.

With the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Morocco seeks a return to normal life soon.

The North African country has vaccinated 3,745,173 people as of March 3.

The vaccine campaign, which started on January 28, is targeting 33 million people or 80% of Morocco’s population.

The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated Morocco on the success of the campaign on Wednesday.

The organization also announced that Morocco is among the first 10 countries in the race for COVID-19 vaccines.

Morocco Government Postpones Cannabis Legalization Bill Debate

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Morocco Government Postpones Cannabis Legalization Bill Debate
Morocco's government decided to temporarily postpone discussion of the country’s cannabis legalization plans.

Rabat – Morocco’s Government Council has decided to postpone discussions on its planned bill 13-21 that intends to legalize cannabis production. The government has not stated when it aims to continue discussions. 

The bill aims to permit the legal production of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic use, to be produced in Morocco’s traditional cannabis-growing region. 

The bill, initially developed by Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior, was briefly discussed by the cabinet today. Morocco’s government decided to temporarily postpone discussion of the country’s cannabis legalization plans.

Discussing details

A broad overview of the government’s plans has been available to the public ever since the government announced it would discuss the previously taboo topic. 

Morocco’s efforts to partially legalize its famous cannabis industry have happened both suddenly and rapidly. The government announced it would approve the plan mere days after it first announced it would discuss the emirates of the “legal use of cannabis,” early last week.

The bill aims to lift many cannabis farmers from Morocco’s northern regions out of poverty and illegality by allowing the cultivation of the cash crop exclusively in this region.

Which areas the government will designate for cultivation has not been determined as of yet.

Another step 

Today, Morocco took another important step towards the goal of legalizing the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Morocco first indicated its newfound perspective on cannabis at the UN on December 2. Morocco voted in favor of reclassifying cannabis on the international level to emphasize the plant’s medicinal qualities.

That vote opened the door to a new approach on cannabis in Morocco. The government has indicated its new plan aims to protect farmers and dislodge organized crime from Morocco’s illicit cannabis industry.

Still much remains unclear for millions of cannabis users in Morocco, as well as tourists eager to sample Morocco’s famous plant during their visit to the country. 

Incomplete legalization

While Morocco’s government appears ready to eventually discuss legalizing part of its illicit industry, the majority of cannabis production is likely to remain within the domains of organized crime instead of the government’s new agency in charge of regulating the local cannabis industry.

The partial legalization does however provide hope for a new fact-based approach towards cannabis in Morocco. After years of demonization, the country appears ready to benefit from an industry that has for decades grown in the shadows. 

Morocco produces an estimated 70% of Europe’s cannabis products, yet only a fraction of this production is included in the government’s plans.

Much of the country’s exports as well as Morocco’s domestic market mainly revolve around cannabis for non-medical use that, although equally harmless to medicinal cannabis, remains heavily stigmatized.

COVID-19: Morocco Set to Receive 1,608,000 Vaccines Through COVAX

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COVID-19: Morocco Set to Receive 1,608,000 Vaccines Through COVAX
Under the first round of vaccine allocation, COVAX will deliver, free of charge, 237 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to 142 participant countries.

Rabat – COVAX, a global initiative fighting for a fairer distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, has published the list of its first round of vaccine allocations for low and middle-income countries.

The COVAX initiative is co-lead by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), ensuring equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

As part of its first round of vaccine allocation, COVAX will deliver, free of charge, 237 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, manufactured at the Serum Institute of India (SII), to 142 participant countries.

Morocco has been allocated 1,608,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, although the specific timeline is yet to be published. COVAX has presented two time frames for possible delivery, either in February-March or at the latest by April-May.

According to COVAX, the timeline for delivery is dependent on a variety of factors. The initiative listed national regulatory requirements, availability of supply, as well as the import and export of authorisations, as some such variables.

Read also: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Receives FDA Approval

COVAX noted that the delivery of the first round of vaccines has already begun, with India, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire already receiving the first doses of AstraZeneca. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire began their vaccination campaigns using COVAX-allocated vaccines on Monday, March 1.

The first round of allocations comes at a time when high-income nations are receiving ever-growing scrutiny for what some have called “vaccine nationalism.”

“While Rome is burning, we are fiddling around,” said Mustaqeem De Gama, South Africa’s delegate at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on intellectual property rights.

De Gama is referring to the much-reported –and widely decried — fact that high-income countries are consistently purchasing more vaccines than they need, leaving many poorer nations unable to acquire the bare minimum to inoculate their in-need citizens.

Initiatives such as COVAX are much-needed, as the Economist Intelligence Unit predicted that many low-income countries might not reach mass immunisation until 2024.

Police Seize Over 4 Tonnes of Cannabis in Asilah, Northern Morocco

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Police Seize Over 4 Tonnes of Cannabis in Asilah, Northern Morocco
Police Seize Over 4 Tonnes of Cannabis in Asilah, Northern Morocco

Rabat – Moroccan police aborted an international drug trafficking operation in Asilah, northern Morocco on Wednesday evening. Police seized 4 tonnes and 60 kilograms of cannabis during the operation.

Police also seized two inflatable boats, four engines, and 52 jerry cans containing 1,560 liters of gasoline, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) said in a statement on Thursday.

Police opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of the case.

The investigation also seeks to identify all accomplices involved in the trafficking network.

The operation is part of the country’s approach to fight against national and international drug trafficking.

Moroccan police carry out operations against drug trafficking throughout the year.

One of the recent operations took place on February 19, when security services thwarted an international trafficking operation of psychotropic drugs.

DGSN carried out the operation in collaboration with the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

During the operation, police operating in Tangier-Med seized 490,000 psychotropic tablets? pills?.

DGSN’s 2020 annual report said that Morocco’s police arrested 97,564 people for their involvement in drug trafficking.

The number represents a decline of 23% compared to 2019.

In 2020, Moroccan police seized 132 kilograms of cocaine, 476,923 psychotropic pills, 8 kilograms of heroin, and more than 217 tonnes of cannabis.

Police also seized 217 tonnes,  323 kilograms of cannabis resin and its derivatives.

The number represents an increase of 37 tonnes compared to 2019.

Morocco, US Navy Participate In ‘Lightning Handshake’ Exercises

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Morocco, US Navy Participate In ‘Lightning Handshake’ Exercises
The exercise intended to bring the US navy and Morocco’s airforce and navy closer to improve preparedness for real-life action.

Rabat – The navy of Morocco and the US joined together for military exercises on the Moroccan coast yesterday in order to improve collaboration. The USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and Morocco’s Navy and Airforce participated in the exercises, dubbed “Lightning Handshake.”

The bilateral exercise was a success, with US command commenting on the historic nature of relations between Morocco and the US.

