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Posts tagged ‘Sufi Land of Morocco’

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party to Elect New Secretary General

Sunday, 10 December, 2017

Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) held on Saturday its 8th national congress to elect a new leader, after its former leader Abdelilah Benkirane bid the party farewell, confirming that the party is determined to proceed with the reforms despite the party’s difficult situation.

Speaking at the inaugural session at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Benkirane indicated that national congress comes this year following several issues the party suffered from and after its success in the 2016 elections.

He stated that PJD managed to win the elections and defeat its opponents, hinting at its political rival Authenticity and Modernity opposition party.

King Mohammed VI chose Saadeddine Othmani as Prime Minister, which Benkirane described as a “huge blow” to the party.

“The party was supposed to take a very difficult stance and become part of the opposition, however, we eventually decided to react positively to the statement of the Royal Court,” stated Benkirane

“I know that a lot of brothers and sisters in the party treasure me, if not all,” he said. “But I am also human, anything could happen to me. In all cases, even if I were a good man, eventually I would have to leave the party,” he added in his farewell speech.

Benkirane had previously condemned PJD members who did not support him in his re-election for a third term.

“It is because of me that the party made political and electoral progress,” he said, adding that: “despite the tense and difficult conflict the party witnessed, we made the decision based on our internal laws and democracy, despite the fact that they suffer from shortcomings.”

“Perhaps, we made a mistake. We could have discussed the issue within the congress, but it’s too late for that now. You will have to choose a new secretary general. I ask you to listen to all candidates and make the right decision. May God be with you,” he concluded.

The leader of PJD is supposed to be announced on Sunday, following Benkirane’s two mandates, which started in 2008, where he led the party to three major wins in Morocco’s local and parliamentary elections, in 2011, 2015 and 2016. He also led the government from 2011 to 2017.

However, after failing to form a government following five months of post-election deadlock, King Mohammed VI decided to replace PM Benkirane with Othmani, which created a huge political turmoil within the party.

The king took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said.

The king thanked Benkirane for his service as prime minister, praising him for his “effectiveness, competence and self-sacrifice”.

Observers expect Othmani to rule the party following Benkirane, in order to avoid any conflicts between the positions of party’s secretary general with the presidency of the cabinet.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1108916/moroccos-justice-and-development-party-elect-new-secretary-general.

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In Morocco, a Blue Tourist Town is Turning Green

Tuesday, 14 November, 2017

Huddling against a hillside in northern Morocco is a tourist town famed for the striking blue of its buildings, and now the mayor is mixing in another color — green.

Chefchaouen — known locally as Chaouen — wants to become a model for sustainable development at a time when the northwest African kingdom has shone a spotlight onto its commitment to the environment and a greener future, said an Agence France Presse report on Tuesday.

Take Aziz, a local council employee in his forties. He whizzes silently around town on an electric bicycle doing his job as an inspector of building sites.

“It’s a practical and eco-friendly way of getting around!” he says.

“It respects the environment and allows us to get around easily without using polluting modes of transport,” Aziz says, wearing a fluorescent safety vest and with a helmet firmly on his head.

Mohamed Sefiani, mayor of the town of some 45,000 residents where visitors come to admire hundreds of hues of blue, says Chefchaouen began to go green more than seven years ago.

“In April 2010, the municipal council took a unanimous decision aimed at transforming Chaouen into an ecologically sustainable town,” he says.

Local political commitment to the project is strong, the mayor says, but much still needs to be done.

“Chefchaouen isn’t an ecological town yet, but it certainly has the will to become one,” says a smiling Sefiani.

“We are in a transition phase. At a Moroccan and African level, we’re among the most advanced towns in this respect.”

A newly inaugurated municipal swimming pool equipped with solar energy is near an “ecology center” built from recycled containers where the town’s green projects, funded mainly by the European Union and backed by several NGOs, are highlighted.

France’s GERES — Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity — was asked to help transform Chefchaouen.

“It was at the town’s request that we came here to support its energy and climatic transition,” says the NGO’s Virginie Guy, who is coordinating the project.

Among the initiatives is an “info-energy” center to raise awareness about energy savings, photovoltaic panels at several sites, such as the municipal library, that contribute to electricity production, and an environmentally oriented museum is also nearly complete.

