Thursday, March 31, 2011

Morocco In the News: March 25 - 29th

Muriel Johnston, 84-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanant, Morocco.

Submitted by Richard Sitler
For my book photographing the every day lives of volunteers of today I met some wonderful people including the current oldest serving volunteer, 84-year-old Muriel Johnston.
Muriel is a volunteer in Tanant, Morocco. Muriel and her host mother and daughter share a laugh in this photo. Muriel lived with this family through the three months of training.
She was thrilled to find out that she had been placed to serve in the same community, so now she lives in her own place, but within walking distance of her host family, so she visits often.

03/21/11 BEN NOVAK

Washington / Morocco Board News-  To the youth of Morocco: I have never lived in Morocco or been there. Therefore, I do not know any of you personally; I know you solely by your presence on the internet—your “web-persona,” as it were. In this regard, I feel that I have personally come to know the electronic image you project—at least in English—as intimately as possible.
I have also studied your country and followed the development of your economy, government, and society for a long time, and most especially since the Great Arab Revolution of 2011 began. You have a remarkable country and therefore I care very much about the future of your revolution.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

On For Better Or Worse

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm. This rule is a major tenant of the medical world, part of the ethics of being a doctor and a central concept of the Hippocratic oath.

Peace Corps Volunteers also take an oath. However, doing no harm plays no part in their oath.

Peace Corps does harm. International diplomacy is not a harm free activity and when reduced to the interpersonal human level this is even more true. Every year Americans are sent out to communities in seventy or so different countries around the world. Almost all of them will have life changing experiences. Some of them will be bad experiences. Some will return to America after their service, with less goodwill and friendship then they set out with.

The same is true for their host country contacts. For every hundred people who are awed and whose lives are touched by a kind American taking time out of their lives to help a poor community in a foreign land, there is one person who is angered. This person who, though at first ambivalent about America, now having met an American, bears enmity toward America and Americans.

So it is a question worth asking, does the Peace Corps do more harm then good. The answer is almost certainly worth yes. Though the noble mission of world peace and friendship is sometimes injured in the messy practicality of individuals and cultures and languages interacting, it remains nonetheless, a noble mission. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Morocco-US bilateral relations, ‘very special’ - Clinton says

Washington, Mar 24 (MAP) - US secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed satisfaction, on Wednesday in Washington, over bilateral relations with Morocco, which she described as “very special”.  “We have a long history of friendship and partnership on almost every level, from economics to educational exchanges, from trade to development, and security,” said Clinton at a joint press conference with Moroccan peer Taib Fassi Fihri.

Clinton also reiterated the US position considering Morocco’s autonomy proposal for the Sahara as “serious, realistic, and credible,” adding that the US policy in this respect “remained constant” starting with the Clinton Administration and continuing through the Bush Administration and up to the present in the Obama Administration.

In this respect, she said the autonomy proposal is “a potential approach” to satisfy the aspirations of the population in the Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity. As for the recently announced constitutional reforms by HM King Mohammed VI, Clinton said that these initiatives represent a “model for others in the region,” and “hold great promise first and foremost for the Moroccan people”.

HM the King launched comprehensive economic, social, political reforms, at a time other countries are only going one direction, the US official highlighted.(MAP)JA

Resolving Sahara issue, a ‘necessity’ for Maghreb unity- FM says

Washington, Mar 24 (MAP) - Foreign Minister, Taib Fassi Fihri, stressed, on Wednesday in Washington, the need for a settlement of the Sahara issue, saying that a united “Maghreb is a necessity for the five peoples of the region.” Speaking at a joint press conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Fassi Fihri recalled that Morocco put on the table in 2007 a proposal, welcomed by the international community as “a credible and realistic”, with a view to finding a lasting settlement to the over-three decade conflict. Morocco’s autonomy proposal, he said, allowed for launching a new cycle of negotiations in 2007. The Moroccan official added that a united Maghreb is also a need for regional security in the face of the threat posed by Al-Qaida, noting in this regard that this terrorist group continues to extend its activities in the region.

Concerning the situation in Libya, Fassi Fihri affirmed that, given the ties between the two peoples, Morocco is committed to implementing the UN Security Council resolution 1973 aiming to protect civilians.  In this connection, he recalled that the Kingdom had sent a medical team to the Tunisian-Libyan borders to provide assistance to the refugees.

