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Rape, the Chronic Trauma

Rape is one the most abominable crimes committed against women. The perpetration of rape is not only a physical assault but mainly a lethal attack on human dignity. Its repercussions on women’s psyche are grave and the damage caused to the rape victim is almost irremediable. Women normally have a dialectical relationship with their body image. Health Canada defines body image as the picture one has of his or her body, what it looks in the mirror and how it looks to others.
In fact, women realize at a young age that their body shape and the esteem of others are intertwined. Confused between media driven ideals and their own perception of their bodies, women are more likely to develop a distorted body image. A physical assault such as rape can have a devastating impact on women’s psychological structure. Victims of sexual abuse often feel extreme discomfort towards their bodies and a bitter sense of guilt.
Rape is a worldwide issue that threatens women’s physical and mental health throughout the world. Global estimates suggest that 30% of women are subjected to various kinds of violence including rape. According to the American Center of Disease Control and prevention, 20% of American women have been rape victims at one point in their lives.
The CDC report reveals that 80% of sexual assaults are committed by relatives. In 2O11, the number of rape victims reached 1.3 million, according to federal authorities. Alarmed by these figures, Katheleen Sbelius the secretary of Health and Human Services considered that the CDC study shows the seriousness of the problem of rape.

Imane Fahdi, a Moroccan psychology graduate, has conducted an empirical research about the relationship between rape and body image. She interviewed two rape victims and tried to appraise the impact of rape on their self esteem. For ethical reasons the name of the rape victims will not be revealed.
“A” is a 26 years old woman who was eager to disclose her suffering to the therapists in Ibn Sina hospital in Rabat. Her ordeal began the day she went to a café with a close friend. Some hours later, she found herself detained by a psychopath who raped her repeatedly before she could escape.
In a patriarchal society such as Morocco, where “the virgin” is the most treasured commodity, “A” felt irrevocably dishonored and could not turn to her family for comfort. She decided then to live on her own. Her unwanted pregnancy has further heightened her predicament. With few qualifications, she found herself in a downward spiral of drugs and prostitution.   “A” developed a negative relationship towards her body that she attempted to mutilate several times, especially when she recalled the rape scene. more

MAS of Fez Wins its Third Throne Cup

The Maghreb Association Sportive of Fez (MAS) was the lucky winner of the 2010-2011 Throne Cup final played on Saturday in Rabat between Maghreb of Fez and CODM of Meknes. The winning goal was scored at the 75th minute by Brazilian Luis Jefferson who had entered the game 3 minutes earlier, as he replaced his teammate El Ayyati.
The 1 – 0 victory, made it the third time that MAS has won the Throne Cup after it played in 11 finales and losing 8. MAS was less fortunate last year when it played its tenth final and lost to FUS of Rabat. The first Throne Cup won by MAS was in 1980.
Today’s win comes 23 years after its second title achieved in 1988.
This is the second time that the two teams played each other in the Throne final. The first time was in 1965, when Meknes’ CODM defeated Fez’ MAS, winning its first title ever.
The Throne Cup is the second title that MAS has won in two weeks, after winning its first continental title a fortnight ago.
MAS won the 2011 CAF Confederation Cup after defeating Tunisia’s Club Africain in a 6-5 penalty shootout, following a 1-1 aggregate at the end of the return leg final, which was played in Fez on Sunday December 4, 2011.
MAS became the fifth Moroccan club to win the CAF Confederation Cup after the Kawkab of Marrakesh, Raja of Casablanca, FAR and FUS of Rabat.
As occurred last season, the winner of Throne Cup was also the winner of the CAF  Confederation Cup. Last year, FUS of Rabat won the Throne title against MAS a few weeks before it was crowned champion of the CAF Confederatoin Cup, when it defeated Sfax of Tunisia 3-2 in the return leg final played in Sfax.

American Diplomats in Morocco held secret meetings with members of ‘Al Adl Walihsane’

The American foreign affairs department seems to be following very closely the evolution of the reform process in Morocco. Triggered by the 2Oth February nationwide protests, the constitutional reforms were subjected to a national referendum.  The new constitution expanded powers of the head of government and paves the way for a relative, yet unprecedented separation of powers. Soon after, legislative elections provided a resounding victory for the Party of Justice and Development (PJD), a moderate Islamist party renowned for its honesty among the Moroccan electorate.
Last July, American ambassador in Rabat, Mr. Samuel Kaplan, gave a press conference organized by French speaking newspaper “L’Economiste”. According to the daily newspaper Assabah, the American embassy had held a series of secret meetings with the members of ‘Al Adl Wa Lihsane’, an Islamist association banned by the Moroccan regime. The ambassador justified the American activities by the need to know what the Moroccan dissidents advocated, adding that it is normal to have dissidents who are unsatisfied with the government. He emphasized that the Moroccan authorities were informed before of these meetings.
He highlighted the democratic overtures of the monarchy, allowing its dissident groups to voice their opinions about the system of governance in Morocco. He asserted, “The American embassy’s meetings with the ‘Al Adl Wa Lihsane’ association are by no means an act of provocation,” adding that the US chief aim was to become acquainted with the manifold components of Moroccan society whose social make up is rather complex.
‘Al Adl Walihsane’ is a Moroccan Islamist group led by a charismatic leader Sheikh Abdessalam  Yassine. It envisions the establishment of a Moroccan society ruled by Sharia. It operates through a grassroots welfare network and its omnipresent in student unions all across Moroccan universities. The group refuses to take part in a political system in which “corrupt practices” prevail.  It has chosen to remain in the margins of society, but within a highly cohesive structure.
The Islamist group joined the ranks of protesters demanding a constitutional monarchy and more separation of powers. On 18 December, 2011, in what was perceived as a sudden and unexpected development, the ‘Al Adl Walihsane’ association posted a statement on its website, announcing its withdrawal from the 2Oth February movement, which has been spearheading protests in Morocco.
The American ambassador insisted that the constitutional reforms recently issued in Morocco are likely to be consolidated and expands the prerogatives of the Head of government. Kaplan added that “the coming days will show whether the monarch is ready to delegate some of his former powers to the head of government”. “The monarch’s concession of powers is, in itself, a major step towards the reinforcement of democracy in Morocco,” he was quoted as saying.
The American ambassador made it clear that American diplomacy has to fathom the methodology and mechanism of the judicial apparatus in Morocco, if it is to suggest substantial reforms to the judicial system. He added that the legal treatment and rehabilitation of minors should be a top priority, since no society would like to see its teenagers and youth relapse into the same crimes again. more


BVC Cargo Airlines biofuel test successful

BVC Cargo Airlines (Africa)  on Friday conducted its first trial flight of a cargo plane powered by a mix of biofuel and traditional aviation fuel. A plane landed safely at Marrakech-Menara Airport at 9:30 am .


Maroc Telecom Struggles under Competitive Pressure

The Moroccan telecom giant Maroc Telecom has had a difficult time these days. The company has been delivering weak performances with both its domestic and African businesses facing saturated mobile phone markets and stiff competition.
Analysts who follow the company say its profitability is impacted by lower mobile margins in Morocco. In its domestic market, combined revenues for the first nine months of this year dropped by -3.4% compared to the same period in 2010. Revenues generated from its African subsidiaries were up 6.8% over the period despite tough competition in Gabon and a toughening regulatory environment in Mauritania


Tunisia qualify for 2012 Africa Cup of Nations

After a convincing 2-0 win over Togo in their Group K clash on Saturday in Rades, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia booked their place at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals quotes the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
By the victory, the 2004 winners finished second in the group’s standings after fellow contenders Malawi were held to a 2-2 draw by Chad in N’djamena.
The Tunisians scored in each half through Walid Hichri (19 minutes) and Sabeur Khelifa (79 minutes) to snatch the second automatic slot of the group.
Following Malawi’s draw with Chad, the Carthage Eagles finished on 14 points, three points adrift of run-away leaders Botswana. Malawi was third on 12 points, with Togo and Chad in that order on six and three points respectively.
Tunisia will be making their 15th appearance at next year in the history of the biennial more

Orascom vs. Algeria

 In a lingering conflict that underscores lack of transparency and weak business rules, the case of Orascom Telecom Algerie (OTA), which has raised a great deal of concerns in foreign investor circles, has not been settled yet. It underscores that the rules of engagement when doing business in Algeria are still unclear and that many leaders of foreign companies remain dangerously ignorant of operating conditions and the business environement in the North Africa country.

