Rabat commits to development projects in restive region
Casablanca - Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit called for the implementation of development projects in Al Hoceima region after protests demanding justice, dignity and jobs following the gruesome death of fisherman Mouhcine Fikri in the northern city.
Laftit met with local officials and activists from Al Hoceima province to quell the protests.
He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to implement the majority of the development projects as part of the Al Hoceima Province Development Programme (2015- 19), a statement issued by the Interior Ministry said.
Laftit’s statement came one day after thousands of people took to Al Hoceima streets, with many carrying Fikri’s portraits and calling for the truth about his death.
Fikri, 31, was crushed inside a rubbish truck last October 28 in Al Hoceima when he apparently tried to protest the seizure and destruction of hundreds of kilograms of swordfish, which are not allowed to be caught in autumn.
Fikri’s death sparked nationwide demonstrations, creating scenes reminiscent of 2011 protests that led to concessions by Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
Former Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad fired provincial Governor Mohamed Zhar on March 28 “to restore a new climate in the Al Hoceima region, give an answer to expectations of its inhabitants and help create conditions of sustainable socio-economic development.”
Laftit warned that certain elements and parties were working to exploit protest movements with the aim of fuelling social and political tension.
“These suspicious objectives were not only planned on the ground but were framed politically through the promotion of several extremist political slogans and a hate speech against state institutions in a vain attempt to gain unexpected popular support from a population animated by patriotism, which has repeatedly reiterated its attachment to the glorious Alaouite Throne throughout the history of the Moroccan state,” he said.
Laftit said the first phase of several structural projects had begun and the remaining projects would be initiated towards the middle of the year.
“The state is committed to pursuing its development approach by devoting all its financial, logistical and human resources to the implementation of these projects within the set deadlines and to catch up with the delays in other projects,” he said.
The Rif region had long been neglected due to its rebellious history but when King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in 1999, the region underwent a dramatic change, thanks to tourism and development projects in Tetouan and Tangier.
However, Al Hoceima lags behind those cities in terms of infrastructure and development projects.
Ilyas El Omari, president of the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, welcomed the government’s commitment to the planned development projects.
“Al Hoceima Province is facing socio-economic problems, including youth unemployment and the lack of road infrastructure and basic equipment as well as deficits in education and health care,” said Omari.
“A study project of duplicating the road linking Al Hoceima and Tetouan will be launched [in May],” he added, calling for accelerating the implementation of development projects.
Ismail Rais, president of the Al Hoceima’s provincial council, said the province’s socio-economic emergence “requires the promotion of the maritime fishing and tourism sectors,” which are considered as vectors of sustainable development and the main sources of employment.