Events are heating up in Morocco. The regime seems to have abandoned its early tactical reconciliatory approach to the demands of pro-democracy movement. Last Sunday, security forces violently repressed peaceful protesters in Casablanca. Protesters were clearly shouting: "no stone, no knife, peaceful [protests]" This still didn't deter the forces of order from using violence against everyone, including elderly women carrying young children.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
One would think that Morocco is headed towards better times, especially as the king promised constitutional reforms last March. There also seemed to be an air of openness in state-society relations. Even after the Argana bombing in Marrakech, state authorities showed a measured response to the terrorists act far short from the wholesale arrests launched after the 2003 bombings in Casablanca. Those were promising indicators of a nuanced state approach to civil society and protest movement's demands for democratic reforms. However, events in the last two weeks suggest a determined state retreat from early progress, and a shaky commitment to meaningful reforms.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Three suspects have been apprehended with alleged ties to the bombing in Argana cafe in Marrakech. Two are from the coastal town of Safi (220 miles south of Casablanca), while the third is a local Marrakechi (see Moroccan TV news cast here). Several questions have been raised about the absolute silence of the Moroccan authorities during the investigation. However, yesterday the Minister of the Interior Taieb CherKaoui held a press conference, in which he announced the capture of the three suspects. According to Moroccan authorities, the alleged conspirators are inspired by al-Qaeda an militant Jihadi ideology, but not operationally part of the terrorist network. Two of the suspects tried several times to join Iraq to partake in militant Jihad, but each time were expelled from Libya in 2008, Syria in 2007 and Portugal in 2004. This raises serious questions about Moroccan authorities' competence as they seem to have lost track of a committed militant Jihadi, and hence failing to anticipate the terrorist acts.
These developments were only eclipsed by the sensational news of the death of master terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Bin Laden's death deals a significant blow to al-Qaeda, but it is does not put an end to the militant ideology that has spelled disaster for the Islam and the world. Al-Qaeda may be losing ground, but al-Qaedism is still present amongst us, notably through its different subsidiaries in different parts of the world. In the Maghreb, the scepter of al-Qaeda is ever palpable with the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM remains marginally active in the northern Sahara region of Sahel, and responsible for kidnapping and killing scores of foreign aid workers and tourists.
AQIM maintains Jihadist aspirations to carry attacks in north African countries. But they've denied any involvement in the argana cafe bombing. In the midst of the Arab uprising, states might lose sight of the ever present threat of militant Islamism. There is a need for an effective counter terrorism strategy, which will not be successful without the joint cooperation between Maghreb and Sahel states. Perhaps the current Algerian-Moroccan rapprochement leading to an eventual re-opening of the borders is a positive step that could potentially aid in combatting AQIM. Such optimism is only tempered by the on-going conflict over the Western Sahara, which Algeria is significantly involved in on the side of POLISARIO.