On Tuesday, Fassi Fihri, who is in Washington since Monday, met several US senior officials including Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. (MAP)JA


Monarchy, guarantees unity of all components of Moroccan people- FM

Washington, Mar 24 (MAP) - HM King Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful, is the guarantor of the permanence of the State and the unity of all the constituents of the Moroccan people and society, Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri highlighted on Wednesday in Washington.  Speaking at a conference held by the Washington-based Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization. Fassi Fihri shed light on the constitutional reforms announced by HM the King in a speech to the nation on March 9. These reforms aim to strengthen the separation of powers, he said, highlighting the advanced regionalization project which was launched to promote democracy at the local level by allowing citizens to run their affairs.

Concerning the Sahara, Fassi Fihri reaffirmed that Morocco’s autonomy proposal, welcomed by the international as “serious, credible and realistic”, represents an appropriate solution to the over-three decade conflict.  In this respect, he noted that the advanced regionalization project will lay the basis for this solution.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Fassi Fihri elaborated on the reforms to reinforce democracy in the Kingdom announced by HM the King in the royal speech, stressing that “a new Morocco” will emerge following the implementation of these reforms. Fassi Fihri recalled that the committee in charge of the revision of the constitution will submit its results for the approval of HM the King in June. Afterwards, the draft constitution will be put to a referendum vote by the people.(MAP)JA

Moroccan FM holds talks with UNSG in New York

New York (United Nations), Mar. 24 (MAP) – Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri held, on Thursday at the UN headquarters in New York, talks with the UN Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon on the situation in the Arab world, particularly in the Maghreb region, as well as on the Sahara issue.  On this occasion, Ban Ki-moon hailed the important reforms announced by HM King Mohammed VI, in his last speech to the nation, saying that they are part of a process initiated since the enthronement of the Sovereign. 

During the meeting, which was held in the presence of Morocco’s Ambassador to the UN Mohamed Loulichki and the Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for the Sahara Christopher Ross, both sides assessed the negotiation process following the sixth informal talks on the Sahara that took place earlier this month in Malta.

Ban Ki-moon has recently described the talks as a “step forward” in this process. For his part, Fassi Fihri informed the Secretary General of the connection between the implementation of advanced regionalization, particularly in the Moroccan Sahara, and the purpose of the autonomy initiative, presented by Morocco as a basis for negotiated and democratic solution to this regional conflict. He also highlighted the setting up of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) with the aim to promote human rights in Morocco.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Morocco In the News: March 17 - 24

Rural Moroccans set to gain from UN-backed anti-poverty project.
15 March 2011 – Tens of thousands of poor rural Moroccans are expected to benefit from a new United Nations-backed scheme worth nearly $40 million that is aimed at dramatically boosting the production of olives, almonds, honey and red meat.
The scheme, backed by a $22.5 million loan and a $500,000 grant from the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is designed to reduce poverty and strengthen the local economy in Morocco’s mountainous Taza province.
IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze and Morocco’s Ambassador to Italy Hassan Abouyoub today signed a financing agreement for the $39.2 million agricultural value chain development programme in Rome, the headquarters of the UN agency.
IFAD is hoping that the scheme will promote more profitable agricultural commodities by adding value to them and making them more adaptable to markets, with honey production tipped to increase by as much as 200 per cent.
Mounif Nourallah, IFAD’s country programme manager for Morocco, said the project should also “enhance value-added at the farm level through processing, packaging and direct access to profitable markets.”
Local processing enterprises will receive assistance in developing their own labels and marketing channels for their products, while rural financial services will be strengthened as well.
An estimated 48,000 poor rural people – including many landless farmers and young unemployed – will benefit from the scheme, according to an IFAD press release issued today.
TELL ME A STORY: The Princess and the Pauper (a Moroccan folktale)
adapted by Amy Friedman and illustrated by Jillian Gilliland / Saturday, March 12, 2011
Long ago in Morocco there lived a princess who was driving in her carriage from the palace into the city when suddenly the sky opened, and a dragon swooped down out of the heavens and picked her up.
It was the work of the Jinns, evil spirits who had sent the dragon to capture the princess. They put her under a spell and hid her away.
When word spread of the capture, many princes attempted to rescue the princess, but no one returned to the king with good news. Rather, each prince came and said, "Alas, I could not find her."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Bagfields

Morocco has a trash problem. It is one of the first things a visiting foreigner notices. While in recent years efforts have been made to create a waste disposal system, apart from in the major tourist centers, the appropriate place to throw trash, still remains, wherever you feel like.

