The Rif has, despite itself, got involved into a peaceful revolt since the death of the fishmonger Mohcine Fikri at the end of October 2016, a dramatic situation that seems to have no outcome at the moment. Worse, there is an escalation of tension from both the Hirak (uprising) and the government: Nasser Zafzafi, the icon of the popular Rifi protest movement, clumsily attacked the sacredness and the sanctity of the Muslim religion in a very conservative country, and the government automatically and hastily proceeded to arrest him along with his circle of lieutenants and decision-makers.
It seems that on both sides impulsiveness has largely prevailed over wisdom and common sense and as a result the gap will expand further, yet a peaceful and responsible dialogue could have readily resolved the conflict bearing in mind that the government has promised to put $ 1 billion on the table, a tremendous amount, for the much-needed development of the city and its surroundings. In short, no city or region of Morocco has had the chance of such governmental generosity at once and as quickly. It is a boon for the Rif if the promise is respected, of course.
But, however, it must be said openly that the Rif has been suffering stoically and in silence for over a century. Indeed, since the beginning of the last century, it has suffered greatly from the yoke of harsh French and Spanish colonialism and since the independence in 1956 of the contempt of the central state without forgetting the harshness of nature and all this can seen on the face of the Rifi people, who are victims of abject poverty and horrendous injustice.
Morocco in despair
During the 1912-1956 colonial protectorate, France, for the purpose of domination, had divided Morocco into two parts: Useful Morocco (Maroc Utile), made of coastal commercial centers, rich agricultural plains and areas with mineral wealth, and Unnecessary Morocco (Maroc Unutile) that of rugged mountains, rural plateaus and scorching desert territories. This subdivision coincided greatly with an older one: bled l-makhzen "land under government control" and bled siba "land of dissidence” or rather the poor regions of the Amazigh/Berbers who refused to pay taxes to the central government, because of poverty but recognized his religious mantle as the “Commander of the Faithful,” Amir al Mu’minin.
After independence, this subdivision persisted; indeed, today one can distinguish between two Moroccos that are cruising at two different speeds: A Morocco of the “golden triangle” and a Morocco of the “triangle of despair.” The golden triangle extends from Laayoune in the south to Tangier in the north and Fez in the east and all the territories that are situated outside this triangle is the world of despair, generally the Amazigh/Berber lands, lacking badly resources and infrastructure.
Since independence the government has clumsily and irresponsibly directed all investments, national or international, towards the golden triangle creating multiple possibilities of work, therefore much wealth and well-being. On the other hand, outside of this triangle, the idle youth is in total despair and families are crushed by poverty and lack of means and are full of anger and hate towards the establishment for their lot which they consider a form of humiliation (Hogra) resulting from lack of interest in them and in their plight.
The drop that overflowed the vase
The emotional earthquake that Morocco experienced on October 30, 2016 following the death of Mohcine Fikri was undoubtedly a very dangerous event for the future of the country. The political class and the establishment must have drawn the necessary lessons for the future of the country, then. Today, it must be said that the future is very bleak and the so-called "Moroccan exception,” if any, is in great danger of extinction...
The Hirak of the Rif is the natural outcome of the discontent of the Moroccan “triangle of despair” in its totality. The events of Alhoceima are maybe, to be clear, the Moroccan spring in the making, unless the demands of the population are met at once. This popular movement has undoubtedly exposed the precariousness of the Amazigh/Berbers and the reality of the political game in Morocco. The political parties have all been co-opted by the Makhzen and, as a result, have lost their political “virginity” in the eyes of the population and the people themselves have, thus, become the legitimate and real opposition on the ground because nature does not like void, and so they went down to the streets to defend their dignity and safeguard their interests and shout out their doldrums and voice their discontent.
The Hirak of the Rif is peaceful and legitimate, the state must imperatively take charge of it: listening, dialogue, intermediation and reactivity and mute the calls of security sirens who want to demonize the protesters and push Morocco into uncertainty. Morocco is a country of dialogue and the middle ground, but it is going very badly now and the monarchy, as in the past, has to put itself at the bedside of the sick poor to nurse them back to good health.
In Morocco today, there are two distinct classes: the rich, which is made up of politicians, industrialists, financiers, rentiers, bourgeoisie, etc., rich as Croesus and the ordinary people, the grassroots and the destitute who live from day to day in total poverty. As a reminder, the middle class that serves as a "shock absorber" between the rich and the poor disappeared from the Moroccan social scene a long time ago.
What to do?
The Hirak is a social and economic protest movement brandishing a legitimate list of grievances of an Amazigh/Berber region battered by political and economic marginalization, but it is, also, a time bomb that can explode at any moment and destabilize the country, if not the whole region and initiate the second wave of the MENA spring.
The people of the Rif are unionists and not separatists. They are proud of their Moroccan identity, no doubt about that. The Ait Ouriaghel tribe defeated Spain under Ben Abdelkrim al-Khattabi over the years 1921-1926, for the greatness of Morocco and the Gzennaya tribe defeated France in the "Triangle of Death" in October 1955, for the country's independence and the end of the protectorate.
Unfortunately, despite the great services rendered to the nation by the Rif region, Rabat marginalized it because it apparently had wounded Hassan II in his ego and his own self-love, so much so that he had forgotten that he was the king of all Morocco before being the citizen Hassan Ben Mohammed.
To avoid the general explosion and the domino effect of the Alhoceima movement, it is essential to undertake the following steps urgently:
- Urgent Royal intervention to defuse the Hirak time bomb;
- All-out dialogue with the Hirak and the Rif in its totality;
- Adopt a Marshall Plan like economic package for the Rif;
- Establish a think tank of researchers and intellectuals from the Rif to provide the necessary studies on the region (sociology, anthropology, culture, economy, tribal identity, etc.), which is poorly understood by the central government;
- Create much-needed university campuses in Alhoceima and Nador;
- Repatriate the remains of Ben Abdelkrm al-Khattabi from Cairo and give him an official burial and insert his epic into the textbooks;
- Celebrate annually the battles of Anoual and Dhar Aberran.
- Create "Mountain Provinces" in the mountainous regions of the country, with special budget, to undertake equitable regional development;
- Create a research center for the development of deep Morocco;
- Make deep Morocco known at the national level;
- Adopt dynamic federalism instead of static regionalism.
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