The World Today for September 02, 2021
NEED TO KNOW
Moroccan King Mohammed VI recently denounced “methodical attacks” on his country, alluding to critics abroad who have raised questions about the kingdom’s policies in the disputed territory of the Western Sahara, the alleged use of Israeli spy software in civil rights violations as well as its policies in North Africa.
The comments, as Africanews and Agence France-Presse reported, made the king sound paranoid. But he’s right to say that Morocco faces challenges on all fronts.
In the Western Sahara, tensions have been escalating between Morocco, which claims the former Spanish colony along Africa’s Atlantic coast, and Polisario Front, a militant group seeking independence.
According to Bloomberg, the Front last year abandoned a 30-year ceasefire and began launching attacks against Moroccan forces. Front leaders claim that a referendum brokered by the UN on the territory’s status should occur under the ceasefire but it has yet to happen. Morocco has deployed increasingly sophisticated weaponry in the region, too, DefenseNews wrote.
Independence advocates, meanwhile, claim that Moroccan officials have unjustly cracked down on them in a bid to suppress dissent.
“The authorities forced me into a police car and took me to a nearby police station, where I was interrogated, sexually assaulted, and told to go home and not to speak to anyone,” wrote Sultana Sidibrahim Khaya in a CNN opinion piece where she called for President Joseph Biden to rescind US recognition of Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara. Khaya recently was placed under house arrest.
Morocco’s relations with its eastern neighbor, Algeria, are also declining. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune cut off diplomatic relations recently and ordered his forces to the Moroccan border after he blamed the kingdom for cooperating with Israel as well as Algeria-based rebels to cause forest fires in the country, wrote Middle East Monitor.
Unlike Morocco, which normalized ties with Israel last year, Algeria doesn’t recognize Israel, noted Al Jazeera. Algerian leaders have also long supported the Polisario Front, too.
Morocco is also seeking to repair ties with Spain, its largest trading partner, after a diplomatic rift related to the complex dynamics in the region. The two countries had a falling out after Spanish officials allowed a Polisario Front leader to enter their country for medical treatment. The leader used Algerian travel documents.
As Reuters reported, Moroccan officials in response lifted restrictions on allowing 8,000 migrants from entering the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Morocco.
Mohammed VI has near-supreme power in his country. He’ll need all of it to weather the storm that is hitting the country.
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