Of course after living in Morocco for a while it is no longer a problem. In fact it is rather convenient to throw your trash wherever you like. If you find yourself with a wrapper in your hand that you don’t want, all you have to do is open up your hand and let it fall where it may.

This of course means that there is the unsightly problem of trash lying around. However, it is impressive how quickly you acclimate to this. When you first arrive, you notice the bagfields, where old plastic bags blowing in the wind have gotten caught on the weeds and thorns of fallow fields. It looks like there are actually ratty old plastic bags being grown, an ugly crop to be sure. But, after a few months, a person simply stops noticing. The trash fades to become part of the normal background image. It is no longer an unsightly problem, in fact, it isn’t even unsightly anymore.

That is what comes with time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Some More Photos

The Mousm, a festival of springtime and horsemanship. 

These are our new olive trees. Almost 40,000 have been planted this winter. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morocco In the News: March 11 - 16

More government jobs slated for Moroccan youths.
By Sarah Touahri– 07/03/11
Experts and youths lauded Morocco's decision to temporarily boost state employment for university graduates, but some see it as a move to contain the problem, rather than solve it.
Morocco will employ 4,304 graduate degree holders for government positions, officials announced March 2nd. The move comes as a concession to university graduates who had staged frequent demonstrations outside Parliament.
The job integration will take effect starting March 1st, Yassine Affani, member of the national committee of unemployed doctors, said. All that is needed now is to implement various administrative procedures. In its statement, the committee hailed the state efforts to address the youth unemployment problem in Morocco.
The government team has shown great flexibility in finding a favourable resolution to the issue, Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said on March 3rd.
Young graduates will now be recruited into the public services directly without taking competitive entry examinations. The government passed a decree on February 24th, and the arrangement will only apply during 2011.
This temporary solution, although welcomed by all sides, will not resolve the problem of unemployment in Morocco, a number of specialists warned.
According to economist Karim Machidi, the government's generosity towards unemployed graduates has been dictated by the current Arab regional context. The measure will cool things for a while, he explained, but other groups of jobless youths will emerge and exert more pressure on the executive.
He called for the introduction of a well-defined strategy to reduce unemployment by changing the general trend of university education to favour areas of study which are in greatest demand on the labour market.
"With the emergence of new professions and the adoption of modern production techniques, the labour market in Morocco needs skills which will match the developments being seen in a number of growing sectors," Employment Minister Jamal Rhmani said at a March 3rd conference in Rabat.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Not Speaking French

Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco aren’t trained in French. However, with the majority of them being tall and white they are often mistaken as French. The fact of the matter is that very few Moroccans can fathom why an American would be living in a small community in Morocco, let alone one who doesn’t speak French. The fact that many of these Americans speak Moroccan Arabic is confusing; that some speak Tamazight is flabbergasting! And that they still don’t speak French is unfathomable.

Luckily, most PCVs get used to dealing with this very situation. When a Moroccan is too dumbstruck to communicate with a white person in anything but French, there is always English. Only about five in a thousand Moroccans speak English, but to do so gets the message across that, thought you are tall, though you are white, you still are not currently, nor ever have been French.

Of course, this still does not solve the problem of communication much. Luckily, most PCVs get used to dealing with this very situation. When a Moroccan talks to a PCV in French for the first time, it is a reasonable guess they are asking something like “What are you doing here?” All a PCV can do however is to respond in English: “I do agricultural development to help create opportunities for economic improvement.”

However, as previously stated, most Moroccans don’t speak English. Luckily, most PCVs get used to dealing with this very situation. They simply repeat what they just said but give it the most ridiculous over-the-top French accent they can muster: “I do le development agricultural por help create le opportunitiés for improvmént du les écônømÿ.”

