Morocco for all inclusive approach of anti-piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a huge problem, responsible annually for about a two billion dollar loss. The West African countries as well as the U.S, Spain, Brazil and a few others including Morocco are teaming up to help strengthen maritime defense mechanisms. Money is being poured into the training of naval personnel in Nigeria as well as strengthening the relationships between the countries in order to better prepare themselves to fight maritime crime.

In a Morocco World news article, Mohamed Loulichki, Morocco’s permanent representative to the UN said at a UN Security Council meeting, that it was “essential that any anti-piracy strategy incorporate aspects related to strengthening institutions in charge of law enforcement and fighting transnational organized crime”.

Because the Gulf of Guinea is surrounded by many different counties it is going to take all of them or at least most of them working together to really make a difference in the piracy and maritime crime that has been greatly effecting the area. In the past certain countries have tried to battle it alone with no long term effect. It seems as if Morocco’s Mohamed Loulichki opinion on creating a comprehensive and all inclusive approach is shared by almost everybody at this point in order to stop the economic repercussions that are a result of piracy.

 

Sources

Morocco World News

All Africa.com

 

February 20th Movement in Videos

February 20th, 2012 marked the one year anniversary of the democratic movement in Morocco. Global Voices put together a compilation of the 20 most popular videos that were made and used by the youth movement. These powerful videos have played a vital role in spreading the beliefs and desires of the movement and show first hand what has really been going on in Morocco.

Check out the VIDEOS here!

 

 

Moroccan Court Sentences 27 People on Counts of Terrorism

On February 23rd, 2012, The Moroccan Court decided on the sentences for 27 men who were arrested last year. The group was arrested on January 4, 2011. Each of these 27 ended up with a prison sentence of 1 to 6 years. These sentences were established for allegedly planning terrorist attacks.

http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/moroccan-court-jails-27-on-terrorism-charges/28784

The authorities found this stock pile of weapons

The court in Sale, Morocco, found Hicham El Ba, a 40 year old Moroccan, to be the leader of this operation. The court accused Hicham El Ba and other Moroccan men of collectively planning terrorist attacks in order to do serious harm to public order, steal, and profit. The interior ministry and the court also discovered that one of these men is a member of AQIM, or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This organization said that they want to make Morocco “a base for preparing terrorist acts.” The AQIM is thought to be based in the surrounding countries of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

No More Silence

No More Silence is the English translation of the popular Moroccan rapper El Haqed’s controversial song. The song (lyrics which can be viewed below) which openly encourages Moroccans to stand up for their rights against the government and stay silent no longer is just one of many anthems that has been inspired by the February 20th movement for Democracy.

NO MORE SILENCE

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
This is for all Moroccans.
To the free and to those who refuse to be humiliated.
To those living in misery and injustice.

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
Wake up! Look at the Egyptian people
and the people of Tunisia. They’re lying to you, those who say,
« Morocco, you’re an exception. » Okay, living is a luxury.
Their political brainwashing is calculated.
Debauchery and reality television, among other things, are there to distract us.
We have no choice but to fight for our rights.
Silence won’t benefit us. I am the child of the people and I’m not scared!

Those who suffered in silence and were dragged
through the streets are fed up with going around in circles
while our brother [the king] convenes his team to amend the constitution.
There’s something to go crazy over! Do they want us
to take up arms to seize our rights?
It’s for me to choose whom I want to sanctify.
And if you understand us, come live with us.
« God, the Homeland, and Freedom » [NOT “God, the Homeland, and the King”]

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
It’s a problem. It’s a problem. We must reformulate the equation.
We want a leader whom we can hold to account
and not an infallible, sanctified entity.
We are told: they’ll make you disappear.
I shout it loud and clear: they’ll make me disappear.
Give me my rights or give me death.

You speculate on our banks.
You sell us at auctions and you did it to us again and again.
You share in the spoils and you kiss [the king’s] hand.
Long live my father [the king],
He seized our wealth
and as long as I’ve lived, his children [the people] have not inherited it.

You erased our history and you want to bury it with
sequins and glitter again.
Our king is kind and generous to us,
but to whom is he truly generous? Most of our budget
is spent on him and his palace entourage.

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

Translated by Revolutionary Arab Rap

El Haqed whos real name is Mouad Belrhouat often preforms his songs at rallies for the February 20th movement but made headlines last January when he was arrested for alleged assault and denied bail while awaiting trial. The New York Times had a great article on why his arrest was so controversial and relates directly to the February 20th movement.