Rear Admiral Scott Robertson stated that “it’s an honor to participate in this historic bi-lateral maritime exercise; hallmarking 200 years of an enduring partnership with Morocco.”

The exercise intended to bring the US navy and Moroccan airforce and navy closer to improve preparedness for real-life action.   

“Exercises like Lighting Handshake enhance the foundation of our interoperability and continued support of our long-term commitment to security in the region,” Rear Admiral Robertson explained.

The large scale naval exercise included a variety of ships and airplanes from the local carrier strike group of the US navy who joined Morocco’s navy off the coast of Morocco. The US navy presence included the fleet’s flagship, the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier that leads the US naval presence in the Mediterranean.

Read also: African Lion: US-Moroccan Military Exercise to Resume June 2021

According to the US navy, the exercise included training in surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare as well as air and strike warfare.

“Wow what a day,” the aircraft carrier’s official Twitter account announced after the exercise concluded. The US embassy in Rabat stated that the joint exercise was “part of the strong, enduring US-Morocco security partnership.”

The large-scale exercise brought local air traffic to a halt as the US brought a variety of aircraft, helicopters, and naval ships to the coast between Morocco and the Canary Islands.

The Moroccan navy and airforce provided a navy frigate, operation command ships, as well as a helicopter and four fighter jets.

The exercise is not unique as the US and Moroccan navy often participate in joint exercises near Morocco. In 2018, the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group joined Morocco’s navy to train on anti-submarine, close air support, and naval surface fire support training.

Jordan Officially Opens Consulate in Morocco’s Laayoune

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Rabat – Jordan has officially opened its consulate general in Laayoune, southern Morocco on Thursday, March 4.

Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al-Safadi chaired the inauguration ceremony.

Jordan’s charge d’affaires and the ambassador to Morocco also attended the ceremony.

The inauguration is part of Jordan’s unwavering support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara.

With today’s inauguration, Jordan has become the third Arab country to open a consulate in Morocco’s southern provinces after Bahrain and the UAE.

In November, King Abdullah II informed King Mohammed VI of his country’s decision to open the consulate in the region.

King Mohammed VI welcomed the decision during a phone call with King Abdullah II and celebrated the strong cooperation between Amman and Rabat.

The monarch also expressed his appreciation for Jordan’s decision, reflecting the country’s unwavering recognition of the Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara.

King Abdullah II also reiterated his country’s steadfast support for Morocco’s territorial integrity.

The phone call between the Moroccan and Jordanian monarchs followed Polisario’s maneuvers in Guerguerat, near the Mauritanian-Moroccan border.

King Abdullah II condemned  Polisario’s maneuvers and expressed his country’s full support for Morocco’s decision to secure the Guerguerat border crossing after a three-week blockade by the militant Polisario Front.

The Jordanian monarch also congratulated King Mohammed VI on the successful response that restored the free movement of people and goods without causing any injuries or casualties. . 

Meanwhile, Laayoune hosts the diplomatic representatives of the Comoros, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Eswatini, Zambia, the UAE, and Bahrain.

Dakhla hosts the consulates general of the Gambia, Guinea, Djibouti, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

COVID-19: WHO Congratulates Morocco on Success of Vaccination Campaign

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COVID-19: WHO Congratulates Morocco on Success of Vaccination Campaign
COVID-19: WHO Congratulates Morocco on Success of Vaccination Campaign

Rabat – The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated Morocco for the success of its vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

On Wednesday, WHO announced that Morocco is among the first 10 countries that have “successfully completed the challenge of vaccination” against COVID-19.”

Morocco started the COVID-19 vaccination campaign on January 28. Presently, the country has managed to vaccinate over 3,745,173 people.

Approximately 360,689 people have received their second dose of the vaccine as of March 3.

The country’s vaccination campaign is targeting 33 million people to secure herd immunity against the virus.

Data from March 2 by Our World in Data shows Morocco fifth, in terms of daily COVID-19 vaccinations.

Israel leads the list, followed by UAE, UK, and the US. Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday that the UAE is on the way to position itself as the first nation to emerge from the pandemic.

The news outlet quoted health experts who expressed satisfaction with the pace of COVID-19 vaccination campaign, saying the country may “soon” be the first country to vaccinate all of its population.

While Morocco is still far from achieving its goal of vaccinating 80% of its population, the country received international applause for securing multiple doses of the vaccine and for outpacing international powers in terms of vaccine uptake.

Recent data shows Morocco outpacing European powers in terms of vaccine doses, including Spain, Germany, Canada, and Italy.

To date, Morocco confirmed 484,753 COVID-19 cases, including 470,425 recoveries and 8,653 deaths.

The number of daily cases started to decline in the recent month, but this is also attributed to the fewer tests of COVID-19 carried out per day.

The number of COVID-19 tests in the country amounted to 5,197,596.

Uncovered Hammam in Seville Reveals Morocco’s Historic Splendour

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Uncovered Hammam in Seville Reveals Morocco’s Historic Splendour
At the time, the hammam was part of a network of over ten thousand hammams that are still present in Morocco today.

Rabat – A hammam was discovered in Seville when a local tapas bar underwent renovations, uncovering a pearl of Morocco’s history and culture. 

The owners of tapas bar “Cervercería Giralda” in Seville had aimed to use the current lack of customers, due to the pandemic, as a chance to renovate their building. 

The bar is situated below a 1920s hotel built in the Moorish Revival style that was popular in the early 20th century. As such, the owners figured that its Islamic appearance originated from the architectural style that was popular when the hotel was constructed. 

They discovered a centuries-old masterpiece built during the reign of Morocco’s Almohad dynasty. The building was discovered to date back to the 12th-century, unlike the 1920s as previously thought.

At the time, the hammam was part of a network of over ten thousand hammams that are still present in Morocco today.

Leaving the building today means stepping into Sevilla’s tourist district, in the shadow of one of the city’s Catholic churches. When it was constructed however, anyone leaving the building would have stepped into Morocco at the peak of its imperial greatness.

Anyone who would have enjoyed a hammam treatment there during the 12th-century would consider themselves to be in the heart of a great empire where science, art, and architecture eclipsed anything its northern neighbors could produce. 

A 12th-century visitor to the building would step out onto similar cobbled streets as are present today, yet the world would be a very different place. At the time, Seville had been a city in the heart of Al Andalus for 500 years, only changing hands between different Islamic rulers. 

From the doorstep of what is today a tapas bar, one could travel south for thousands of miles, passing the then-capital in Marrakech, without ever leaving Morocco. To the east, Moroccan territory stretched well into modern-day Libya, establishing what is still to this day considered to be “the Maghreb.” 

The delicate decorations and ingenious architecture uncovered in Seville this February shows the remaining legacy of Al Andalus, and the regional presence that Morocco has had for centuries. 