And 99% of Moroccans will understand.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On French

French is spoken in large swatches of Africa as the language of business and politics. While most of the world has embraced English as the international language with one in six people speaking it, Francophone Africa sticks with French as its lingua franca. Unfortunately French is an impossible language that not even the President of France is able to speak correctly. Much like George W. Bush, he has come under attack for butchering the language. And he is not the only one. As The Economist recently reported:
“Mr Sarkozy is not the only French politician to wrestle with the language. Some fail to make adjectives agree with nouns, or conjugate verbs improperly. Others simply slip up while their minds are apparently elsewhere. Brice Hortfeuz, the interior minister, recently referred to “genitals” (genital) rather then “digitales” (digital) fingerprints. And in a discussion about the economy, Rachida Dati, formerly justice minister, coolly said “fellation” (fellatio) instead of “inflation”.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Morocco's King Mohammed pledges constitutional reform

In his first speech since last month's protests across the nation, the king said that "individual and collective liberties will be expanded".
Despite the street rallies - in the wake of those in Tunisia and Egypt - the king has refused to give up power.
Protesters want some of the king's powers to be handed over to a newly elected government.
'Our model'
"We have decided to undertake a comprehensive constitutional reform," King Mohammed said in the televised speech to the nation.
He said that a committee had already been set up to work on the revisions, with proposals to be submitted to him by June.
The monarch added that more powers would be given to Morocco's regions, saying it would help consolidate "our model of democracy and development".
It was his first public speech since thousands of people rallied in several cities on 20 February.
Some rioting did take place, especially in the north, where five people died at a bank that was set on fire, but there were otherwise few clashes between protesters and the police, who had been ordered to avoid confrontation.
Since then, young activists have been using social networking websites to call for major rallies on 20 March "for dignity and large-scale political reforms", including a constitutional monarchy.
Morocco has also been facing severe economic problems.
King Mohammed has said the fight against poverty and high unemployment is his priority, but some non-government groups say little has changed.
Morocco - like Egypt and Algeria - does allow limited freedom of expression and has so far been able to contain protests.
Like Jordan it is a monarchy with strong support among sections of the public.


Morocco In the News: March 1 - 10


King Mohamed VI’s Speech

Response to King Mohamed VI’s speech on March 9 was overwhelmingly favorable.  While, the majority of Moroccan dailies went to print prior to the king’s speech, those that did report, praised the “genuine roadmap for reforms” and provided early reactions from politicians, sociologists, journalists, union leaders and human rights activists.  The major online news aggregators welcomed the king’s speech favorably. and commented on the speech with the title: “In a historic speech the King responds to the requests of the February 20th movement.”   According to, “the king announced the launch of deep constitutional changes.”

Moroccan broadcast media provided positive coverage of the speech.  Independent Atlantic radio reported that “Morocco is experiencing a real revolution through regionalization and seven measures to reform the constitution in order to include a global diversity, greater empowerment of women’s role in the regions and less power to current Walis and governors.  Independent Luxe Radio reported that “through his historical speech, the king decided to respond to the February 20thmovement and opened his arms to the youth to help in concretizing popular claims.”  Semi-private Médi1 television aired reactions from the Secretary General of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), Abdelilah Benkirane - “this speech is historical and it represents a roadmap that will lead Morocco to a real democracy.   Now, the King has thrown the ball into the hands of political parties.”   Secretary General of RNI (independent party), Salaheddine Mezouar told Medi1 that “March 9th is a date to mark in the minds, it is the date of 21st century - dignity, democracy and openness to the World”.  State-run Al Aoula television reported that many Moroccans took to the streets in Rabat streets brandishing Moroccan flags and voicing slogans such as “We are Proud of our king!” and “May God bless the King.”