Not understanding the culture surrounding business affairs there could lead to unexpected outcome. The country is one of the most und
 erperforming economies in the world due to stifling bureaucracy, inefficient administrations, arbitrary actions, and a legal system in need of a major overhaul, among other things. And nationalistic sentiments often surpass logical economic factors given the political climate. Although in this report, we are not necessarily siding with Orascom given that many key facts are still unknown, there is no doubt that Algeria’s substandard, inefficient and costly business environment are part of the problem and feed into the feud pitting Algeria against Orascom one way or another. 
 In broad terms, Orascom Telecom is not in a terminal phase at present, despite news of it seeking to contract loans of $350 million to refinance debt. Indeed, the Egyptian firm released its first quarter 2011 results showing a relatively good performance. The quarter was solid despite the political crises affecting the region with financial improvements attributed to the sale of its stake in a Tunisian holding and a growth in revenue in its Algerian unit.

The published figures show that sales reached $949 million, increasing by 5% over the same period last year as a result of strong growth in all GSM operations. EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) grew 11% year on year to US$ 437 million due to what the company considers to be a solid performance across all the GSM subsidiaries. Group EBITDA margin stood at 46%, an increase of 2% compared to Q1 2010. It stood at 59.4% for its Algeria unit Djezzy, Mobilink with 40.3%, Banglalink with 35.7%, and Koryolink 87.6%. 


An unhappily neutral neighbour

THE repercussions of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s demise are echoing loudly across the Middle East. Gulf monarchies that backed Libya’s rebels feel understandably smug, while neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, fresh from their own political upheavals, are happy to welcome a third revolution next door. But for less nimble regimes facing revolutionary pressure at home, the collapse of Libya’s 42-year-old dictatorship is bad news, emboldening opponents and frightening their dwindling number of friends.
Algeria’s government is looking especially sheepish. Despite its own revolutionary pedigree and a history of strained relations with Colonel Qaddafi, it voted against the crucial Arab League resolution in March that endorsed NATO’s action in support of Libya’s rebels. It has yet to recognise the Transitional National Council as Libya’s government. Throughout the conflict, unsubstantiated rumours suggested that Algeria supplied the colonel with fuel, arms and transport for foreign mercenaries. When the rebels captured Tripoli, some of them ransacked the Algerian embassy. Others announced that a city square named for Algeria’s revolution would be known as Abu Dhabi Square, in gratitude for the Gulf emirate’s aid.
Algeria has its reasons for pursuing what it calls its strict neutrality over Libya. After two decades of strife between the state and Islamist insurgents, its government is disturbed by the strong Islamist component in Libya’s rebel movement, and is spooked by the spread of weapons in a country with which it shares a long desert border. And its own bitter history of struggle against European colonialism makes Algerian leaders instinctively wary of Western military involvement.

Still, Algeria’s decision, on August 28th, to let a convoy of armoured Mercedes cars take members of the colonel’s family across its border looked unusually provocative. The fugitives included the colonel’s wife, two of his sons, Hannibal and Muhammad, and his pregnant daughter Aisha, who promptly gave birth in an Algerian hospital. Aisha and the two sons, though not apparently implicated directly in violence, are subject to UN-decreed travel bans.
Several Algerian parties, including one belonging to the ruling coalition, have condemned the granting of asylum. In a sour remark on an Algerian website that reflects widespread disdain for the pouvoir, as the military-backed regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is commonly known, one writer noted that it was hardly surprising that Algeria had not recognised Libya’s council, “since the pouvoir doesn’t even recognise its own people.”

The colonel is caught

Forty two years after he took power in a coup as a handsome 27-year-old captain, Africa’s longest-serving dictator was finally brought to bay on October 20th in his home town of Sirte. At first it was said that Muammar Qaddafi had been wounded. Later reports, as The Economist went to press, suggested he had died.
Either way, his demise spells the end of a vile reign. He tormented his own people and made mischief far and wide—in his own country, across Africa and the Arab world, and in the skies and cities of Europe. Some, among his own tribesmen and in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that received his largesse, may mourn his demise. But for the overwhelming mass of humanity, at home and abroad, his capture is a cause of undiluted celebration.

The fall of Sirte, which followed that of the other surviving holdout town of Bani Walid, means that virtually the whole of Libya is in the hands of the forces that took up arms against the colonel in February. The country is not entirely safe, however. In Abu Salim, a suburb of Tripoli where support for the colonel was deemed strongest, there was a recent armed eruption of opposition to the new rulers, albeit quickly put down. In the vast desert to the south of the coastal strip where more than 90% of Libyans reside, there may be pockets of resistance. It could take time for pro-Qaddafi people to be fully defeated and rounded up. The whereabouts of the colonel’s most prominent son, Seif, are not yet known.
The fall of the colonel marks only the beginning of a hoped-for political, economic and moral renaissance. Justice will need to be done, and be seen to be done; but reconciliation must also be pursued. It is up to the new ruling authorities, led by the avuncular chairman of the transitional national council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, to balance the two.
The fledgling government’s behaviour in Tripoli and elsewhere suggests that it will go out of its way to avoid undue triumphalism. Leaders of the transitional council have said that all of the body’s members will step down within a month of the total liberation of the country and that a new government, also transitional, will be set up leading to elections within a fairly short time; some say less than a year, others perhaps two years.
Meanwhile, the economy has shown early signs of bouncing back, as the country’s plentiful oil wells begin pumping again. Production has already exceeded 350,000 barrels a day (b/d) and is set to rise to 1m b/d within four months or so. Libya’s 6m-plus people should, if a more efficient and decent system of government is established, become some of the most prosperous in the world.
But politics is another matter. There is already rivalry between Islamists and secular-minded people, between tribesmen and urbanites, between east and west, between Tripoli and Benghazi, the original rebel headquarters in the east. Some Western observers already fear the Islamists have the upper hand—and may not remain pro-Western for long. But so far Mr Abdul Jalil and his de facto prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, seem level-headed and sincere in their insistence that they want to help build a pluralistic and democratic state.

The colonel’s final fall is also welcome news for David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and for NATO. Heavily criticised for willing an end without having the means to achieve it, both the British prime minister and the French president stuck to their guns even when some of the military advice they were receiving was glumly predicting a long-drawn-out stalemate and the division of the country into a pro-Qaddafi west and an anti-Qaddafi east.
NATO too came under fire, particularly in America, for its at times cautious approach to targeting and for lacking the firepower without greater American participation to bring about a decisive conclusion. In fact, the extreme accuracy of the thousands of missions flown by NATO aircraft (mainly British and French) patiently ground down the regime and reduced its ability to carry on fighting. Moreover, it did so with remarkably few civilian casualties.
More importantly for the Arab world in general, it will provide a fillip for those who seek to build democracy and the rule of law elsewhere. Tunisia is due on October 23rd to hold an election to a constituent assembly. Egypt, though passing through a rocky patch, is still on course to hold an election next month that should lead to the removal of the military authorities and the establishment of a proper democracy. So, with luck, a belt of countries across north Africa should now see democracies gradually entrenched. The demise of Colonel Qaddafi is a vital piece of the jigsaw falling into place.