Mouad Belrhouat’s arrest shows something much bigger going on in Morocco. The constitutional reforms put in place by King Muhammad VI are not turning out to be what people thought they were when they voted for them. The constitutional reforms seem like more of a ploy to distract the Moroccan people than an actual attempt at making changes within the government. It has become clear over the past year that the few changes that were made are not going to be enough to satisfy the Moroccan people. Through events like Mr. Belrhouat’s arrest you can see that the government is not giving the Moroccan people the rights they deserve.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Incites Debate

The Moroccan Foreign Minister, Saad Eddine El Othmani’s, unexpected proposal to rename the “Arab Maghreb Union” as “”the Maghreb Union”  has re-energized the debate over the social, linguistic and political status of the Amazigh people in “post-Arab Spring” North Africa. Currently five nations make up the Arab Maghreb Union: Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Mauritania. Delegates from Tunisian and Algerian immediately rebuked the Moroccan Foreign Minister’s proposal.

Saad Eddine El Othmani's current proposal to rename the Arab Maghreb Union has sparked debate across the Maghreb

El Othmani believes that the removal of the word “Arab” from the name will better reflect the populations of five union states where a sizable number of citizens are not of Arab descent.  The Amazigh language and culture has been seriously diminished in North Africa countries. These countries have long been identified as Arab and Arabic speaking. El Othmani and the Amazign people believe that dropping Arab from the name will better reflect the Amazigh character and personality of North Africa. Algerian and Tunisian Foreign ministers oppose El Othmani’s proposal and argue that the word Arab refers to the geographical location of the five nations that compose the Union rather than describe the racial makeup of its inhabitants. Amazigh groups consider the Algerian refusal to change the name an attempt by the Algerians to keep the demands of its sizable local Amazigh populations at bay.

Emblem of the Arab Maghreb Union

Emblem of the Arab Maghreb Union

Even though it was the Moroccan Foreign Minister who proposed dropping the term Arab, there is still a great deal of opposition among Moroccans. Moroccan religious organizations are not in favor of the move as they believe the current name accurately reflects the Muslim heritage of the North African societies. In addition, some Moroccans are weary of the mounting activism of  Amazigh groups in Morocco. These groups are especially prevalent in the North and have been displaying anti-Moroccan slogans and sentiments.
I believe that having Maghred in the name of the trade organization illustrates the Arab influence in the region. I agree with El Othmani that dropping Arab from the name will make it more inclusive and acceptable to both Arabs and non-Arabs in North Africa. I believe it is a good compromise between the Arab elite who desire to cling to their beloved Mashreq and radical Berbers who want to return to pre-Arab Tamazgha.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane Supports Changing Abortion Laws

On January 11,2012, the New York Times published an article about the possible change of Morocco’s severe laws and limitations on abortion. The article focuses on the newly elected Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, who has been in power since November of 2011. The Prime Minister is the Islamic leader of the Justice and Development Party.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/world/africa/new-prime-minister-surprises-moroccans-with-support-for-abortion.html?ref=morocco

Women at a political rally in Casablanca. The prime minister, who comes from a moderate Islamic party, would support an initiative to allow abortion in cases of incest and rape, one of his aides said.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane is pushing for change in regards to the laws surrounding abortion. He believes that in some cases, abortion is a viable option. The laws that are currently in place are too strict and do not provide Morrocan women with options.

The Prime Minister would like to change this so that in extreme cases, involving incest or rape, women would be allowed to have an abortion. The newly elected Prime Minister is already trying to make changes for the betterment of Moroccan society, just a few months into his new post. The Prime Minister would also like to address and attempt to remedy the issue of illegal, unsafe abortions that are taking place in Morocco. Many Moroccan women support the new Prime Minister and the changes to Moroccan society that he is trying to induce.

Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) Reproves King of Morocco for Jailing Satirist

I found this letter addressed to the King of Morocco posted on the website of the Moroccan Times. The letter was written by two members of the Freedom of Press Committee. The letter criticisms the King’s recent actions that infringed upon Moroccan citizens’ freedom of speech. I thought the letter was an interesting compliment to early posts about the imprisonment of Moroccan protesters for criticizing the king.

February 22, 2012

H.M. King Mohamed VI

c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

1601 Twenty First Street, NW‎

Washington, DC 20009‎‎

Fax: (202) 265.0161

Your Majesty:

Over the last several years, you have punished journalists for writing about your health and in one case, publishing an offending cartoon about the wedding of a relative.  So perhaps, we at the Overseas Press Club of America, along with journalistic organizations around the world, should not be entirely surprised that your government sent an 18-year-old juvenile to jail for a Facebook post that offended you.