Morocco king vows sweeping reforms
(AFP) – 6 hours ago
RABAT — Morocco's King Mohammed VI promised sweeping constitutional reforms, including real powers for a popularly elected prime minister instead of a royal appointee, as well as a free judiciary.
In his first speech after uprisings across the Arab world and less than a month after protests erupted in Morocco for more social justice and limits on royal powers, the king Wednesday pledged to draw up a new draft constitution.
"We have decided to undertake a comprehensive constitutional reform," King Mohammed said, underlining his "firm commitment to giving a strong impetus to the dynamic and deep reforms... taking place."
He outlined seven major steps, including the way the prime minister is chosen.
Instead of being appointed by the king, the prime minister will be drawn from "the political party which leads in the elections" in parliament, he said.
The prime minister will have "effective executive power" and be "fully responsible for the government, public administration... and implementing the government's programme," the monarch said.
He also pledged "expanded individual and collective liberties and the reinforcement of human rights in all dimensions" and spoke of the "will to set up an independent judiciary."
The Moroccan monarch announced the formation of a commission to work on the constitutional revisions, with proposals to be made to him by June. A referendum will then be held, he said, without giving a date.
The live broadcast was the first time the king has delivered an address to the nation since thousands of people demonstrated in several cities on February 20 demanding political reform and limits on his powers.
They were the first protests in the country since the start of the uprisings across the Arab world that toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt this year.
There have been other peaceful rallies since then, including in the capital Rabat and the country's biggest city Casablanca, with young activists campaigning for greater democracy using the Facebook social network to call for new demonstrations on March 20.
Six people were killed in unrest that erupted after demonstrations on February 20, including five found burned to death in a bank set ablaze by people whom officials labelled vandals.
Another 128, including 115 members of the security forces, were wounded in the violence and 120 people were arrested, the interior ministry said.
Dozens of vehicles and buildings were also damaged or set alight.
On February 21, during the launch of an Economic and Social Council, the king spoke of his commitment to "pursuing the realisation of structural reforms".
He also expressed his willingness to "strengthen" the country's accomplishments "by new reforms".
The Moroccan government has said it had heard the demands for more change and was committed to speeding up reforms, which it said were already on its national agenda.
Opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) leader Abdelilah Benkirane welcomed the speech saying that Mohammed had "reacted positively to the demands made by the parties and young people".
"We are almost surprised," he said in a first reaction, welcoming the monarch's "powerful" response.
"The PJD is satisfied. This development looks more like a revolution and the concerned parties are asked to work seriously to make the contents of the speech become reality."
"This is a break with a discredited past," said political scientist Mohamed Darif. "He has met the demands of many Moroccans who never stopped to ask for institutional and political reforms."
"This speech breaks with the monarchy as an executive power. It does not create a parliamentary monarchy but provides for a balanced monarchy where power is divided between the king and a government based on parliament."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On Some Photos

This is a photo of a football tournament we put together over the semester break. 

Here is a photo of a recent map some fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I painted at a local youth center. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 28, 2011


In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps, forever changing the way America sees the world and the world sees us.  Today, one of President Kennedy's most enduring legacies can be found in the over 200,000 current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have collectively given over a half century of service to the cause of peace.  On its 50th anniversary, the United States Peace Corps remains an enduring symbol of our Nation's commitment to encouraging progress, creating opportunity, and fostering mutual respect and understanding throughout the world.
Over the past five decades, Peace Corps Volunteers have served in nearly 140 countries, bringing a wealth of practical assistance to those working to build better lives for themselves and their communities.  From the first group of volunteers to arrive in Ghana and Tanzania in August 1961, they have been emissaries of hope and goodwill to the far corners of our world, strengthening the ties of friendship between the people of the United States and those of other countries.  Living and working alongside those they serve, volunteers help address changing and complex global needs in education, health and HIV/AIDS, business and information technology, agriculture, environmental protection, and youth development.  With each village that now has access to clean water, each young woman who has received an education, and each family empowered to prevent disease because of the service of a Peace Corps Volunteer, President Kennedy's noble vision lives on.
In our increasingly interconnected world, the mission of the Peace Corps is more relevant today than ever.  Returned volunteers, enriched by their experiences overseas, bring a deeper understanding of other cultures and traditions back to their home communities in the United States.  The lasting accomplishments of the Peace Corps continue to strengthen partnerships with leaders and countries around the world.  This year, we also mourn the loss and pay tribute to the extraordinary life of Sargent Shriver, the founding director of the Peace Corps.  The impact of his decades of public service will echo forever in countless places across the globe that have been touched by the Peace Corps.
On this anniversary, we honor the men and women from across the country who have carried forward our Nation's finest tradition of service, and we rededicate ourselves to fulfilling the dream and continuing the work of all those who aspire and yearn for peace.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 1, 2011, as the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the Peace Corps and its volunteers, past and present, for their many contributions to the cause of global peace and friendship.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty eighth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.