The Rif crisis has revealed the undemocratic character of Morocco

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Source: El Diario / The Dawn News / March 6, 2018

The way in which Rabat’s government has handled the rebellion that shook the northern region of the Rif throughout 2017 “reveals that Morocco still has a series of undemocratic traits that contradict the idea that the country is making progress towards democracy”, said Spanish historian Rosa de Madariaga in an interview with Efe.

Madariaga, one of the biggest experts on the Rif and the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, which lasted from 1912 and 1956, addresses the existence of almost 450 Riffian people detained in Moroccan prisons due to the riots, trials against several minors and sentences up to 20 years of jail against several defendants.

According to Madariaga, there is no doubt that the true Moroccan government is exercised by “a group of consultants with tight bonds with king Mohamed VI, who are surely advising him that it is better to impose and give a lesson than to look too tolerant“.

Rosa de Madariaga is currently in Casablanca to present in the International Salon of the African Book her recent book “History of Morocco” (Catarata, 2017). She also is the author of “The Moors brought by Franco” and “Abdelkrim al Jatabi: the battle for independence”.
According to her, the Rif is living and has lived “historical marginalization”, aggravated in the reign of Hasan II (1961-1999), who “subjected the region to a total abandonment”, besides imposing French as the second language in a region that was managed in Spanish, filling the Rif with foreign officials and teachers, seen by the Riffian people as strangers.

The current king, Mohamed VI, offspring of Hasan II, proved to be much closer to the Rif, vacationing regularly on its coasts, but failed to revert this historical margination: “It is not about vacationing on its beaches every summer or about showing his affection towards the region, but about having development plans that take the region out of underdevelopment”, she argues.
The truth is that the Rif is still prisoner of a triple dependence that compromises its development: the traffick of the hash produced on its fields, the smuggling coming from Ceuta and Melilla and the consignments sent by the Riffian people established in Europe (mainly Spain, Netherlands and Belgium).

While only the city of Tangier and the dock of Nador had the full attention of Rabat’s government, the rest of the Rif, especially the rural zones, lives “in poor life conditions, with no infrastructure, no hospitals and with highways that date to the Spanish administration era”.

These were the reasons that unleashed the Rif riots, Madariaga explains, and the death of a fisherman by a garbage truck’s disposer in Al Hoceima, “was the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“The identity issue came later”, she reflects, while acknowledging that the Riffian people do feel great devotion to their traditions and language, and distrust foreign people (mainly Spanish people but also inland Moroccan people). But, as she highlights, Riffian people “feel themselves as second tier citizens” before a government that “doesn’t hear” their complains.
Anyhow, the independent sentiment is “scarce among Riffian people”, says Madariaga, who also dispels a current popular myth: that Abdelkrim al Jatabi was a supporter of independent for having proclaimed the Republic of Rif (1921-1926).

Madariaga states that Abdelkrim was only an enemy of European colonization, and that he opposed Mohamed V, Morocco’s first independent King, for his submissive attitude towards the French invaders.
Abdelkrim’s figure and ideals had a great comeback during the riots of 2017 in the Rif and Madariaga thinks it is logical: “The Riffian people think of him as a historical reference even over the Moroccan borders; he is a legitimate pride and at the same time, the figure that makes them feel united through the Riffian identity”.

The Rif crisis translated into a deterioration of Morocco’s international reputation, something that will contribute to “free up the pressure” on the region, if they truly want “to maintain the thesis that they are a parliamentary monarchy”, says Madariaga.

Finally, regarding the Riffian demands for Spanish compensations due to the use of chemical weapons (during the past century’s war) and its consequences on the high cancer rates that are still registered in the region, Madariaga showed to agree only in part.

“Spain is in debt: it should recognize and condemn the use of chemical agents that should have never been used. Asking for forgiveness is worthless and ridiculous. Funding a hospital is more useful. With this, the historical dream of Abdelkrim would be fulfill: For Spain to contribute to the codevelopment of the Rif.”

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