While the Berber dynasty of the Almohads faded away in history, Morocco’s cultural links to the region cannot be denied. Whether visiting the hammam in the 12th-century or going for tapas there today, Morocco continues to be a regional power that is both appreciated and feared by its northern neighbors.

BCIJ: Jihadists In Sahel Represent Morocco’s Biggest Threat

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BCIJ: Jihadists In Sahel Represent Morocco’s Biggest Threat
1,645 Moroccans have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, of whom 270 have returned to Morocco and 137 were prosecuted.

Rabat – Jihadist groups based in the Sahel region represent Morocco’s biggest military threat, according to Cherkaoui Haboub, Moroccan head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ).

“The terrorist threat persists as long as there are groups that recruit and train their followers online including Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” Haboub said in an interview with Reuters.

The head of the counterterrorism agency noted that Morocco has experienced only one major terrorist attack in the past decade, the killing of two Scandinavian tourists in 2018. Despite that, the North African country’s location “makes it a target for the Sahel groups,” he explained.

Haboub stressed that since the BCIJ was set up, they have successfully dismantled numerous militant cells and arrested more than a thousand suspected jihadists.

Not just working domestically, the BCIJ has shown itself to be a reliable partner on an international level. In an interview on January 24, the BCIJ chief said that Rabat’s security services usually provide crucial intelligence to their American counterparts. 

“Morocco provided the US with information regarding the Khalden training camp, one of Osama bin Laden’s main military training camps in Afghanistan,” Habboub said. “The information allowed the bombing of the camp.”

Read also: Former Moroccan Terrorism Convict Discredits Ex Cellmate’s Torture Claims

According to data available to BCIJ, the numbers show a continued militant risk in Morocco, especially following the rise of the Islamic State (IS), also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, in Syria and Iraq. The rise of IS caused a surge of jihadist activity across Africa, even as the group’s strongholds across the Middle East fell.

IS, along with other terror organizations, have intensified their activity in the Sahel region, taking advantage of hard to enforce borders and already-established trafficking networks, Habboub said.

The Moroccan government is also concerned that its nationals who joined the IS in the Middle East might have returned home, and relocated to the Sahel, the head of BCIJ said.

Of the 1,645 Moroccans that have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, 745 died in suicide attacks or in battle, Habboub noted. Majority of those fought for IS. Of the survivors, 270 have returned to Morocco and 137 were prosecuted, noted the head of BCIJ, adding that 288 women and 391 minors also traveled to the Middle East, joining their main income provider.

Despite the concerns, Morocco has done well following the surge of terrorism across northern Africa and the Sahel region. According to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index, Morocco is the fourth safest country in the Middle East and North Africa and the 36th safest globally, in terms of risk of terrorist attacks.

Read also: Storytime: Polisario’s Imagined War in Western Sahara Explained

Despite being the 36th safest country from terrorism in the world, the index classified Morocco as an “at-risk country” based on research from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Morocco’s leading role in fighting terrorism is made evident by the North African country’s efforts to aid others in the field. Morocco has provided intelligence that helped arrest jihadists, or avert terror attacks in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, and recently the United States, Habboub said.

“Our success hinges on continued intelligence sharing with our partners,” he concluded.

The Sahel region lies between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south, it includes different parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, reaching as far east as Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.

The United Nations’ Secretary-General’s report describes the security conditions in the Sahara-Sahel region as “extremely volatile.”

“The growing linkages between terrorism, organized crime, and intercommunal violence cannot be overemphasized,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) said

“Terrorists continue to exploit latent ethnic animosities and the absence of the State in peripheral areas to advance their agenda.”

Morocco Builds Continental Leadership on Diplomacy, African Solidarity

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Morocco Builds Continental Leadership on Diplomacy, African Solidarity
Morocco Builds Continental Leadership on Diplomacy, African Solidarity

Rabat – In the past four years, Morocco has emerged as an indispensable actor on the African scene. While most analysts tend to credit this apparent paradigm shift to the country’s much-hyped 2017 return to the African Union, Moroccan political scientist Yousra Abourabi contends that Rabat’s recent diplomatic gains in the continent are the outgrowth of a strategic reorientation that began a little over 20 years ago.

Writing for The Conversation on March 1, Abourabi put in broader perspective the noted success of Morocco’s Africa-focused diplomacy. She pointed to the abundance of signs suggesting that the country, already an established “African leader,” is on track to deepen even further its continental advances and cement or expand its newfound leadership role.  

Specifically, the Moroccan academic argued that the origins of “Morocco’s African policy” — the subject of both her PhD thesis and her latest book — date back much earlier. 

The first foundations were laid in the post-independence decades in postcolonial Africa, when Morocco was a central force in the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU). 

Read Also: MEDays: Morocco’s Pan-African Conviction is Not a Pose

But, Abourabi hastened to add to this necessary historical apercu that it was King Mohammed VI’s ascension to the throne in 1999 that propelled Morocco’s continental ambitions to new heights.

Most people failed to pay due attention to the newly coronated King’s Africa-oriented diplomacy, however. From the early 2000s to 2010, explained Abourabi, most observers considered King Mohammed VI’s “Africa diplomacy” an eccentric, “non-existent” or even desperate foray into a doomed integration enterprise. 

Today, however, she added, Morocco’s notable gains in Africa, especially the continent’s unmistakably pro-Rabat shift on the Western Sahara question, has “awakened” observers and analysts to Morocco’s rise as an “African leader.” 

To be sure, Abourabi’s analysis builds on — or perhaps consolidates — similar conclusions by most watchers of African affairs. In other words, the central threads of her analysis are hardly groundbreaking. In fact, they have become a staple in expert discussions about Morocco’s South-South turn.  

In a January 2019 article for Financial Affairs, for instance, Jon Marks took the view that Morocco’s “pivot to Africa… points towards the emergence of a genuinely post-colonial African order.” 

Abourabi makes similar points. But her analysis also dives far deeper, providing not only the present and future implications of Morocco’s continental leadership. She explores the theoretical or philosophical foundations of Morocco’s “identity” and “projection” as a crucial, indispensable presence on the emerging strategic discussions in and about Africa.

Read Also: Western Sahara and the Clash of Pan-Africanisms

“Morocco’s African policy is based on an approach that is both realistic and constructivist,” she wrote. As a realist regional leader aware of some lingering strategic divergences — the South Africa-Algeria axis on Western Sahara comes readily to mind. As such, Abourabi concludes, Morocco “seeks to overcome ideological divides to defend a certain number of national interests in a more rational and pragmatic way.”

What makes Morocco’s strategy “constructivist” is that, at bottom, “it is based on the defense of a role identity on an international scale.” But how does this work in practice? 

The answer, Abourabi argues, can be found in the type of diplomacy Morocco has been mobilizing in Africa in the past decade. The country has updated its continental approach by adopting an “indirect strategy.” This is premised on “the art of making extensive and offensive use of diplomacy, in order to bypass the fields of conflict,” when necessary. 

