Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Morocco military plane crash kills 78


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At least 78 people have been killed in a Moroccan military aircraft crash in the south of the country, the Morrocan army has said in a statement.
The army said three other people were severely wounded in the crash, in what is thought to be Morocco's deadliest air disaster in decades.
The C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed in Guelmine, just north of the disputed Western Sahara territory.
The C-130 is said to be widely used in the Sahara.
An official at the interior ministry has told the AFP news agency that troops and their families were carried on this type of plane.
"Above all, it was the fog and bad weather conditions that are believed to be behind this accident. But for the moment, we don't have enough information," the source said.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Morocco's referendum

A very small step

The king has offered some reforms, but the opposition is not satisfied

 No dissident in sight
WITH the easterly wind, the shergui, enveloping them in hot desert air, most of the residents of Benslimane, a sleepy town in north-west Morocco, waited till dusk to vote in a constitutional referendum on July 1st, pressed by officials who wanted a strong turnout for what has been as much a test of King Mohammed VI’s popularity as a poll about reform.
Businessmen backing the yes vote held celebratory street parties. Imams at Morocco’s mosques were instructed to preach in favour of what was heralded as the king’s constitution. But even in conservative Benslimane, some 800 dissidents campaigned for a boycott. A headmaster at a local school serving as a polling station was overheard muttering that the whole exercise was a masquerade.
The result—98.5% in favour—drew guffaws of disbelief from members of the February 20th movement. The coalition of leftists, independent liberals and Islamists from the banned Justice and Spirituality movement surprised many when its protests for social justice and democracy drew thousands of sympathisers across the kingdom earlier this year. It called for a boycott of the referendum.
The new constitution includes some important reforms. It establishes human rights as core principles, recognises Berber, spoken by many Moroccans alongside Arabic, as an official language and calls for gender equality. It gives new powers to the prime minister and parliament and inaugurates a much-needed overhaul of the judiciary. It no longer deems the king sacred, though he is still “Commander of the Faithful”.
Critics complain that many of the new constitution’s articles refer to “organic laws” that have not yet been written, making the extent of some changes uncertain. Others depend on the creation of special commissions, mostly headed by the king. Political parties, a majority of whom backed the “yes” vote, only saw a draft of the constitution at the last minute. No mention is made of King Mohammed’s promise, which came in a speech in March, of moving towards a parliamentary monarchy. The king remains—directly or indirectly—in control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, or as the new constitution puts it, a “supreme arbiter” of political and institutional life. In many respects, the new constitution merely codifies an existing method of governing that allows the palace to micromanage at its whim.
When the February 20th movement was launched, inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions earlier this year (but never calling for the king’s head), it drew much public sympathy. Many Moroccans felt enthusiastic about Mohammed VI, dubbed the “king of the poor” at the beginning of his reign in 1999. But less so in recent years, during which press freedoms were dramatically curtailed, incidents of torture returned and corruption increased.
Yet many Moroccans have been frightened by the attempted regime change in Libya and Syria. “We want transformation without violence,” says Saad Eddine Othmani, a leader of the opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party, which supported the new constitution. “This…is a beginning.”
General elections expected later this year could bring further change. But although the new constitution may have bought the king some time—helped by a doubling of food and fuel subsidies, the creation of new government jobs and the boosting of civil-service salaries—the regime is still not dealing with people’s main grievances, notably failing public-health and education systems, and rampant corruption. The political elite needs to take note, cautions Omar Belafrej, the head of a left-leaning think-tank. “There is little goodwill left.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morocco In the News: July 18 - 23

Daylight saving ends in Morocco on July 31
Morocco's clocks will be wound back one hour on Sunday, July 31, as daylight saving ended in the country.
The change officially takes effect at 00:00, when the time will become 23:00, Morocco's Public Sector Modernization Ministry said in a statement.
An American Scientific caravan travels in Morocco
As part of its initiative in science and technology for Moroccan youth, the Embassy of the United States launched a scientific caravan, led by U.S. experts from California and Hawaii to share their experiences with young Moroccans.
The caravan was organized in a scientific partnership with the American NGO "Grove of Hope" including the president and founder Kamal Oudrhiri, a scientist working at the Moroccan NASA and with Moroccan partners  who include: SOS Children's Village Morocco (Casablanca, Ait Ourir, Al Jadida), Entraide Nationale (Oualidiya, Rabat, Fnideq), Moroccan-American Culture Link (Beni Mellal) and the Association of Parents of High School Daoud (Tetouan) and of course, Peace Corps.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Morocco In the News: July 11 - 17