Maybe, we should not be surprised either that you have sentenced to jail a 25-year-old for uploading a satire of you to You Tube.  But while there is precedent for your sensitivity to criticism in print; until recently, Morocco has had a reputation for fairly free exchanges on the Internet, the mark of an enlightened leader.

According to international media and Internet freedom groups, Walid Bahomane, 18, is being held for “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” with a satirical Facebook post.  We understand also that 25-year-old Abdelsamad Haydour has been jailed in the city of Taza for a You Tube video that gave you offense.  These actions are depressing and reactionary.

Your government seems to be reviving the bad old days of 2009 when you prosecuted three journalists for “criminal defamation” for writing about your health.  Since then, it has seemed that Morocco had modernized.  You permitted those three journalists to be released after brief incarcerations.  In one case, a year-long sentence was suspended.

Then, after massive national protests last year coinciding with the Arab Spring uprisings, your government amended your Constitution to guarantee significantly more freedom of speech. Defaming the monarchy can still be a criminal offense, but in practice, is a You Tube satire of you so damaging as to be criminal?  If so, that suggests your leadership may be more fragile than the world realizes.

We urge you to halt this descent down the road to repression and suggest that instead, you re-affirm your constitutional values. That includes dropping the charges against the juvenile Bahomane, freeing Haydour and recognizing that prosecuting journalists will in no way seal off your regime from the openness of the Internet.  All it will do is call world-wide attention to weakness.

Respectfully yours,

Robert Dowling                                                                                   Larry Martz

Freedom of the Press Committee

Source:

http://www.moroccotimes.cn.ma/

UN to Hold Talks Between Morocco and Rebel Group

United Nations spokesman Eduardo del Buey announced today that the UN plans to host negotiations between Western Sahara rebels, the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government from March 11 through March 13. Representatives from Algeria and Mauritania will also be present at the talks which are scheduled to be held at the Greentree estate on Long Island.

The Polisario Front  is a Sahrawi rebel group whose main goal is to achieve independence for the Western Sahara. Conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front began in 1975 when Morocco moved into the Western Sahara after the Spanish colonisers left. After Spain’s withdrawal, Morocco took over Saguia El Hamra while Mauritania took control of Rio De Oro. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front then proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 27, 1976, and waged a guerrilla war against both Morocco and Mauritania.

Disputed Region of the Western Sahara

For the next two years, the Polisario Front movement grew tremendously as Sahrawi refugees continued flocking to the camps and Algeria and Libya supplied arms and funding. The rebel army expanded to several thousand armed fighters.  The rebel army began to acquire more advanced weapons and increase their firepower. Camels where replaced by modern Jeeps and 19th-century muskets were replaced by assault weapons. The reorganized army was able to inflict severe damage through guerilla-style hit-and-run attacks against opposing forces in Western Sahara and in Morocco and Mauritania.

Coat of arms of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

In 1991 the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front agreed to a ceasefire but still have not resolved their differences. In April 2007, the government of Morocco suggested that a self-governing entity, the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs take control and govern the area with some degree of autonomy from the Moroccan State. The Polisario front desiring full independence, drafted their own proposal to the United Nations. The stalemate caused the UN Security Council to request that both parties enter in direct negotiations to reach, “a mutually acceptable political situation.” The two sides are yet to resolve their differences with Morocco continuing to offer autonomy while the Polisario Front calls for full independence. Hopefully, renewed talks will allow the two sides to come to an agreement about the status of the Western Sahara. I believe, however, that it is unlikely that either side will be eager to make concessions. No progress has been made in 20 years so I feel that it is unlikely that the coming debates will drastically change the current situation in the region.

Separated families meet up again during a family visit in Western Sahara. Photo: UNHCR/S.Hopper

A Sahrawi woman walks in the desert near the Western Sahara refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria (AFP/File, Dominique Faget)

Sources

One Year Anniversary of Morocco’s Day of Dignity

Today is the one year anniversary of Morocco’s Day of Dignity and the beginning of the peaceful protests throughout the country calling for Constitutional Reform. Thousands of protesters gathered simultaneously in Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Tetuan, Beni Mellal, Kenitra, Agadir, Marrakech, Essaouira and in other, smaller cities such as Bouarfa, Sefrou, Bejaad and Jerada on this day in 2011. Stay tuned for updates about the situation in Morocco and reforms one year after the beginning of the protest movement.