Morocco’s new approach differs from  the confrontational approach that led Rabat to angrily leave the OAU in 1984 in protest of the organization’s recognition of Polisario’s self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

The new Moroccan approach, in Abourabi’s view, is one of strategic patience and constructive dialogue with even African countries that are sympathetic to the Polisario Front. This, in Abourabi’s words, is a strategy that seeks to “paralyze Polisario through diplomatic deterrence.” 

Since 2017, at least ten African countries formerly supportive of Polisario’s statehood claims have withdrawn their recognition of the group. Meanwhile, 28 African states have formally requested that the AU strip Polisario’s self-proclaimed SADR of its membership of the continental organization. 

For Abourabi, such developments are part of the large and growing repertoire of evidence showing that Morocco’s strategic reset is working. 

Read Also: Moroccan MP: Commitment to South-South Vocation Defines Our Diplomacy

Also central to Morocco’s recent continental success is the country’s demonstration of its deep-rooted “African identity” and its genuine interest in advancing common continental causes. 

Abourabi writes, “Long accused of defending its territorial interests to the detriment of a vision of solidarity with Africa, the kingdom wanted to demonstrate that the defense of its interests was not incompatible with the expression of this solidarity.” 

To complement its diplomatic efforts, Morocco has also put forth its economic potential (as the first largest African investor in West Africa and the second in the continent as a whole) and its worldwide reputation for de-radicalization and religious moderation. 

With Africa, and in particular the Sahel region, increasingly on the radar of extremist Islamist militants, Morocco’s “religious security diplomacy” is identified as another key ingredient of its continental success. 

According to Aburabi, Morocco’s implication on Africa’s shifting “religious security” front is informed by the country’s “typically African” interest in exporting its proven model and shouldering its continental responsibility in Africa’s new, emerging security frontlines. 

But there are other aspects to Morocco’s increasingly feted pan-African story. 

Among others, Abourabi cites King Mohammed VI’s numerous visits across the continent and his reputation for being Morocco’s “African King.” She adds to this the overwhelming mobilization of Moroccan ministries, media, and the private sector in developing a keen interest in Africa and adopting a decidedly pan-African discourse.

Added to these, according to the Moroccan academic, are Morocco’s well-documented readiness to provide humanitarian and technical assistance to “fellow” African countries and its long, centuries-old “history of cultural and commercial exchanges with Saharan and sub-Saharan countries.” 

By all available evidence, Abourabi appeared to conclude, Morocco is emerging as an audible African actor, a leader on crucial questions of security and economic cooperation, as well as a trusted voice of modern pan-Africanism.

Germany Blocks New Schengen Visas Amid Diplomatic Spat With Morocco

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Germany Blocks New Schengen Visas Amid Diplomatic Spat With Morocco
While many embassies have implemented similar measures in the past, the move is noteworthy as Morocco’s COVID-19 epidemic has been on a steady decline for months and daily new cases now amount to a fraction of Germany’s.

Rabat – The German Embassy in Rabat has today announced it will stop issuing Schengen visas, citing COVID-19 concerns. While many embassies have implemented similar measures in the past, the move is noteworthy as Morocco’s COVID-19 epidemic has been on a steady decline for months and daily new cases now amount to a fraction of Germany’s.

Today Morocco recorded 594 new cases of COVID-19, while Germany detected 9,019 according to WHO data. Germany is significantly larger but has roughly 3000 infected citizens per 100,000 while Morocco has 1,311 per 100,000 citizens.

Despite Germany’s epidemic being significantly worse than Morocco’s, the German embassy cited COVID-19  as the key reason for its decision.

The move comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries. Morocco decided to suspend contact with the German embassy on March 1. It cited “deep misunderstandings with the Federal Republic of Germany on fundamental questions of the Kingdom of Morocco.”

Officials have not yet fully elaborated on Morocco’s reasons for its halt in diplomatic cooperation with Germany’s embassy. 

Likely reasons include German-Moroccan disagreements on Western Sahara, the case of Mohammed Hajib and a report from German NGO Transparency International which caused Morocco to be added to a “grey list” of problematic countries.

The latter issue could become an economically devastating move that could discourage foreign investment and reduce overall trust in Morocco. 

Several experts on networking site Linkedin have expressed concerns with the listing, citing previous allegations of misuse of the grey list and highlighting countries that are worse offenders of money laundering while not being added to the list.

Morocco Has Now Vaccinated 10% Of Population Against COVID-19

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Morocco Has Now Vaccinated 10% Of Population Against COVID-19
Morocco’s hospitals currently have 379 severe COVID-19 cases in its intensive care units, occupying 12% of all its available beds.

Rabat – Morocco’s health authorities have vaccinated one in ten of all Moroccans against COVID-19 since the start of its vaccination campaign. The national campaign has also provided 360,689 frontline workers with their second vaccination, making them immune from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, new cases continue to gradually drop. Over the past 24 hours, 594 new COVID-19 cases were detected in Morocco while 557 people recovered from their infection.

Morocco’s total confirmed cases since March 2020 now stands at 484,753. The country has recorded 8,653 deaths, adding another 8 deaths over the last 24 hours. Morocco continues to care for 5,675 active cases and issued another 10,654 tests.

Morocco’s hospitals currently have 379 severe COVID-19 cases in its intensive care units, occupying 12% of all its available beds.

Morocco’s most populous region of Grand Casablanca-Settat reported 291 new cases and two deaths, followed by Beni Mellal where 108 new COVID-19 cases were detected. 

Rabat-Sale-Kenitra was the next most affected region (44 new cases, no deaths) followed by Marrakech-Safi (42 cases, 2 deaths) Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima where 29 new cases were reported without any new related deaths.

The region of l’Oriental reported another 26 new cases and three deaths. No COVID19 related deaths were reported in Souss-Massa (18 new cases) Draa-Tafilalet (13) and Fes-Meknes where 12 new cases were reported.

In Morocco’s south, 7 new cases were detected in Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra, as well as one death while Dakhla-Oued Eddahab reported four new cases and no deaths.

Morocco’s Trade Deficit Declined 32.7% By The End of January 2021

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Morocco’s Trade Deficit Declined 32.7% By The End of January 2021
A country’s “trade deficit” refers to the country’s surplus imports relative to its exports. The lower a country’s trade deficit is, the more it is considered an “exporting nation.”

Rabat – Morocco’s trade deficit was reduced by 32.7% to MAD 11.06 billion ($1.2 billion) in the first month of 2021, according to a foreign exchange regulator’s press release.

Moroccan imports and exports dropped by 16% and 5.2%, respectively. The trade balance ratio has improved by 7.8 points and is now set to 68.4%.