The rest of the Arab world still has a long way to go. Syria remains turbulent. Week after week, protesters are continuing courageously to demonstrate against the regime of President Bashar Assad, perhaps the nastiest in the region after Colonel Qaddafi’s. The forces of democracy there too will be given a big boost.
The end of Colonel Qaddafi may be a largely symbolic moment. It will not necessarily spell the onset of sweetness and light across the region. But it is a turning point all the same.

Rebels 'Detain Kidnap Suspects'

Western Saharan rebels have detained people implicated in the October kidnapping of three Europeans in Algeria, the APS agency quoted rebel officials as saying on Thursday.
"They were acting on behalf of a criminal organisation unknown until now," Khatri Eddouh, president of the Polisario parliament, was quoted as telling journalists late Wednesday.
The report did not say how many people had been detained.

"We will expend all necessary efforts and collaborate with neighbouring countries and even other countries to free the hostages," he said.
A Spanish man and woman and an Italian woman were seized in Algeria in October and are purportedly held by an Al-Qaeda splinter group that has claimed their abduction on Saturday, Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa).
The group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, saying it had broken away from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which was behind several other recent attacks and abductions in the region.
The hostages were seen alive in a video shown to an AFP correspondent in Bamako on Monday.
Polisario fighters took up arms for an independent state in Western Sahara after Morocco annexed the area in 1976 after a Spanish withdrawal. The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991.



ICC Warrant Request Advances Justice

The request by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Sudan’s defense minister is an important step toward justice for serious crimes committed in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today.

The prosecutor’s request on December 2, 2011, is based on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region of Sudan from August 2003 to March 2004. The defense minister, Abduraheem Hussein, was appointed to the post in 2005 and previously was interior minister. He was appointed the president’s representative for Darfur in 2004, during the height of the conflict in the region.

“Defense Minister Hussein is implicated as a key figure in heinous abuses committed in Darfur, including attacks against civilians,” said Elise Keppler, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The warrant request is an important step to advance justice for the many victims of crimes in Darfur.”

Based on Human Rights Watch research, Hussein appears to have played a central role in the Sudanese government’s strategy of “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur. He is believed to have been involved in coordinating military attacks on civilians and “Janjaweed” militia attacks against specific ethnic groups.

Hussein is the seventh suspect sought by the ICC for alleged crimes committed in Darfur by Sudanese government forces, government-backed militias, and rebel forces. The suspects include President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and Ahmed Haroun, then the country’s minister for humanitarian affairs, who is currently the governor of South Kordofan state, where fighting between the government and armed opposition forces broke out in June. Both men are fugitives from the ICC.

The ICC prosecutor formally opened an investigation into crimes committed in Sudan in June 2005 following a referral by the United Nations Security Council.

South Sudan says agreement reached with Khartoum on oil fees

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Pagan Amum, South Sudan’s chief negotiator (AFP)
South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum on Tuesday said that his country reached an agreement with its northern neighbor on the oil transit fees after months of intense negotiations.
The landlocked south seceded from the north last July but is dependent on the Sudan’s oil infrastructure to transport its crude worldwide.
Khartoum asked for no less than $32 per barrel in fees which Juba swiftly rejected.
Amum told the Al-Jazeera TV website that Sudan will now charge fees in accordance with international norms but did not give a figure.
The South Sudanese official further said that his government will give $2.6 billion in assistance to Khartoum to help its economy recover from losing the oil that now belongs to the new nation.
He also revealed that China through its special envoy Liu Guijin pressed Khartoum to accept these terms.
But the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Al-Obeid Marawih dismissed Amum’s assertions and said that there are only proposals on the table so far that could be accepted or rejected.
"The new proposals should be discussed on the negotiating table and not through media outlets," Marawih said.
He added that what Amum announced has been rejected well before the last round of talks between the two countries adding that this shows that Juba isn’t serious.
Amid a severe economic crisis, Khartoum is pushing for a quick resolution of the issue and a few weeks ago said it will close down the oil pipelines until $727 million in arrears are paid.
But the decision was quickly reversed following criticism by China which imports 5% of its oil from South Sudan.

Three Swiss men charged in Libya nuclear weapons case

Swiss prosecutors said Friedrich Tinner and his sons Marco and Urs had pleaded guilty of supplying nuclear equipment through the network of AQ Khan, the Pakistani scientist who sold uranium enrichment to Muslim states.
All three have spent length periods of up to three and a half years in custody waiting trial. A key element of a plea bargain yesterday was that the court would not hear any evidence in reaching a verdict.

Is Egypt's Military Kneeling Under Public Pressure?

After the bloody crackdown of the past days leading to dozens of deaths on the civilian side, the Egyptian military rulers say they will seek a political exit to the crisis. Although the military's public statements are still considered by protesters as insufficient, the Egyptian second uprising is clearly putting enormous pressure on the Junta.
On Tuesday, VOAnews reported that Egypt's military rulers have agreed to form a new government and promised to transfer power to a civilian body by July.

Supreme Council of the Armed Forces head Mohamed Tantawi announced the decision late Tuesday after crisis talks with various political groups.  He said he had accepted the resignation of the civilian Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

Tantawi said the current Cabinet would remain in place until a new government is formed. However, he added that military rulers were prepared to organize a referendum on an immediate power transfer, if necessary.

He also said officials are committed to holding parliamentary elections that are set to begin on November 28 and to the election of a new president before July 2012.

Tens of thousands of protesters massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square "booed" Tantawi's announcement. Some called for his resignation. Demonstrators have been demanding an immediate end to military rule. 

Oil and Energy Sectors Vulnerable to Corruption in North Africa

The North Africa Journal | Corruption in North Africa is a widespread and is a deeply rooted problem. So much so that the activists that are driving the revolts in the Arab world say many of ills that have been crippling economic, social and political progress originate from corruption. While corrupt acts such as paying bribery are widespread in administrations and bureaucracies, the business sector is particularly affected by corrupt practices as well.
And while efforts are underway to reduce the impact of corruption, there is a strong possibly of a status-quo, if the conservative forces prevail. Cases of corruption abound, most evolve with impunity, enabling many people to grow and thrivee economically. Few cases end up in the front pages of newspapers, partly as a result of political fights within regimes that use corruption cases to undermine their political competitors. Because of the amounts of money involved, the energy sector is particularly vulnerable to white collar criminal predators.

In Algeria for example, state-owned oil giant Sonatrach is slowly recovering from a scandal that has crippled the company’s management. Problems of bribery payments and payments for favors have affected the higher echelon of the company. Still, many Analysts point to the scandal as having been engineered by a faction in the regime that has been seeking to undermine competing interests. This is as dirty politics as it can be. The latest development in this affair was this month’s jail sentences announced against former CEOs, sentences considered rather lenient by many observers.

