A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Massive Popular March in Casablanca

Some 3 million people took to the streets of Casablanca in support of the Moroccan claims to the Western Sahara. The peaceful marches come at the heel of weeks of media warfare after the events at Gdeim Izzeik. The popular demonstrations garnered wide support from all the major parties and figures in Morocco against the unfair portrayal of Morocco in the aftermath of the riots in Gdeim Izzeik. The marchers spoke particularly to the perceived Spanish media biased coverage of the upheavals in Gdeim Izzeik. The protesters also brandished signs calling on Spain to rein in the anti-Moroccan rhetoric advanced by some of its parties such as the Popular Party. Recently the Popular Party has been vociferous in its criticism of Moroccan handling of the criminal activities at Gdeim Izzeik. Similarly, the Spanish media showed a biased coverage of the events and has contributed to the unfavorable view of Morocco.

The Government in Morocco is partially to blame for this state of affairs for their chronic reactionary posture towards the events. They should have been on the offensive and exposed the true nature of the protests in Gdeim Izzeik, which were largely led by disaffected camp dwellers calling for greater socio-economic equality, and not in protest of Moroccan control of the Western Sahara as purported by most of the western media.

The Western Sahara conflict continues to draw much controversy as a national and regional issue. For Morocco, any future solution has to be done with the parameters of the Moroccan plan of autonomy under Morocco's sovereignty. The plan already has the support of both the US and France. For POLISARIO and its benefactor Algeria, the conflict can only be solved through a complete secession of the territory away from Morocco. Faced with such irreconcilable stances, the UN's Christopher Ross is trying what is perceived a last ditch attempt to revive the negotiations.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Riots in La'ayoune

Morocco and the Polisario are meeting in Manhasset, NY for another round of negotiations aimed a resurrecting the 35-year stalemate in the Western Sahara. In its latest issue, the Economist features a piece on the trajectory of the often-maligned process of negotiations. The article accurately points out to the regional stakes involved in the conflict and the dilatory practices that have delayed an ever lasting resolution of the stalemate.

My thoughts are that the plan on the table: autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the best the kingdom can offer given the overwhelming internal support for the "Moroccanity" of the territories. The recent rounds of talks come in the midst of renewed tensions and demonstrations around the Sahraoui city of Laayoune.

Riots took place in the Gadim Izik camp have resulted in 5 fatalities among the forces of order, and scores of injuries amongst the rioters. According to local news, the new cycle of tensions is primarily caused by the attempt of the Moroccan police and auxiliary forces to break the siege laid by a group of protesters calling for equal economic rights and housing in the Gadim Izik. Moroccan media blames the Polisario and Algeria in fomenting the riots.

It is clear that these latest riots and the ensuing allegations will only further complicate the tasks of negotiators at Manhasset. The question is after 35 years of conflict, is there still any real will to move the issue past the status quo of obstructionism?