The info-energy center’s Houda Hadji explains the basics of eco-construction, energy efficiency and the benefits of energy-saving light bulbs, among other green topics.

“There’s very strong interest” from visitors to the center, says the young guide, her hair concealed under an elegant veil.

“This is the first initiative in Morocco working on energy upgrading in buildings, and providing information about savings, targeting both businesses and individuals,” she adds.

Chefchaouen is one of 12 southern Mediterranean locations to benefit from a European program that has granted it around 10 million dirhams ($1 million, 900,000 euros) and declared the town “a model and initiator of change in sustainable energy management”.

But not everything is green yet in the little blue town, said AFP.

“The public dump is not yet up to standard,” Mayor Sefiani concedes.

“We’re working on a landfill and recovery center, and I think that by 2021, we will have ironed out all the problems.”

With “green” mosques, solar and wind farms, electric buses and a ban on plastic bags, Morocco has been forging ahead with environment-friendly policies over the past few years.

It regularly trumpets its proactive strategy in terms of green energy, instigated by King Mohammed VI.

Late last year, in the southern city of Marrakesh, the country hosted the COP22 international climate conference, and has begun an ambitious plan to develop renewable energy.

In a country devoid of hydrocarbon resources, the aim is to increase the share of renewable energies nationally to 52 percent by 2030 (20 percent solar, 20 percent wind, 12 percent hydro).

A massive flagship project was inaugurated by the king in February last year. The Noor solar power plant is on the edge of the Sahara desert, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Ouarzazate.

Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, the plant’s half a million metal mirrors follow the sun as it moves across the sky and store the energy collected from its rays.

Despite pushing its green credentials, Morocco still has many environmental hurdles to clear on its way to cleaner horizons.

A recent World Bank report covered by Moroccan media spoke of “alarming” peaks of atmospheric pollution in the country’s major cities.

And a number of eco projects announced to great fanfare during the 2016 COP22 conference remain just that — announcements.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1083591/morocco-blue-tourist-town-turning-green.

Rabat restaurant champions mentally disabled workers

2017-10-11

RABAT – In a country where nearly half of people with mental disabilities are unemployed, one restaurant in the Moroccan capital is part of a pilot project tackling the problem.

When a customer enters the Hadaf restaurant in the capital’s business district, nothing indicates that many of the staff are disabled in any way.

Take Amr, an enthusiastic 28-year-old in a crisp white shirt and black trousers.

He scouts the street for prospective clients as front of house staff add vases as the finishing touches to tables.

“I first learnt in the canteen,” Amr said.

“Now I take orders from customers in the restaurant — I like the contact with them, getting to know each other,” he added.

The experiment was launched by a local association created by parents to shake up prejudices and serve as a springboard for young people with mental disabilities.

The jobless rate for such people is 47.65 percent, four times the average in a country which has 2.3 million disabled, according to a study published last year by the families ministry.

Soumia Amrani is on the board of a human rights group and the co-chair of a disability-focused collective.

She believes the battle to integrate must begin at an early age.

“You can’t prepare children to be sociable and learn to join society if they stay on the margins of that society,” she said.

“They must be inside society to learn with everyone else.”

– Constitutional rules –

In the kitchen at Hadaf, 28-year-old Moed, chef’s hat perched on his head, is delighted to have a trade after spending just three years in primary school.

“I’ve learnt a lot from my colleagues. I’m very happy and my family is proud of me,” he said.

Morocco’s 2011 constitution says those with disabilities should be able to “integrate and rehabilitate into civil life”.

But things are different in reality. Just 41.8 percent of disabled youngsters aged between six and 17 go to school, and in the six to 11 range that figure falls to 37.8 percent.

Another indicator that there is a problem is that a third of homeless people suffer from some form of disability.

“This restaurant? It’s a good thing for me and the customers,” said Moed as he chopped parsley for the salad of the day, all grown from the restaurant’s own organic garden.

Other young people busied themselves at the kitchen work surfaces as skewers of meat sizzled on the flames.

The restaurant is part of the Hadaf Center — Hadaf means “goal” in Arabic — that was established 20 years ago by a group of parents and friends of people dealing with mental disabilities.

Today, it looks after 90 young people in the greater Rabat area, with more on the waiting list.

In addition to the catering business, others undergo training in such diverse areas as gardening, jewelry-making, carpentry and sewing.

