Sunday, April 24, 2011
Around Africa: Morocco
Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of nearly 33 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara. It is a part of the Maghreb region, besides Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya, with whom it shares cultural, historical, and linguistic ties.\
To the north of Morocco, across the Strait of Gibraltar, is Spain.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco holds vast executive powers, including dissolving parliament at will. Executive power is exercised by the government but more importantly by the king himself. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors. The king can also issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law.
Parliamentary elections were held in Morocco on 7 September 2007, and were considered by some neutral observers to be mostly free and fair; although voter turnout was estimated to be 37%, the lowest in decades. The political capital is Rabat, and the largest city is Casablanca; other large cities include Marrakesh, Tetouan, Tangier, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes and Oujda.
The population speaking People is a mix of Darija and Berber Languages of Morocco with many regional dialects. Berber-speaking Moroccans can be divided in three main dialectal groups: Riffians, Shlouh Berbers and Middle-Atlas Berbers.
The earliest well-known Moroccan independent state is the Berber kingdom of Mauretania under king Bocchus I. This Berber Kingdom of Mauretania (current northern Morocco) dates at least to 110 BC.
Umayyad Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century, bringing their language, their system of government, and Islam, to which many of the Berbers slowly converted, mostly after the Arab rule receded. In the Islamic era the first Moroccan Muslim state, independent from the Arab Empire, was The Kingdom of Nekor, an emirate in the Rif area. It was founded by an immigrant from Yemen, Salih I ibn Mansur in 710 AD, as a client state to Caliphal grant. Idris I fled to Morocco from the Abbasids' massacre against his tribe in Iraq and managed to convince the Awraba Berber tribes to break allegiance to the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. He founded the Idrisid Dynasty in 780 AD. Morocco became later a center of learning and a major power.
From the 11th century onwards, a series of powerful Berber dynasties arose. Under the Almoravid dynasty and the Almohad dynasty, Morocco dominated the Maghreb, Muslim Spain, and the western Mediterranean region. In the 13th century the Merinids gained power over Morocco and strove to replicate the successes of the Almohads. In the 15th century the Reconquista ended Islamic rule in Iberia and many Muslims and Jews fled to Morocco. Under the Saadi Dynasty, the first Moroccan dynasty initiated by ethnic Arabs since the Idrisids, the country would consolidate power and fight off Portuguese and Ottoman invaders, as in the battle of Ksar el Kebir. The reign of Ahmad al-Mansur brought new wealth and prestige to the Sultanate, and a massive Berber invasion of the Songhay Empire was initiated.
However, managing the territories across the Sahara proved too difficult. After the death of al-Mansur the country was divided among his sons. In 1666 the sultanate was reunited by the Alaouite dynasty, who have since been the ruling house in Morocco. The organization of the state developed with Ismail Ibn Sharif. With his Black Guard he drove the British from Tangier (1684) and the Spanish from Larache (1689). In 1912, after the First Moroccan Crisis and the Agadir Crisis, the Treaty of Fez was signed, effectively dividing Morocco into a French and Spanish protectorate. In 1956, after 44 years of occupation, Morocco regained independence from France and Spain as the "Kingdom of Morocco".
Islamic expansion began in the 7th century. In 670 AD, the first Islamic conquest of the North African coastal plain took place under Uqba ibn Nafi, a general serving under the Umayyads of Damascus. Arabs brought their language and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted. After the outbreak of the Great Berber Revolt in 739, the region's Berber population asserted its independence, forming states and kingdoms such as the Miknasa of Sijilmasa and the Barghawata. Under Idris ibn Abdallah, who was appointed by the Awraba Berbers of Volubilis to be their representative, the country soon cut ties and broke away from the control of the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and the Umayyad rule in Al-Andalus. The Idrisids established Fes as their capital and Morocco became a centre of learning and a major regional power.
Morocco would reach its height under a series of Berber dynasties that replaced the Idrisids after the 11th century. From the 13th century onwards the country has seen a massive migration of Banu Hilal Arab tribes. Their arrival was to have a critical effect on the nation: due to them nomadism returned, urban civilization fell and the country's inhabitants were quickly becoming Arabized. The Maghrawa, the Almoravids, the Almohads, the Marinids, the Wattasids and finally the Saadi dynasty would see Morocco rule most of Northwest Africa, as well as large sections of Islamic Iberia, or Al-Andalus. Following the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, large numbers of Muslims and Jews were forced to flee to Morocco.
After the Saadi, the Arab Alaouite Dynasty eventually gained control. Morocco was facing aggression from Spain and the Ottoman Empire that was sweeping westward. The Alaouites succeeded in stabilizing their position, and while the kingdom was smaller than previous ones in the region, it remained quite wealthy. In 1684, they annexed Tangier. The organization of the kingdom developed under Ismail Ibn Sharif (1672–1727), who, against the opposition of local tribes began to create a unified state.
