Thursday, 28 June 2012

Morocco: Public expression of social tensions

There have been further clashes between police and demonstrators in the port city of Mohamedia and in the countryside near Larache. On 16 June, in Mohamedia, east of Casablanca and site of the SAMIR refinery, residents of a shanty town demonstrated in front of the Prefect's Office and clashed with police preventing them from entering the building. Twenty demonstrators and six police were reported hurt.

In a rural area close to the port of Larache, south of Tangiers, there was violence between villagers and police. Media coverage was limited. Residents of the village of Chlihate had blocked the farm machinery of a Spanish agricultural company, Ribera del Arroz, which farms 4,500 hectares in the region, cultivating mainly rice. Feelings had been running high over difficult access to grazing land, the mosquito problem arising since the company switched the land to rice, and its failure to deliver jobs for locals. Negotiations between the local authority and the company since April had failed to produce any tangible results.

(Locals had demanded a barrier plantation of sugar-cane to reduce the mosquito problem.)

With the rice-planting season approaching, villagers decided to occupy the land. On 14 June, there were clashes between the demonstrators and the Gendarmerie. On 16 June, the heavily-armed police arrived, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators. Police broke into houses, terrorising inhabitants and stealing property. The village's one shop was destroyed. On 17 June, Chlihate was encircled by militarised police and roads cut off. Water cannons were used on the villagers, wounding women and children. Many young men fled to the nearby woods.

On Wednesday 20 June, a solidarity mission composed of human rights activists was able to reach the village and talk to the terrorised inhabitants. Details of the human rights violations remain to be drawn up but there is good reason to believe that they are serious. In addition, pressure was placed on residents of surrounding settlements to refuse help to those fleeing Chlihate. The opposition PAM (Parti de l'authenticité et de la modernité) placed responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the authorities.

For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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