A country’s “trade deficit” refers to the country’s surplus imports relative to its exports. The lower a country’s trade deficit is, the more it is considered an “exporting nation.”

Energy imports decreased by MAD 2.029 million ($227.337). The energy bill was reduced by 30.4% in January 2021 due to a decline of MAD 1.732 million ($194,060) in diesel and fuel-oil imports compared to the same period of the previous year, the regulator explains in the monthly report.

Capital goods imports have been cut by MAD 1.772 million ($198.542) from MAD 10.801 million ($1.210.190) in January 2020 to MAD 9.029 million ($1.011.647). This decrease is mainly due to the decline in purchases of piston engines by MAD 264 million ($29.579.695) and of commercial vehicles by MAD 248 million ($27.786.986).

The same source states that the decline of exports affected sales in the automotive sector, textile and leather, and aeronautics. The share of this sector in total exports represents 28.8% in January 2021 compared to 30.9% a year earlier.

Exports of phosphates and byproducts rose by 12.6% at the end of January 2021. The sector’s share of total exports increased by 2.2 points from 12.2% at the end of January 2020 to 14.4% at the end of January 2021.

The monthly report indicates that exports from agriculture, food industry, electronics, and electricity remain relatively stable at the end of January 2021.

The balance of service transactions goes down by 44.7%.

Travel spending fell by 56.4% as well and the travel receipts show a decrease of MAD 4.538 million ($508.457) at the end of January 2021 compared to the same month a year earlier.

Morocco’s Human Rights Minister Withdraws Resignation After Phone Call with King

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Morocco’s Human Rights Minister Withdraws Resignation After King Phone Call
Morocco’s Human Rights Minister Withdraws Resignation After King Phone Call

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Human Rights Mustapha Ramid has announced he withdrew his resignation.

In a Facebook post, the Moroccan official explained his reasons for reconsidering the decision.

“I sent my resignation to the head of government [Saad Eddine El Othmani], hoping that it would be submitted to his majesty the king.”

He said that he presented his resignation due to an “illness that exhausted me.”

According to Ramid’s Facebook statement, he changed his mind after King Mohammed VI called him following news of his resignation request.

He said the King addressed him with “words full of compassion, sympathy, and encouragement.”

The phone call with the King convincedRamid to reconsider his decision and stay in his position, he added.

On Friday last week, Ramid, a leading figure of Morocco’s ruling Justice and Development Party, took the government and Morocco observers by surprise after he announced his resignation from the government.

In his resignation request, the minister argued his ailing health could not allow him to properly carry out his responsibilities.

Observers have been linking Ramid’s resignation to PJD’s internal divisions over a number of recent decisions by the government, including the bill on the legalization of cannabis for therapeutic use.

UN Adopts May 10th As International Day of Argania

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UN Adopts May 10th As International Day of Argania
Morocco submitted a draft resolution, citing the important role of the argan tree in promoting job creation in rural areas across the country

The Permanent Mission of Morocco to the UN announced today that the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution proclaiming May 10th of each year as the International Day of Argania.

This week, Morocco submitted a draft resolution, citing the important role of the argan tree in promoting job creation in rural areas across the country.

Morocco’s resolution seeks to promote trade and sustainable growth and production of argan and its derivatives.

The resolution is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that seeks to eradicate poverty.

The North African country also called on the international community to strengthen efforts to preserve argan trees, arguing that the sector contributes to the ‘economic empowerment and financial inclusion of local communities.”

Argan trees cover more than 71% of the Souss valley in south-western Morocco.

Morocco’s rich resources position Morocco as the largest international exporter of argan-based products.

Argan is a popular ingredient in beauty cosmetics, including for hair and skin care.

Argan product sales for medicine, cosmetics, and consumption makeup over 90% of the Souss-Massa region’s economy.

Over  17,500 cooperatives are active in the argan industry. Most of the rural businesses employ local women, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Egyptian Professor Stirs Public Backlash for Hypothesizing Bencharki’s Death

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Egyptian Professor Stirs Public Backlash for Hypothesizing Bencharki’s Death
Egyptian Professor Stirs Public Backlash for Hypothesizing Bencharki’s Death

Rabat – Outraged fans of Egyptian football club Zamalek flooded social media platforms after news went viral of an exam question at Egypt’s University of Sohag’s law faculty presuming the death of Moroccan player Ashraf Bencharki.

The question presented students with the hypothetical implications of Bencharki’s death for his family.  

After contacting COVID-19 while living in Egypt, the question hypothesized,   inheritance problems emerged between the player’s family members. 

In the exam question, angry disputes between the player’s wife, children, and brother resulted in lawsuits before Egyptian courts. The professor, Dr. Ahmed Abdel Mawgoud Al-Miri, then asked his students how to settle the acrimonious inheritance feud. 

Ashraf Bencharki plays for legendary Egyptian club Zamalek, where the Moroccan footballer is usually deployed as a left-winger and a forward.

As news circulated on Facebook of the player’s hypothetical death, outraged fans of the Egyptian football club Zamalek flooded social media to vent their anger and shock.. The name and photos of the professor who prepared the exam questions were also shared. Zamalek fans responded with angry posts and comments, calling for the club management to quickly take legal action against the professor.  

Dr. Ahmed Aziz, President of Sohag University, said in a statement to Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper: “We respect and appreciate the player, his family and the Moroccan people, and we condemn what the professor did, stressing that the exam questions are confidential and only the professor of the subject knows them beforehand, and that the university was surprised by the question.

“Alongside the students, we appreciate the fans and popularity of Zamalek Club, and we affirm our full respect for everyone. “

Read Also: Egypt’s Al Zamalek Signs Moroccan Football Player Achraf Bencharki

Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education, has since taken action to appease the strong backlash from Zamalek fans. He said the professor will be suspended from his post, pending further investigations into the case.

Sohag University suspended the professor immediately after the minister’s comments. The university said they have launched an investigation to shed light on what they described as a grave misstep.

In a phone call with the Moroccan player, Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar expressed his and the Egyptian government’s dissatisfaction with the professor’s controversial behavior. He said and distanced the academic from this unilateral mistake.

Abdel Ghaffar affirmed the ministry’s appreciation and full respect for all Egyptian sports clubs and their great fans, and its pride in all professional players in what he called “their second country, Egypt.”

Storytime: Polisario’s Imagined War in Western Sahara Explained

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Storytime: Polisario’s Imagined War in Western Sahara Explained
Western Sahara’s history is complicated without taking into account centuries of history, and Polisario's struggle can easily be confused with that of genuine resistance.

Rabat – Is there a war going on in Western Sahara? Depending on the source, the answer can be a definite “yes,” or a chuckle-inducing “no.” Algeria and Polisario sources are claiming a true “hot war” is taking place on Morocco’s southern borders, for Morocco all appears calm on its southern front.

