Unrest In Morocco
August 19, 2018
Unrest In Morocco
Morocco has been rocked by a continuous protest movement since October 2016. It all started when a fish vendor in the northern Rif region was crushed by a garbage truck as he was trying to retrieve his stock of fish confiscated by the authorities. His death sent shockwaves throughout the restive Rift region as the population took to the streets to protest against injustice, the authorities’ enduring corruption, and the neglect that the region has been facing. Ever since, the fish vendor, Mohchine Fikri, has become the symbol of a protest movement that continues to rattle Morocco even to this day. The protest movement’s spread was quite evocative of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, in that it involved a street vendor suffering from the authorities’ injustice.
Since the outbreak of the protests, the government’s heavy-handedness has exacerbated the it as the authorities branded the demonstrators “separatists”, despite the fact that this was not necessarily the case. Protests have spread throughout the entire country, bringing out the disillusionment of many other neglected citizens living elsewhere in the country. These continuing demonstrations have also dealt a blow to the country’s reputation as a stable country in the MENA region, forcing the prime minister Saad Eddine El Othmani to adopt a more conciliatory tone.
In June 2018, the 53 activists who were supposed to be the “agitators” of the protest movement prison sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years. In July tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Rabat to demand the release of the leaders of the protest movement in the pre-dominantly Berber region of Rif. These continuing protests are the largest ones in the country since the 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations and while the king has dismissed three ministers and various other officials over the lack of progress in a development plan for the Rif, these actions have not dampened the public anger. Meanwhile, there are widespread expectations by the media and the public for the arrested protesters and activists to be released. Recently, approximately 1200 pardons were granted by the king to prisoners, but it is not clear whether these pardons include the jailed demonstrators of the Rif unrest.
Economic neglect and corruption are amongst the key instigators of the protests in the Rif as protesters increasingly believe that the government is too corrupt and that it has been neglecting the region. Many of them have raised the fact that their region direly lacks facilities like a university, a hospital, roads, and greater infrastructural investments in addition to demanding greater control over the way the budget is spent in the Rif.