Their studies have to be paid for, unless families are too badly off to afford them.

– Strength in numbers –

Amina Mesfer is the driving force behind the project. She has an adult son of 38 with mental and sight disabilities.

“It became clear to me very quickly that I couldn’t do everything on my own, but that getting a group together meant we could work on solutions,” she said.

“There were care structures in place, but only until they were 21 — as if a mental disability miraculously evaporates at that age — and then our children were left to their own devices.”

In the dining room at Hadaf, business was brisk as Fati Badi polished off her creme caramel.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here, and I’m very pleasantly surprised,” she said, having come to dine with a friend.

“Nice surroundings, the quality of the service and the food — it’s all here.

“They’ve set an example — it’s a way of empowering people with disabilities in the best way possible.”

The Hadaf Center also has a guest house that provides some income and gives the young people the chance to socialise, said Mesfer.

Since 2016, a center funded by the Mohamed VI Foundation has provided training and diplomas.

Five students trained by Hadaf have already been able to obtain certification there — basically a passport to a job.

Which is exactly what Amr hopes will happen.

“When I’ve learnt my trade well, I’d like to work in a restaurant or hotel,” he said, a great big smile on his face.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85337.

Morocco rejects Catalonia’s secession bid

2017-10-11

CASABLANCA – Rabat rejected Catalonia’s secession bid and expressed its commitment to Spain’s sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, according to statement issued Wednesday by Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Morocco called Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont’s decision to proceed with the secession “a source of instability and division not only in Spain but throughout its European neighborhood.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took the first step on Wednesday towards suspending Catalonia’s political autonomy and ruling the region directly to thwart a push for independence.

He demanded that the regional government clarify whether it now considered itself independent following a speech by Puigdemont on Tuesday night during which he said that he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

This requirement is a necessary step before triggering Article 155 of the constitution, which would allow Madrid to suspend the region’s political autonomy.

“Morocco is confident in the ability of the Spanish government to wisely manage this situation with a view to preserving the constitutional order and to act in the supreme interest of the Spanish Nation and the European Continent,” said the statement.

“Consequently, Morocco does not recognize this unilateral process which runs against the international legality,” it added.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85347.

Syria refugees still stranded between Morocco and Algeria

2017-06-07

ALGIERS – Dozens of Syrian refugees remained stranded in no-man’s land between Morocco and Algeria on Tuesday, non-governmental groups said, despite an Algerian offer to help.

Algiers said last week it would take in the refugees after the United Nations urged both sides to help the Syrians, who include a pregnant woman and have been stranded in the desert area since April 17.

“The Syrian refugee families are still blocked on the border between Algeria and Morocco. Authorities on both sides are passing each other the buck,” said Noureddine Benissad of the Algerian League of Human Rights.

Saida Benhabiles, the head of the Algerian Red Crescent, said a joint team from her organisation and the UN refugee agency have been waiting on the Algerian border since late Monday.

“There’s no obstacle on the Algerian side,” she said. “But the problem is they’re in Moroccan territory and we can’t go to get them.”

In a statement, non-governmental groups including the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and the Algerian League of Human Rights urged “authorities in both countries to find an immediate solution”.

The zone between the two countries has been closed since 1994. The North African rivals have very difficult relations, especially over the question of Western Sahara.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83429.

Morocco fossil discovery obliterates two decades of scientific consensus

2017-06-08

BERLIN – Early Homo sapiens roamed Africa 300,000 years ago, sporting modern-looking faces that would not stand out in a crowd today, according to research published Wednesday that pushes back our origins by a hundred millennia.

A groundbreaking fossil discovery in Morocco obliterates two decades of scientific consensus that our forefathers emerged in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, according to two studies published in the science journal Nature.

The findings may also re-organize the human evolutionary tree and eliminate certain extinct Homo relatives as potential human ancestors.

Two teams of researchers reported on skull and bone fragments from five ancient humans, along with the stone tools they used to hunt and butcher animals, from a prehistoric encampment at Jebel Irhoud, not far from modern-day Marrakesh.

“This material represents the very root of our species, the oldest homo sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere,” said palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

“Regarding Homo sapiens, what we say is that the dispersal of the species predates 300,000” years ago.