In Egypt, the situation is not better as its the natural gas sector, its biggest natural resource for power is being threatened by corruption, according to watchdogs. Tranparency International says the corruption taint in Egypt is so bad that it could slow the build up of its clean power generation capacity more

With an Islamist Electoral Victory, Morocco Forced to Adopt Political Cohabitation

The North Africa Journal | With less than half the eligible voters going into the voting booths on Friday, the Moroccans woke up on Saturday with the news that the Islamists of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) were bracing to form a coaltion government.
Despite being considered a moderate Islamist organization, the PJD has long been chastised and vilified for not fully toeing the line to the Monarchy. And now with its rise into governance, the PJD in some sense is forming a soft challenge to the long-established power of those surrounding the Palace. How will this challenge take form remains to be seen, but pledges to combat corruption indicate that the PJD could end up clashing with many among the power elite.
The rise of the Islamists means that even though the Moroccan Revolution never took place as it did in Tunisia,  Libya, Egypt and now in Yemen and Syria, the pro-democracy movement still managed to pave the way for the start of pluralism in governance.  
In the short term, the PJD’s victory will enable it to form a coalition government. Early official results announced by Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui based on more than two-thirds of the Constituency showed the PJD winning 80 seats of the Friday vote. The final results for the 395 Members of the House will be announced Sunday.
The PJD, which until now was the leading opposition party with 47 seats, has announced its readiness to open negotiations with other political parties to form a coalition government. Such stance was confirmed by the party leader Abdelilah Benkirane to a number of news agencies.
The secular parties managed weaker performances, with the old Istiqlal party of Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi gaining just about 45 seats. The National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the Authenticity and Modernity Party (WFP), two liberal formations linked to the Monarchy, won respectively 38 and 33 seats.

Morocco goes to the polls in test of king's reform promises

Turnout could be low as many say they don't believe elections will lead to real reform in monarchy dominated nation
Moroccans stand inside voting booths before casting their votes at a voting station in Rabat
Moroccans inside voting booths at a polling station in Rabat. Photograph: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
Moroccans voted on Friday in elections inspired by the Arab spring that are facing a boycott by campaigners who say the monarchy is not committed to change.
A moderate Islamist party and a royalist coalition led by the finance minister are competing for power, but a test for authorities will be how many cast their votes.
The king amended the constitution over the summer giving the prime minister new powers, including the ability to dissolve parliament and make certain appointments, in response to pro-democracy protests. But the ultimate authority remains with the king.
The election result will be closely watched by Morocco's US and other western allies as the north African kingdom navigates its own Arab spring.
In the affluent Agdal neighbourhood of Rabat, a steady stream of professionals lined up early in the morning at a polling station to vote before work.
"I've always voted, but this time it is more important," said Dr Muhammad Ennabli. "Before it was the king who chose, now it is the people who choose."
Many people, however, scorned a process they say has been going on for decades without any tangible effect on their lives.
"I won't vote, the promises are never kept. With or without the new constitution, it is the same," said Abdallah Cherachaoui, an unemployed 45-year-old in the poorer district of Akkari. "They are laughing at us."
In the working class city of Sale, across the river from the capital Rabat, there was a steady trickle of voters to the school acting as a polling station, but some stayed outside.
"I voted in 2007 because the candidate was a member of my family, but he also disappointed me and as soon as the elections were over, I never saw him again, so I'm not making that mistake again," said Brahim Errami, 25, from his seat in a nearby cafe. "I pity the people going in and out of that school."
Morocco's reputation as a stable kingdom has taken a hit with this year's protests over government corruption and heavy-handed security forces. And its once-steady economy is creaking from the amount of money the government has pumped into raising salaries and subsidies to keep people calm amid the Arab world turmoil.
The election campaign has been strangely subdued, unlike the lively politicking in nearby Tunisia when it held the first elections prompted by the Arab uprisings last month.

The Horses, Mules & Donkeys Clinic

The American Fondouk, an animal hospital specialising in horses, mules and donkeys, has operated in Fez since 1927. A new director, Dr Gigi Kay, took over in August and renovations have begun. Suzanna Clarke visits and gets more up close and personal than she bargained for.
The huge, work-worn mule was laid out on the vinyl cushions, which are the Fondouk’s temporary operating table, until the new renovations are complete. Its owner had brought it in a short time before, with a large piece of what looked like meat hanging beneath its belly – muscles and fat held by a thread. While it was gruesome to look at, it must have been excruciatingly painful for the animal. “An accident with farm machinery,” the owner explained.

“We need to get this out of the way,” said Dr Gigi Kay, the dynamic new director of the Fondouk, and its chief vet. “Can you do it?” she asked me. She was referring to the animal’s penis, which was dangling into the wound. “Okay,” I gulped, and put on sterile gloves, wrapped a towel around the mule’s member and pulled it out of the way, trying not to feel faint at the sight of the gaping hole in its flesh. I maintained this intimate contact for the next hour.
“I hope you aren’t squeamish,” Gigi said, as she began delicately snipping away at the hanging bits of muscle and dead skin.
The wound was flushed with saline solution and then the other vet, Dr Mohamed Bourassi, assisted to suture the muscle together. Stretching the skin across looked like an impossible task, but with some firm persuasion, it was pulled across like a satin sheet, hiding the bloody mass beneath. I was impressed at how neatly and quickly the two vets worked, using thin plastic tubing to take some of the strain off the skin and making small incisions on the taut skin on either side, to prevent tearing.

Their task was made all the more difficult by the fact that the mule wasn’t fully asleep. It kept jerking and twitching and had to be constantly topped up with anaesthetic. There were seven of us involved in the operation and each person was doing an essential job; from the man who held the animal’s leg to stop it kicking the vets' faces, through to my own, more humble, contribution.
Finally, the operation was finished and I was relieved to release my grip. Where the gaping hole had been was a neat row of stitching and the prospect that the animal might survive and, after recovery, continue its working life.
“But doesn’t it hurt you to patch them up and then return them back to such difficult conditions?” I asked Gigi later. “They are not my animals,” she said simply. “We are only here to make them better. We give them the best quality care they have ever had in their lives. They are fed and cared for as if they were in horse equivalent of a five star hotel. We are happy if they are well enough to go back out there.”
After seeing suppurating wounds and injuries caused by hobbles, or carrying carts or heavy loads, how did she feel about the owners of the animals? “ I am never judgemental,” she says. “I was brought up with these people and I know what hard lives they have.”
Instead, Gigi bargains for each day. “Recently we had a mule which had been hit by a car. Its owner said it had to start ploughing on Monday. I said it needed more time, and he kept coming back, asking when it would be ready, and I would ask for another day or two. I’m constantly bargaining.”
For a mule or donkey owner who depends on the animal for his family’s livelihood, the loss of it can be devastating. So the role the Fonduk plays is an essential one of making sure that the animals can continue. And, on a larger scale, the Fez Medina would not be what it was without them.
Started in 1927 by American tourist Amy Bend Bishop, the American Fondouk is the only American equine hospital operating in Morocco. There are ten others, run by the British organisation Spana. The American Fondouk is overseen by a board and relies for its funds on private donations. As running costs are around $25,000 per month, this is a considerable commitment.

“When I came here, the Fondouk had recently stopped treating dogs and cats,” says GiGi. Now the focus is entirely on equids. “We have to work in the Moroccan environment, and we were undermining the local vets by treating dogs and cats. Really, if you own a pet, then you should be prepared to pay for treatment. Whereas equid owners will always be too poor to take them to a local vet.”
Judging by the number of well-heeled types still coming to the clinic with their pets, word hasn’t yet got around. “We still euthanize animals if it’s essential,” she says.
The Fondouk treats around 20 animals a day that come through its doors and another 20 which are held in recovery stalls. The two vets and eleven other staff are constantly busy. “It should really be a three vet practice,” she says.
Lots of injuries they attend to are mules and donkeys that have run-ins with cars; abscesses and wounds caused by hobbles and inappropriate harnesses and colic from animals eating plastic bags. The clinic’s resources are modest, but Gigi has plans to make the stalls bigger and to have a proper operating area. The clinic will shortly get a weighing machine so they can better judge the amount of anesthetic to administer.
Before beginning at the American Fonduk in August, Dr Gigi Kay was the Veterinary Director for a working equid hospital in Luxor, Egypt and before that, Veterinary Director of Spana in Morocco. Originally from England, she was brought up in the Middle East. Her family was constantly on the move, with her diplomat father and archaeologist mother. “I always wanted to be with horses, even before I could walk,” she says.
Gigi was 17 when she first came to Morocco for three years, then spent five years living here when she was with Spana. She is married to an English doctor, Dick Hooper, and has recently returned from a stint in Sydney.
She enjoys the personal care she is able to give her patients at The American Fondouk.
“This is an ideal job for me,” Gigi says. “I like making broken animals better.”
Dr Gigi Kay wants to encourage people to visit, with the aim that the Fondouk can generate some of its own money through donations.