US-Morocco Treaty Partnership at 225
J. Peter Pham | July 15, 2011
Today marks the 225th anniversary of the longest unbroken treaty relationship to which the United States is a party. On July 15, 1786 (18 Ramadan 1200), in Marrakech, American agent Thomas Barclay was handed the final protocol of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship by his Moroccan counterpart Taher Ben Abdelhack Fennish. Certified translations of the articles would be incorporated in a document eventually signed by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams as ministers plenipotentiary and ratified by Congress the following year on July 18, 1787. The long-term success of the partnership which emerged from the treaty contains lessons which are still relevant as Washington seeks to strengthen or forge links with other African countries, especially those along the Atlantic coast of the continent. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Morocco In the News: July 1 - 10

Morocco moved in democracy's direction over the weekend, but unlike this winter's much ballyhooed revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the world -- including the Obama administration -- barely noticed. Spring? Where?
In a referendum in which, impressively, three quarters of voting-age Moroccans participated, the country adopted significant reforms. Under the new rules, which passed with 97 percent of the vote, King Mohammed VI is to keep ultimate control over the army and remains the supreme religious authority -- but on most issues he now must "consult" with an elected prime minister.
The reforms don't establish the kind of constitutional monarchy that, say, Sweden or Great Britain enjoy. But Morocco's experiment in transferring some powers to elected officials is unique in a region in which unelected (or faux-elected) rulers tend to grab, rather than cede, powers.
Also included are more rights for women and minorities -- another rarity in the Arab Mideast. Berber, for example, will become an official national language alongside Arabic.
The 44-year-old king, who acceded in 1999, started experimenting with reforms much before the so-called Arab Spring. Events in Tunisia and Egypt, however, prompted him to hasten the process.
Unlike former Tunisian ruler Zine El Abidene Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who were almost universally despised by their countrymen, King Mohammed is revered even by Moroccans who are calling for deeper reforms than he's offering.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Morocco In the News: June 29 - July 2

Morocco, US sign child protection accord. 2011-06-29
Morocco and the US on Tuesday (June 28th) inked a partnership accord for the support of child protection centres, Le Matin reported. The US funds will help expand social services and training in the facilities, including psychological and drug treatment programmes for Moroccan youths. "The United States is proud to support Morocco's efforts to improve the juvenile justice system, especially the centres of child protection that are managed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports," US Ambassador Samuel Kaplan said at the Rabat signing ceremony.
Morocco to offer 20,000 textile jobs2011-06-27
Morocco will train and integrate some 20,000 young people for jobs in the clothing and textile sectors, Le Matinreported on Saturday (June 25th). The initiative follows a partnership agreement between the Office of Vocational Training and Labour Promotion (OFPPT) and the Moroccan Textile and Clothing Industry Association (AMITH). Vocational training will be offered in Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Fes and Marrakech.
Morocco is key testing ground for Desertec solar-farm project. April Yee Jun 26, 2011 
Morocco is to be the testing ground for a planned €400 billion renewable energy network to criss-cross the Mediterranean.
Desertec, the name of the initiative to connect solar and wind farms in the Middle East to European consumers, this month signed up its first government partner for a solar farm that will export power to Europe through an undersea electricity line.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Morocco votes on King Mohammed's reforms

King Mohammed VI of MoroccoKing Mohammed VI has promised greater democracy for the people of Morocco

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Moroccans are going to the polls to vote on a series of constitutional amendments and reforms.
The proposals, put forward by King Mohammed VI, would give the prime minister and parliament more power.
Analysts say that he is widely expected to win the vote, though low turnout could spark demands for bolder changes.
His reforms come in response to protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, which ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
Morocco's own youth-based February 20 movement organised weeks of pro-reform demonstrations and brought thousands on to the streets. They have urged their supporters to boycott the vote.
'Date with history'
The vote represents the first constitutional referendum under the king's 12-year rule and has been described by one Moroccan newspaper as "a date with history".
The king himself has described the reforms as: "a decisive historic transition".
Under the draft constitution, the king remains as the head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister - to be chosen from the largest party elected to parliament - would take over as head of the government.
The reforms, the king has pledged, would reinforce the independence of the judiciary, boost efforts to tackle corruption, guarantee freedom of expression and gender rights and make Berber an official language.
The new constitution has been backed by the country's main political parties, unions, civic groups, religious leaders and media throughout the campaign.
"The majority will approve the reform. What's really at stake is voter turnout," said Lahcen Daodi of the moderate Islamist Justice and Development opposition party (PJD), which supports the reform.
The turnout at the last parliamentary polls in 2007 stood at just 37%, the lowest recorded.
The reform plan has been welcomed abroad, with the European Union saying it "signals a clear commitment to democracy".
But it fails to meet the demands of a full constitutional monarchy sought by many protesters. Many activists have been sceptical about the king's promises of change, saying Morocco's 400-year-old monarchy has a long history of enacting superficial reforms.
Morocco has been facing severe economic challenges with high unemployment and rising levels of poverty.
King Mohammed, 47, acceded to the throne in 1999 following the death of his father, Hassan II, and now heads the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty.

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