As I flew back from Laayoune in December, I was seated near two British technicians who had been fixing windmills in the region. When asked about the conflict, both reacted with surprise. “What conflict?” they asked me. 

The Algerian-backed Polisario appears to be relying more on the outrage of war, rather than actually fighting it. 

Its most valued fighters are not holding Kalashnikov rifles in the Sahara but instead are positioned in Spain or New Zealand, armed with Apple laptops or Samsung phones. Ironically, most of those “fighters” would never describe themselves as such.

Polisario argue that they are standing up for the rights of downtrodden people. They claim to be valiantly fighting off a colonizing force. Through an incomplete reading of history, they spend their time online in service of Algeria’s strategy to continue to destabilize and undermine its western neighbor.

The reason why so many well-intentioned people are unwittingly promoting further regional destabilization is understandable however. The opaque nature of the Western Sahara issue makes it incredibly difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction. 

The region’s history is complicated without taking into account centuries of history, and Polisario’s struggle can easily be confused with that of genuine resistance. 

The Western Sahara conflict is bathed in misinformation and propaganda for one sole reason, because all sides involved are fighting an impossible war.

Polisario’s war in theory

According to the press agency of Algeria and that of Polisario itself, its militias are actively fighting in Western Sahara. They claim to be hurting the Moroccan army through irregular warfare, more commonly known as “guerilla warfare.“

Guerilla warfare is nothing new, military tacticians have been discussing this strategy for more than two millennia. Understanding the concept helps reveal Polisario’s imaginary war. 

The Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu produced the first texts on guerilla warfare roughly 2500 years ago. 

His book, the “Art of War,” urged against a head-on collision of forces, but instead argued for harassing enemy supply lines, attacking its weakest forces while avoiding any risky definitive clash.

Over 2200 years later, the famous German strategist Carl von Clausewitz came to a similar conclusion after seeing the Spanish resistance struggle against Napoleon’s superior forces. In his book “the people at arms,” part of his magnum opus “On War,” he described the power of a local force using guerilla tactics against a foreign occupier.

The tactics and strategy described by both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz have been used to devastating effects throughout history as well as in recent times. 

The US, the world’s preeminent military power has lost consecutive wars against rag-tag militias in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  Winning the latter two wars has been out of the discussion in the US, the debate is only when and how to withdraw.

Guerilla warfare can present a real threat to any conventional army like that of Morocco, so why are Polisario not making any progress besides on social media?

Polisario’s war in reality

Polisario would love to fight a guerilla war, yet the reality on the ground is nothing like what it aims to project abroad. 

Its leadership is well aware that both sides are fighting a perceived anti-colonial struggle. It knows that Morocco is simply trying to reclaim territory lost following the colonial Scramble for Africa, and the partition of Morocco by France and Spain.

Ideologically, Polisario depends on an incomplete reading of history that starts in 1975, in order to promote its case. Practically, it has languished in its headquarters in Tindouf for nearly thirty years, with its weaponry and leadership becoming ever more rusty and irrelevant.

Morocco’s 2700 kilometer sand wall, lined with bunkers and landmines, both presents a target and an obstacle to the militia. 

Since the erection of the defensive structure, Polisario has had to abandon its fast-paced raids into Western Sahara, a tactic that dominated the previous strategy.

Guerilla warfare has a solution for this. 

Both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz would argue to amass forces and concentrate them on a position where the otherwise superior opponent is weakest. This tactic was used to devastating effect in Afghanistan and Vietnam, yet the Sahara Desert is an altogether different battlefield.

The Sahara does not provide the cover of Vietnam’s lush jungles, or Afghanistan’s mountains. In the Sahara, there is nowhere to hide.

Were a Polisario attack to break through one of the defensive positions on the sand wall, they would find themselves in a vast desert territory, the size of Great Britain. Far away from the region’s economic centers in Laayoune and Dakhla, it would find itself surrounded by Moroccan forces and vulnerable to aerial attack. 

Morocco’s conventional force

Such an attack would be exactly what Morocco’s military leadership would hope for. 

Concentrating sufficient forces to breach the wall in any meaningful way would require Polisario to establish supply lines, set up encampments, and see mass convoys of troops and armaments move across the barren demilitarized zone.

Such a move would allow Morocco to use its trump card, its air force and superior fire power, to deliver what could be a decisive blow against Algeria’s proxy force.

The lack of such a Polisario operation again highlights that the only reason Polisario can operate at all, is because of its Tindouf camps in Algeria. Whenever fighting gets too rough, its forces can retreat to Algeria and avoid exposure to Morocco’s fleet of drones and F-16 fighter jets. 

Any true military maneuver that would wager the bulk of Polisario’s military force means risking losing everything, far away from Algeria’s protective embrace. 

The Taliban, the Vietcong, and Iraqi insurgents  employed guerilla warfare with such great effect  as it faced an occupier that was not intending to stay. 

The essence of guerilla warfare revolves around frustrating an occupying force, delaying any decisive action while draining its morale and domestic public support for the conflict.

Morocco does not face these pressures as its population considers Western Sahara to be part of pre-colonial Morocco, and therefore an essential component of its territorial integrity. Its forces do not face a deadline and are not impacted by election promises or premature political declarations of victory. 

So why, is Polisario claiming to be effectively using guerilla warfare, and why is Morocco barely acknowledging the existence of any conflict at all?

Algeria’s strategy

The reason why Polisario continues to promote the idea of it fighting, and winning a guerilla war against Morocco, appears to largely revolve around the decision makers at the top. 

Despite the lack of physical conflict between Morocco and the Polisario, the war is achieving its intended goal.

That goal is neither an independent homeland for Polisario, nor the restoration of pre-colonial borders for Morocco. The continued conflict is the goal itself. 

As long as tensions are high between Polisario and Morocco, Algeria’s elite benefits. Morocco’s military and diplomatic corps are kept preoccupied and limited state budgets are spent on the military instead of the country’s development.

Algeria’s elite uses the conflict to justify its own existence while demanding loyalty from disgruntled citizens in the face of perceived foreign threats. Meanwhile, it drags Morocco into an arms race in which Algeria has the lead. 

Algeria’s leadership would undoubtedly love to see Polisario establish an Algerian client state that effectively encircles Morocco and cuts it off from the African continent. 

Yet, the status quo of instability, mock conflict and continued suffering of Sahrawis serves Algeria’s interests just as well. 

As long as Polisario declares the cease fire to be over, its supporters in Western Sahara will face more questioning and monitoring by local security forces. The current state of war means that local activists can both support a war while claiming oppression for being monitored as possible hostile actors. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Moroccan troops continue to unnecessarily serve in the sweltering desert and Morocco is forced into a counterproductive arms race with its neighbor.