Article Previously published by View From Fez

Morocco, Prospects for Genuine Reform?

Washington / Morocco Board News--   MoroccoBoard TV Has recently covered a major conference on Morocco in Washington that was organized by The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). The MBTV coverage followed up with interviews with conference participants...

“Beyond Morocco’s Elections: Prospects for Genuine Reform?” examined the Moroccan political scene surrounding Morocco’s November 25 legislative elections. The panel included Anouar Boukhars, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies at McDaniel College, Marina Ottoway, Senior Associate at the Middle East Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Ahmed Benchemsi of Stanford University’s Program on Arab

Reform and Democracy. Charles Dunne, Director for Middle East and North Africa Programs at Freedom House, moderated the discussion.

Dunne offered introductory remarks in which he noted that although Morocco does not receive ample attention, it is an important “test case.” Morocco can demonstrate whether “any authoritarian government can respond effectively to the upheavals of the Arab Spring through a process of managed, top-down change.” Dunne added that the monarchy faces many challenges, including continuing protests from the February 20 movement among others, as well as the persistence of the economic problems that sparked the unrest. He also mentioned that many Moroccans are wary of sweeping change, and are “cautious” about “embracing it.” Lastly, Dunne stated that the fate of Morocco’s internal stability holds implications for the region and the U.S.

Boukhars analyzed the challenges facing political parties, arguing that voter confidence in existing political parties to effectively utilize the “greater mobility” allowed by Morocco’s new constitution is scarce. “Pluralities are still skeptical,” he said, and enthusiasm is lacking among the populace. Boukhars also mentioned several possible outcomes of Morocco’s parliamentary elections, asserting that concern that the PJD will win a vast majority is “overblown.” One reason the PJD will not fare as well as some analysts predict, he said, is that the Islamist vote is divided. Furthermore, “districting laws disadvantage Islamists.” If the PJD were to win, it would likely experience great difficulty in forming a coalition to govern, effectively lending credence to the claims that voting will fail to change the political landscape in Morocco. Boukhars added that given the new constitutional reforms, political parties have an “unprecedented opportunity” to push for democratic reform. He concluded by posing the question of whether Morocco’s political parties would take advantage of this opportunity.

 Then, Ottoway addressed the question of whether top-down reform could work, asserting that “it always depends on the push from the bottom.” “Is there going to be enough push from the society within the political system” to push for change “that would allow the most democratic provisions of the constitution to actually be put into practice,” she said. Ottoway stressed that the constitution is “an extremely ambiguous document at this point,” which “could be
implemented in an array of different fashions.” The constitution, she added, does not clearly provide for a constitutional monarchy; rather, it allows to king to govern. Ottoway noted that Moroccan political parties have not been utilizing the political space allowed by the new constitution. She stated that regardless of the election results, the parties will not put much pressure against the monarchy.

Ottoway then discussed the February 20 movement, noting that it is a loose group without a clear leadership hierarchy: “It’s almost too democratic for its own good in the sense that it really doesn’t have a strong leadership structure,” which makes it “very difficult to have a coherent direction.” She stated that the leftist parties in Morocco are “leftovers” from the past, “more of a marginal factor.” The Justice and Charity party, while more likely to be a significant force, is not likely to participate in the elections.

Benchemsi disagreed with Boukhars’ argument that the upcoming elections would reveal whether or not parties could effectively utilize their newfound mobility. Benchemsi asserted that these elections are “not that important,” as “the main factor in Morocco is the balance of strength between the monarchy and all other forces.” He also stated that the king’s introduction of constitutional reforms was a “skillful play” intended to crush momentum on the street rather than a genuine promise of change. Benchemsi added that the official statistic of 98.5% of voters in favor of July’s constitutional referendum revealed egregious fraud. He called the new constitution “perverse,” and enumerated the ways in which a “smokescreen” created the illusion of change while protecting the king’s hegemony.

During the question and answer session, Boukhars stated that among the trends indicating positive change in Morocco is that youth within political parties are beginning to challenge political veterans in their organizations. An attendee asked whether continuing economic woes would “be a push for another major uprising.” Benchamsi affirmed the power of economic problems to fuel unrest, adding that the “regional spirit of the Arab spring” could be reinvigorated in Bashar al-Assad were to fall.

Ottoway said that “Morocco is ahead of any other monarchy” in the region in terms of responding to calls for reform. “This is the one Arab monarchy that has at least taken small steps,” she added. An attendee inquired about Moroccans who oppose the constitution as well as the monarchy. Benchemsi and Ottoway agreed that those who “want the fall of the Monarchy in Morocco,” also known as republicans, are “marginal.” source

Human Rights Watch Asks Morocco To Free Reporter

Moroccan authorities should void the conviction of a journalist who is serving a one-year term for “gravely offending” public officials and disparaging the courts, Human Rights Watch said today. Rachid Nini’s incarceration belies the commitment of Moroccan authorities to freedom of expression as affirmed in the country’s new constitution, Human Rights Watch said. 
To harmonize its laws with the new constitution, Morocco should also abolish laws that criminalize “gravely offending” public officials and also those that criminalize defamation, especially of public officials, Human Rights Watch said.

“One of Morocco’s most famous journalists is behind bars because of what he wrote about public officials and state institutions,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “That is plain wrong – whatever one may think of his columns.”

The Casablanca Court of Appeals on October 24, 2011, upheld the prison term against Nini, whose column in the privately owned newspaper he directs, al-Masa’ (The Evening), is one of the most widely read columns in Morocco.

The National Brigade of the Judicial Police (la Brigade nationale de police judiciaire, BNPJ) summoned Nini for questioning on April 26, releasing him later the same day. On April 28, the police summoned him again and obtained an order to detain him for 96 hours. The interrogation focused on the content of his columns in al-Masa’, according to his signed statement and his lawyers.

On May 1, the authorities brought Nini before the Casablanca prosecutor, who notified him he faced charges of “gravely offending” public officials (article 263 of the penal code), accusing public officials of violating the law without providing proof (article 264), and insulting the judiciary or discrediting its rulings or attempting to influence the courts (article 266).

From the earliest phases of the case, the court rejected numerous motions by Nini’s lawyers to release him provisionally pending a definitive verdict.

On June 9, the Casablanca Court of First Instance convicted Nini on all three charges and sentenced him to one year in prison and a fine of 1,000 dirhams (US$120). The verdict and sentence were both upheld on appeal.

The written verdict of the first-instance trial (misdemeanor case 11/10/3245, ruling 4675) lists nine columns by Nini, all published in March or April. The verdict says that Nini confirmed that he wrote them. In his defense, Nini told the court that some of the information in the articles came from credible sources whose identity he could not disclose. Other parts of the articles, he said, amounted to his own analysis and opinions regarding daily events. Nini denied in court that his writings showed malice toward anyone or contempt for court rulings or a desire to influence them.