Previously, the oldest dated Homo sapiens remains, at 195,000 years, were from Ethiopia. This led to the contention that East Africa was the evolutionary “Garden of Eden” where our species arose before spreading through Africa and beyond.

– If they wore a hat… –

The new results suggest the so-called cradle of humankind was continent-wide, the teams said.

The same types of “Middle Stone Age” tools found with the Moroccan group, and dated to roughly the same period, have been found in several spots around Africa, but were previously thought to have been made by a different Homo predecessor.

Now it seems likely that they were produced by our own species, living in separate groups spread throughout the continent.

“Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens, there was dispersal within Africa,” said Hublin.

With few fossil remains to work with, the evolutionary history of modern humans is full of holes and relies heavily on conjecture.

It is believed that our lineage diverged from Neanderthals and Denisovans more than half-a-million years ago, but evidence for what happened since is hard to come by.

The new data suggests that an archaic version of our own species shared the planet with related groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, the more ape-like Homo naledi and the pint-sized Homo floresiensis or Flores “hobbit”.

Remarkably, the small, flat face and jaw shape of those ancient Homo sapiens closely resembled today’s humans, the team said.

Brain size was similar too, though arranged in a flatter, more elongated skull.

“If they would have a hat, probably (they) would be indistinguishable from other people,” Hublin told journalists ahead of the study release. “It’s the face of people you could cross in the street today.”

More likely to give them away would have been a strong, stocky, muscular body.

– ‘A more complex picture’ –

Human remains, including a skull, were first discovered at the Jebel Irhoud site by miners in the 1960s.

The fossils were initially dated to about 40,000 ago, and later to about 160,000 years.

For the new study, the teams relied on these old fragments but also newer ones dug up since 2004.

Dating was done by thermoluminescence, a pinpoint-accurate technology which measures the accumulated exposure of stone minerals to radiation generated by heat from the Sun, a volcano, or a human cooking fire.

They used the technique on burnt flint stone flakes discovered with the skull, tooth and long bone remains belonging to three adults, a teenager and a child of about eight.

The researchers said their work revealed a “rather more complex picture” of the physical evolution of our species, with different parts of the anatomy changing at different rates.

While the face shape was determined almost from the start, today’s high, rounded skull took millennia to evolve.

“The story of our species in the last 300,000 years is mostly the evolution of our brain,” Hublin said.

This fits with genetic analysis showing a series of mutations in the modern human lineage, compared to Neanderthals and Denisovans, in genes involved in brain development.

“Maybe what we see in terms of gradual change in the brain case… might be the effect of the accretion of these mutations,” said Hublin.

– What distinguishes us? –

What set our species apart, even from this early phase?

Compared to Neanderthals, early Homo sapiens had a larger cerebellum — the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“So it looks like we, our lineage, is the lineage where we started to grow a bigger and bigger cerebellum already at this stage,” said Hublin.

“It’s one of the features distinguishing us along all these hominins.”

Experts not involved in the research praised the findings.

The Jebel Irhoud fossils “now represent the best-dated evidence of an early ‘pre-modern’ phase of H. sapiens evolution,” said Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham from the Natural History Museum in London.

“This is a major extension of the evolutionary record of our species,” added Lawrence Barham, an archaeology professor at the University of Liverpool.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83441.

Morocco refuses to attend African summit due to Israel’s presence

June 2, 2017

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry yesterday stated that King Mohammed VI has cancelled his attendance of the 51st Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) because Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also been invited.

In a statement the ministry said King Mohammed VI had planned to visit the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on 3-4 June to attend the 51st ECOWAS Summit, which was expected to examine Morocco’s request to join the regional group as a full member.

The statement added that, “During this Royal visit, a meeting with the President of Liberia, talks with ECOWAS Heads of State and a speech at the Summit were all scheduled.”

However, over the last few days, major ECOWAS member states have decided to reduce their level of representation at the summit, to the bare minimum, due to their disagreement with the invitation handed to the Israeli prime minister. The statement also noted that other member states also expressed their astonishment at this invitation.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement also mentioned that King Mohammed VI “does not want his first appearance at the ECOWAS summit to take place in a context of tension and controversy, and wants to avoid any confusion.”

During the summit, members of ECOWAS will decide on the admittance of Morocco as a full-fledged member of the regional bloc.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170602-morocco-refuses-to-attend-african-summit-due-to-israels-presence/.

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