Ending a conflict with no winners

Both Morocco and Polisario would love to resolve the conflict unilaterally. Still, the reality on the ground makes this impossible. As long as Polisario can retreat to Algeria it continues to pose a threat while Morocco’s military superiority blocks any Polisario advances.

Meanwhile, most Sahrawi supporters of Polisario simply want an end to years of life in refugee camps in the Algerian desert. They wish to resume their traditional lifestyle, be represented by their own people and have a say in their homeland’s destiny. 

That option has been available since 2007. Morocco’s Autonomy Plan offers an end to the conflict that serves both Morocco and Sahrawi interests. Yet, as established in previous paragraphs, Sahrawi interests have little to do with the continuation of the conflict. 

Without an obvious military solution, and lacking the prospect of a diplomatic detente between Algeria and Morocco, it appears only the international community can resolve the conflict. 

If actors like the EU would endorse Morocco’s Autonomy Plan and recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the region, finally Sahrawi interests would move to the forefront of discussions.

International recognition would push both sides to the negotiating table while recognizing Polisario insurgents as clear Algerian aggression against its neighbor. Sahrawis would be able to see their own rights expand significantly. 

Sahrawis would finally be able to elect Sahrawi politicians to represent them, rule the region as they see fit and build a productive relationship with Rabat. 

While foreign policy and security forces would be within Morocco’s domain, elected Sahrawi officials would have significant sway over regional development and decision making.

The current conflict only serves Algeria’s elite and its goals of destabilizing its western rival. 

In practice, citizens of Morocco and Algeria are the ones paying the price.

A renewed arms race between Morocco and Algeria would cost both nations billions while many Sahrawis continue to languish in Tindouf. 

If the conflict in Western Sahara is to be resolved, it will require the international community to break the deadlock and endorse Morocco’s Autonomy Plan. 

With no other feasible option for peace on the table, the Maghreb and its people could finally breathe a sigh of relief and shed the unnecessary consequences of its pointless brotherly disagreement.

EU-Morocco Deals: Lawyers Shatter Polisario’s Claims in ECJ

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EU-Morocco Deals: Lawyers Shatter Polisario’s Claims in ECJ
EU-Morocco Deals: Lawyers Shatter Polisario’s Claims in ECJ

Rabat – EU lawyers have just dealt a devastating blow to the Polisario Front’s attempts to contest the “legality” of EU-Morocco fisheries and agriculture agreements.

In two recent hearings before the 9th Chamber of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the team of lawyers supporting Morocco’s case arguments swiftly deconstructed Polisario’s main narrative of “illegality” and undue “economic exploitation.”

The recent hearings, scheduled for March 2-3, came after Polisario calledon the EU to review the legality of its agricultural and fisheries agreements with Morocco. 

The EU lawyers supported, by the French government and the Moroccan confederation of agriculture and rural development (COMADER), presented both historical facts and recent developments in the UN-led political process to shatter Polisario’s “illegitimacy” and “illegal exploitation” claims..

They also made use of previous rulings by the ECJ, pointing out that both EU regulations and the international legal and political consensus do not recognize Polisario as the representative of the Sahrawis. 

Polisario, they specified, is “not entitled, under European and international law, to challenge the treaties duly concluded by the European Union with its various partners before the courts.”

Another argument the team of lawyers mobilized is that Polisario’s participation in the UN-led political process to end the conflict over Western Sahara does not grant it any “quality or international legal status” to interfere in the EU’s dealings with its international partners.

They emphasized that Polisario’s plea is based on a “wrong postulate.”

Read Also: Polisario Challenges Morocco in the European Court of Justice

In December 2020, the European Commission emphasized the importance of the EU-Morocco agricultural deal, saying it was properly implemented.

The renewed Agriculture agreement between the two partners entered into force in July 2019.

The EU commission also highlighted the benefit of the agriculture agreement for the southern provinces despite the COVID-19 crisis.

In its first Assessment Report of the EU-Morocco agriculture deal, the commission stressed “the emergence of a new dynamic and of a positive and constructive dialogue in the mutual interest of both partners.” 

 Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the implementation of the Morocco-EU agriculture agreement has concretely benefited the local populations of Morocco’s southern provinces, the report found.

Despite its dwindling room for legal and diplomatic maneuvering amid an apparently irreversible pro-Rabat international consensus on the Sahara question, Polisario has continued its desperate attempts to influence public opinion and discredit recent developments through Algeria-sponsored propaganda and lobbying. 

To date, however, the group’s litany of legal, media, and diplomatic campaigns have emphatically failed to garner the support and sympathy it needs to delegitimize Morocco and attack its territorial integrity. 

With the EU overwhelmingly considering Morocco a reliable diplomatic partner despite reported pressure from pro-Polisario circles, it remains to be seen what new tactic Polisario will devise to target Moroccan interests.

German Foreign Ministry Summons Moroccan Ambassador For Meeting

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German Foreign Ministry Summons Moroccan Ambassador For Urgent Meeting
Moroccan foreign ministry cited “deep misunderstandings with the Federal Republic of Germany” as the reason for the split.(Photo credit: Egor Myznik)

Rabat – Amidst a diplomatic spat between Germany and Morocco, the German foreign ministry summoned the Moroccan ambassador in Berlin for an urgent meeting.

The news comes following Morocco’s decision to suspend all contact with Germany’s embassy in Rabat. According to a Moroccan Foreign Ministry spokesperson, the suspension covers the German embassy in Rabat, cooperation agencies, and political foundations.

The Moroccan foreign ministry’s statement cited “deep misunderstandings with the Federal Republic of Germany on fundamental questions of the Kingdom of Morocco” for the decision.

According to a German official speaking to Bloomberg news, the German government sees no reason behind the disruption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The official added that the Moroccan ambassador in Berlin was summoned for an urgent meeting to explain the matter.

While the reasons behind suspending diplomatic ties with Berlin remain unclear, some observers have linked it to Germany’s position over Morocco’s stance on Western Sahara.

Read also: Morocco-Germany Tensions, Western Sahara Tip of the Iceberg

Other observers noted Germany’s refusal to extradite Mohamed Habjib, a former Morocco convict who lives in Germany, as the cause behind the rift.

Others yet have pointed to the Berlin-based Transparency International’s recent report about Morocco, which landed the North African country in hot water for its tax practices, as a possible cause behind the conflict.

“Morocco is failing to make progress against systemic corruption in its public sector,” the report stated.

One observer noted that the greylisting “of Morocco is based on a minimal non-compliant rating, making the whole thing counterproductive or needlessly punitive at best, and highly politicized or ill-intentioned at worst.”

“In the meantime, Germany is being sued by the EU commission for its anti-money laundering deficiencies. It has been called “a money laundering paradise” by the commission,” another expert told Morocco World News, on the condition of anonymity.