Morocco was one of the first nations to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1787. In the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships were subject to attack by the Barbary Pirates while sailing the Atlantic Ocean. On December 20, 1777, Morocco's Sultan Mohammed III declared that the American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage. The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship stands as the U.S.'s oldest non-broken friendship treaty.
Successful Portuguese efforts to invade and control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century did not profoundly affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic Wars, Egypt and the North African maghreb became increasingly ungovernable from Istanbul, the resort of pirates under local beys, and as Europe industrialized, an increasingly prized potential for colonization. The Maghreb had far greater proven wealth than the unknown rest of Africa and a location of strategic importance affecting the exit from the Mediterranean. For the first time, Morocco became a state of some interest in itself to the European powers. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830.
Recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's sphere of influence in Morocco provoked a reaction from the German Empire; the crisis of June 1905 was resolved at the Algeciras Conference, Spain in 1906, which formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco jointly to France and Spain. A second Moroccan crisis provoked by Berlin, increased tensions between European powers. The Treaty of Fez (signed on March 30, 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern Saharan zones on November 27 that year.
Many Moroccan soldiers (Goumieres) served in the French army in both World War I and World War II, and in the Spanish Nationalist Army in the Spanish Civil War and after (Regulares).
Pre-1956 Tangier had a highly heterogeneous population that included 40,000 Muslims, 30,000 Europeans and 15,000 Jews. Under the French protectorate, Moroccan natives were denied rights such as freedom of speech, the right of gathering and travel in their own country.
French settlers built for themselves modern European-like cities called " Village or ville" next to poor old Arab cities called "Medinas". The French apartheid system forbade native Moroccans from living, working, and traveling into the French quarters. The French education system was teaching the few favored noble native Moroccan families about solely French history, art and culture. There was complete disregard for the natives own language and culture. Colonial authorities exerted tighter control on religious schools and universities namely "madrassas" and quaraouaine university.
The rise of a young Moroccan intellectual class gave birth to nationalist movements whose main goals were to restore the governance of the country to its own people. Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live).
A manifesto of the Istiqlal Party (Independence party in English) in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.
France's exile of Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 to Madagascar and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French and Spanish protectorates. The most notable violence occurred in Oujda where Moroccans attacked French and other European residents in the streets. Operations by the newly created "Jaish al-tahrir" (Liberation Army), were launched on October 1, 1955.
Jaish al-tahrir was created by "Comité de Libération du Maghreb Arabe" (Arab Maghreb Liberation Committee) in Cairo, Egypt to constitute a resistance movement against occupation. Its goal was the return of King Mohammed V and the liberation of Algeria and Tunisia as well. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.
All those events helped increase the degree of solidarity between the people and the newly returned king. For this reason, the revolution that Morocco knew was called "Taourat al-malik wa shaab" (The revolution of the King and the People) and it is celebrated every August 20.
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V in RabatOn November 18, 2006, Morocco celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956, and on April 7, France officially relinquished its protectorate. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to claim other Spanish colonial possessions through military action were less successful. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956 (see Tangier Crisis).
Hassan II became King of Morocco on March 3, 1961. His early years of rule would be marked by political unrest. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south was reintegrated to the country in 1969. Morocco annexed the Western Sahara during the 1970s ("Marcha Verde", Green March) after demanding its reintegration from Spain since independence, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved.
Political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997. Morocco was granted Major non-NATO ally status by the United States in June 2004 and has signed free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.
Morocco has always been known for its islamic liberalism and openness towards the Western world. King Mohammed VI of Morocco with his ruling elite are democratically minded, showing tolerance within the limits of territorial integrity and traditional laws and customs.
Morocco's economy is considered a relatively liberal economy governed by the law of supply and demand. Since 1993, the country has followed a policy of privatization of certain economic sectors which used to be in the hands of the government.
Morocco is the world's biggest exporter and third producer of phosphorus. Price fluctuations of phosphates in the international market strongly influence Morocco's economy.
Government reforms and steady yearly growth in the region of 4-5% from 2000 to 2007, including 4.9% year-on-year growth in 2003-2007 helped the Moroccan economy to become much more robust compared to a few years ago. Economic growth is far more diversified, with new service and industrial poles, like Casablanca and Tangier, developing. The agriculture sector is being rehabilitated, which in combination with good rainfalls led to a growth of over 20% in 2009.
The services sector accounts for just over half of GDP and industry, made up of mining, construction and manufacturing, is an additional quarter. The sectors who recorded the highest growth are the tourism, telecoms, information technology, and textile sectors. Morocco , however, still depends to an inordinate degree on agriculture. The sector accounts for only around 14% of GDP but employs 40-45% of the Moroccan population. With a semi-arid climate, it is difficult to assure good rainfall and Morocco’s GDP varies depending on the weather. Fiscal prudence has allowed for consolidation, with both the budget deficit and debt falling as a percentage of GDP.