The columns by Nini that are mentioned in the verdict include one attacking Abdellatif Hammouchi for allegedly abusing his authority as head of the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, a domestic intelligence agency widely known as the DST (the initials of its former name in French, Direction de la surveillance du territoire). The column, a French translation of which is online at, appeared in al-Masa’ on April 18, eight days before the police first summoned Nini. The court, in its verdict, also cites an article in which it says that Nini, without providing the necessary proof, accused Hassan Aourid of enriching himself while he was governor of the Meknes-Tafilalet region.

Nini’s daily column “Chouf Tchouf” (a colloquial expression meaning, “Look and see”) frequently targets what he views as acts of injustice, repression, and corruption for which he blames Moroccan authorities generally or specific officials or agencies. The columns cited in the verdict, for example, contain numerous references to the torture he says is practiced against suspects at Témara, a facility frequently criticized by human rights organizations as the site of abusive interrogations, but whose existence authorities have repeatedly denied.

Nini, 41, is being held at Oukacha prison in Casablanca. He is not allowed to have paper and writing instruments, a Casablanca lawyer, Reda Oulamine, who visited him on November 30, told Human Rights Watch.

All countries have an interest in providing recourses for people who believe that a news organ has damaged their reputation or, in some cases, gravely offended them. However, to balance this interest against the public interest in press freedom, allegations of defamation, offenses, and insults should not be handled as criminal matters. Defamation should be handled as a civil matter, in which courts may impose monetary damages or propose apologies or corrections, rather than impose prison terms and fines. There is a particular duty to ensure free expression concerning commentary on public officials.

To harmonize its penal code with the freedom-of-expression guarantees provided by the new constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Morocco ratified in 1979, Morocco should eliminate prison terms as punishments for the offenses for which Nini is incarcerated and end the criminalization of defamation, especially of public officials, Human Rights Watch said.

“The imprisonment of Rachid Nini dramatizes the need to close the gap between Morocco’s reformist new constitution and its laws that criminalize speech,” Whitson said. “His continued imprisonment calls into question the government’s commitment to guarantee free expression.”

Previous Convictions
Nini has been convicted of criminal charges before for his writing. In March 2008 the Rabat Court of First Instance convicted him for a column he wrote describing a “gay wedding party” in the city of Ksar el-Kabir, in which he said that the town’s homosexuals included a prosecutor. Although Nini did not name the prosecutor, all four prosecutors attached to the Ksar el-Kabir court filed a defamation complaint, and the Rabat court fined Nini 6 million dirhams ($720,000). He had not paid the fine at the time of his arrest three years later.

On November 16, 2009, the Casablanca Court of First Instance sentenced Nini and a fellow journalist at al-Masa’ to prison terms and fines for publishing an article in August 2009 that allegedly contained “false information” regarding the implication of a judicial official in a drug-trafficking ring. An appeals court ruling in January 2010 eliminated the prison terms but maintained fines of 20,000 dirhams (US$2,400) against the two men.

The New Constitution
Morocco’s constitution adopted by popular referendum on July 1, unlike the previous constitution, contains an affirmation of press freedom. Article 28 says, “Press freedom is guaranteed and cannot be limited by any form of prior censorship. Everyone has the right of expression and to freely distribute information, ideas, and opinions, limited only by that which is expressly provided for by the law.”

The new constitution’s preamble states that Morocco undertakes to “grant to international conventions duly ratified by Morocco – in the framework of the provisions of the constitution and the laws of the kingdom, while respecting its immutable national identity – upon their publication, primacy over internal law of the country, and to harmonize as a consequence the pertinent provisions of its national legislation.”

The Penal Code
Article 263 penalizes “anyone who gravely offends a judge, public official, or commander or agent of the public forces, with the intent of harming his or her honor, esteem, or the respect due his or her authority.” Article 264 states that the offense of “gravely offending” someone includes accusing the person of a crime that one knows did not occur. Article 266 allows penalties for material that is either written with the purpose of “exercising pressure on decisions on matters that are still before judges,” or “that tends to discredit court decisions and undermine the judiciary’s authority or independence.”

International Law
The UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty body that is an authoritative interpreter of state duties under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, wrote in 2011 with respect to article 19, which guarantees the right to freedom of freedom of expression:
Defamation laws must be crafted with care to ensure that they… do not serve, in practice, to stifle freedom of expression.… At least with regard to comments about public figures, consideration should be given to avoiding penalising or otherwise rendering unlawful untrue statements that have been published in error but without malice. In any event, a public interest in the subject matter of the criticism should be recognised as a defence.... States parties should consider the decriminalisation of defamation and, in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty.
Source: HRW

Amazigh World Music By Imanaren

Looking for “authentic” world music? You won’t get much more down-to-earth than Imanaren, a group of Amazigh musicians from the south of Morocco whose debut record was self-released on a limited scale within the country before being re-released by the Dutty Artz label. According to the label’s Web site, band leader Hassan Wargui “isn’t allowed to play music in the house, so we recorded [some music videos] with his local friends and fellow musicians in a natural amphitheatre carved out by a waterfall in a dry gorge.” Traditional musicians relegated to outdoors practice by unimpressed family patriarchs? Now that’s authentic.
cover art
The good news is twofold. DIY or not, the recording quality of Imanaren’s debut is impressively full and warm, if a little weak in the lower registers, and just as important, the tunes are smokin’. My understanding of what constitutes “traditional Berber (Amazigh) music” is hazy at best – except for knowing that Berbers are the indigenous, non-Arab peoples of North Africa, whose populations traditionally tended to concentrate in the mountains.

Fortunately, further knowledge is entirely unnecessary to appreciate tracks like “Taldrar N Lawlia (The Flowering of the Wise)”. The tune rolls from the speakers on a gentle bed of hand drum rhythms and a plucked oud (lute) melody which is picked up and amplified by the intertwining vocals. The tune weaves a hypnotic spell which ends all too quickly notwithstanding its 4:40 running time.

That running time makes this the second shortest track on the album. There are only seven songs here, but five of them are in the six to nine minute-plus range, making for a satisfying listening experience. Songs have plenty of time to find a groove and milk it. Instrumental solos and rhyhmic shifts are few, but if you like to trance out, this might be your new favourite record. more

Who carries out investment in Morocco?

Washington--Morocco Board News-    Who carries out investment in Morocco? The evidence shows only central government does; For sure companies do their bit as well, but their investment is not up to scratch. I am referring explicitly to those larger “national champions” who enjoy monopoly (or oligopoly) rents because they are supposedly our only chance to deal with an ever more threatening globalization;
the story goes, let these conglomerates (a private and Moroccan version of Kombinats) concentrate resources, enjoy generous government subsidies and exemptions to grow and go on to get Morocco some business abroad. Their newly acquired resources are then reinvested at home to the benefit of everyone: Maroc Telecom, CDG, ONA-SNI and a few other companies portraying Corporate Morocco have been allowed to practise a large-scale version of trickle-down economics: their powerful economic and political connections prevent any serious threat from regulatory bodies or potential competitor to even ever exist.

