Rabat commits to development projects in restive region

Sunday 16/04/2017
Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit. (www.maroc.ma)

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.