Chariot Oil & Gas Signs Agreement to Become Moroccan Gas Supplier

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Chariot Oil & Gas Signs Agreement to Become Moroccan Gas Supplier
Following a reevaluation of gas reserves in the Anchoi field, off the coast of Northern Morocco, Chariot signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the "high potential" gas field.(Photo credit: Kevin Harris)

Rabat – Chariot Oil & Gas, a gas and oil exploration company, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Moroccan Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Digital Economy to become a local gas supplier.

The memorandum of understanding promises to further develop the offshore Anchois gas field located near the northern Moroccan city of Larache. The British company Chariot and its partner, the National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM), signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Industry on March 2.

Under the agreement, with the support of the Moroccan ministry, Chariot hopes to promote job creation, regional integration, as well as the promotion of clean energy for the industrial sector. It would also allow the company to promote the Anchois field as a major supplier of gas to the Moroccan market.

The announcement comes following the discovery of significantly higher gas reserves in the Anchois field than the initial assessment implied. The group announced in September 2020 that the total recoverable gas resources exceed one trillion cubic feet. The number represents an increase of 148% compared to the company’s initially-reported figures.

Read also: Nigeria-Morocco Pipeline: Nigerian President Shatters Algeria’s Hopes

Acting CEO of the British company, Adonis Pouroulis confirmed the “materiality of the Anchois Gas Field Development project. We continue to hold the view that this asset has the capacity to be a value accretive and long-term project of national significance to Morocco.”

Morocco continues “to support the development of domestic gas prospects to support the fast-growing industrial sector in [the country] and contribute to its global competitiveness by providing a cheap, clean and reliable source of energy,” declared Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the minister of industry, trade and green and digital economy.

Pouroulis also welcomed the deal, believing that the Anchovy field would help decarbonise the Moroccan economy. 

Following the latest reevaluation, the Anchovy gas field is considered to be a “high potential” field for oil extraction.

US Friendship Association To Promote Morocco-Israel Collaboration

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US Friendship Association To Promote Morocco-Israel Collaboration
The association seeks to promote a "mutual understanding of the history, culture and contemporary society of Morocco and Israel

Rabat – Members of the Jewish-Moroccan community have created the  Moroccan-Israeli Friendship Association (MIFA) in the US  to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Rabbi Gad Bouskila, a member of the Moroccan Jewish Center Netivot Israel Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, is the honorary president of MIFA.

The rabbi created  the Moroccan-Israeli Friendship Association in partnership with the Mustapha Ezzrghani who will run the association’s day-to-day activities.

“The association seeks  to promote a “mutual understanding of the history, culture and contemporary society of Morocco and Israel,” the association announced in a statement.

The MIFA aims also to “recall the historical facts which have distinguished Morocco as a pioneer in the consolidation of the values ​​of peace and tolerance and the fight against anti-Semitism.”

The founders said the association “adheres to the spirit of the 2011 Moroccan Constitution,” which enshrines the essential place of Judaism in the cultural plurality of Morocco . 

The association will put emphasis on the  Judeo-Moroccan history and culture in order to facilitate exchanges between Morocco and Israel.

Furthermore, it aims to promote scientific research on health care, renewable energy, environmental preservation, history and culture, among others.

Israel and Morocco re-established diplomatic relations on December 10.

King Mohammed VI announced Morocco’s decision in a public statement, recalling the country’s attachment to its Jewish communities and heritage across the world.

The two countries signed a joint declaration with the US. The joint accord seeks to strengthen cooperation between the three countries in different fields.

Under the accord, Morocco and Israel vowed to cooperate on health, renewable energy, technology, innovation, and agriculture.

Canadian Figures Call on Biden to Support US Western Sahara Recognition

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Canadian Figures Call on Biden to Support US Western Sahara Recognition
Canadian Figures Call on Biden to Support US Western Sahara Recognition

Rabat – Several Canadian public figures addressed a letter to President Joe Biden, calling on him to support the US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Think Tank Polisens in Ottawa said that the letter also emphasizes the importance of US-Morocco ties.

Former US President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara on December 10.

The former president emphasized ties between the two countries, recalling that Morocco was the first to recognize US independence.

The signatories said that “the US recognition is the culmination not of a few years or of a few decades, but of 300 years, which made such an act of just friendship natural.”

The participants also recalled that the conflict around Western Sahara “has lasted too long and undermined the freedom and human dignity of thousands of Moroccans sequestered in the camps of shame in Tindouf in Algeria.”

The signatories emphasized the urgency of putting an end to the humanitarian crisis of Sahrawis held in the camps.

“In the name of the values of your great nation and in the name of the lasting friendship between the US and Morocco, we invite you to exercise your influence to put an end to the hellish conditions in which the Moroccan Sahrawis live in [Tindouf] Algeria.”

The call came just a few days when the UN received a report on Sahrawis living conditions. 

On March 1, the UN Human Rights Council established Algeria’s responsibility in the human rights violations against Sahrawis in the camps.

Sahrawi human rights activist, Adnan Braih, spoke about the situation of the Sahrawis during the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Thousands of Sahrawis have been condemned to silence in the camps of Tindouf in the southwest of Algeria, where the Polisario and its armed militias are sowing terror,” the activist argued.

Several other NGOs and human rights associations condemned the situation of Sahrawis in Tindouf in various different reports.

Canadian public figures joined the move to point out Algeria’s responsibility in the conflict.

The letter accused Algeria of holding Moroccans hostage in Tindouf camps by refusing to “assume its responsibility in the conflict that it created.”

The signatories of the letter include Jacques Saada, president of the Unified Sephardic Community of Quebec, Avraham Elarar, president of the Sephardic Federation of Canada, Katherine Tokes, and CEO of Tokes Consulting Montreal.

The letter from the Canadian public figures is not the first of its kind.

Recently, the Moroccan community in the US prepared a letter to the US Senate to correct fallacies about Western Sahara that the letter from the 27 senators contained.

The 27 senators have called on Biden’s administration to reverse the US’ recent recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The US’ Moroccan community responded to the senator’s hostile demand, accusing the senators’ letter of being biased and resorting to misinformation in order to promote separatism in Western Sahara.

In a separate letter, a group of 250 political leaders from across the world signed a letter to call on Biden to express support for Trump’s recognition.

“We, former heads of government, former ministers, elected officials, members of parliament, are honored to express satisfaction with regards to the United States’ sovereign decision to recognize the full sovereignty of Morocco on the Sahara Provinces,” the letter reads.

Recently, several signs indicated the new US administration upheld Trump’s recognition.

The US’ position is reflected by the use of the undivided map in several official websites in the US.

The US State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have both started using Morocco’s undivided map.

In February, Spokesperson of the State Department Ned Price said, there is “no update” about the US’ position regarding Western Sahara.

“I think what we have said broadly still applies,” the official emphasized.