But fine, let us roll with that argument for a while: suppose that trickle-down economics is doing fine; that these companies over the past decade have had enough time and resources and profits to build themselves niches and comfortable lead on their respective markets; we should be now expecting some large spending on asset acquisition, we should have a look at these companies’ balance sheets and observe a noticeable increase in their tangible assets, perhaps their inventories, definitely some increase in capital size. But the trouble is, we don’t.
The first thing to record is the significant difference between crony, rent-oriented capitalism, and productive, value-creation capitalism: the latter is based on political patronage, corruption and investment in safe but non-productive sectors, the former is riskier, but tends to generate more activity and more jobs. The last three years recorded an annual average Gross Capital Formation of 270 Bn. That’s 36% of GDP, and as IMF reports:

 Although investment rates to GDP have increased significantly over the last decade in Morocco, this has not translated into higher economic growth.
While during 1999-2010 Morocco’s investment rate was the second largest in the sample below, its growth rate is relatively lower. The quality and efficiency of investment projects may contribute to explain these differences.
So Morocco is investing quite a lot -relative to its GDP- but this constant effort does not translate into growth, insofar other emerging countries manage to perform higher growth rate – perhaps Moroccan investments aren’t as profitable to growth as one might think – or, alternatively, these are profitable, but only in terms of monetary, and not real, returns.

If significant sectors all plummeted over the last three years, how come dividends performed a solid 10% annual increase?

In addition to that, it is also worth investigating the precise investment share shouldered by private and public operators: it is no use to let the budget bear the brunt of essential investments (whose effects on growth are more of a long-term nature) and let private businesses just get away with it; From a pure financial point of view, companies would not commit resources to buy assets unless there’s some optimistic appraisal of future cash-flows; as far as paid dividends go, there is a healthy 10% annual return cashed in during the last three years, an average of 31Bn over 2008-2011, even though significant sectors -save for banking- took a hit over the same period of time. That’s a 100Bn right into the pockets of a nucleus of shareholders who do not get to invest it in tangible assets.
Levels of dividends are therefore high enough to consider investing assets in whatever company MASI subsumes and able to yield as high a profit as the composite index itself. If a company does manage such high a dividend, surely it can provide enough resources to invest in assets. But instead, they keep on spending them to keep shareholders happy, too happy, perhaps.
But what about public investments? Over the considered last three years, public expenditure (including Hassan II fund and SEGMAs) allocated to investment reached 154 Bn on average (51Bn of it attached to central government) that is 60% of gross capital formation, with the entire private sector providing for the remaining 120Bn average per year. Strangely enough, it seems the entire private sector -those companies large enough to afford equally large spendings in asset acquisition- saw fit not to add some 30Bn every year, or 4 basis points in investments that could well be directed to profitable and productive assets.
An initial raw indicator: correlation increases over time

And it is not like financial products were supposed to yield higher returns: Bank Al Maghrib‘s main rates over the last 3 years were historically low: it was 3.5% in 2008, it is now 3.25%, the lowest level for decades indeed. Investors should, in view of very lenient interest rate constraints, opt in for asset acquisition; as a matter of fact, long-term investments are even better suited at times when liquidity is quite scarce: there is no need to hold cash in order to expand capacity production, network platform or other expenditure needed to increase production of goods and services.
The question might seem trivial, but it would be great to know exactly if investment does help expand growth, if it does indeed; first off, there is a clear correlation between GDP and Gross Capital Formation (the nearest indicator to domestic investment) and not only that, but it tends to increase over time (as the table shows indeed) and computations on annual data shows also a certain ‘pull effect’: while investment surely does not determine growth wholly, it certainly contributes a great deal, perhaps between a third and 40% of it, depending on the number of lags and how one arranges them, and again under certain circumstances, it is safe to say that over the last decade, investment has contributed, on average, 2.2 basis points of GDP growth.
Considering the computations on Morocco’s potential GDP growth, Capital contributes -on average- 43% of potential output, the numbers seem to make sense, and following, could yield good predictions, in the event these annual 30Bn of dividends were spent in asset acquisition rather than going into the pockets of Corporate Morocco’s shareholders: an additional 4 basis points in gross capital formation would have almost no impact on the initial year’s GDP growth, but that nonetheless carry its effect over the next couple of years, and it is safe to believe that future effects on growth are underestimated.
all in all, a constant 4% increase over 3 years, from 2008 to 2011 would have increased average GDP growth from 4.6% to 5.5%, with a potential (residual) residual of 0.3 basis points to gain for the next coming years. Increasing growth to 5.5% would have meant a GDP gain of 120Bn instead of the record 80Bn. Now, ceteris paribus, investing money back would have brought more than the cashed in 100Bn in dividends, a discounted value of 103Bn – an additional 3 Bn that would have generated growth, jobs, income and wealth to these shareholders as well as many others.
The only cost they would have incurred was to wait – no opportunity cost, just the waiting time. But greed it seems, as got the better of sound economic computations, a greed fueled by easy rent-oriented business and a fiscal policy complacent about these activities.

Sifting Through Millions of Electronic Messages

The french weekly "le canard Enchaine"  revealed in its latest edition that morocco has made a purchase of a software that can track the Internet content of the entire country.
According to the weekly, the company Amesys, which is part the French conglomerate Bull,  has been awarded a $2 million contract for the supply of computers, hard disk storage and the installation of the spy software "Eagle". The Eagle software can sift through millions of electronic messages indiscriminately and take names and keywords and other relevant information. It can also identify connections to the sites that are monitored, it can identify senders and recipients of emails, and it can access the contents of intercepted emails and phone calls.
The weekly reports that Amesys, the developer of the spy software, will provide not only the hardware and software but also the training, probably, through  "advisors" from the French services"
The journal doubts that this material is to be used to monitor particular outlaw sites. "This type of installation will detect connections to certain sites deemed suspicious and even intercept email messages in the millions.  The content of internet traffic will be sifted and mined for information by the government ".

Another French company Qosmos has made a similar spy software sale to the country of Syria.


Calls for new Morocco protests on Sunda

Despite a police crackdown on protesters last weekend, the organisers of the pro-democracy protests in Morocco urge to create a new momentum by taking into the streets each Sunday.
After mass demonstrations on Sunday 20 February, the Moroccan pro-democracy protest movement seemed to lose momentum last weekend. To some degree, the calls for protests for both Saturday and Sunday (26 and 27 February) had caused confusion, as an unclear and uncoordinated protest leadership was unable to communicate to Morocco's many cities when the "big" protest was to be held.

But the loss of momentum also came as consequence of government suppression. While the 20 February protest marches had been allowed, local authorities and police on short notice forbade all protest marches last weekend. Attempts of gathering crowds were brutally dispersed in a large number of cities, except in Rabat, the capital.

But one of the main groups behind the protest movement, the Moroccan human rights association AMDH, already on Saturday last week made an urgent appeal to Moroccans to keep on the protests. "From now on, we will organise protests every Sunday," AMDH leaders announced in Rabat.

But the protest movement in Morocco faces serious communication challenges. Moroccan media, after the 20 February marches that caused six deaths and 140 injured, have been ordered a complete news blackout on any follow-up protests and protest calls. Only the Casablanca-based online media 'Yabiladi' has dared to break the silence.

Even on an international basis, the Moroccan regime is close to win the propaganda war over the protests. The official version of "looting criminals" causing trouble on 20 February and of a subsequent end to the protest movement has been accepted by most international media as the Moroccan protest movement is doing a poor communications job.

Among exiled Moroccans, however, the debate about new protests is vivid, using social media like Facebook and YouTube to spread the message to Morocco.

Interestingly, the regime has already launched its anti-protest campaign in the same social media, asking the Diaspora to shut up as they don't know about the large progresses noted back home, thanks to King Mohammed VI. The anti-protest campaigners even dug into the private life of several of the original organisers of the pro
Khadija Riyadi, President of Morocco's human rights group AMDH
Khadija Riyadi, President of Morocco's human rights group AMDH, during the 20 February 
protests in Rabat
test call, publishing discrediting videos, private photos and statements about them.

Meanwhile, sources among the protest movement within Morocco told afrol News about a "climate of fear and intimidation" spreading in the country. Especially in the north of the kingdom, where the gravest confrontations between protesting youths and police forces were noted, had been "scared into silence," the sources added.

But the 20 February movement remains alive and motivated. Especially the AMDH and the Moroccan Forum for Truth and Justice (FMVJ) say they are determined to keep on protesting for more democracy and human rights in the kingdom.

In a letter to Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui, the two human rights groups now demand a credible investigation into police violence during the 20 February and following protests. AMDH President Khadija Riyadi herself was beaten and hospitalised by "pro-government thugs" on 20 February in Rabat. more

Gabon Crowned CAF U-23 African Champions

Gabon came from behind to beat hosts Morocco 2-1 in the final of the first ever CAF U-23 Championship on Saturday in Marrakech.
Two goals from Obiang Obiang and Allen Nono cancelled out Younes Mokhtar's strike in the 21st minute. In an open match Gabon the surprise team of the tournament took the game to the Moroccans and once they led rode their luck to complete their fairy tale. Gabon's victory brings them their first ever crown in a major CAF continental competition

Morocco had started brightly and put their noses in front when a delightful cross from the right flank by Yacine Qasmi was finished home by Younes Mokhtar to send the 15 000 crowd into raptures. Bergdich Zakarya back in the side after missing the semi-final strengthened the defence by was also giving the Moroccan an extra attacking option and they could have increased the lead Qasmi found room in the box only to drive his shot just wide of the post.
Gabon grew into the game after absorbing the early Moroccan threats and soon were causing problems with the long ball aimed at their bustling forwards.
Obiang Obiang had just been booked for a late challenge on Abdelatif Noussir when he ventured upfront chasing a lofted ball with Junior Ndong and a Moroccan defender. The ball's bounce fell kindly for Obiang who shot into the roof of the net for the equalizer in the 33rd minute to hush the crowd.
Soon Gabon were threatening further from set pieces and corner kicks which Alexander Ndoumbou was taking. The home crowd got into voice encouraging Morocco and the team responded with several shots on target but most of them ended up with Gabonese goalkeeper Nick Moundounga.
Then the stadium was shocked into silence in 40th minute when striker Allen Nono's bullet header from close range rattled the roof of the net from a free-kick by Ndoumbou to give Gabon the lead. Morocco had a free- kick on the stroke of half tie which went close.

Morocco returned from the break determined to get back in the game and attacked ferociously the Gabonese goal. Mokhtar saw his effort bundled off the line by Ebanga and as each attack did not yield desired result Moroccans poured forward in search of the equalising goal. This move left them vulnerable to counter and it was not long before Gabon broke through and Yassine El Kharroubi in goal for Morocco brought down the striker and the goalkeeper was sent off. Morocco applied more pressure and chased every ball but with one man short Gabon frustrated them and closed shop while using every opportunity to run down the clock.
2-1 it finished and Gabon celebrated their victory before picking up the winners' trophy from CAF President Mr Issa Hayatou.

Spain's New Moriscos

There is much debate these days about Moroccan immigrants’ assimilation in Spain. Moroccan immigrants, both legal and illegal, estimated to be close to one million, make up the largest single national group in that country, yet they are far from doing well or making their distinct mark on Spain’s culture or politics.  In my travels during September and October 2008, I met quite a few Moroccans who are actively trying to carve out a space in Spain’s mainstream society; still, there is no doubt that theirs is an uphill struggle, one that will require a larger collective effort and decades of dedicated work.  There are a few reasons why Moroccans occupy a somewhat marginal place in Spanish society, but two that stand out are Spain’s centuries-long conflict with Morocco and the unwillingness of Moroccan immigrants, even when highly educated and competent, to engage in politics and help shape public opinion.
That Moroccans can be major assets to Spain was made clear to me after spending a few days with my childhood friend Mustafa Akalay in Granada and a few hours with Mohammed Chaib Akhdim in Cornella, a suburb of Barcelona.  In many ways, the two men are quite different, but they both share a passion for the successful assimilation of Muslim immigrants and for enlarging the space of coexistence. 

Boldly Bringing New Art to Old Morocco

In a former branch of the Banque du Maroc earlier this autumn, sound from a dozen video installations met the cacophony of the historic Djemaa el-Fna square, where food vendors peddled their fare to tourists, snake charmers lined up their cobras and monkeys were paraded on leashes. At dusk, a call to prayer sounded from the Koutoubia Mosque’s landmark minaret.
“It’s a symbolic act to be here,” Hicham Daoudi, founder of the Marrakesh Art Fair, said as he looked out at the teeming agora where 16 people were killed in a terrorist bombing in April.
The exhibition “Images Affranchies,” showing video art and photography from important young Moroccan and Middle Eastern artists, was part of the fair’s desire to reach out to Marrakesh residents who have little experience with contemporary art and may have been put off by a visit to the fair’s white-walled booths at the luxurious Es Saadi Palace, where the well-heeled sipped Champagne and nibbled hors d’oeuvres on a rambunctious opening night.

King Mohammed VI First Head of State to Congratulate New Tunisian President

King Mohammed VI had, on Wednesday, a phone conversation with the new Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.  This is Marzouki’s first contact with a head of State.
King Mohammed VI wished Moncef Marzouki heartfelt success in his senior mission as president of the brotherly nation of Tunisia, and Marzouki expressed high esteem for and congratulations on the success of the reforms initiated in the Kingdom towards consolidating democratic achievements and socio-economic development.
Marzouki on Tuesday was sworn in as the country’s first elected president since the North African nation’s revolution sparked the Arab Spring.
“I will be the guarantor of the national interests, the state of laws and institutions,” Marzouki said with his hand on the Koran as he took his oath before the constituent assembly that elected him president on Monday.
Morocco held last month its first legislative elections after the adoption of a new constitution last July. The polls, which won worldwide praise for the transparent way in which they were conducted, saw the emergence of the Party of Justice and development (PJD) as the major political formation in the country. The moderate Islamist party won 107 seats and its Secretary General, Abdelilah Benkirane, was appointed by King Mohammed VI as new head of government.
According to a CIA report submitted to the White House, which was carried by the Rabat-based news agency Maghreb Intelligence, the two countries, in addition to Egypt, should witness in the medium term, a peaceful evolution to democracy
According to the same report, military institutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the monarchy in Morocco are strong guarantees that the new political situation in these countries will witness steady improvement.

France Could Release 230 mln Euros of Libyan Assets: Juppe

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday that France could “very soon” release 230 million euros of the previous regime’s frozen assets to the Libyan central bank.
Juppe, who arrived in Tripoli for a two-day visit, also said it was up to the Libyan people to decide what kind of democracy they want.
“It (France) has already taken a decision to unfreeze the funds,” Juppe said at a press conference with Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.
“I confirmed to the prime minister that unfreezing of 230 million euros ($300 million) could happen very soon for the benefit of the Libyan central bank,” he said, adding that Paris was working at the UN Security Council to release billions of dollars in assets still frozen.
Libyan leaders have regularly called upon world powers to release these assets to meet the daily needs of the government, including for salaries, and to kick-start reconstruction activities across a country severely devastated
by the conflict that ousted long-time leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Meanwhile, Juppe said that it was up to the Libyans only to decide the kind of democracy they wanted.
“It is upon the Libyan people and the Libyan people alone to choose their future, to build democracy as they conceive it and to choose their priorities,” he said after talks with Kib.
Western nations have raised concerns after Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the ruling National Transitional Council, said in a speech at the October 23 liberation day rally that Islamic sharia law will be the main law in the new Libya.
After that, France and the European Union called for respect for human rights in Libya.
Shortly after his speech, Jalil tried to assure the international community by saying that Libyans were “moderate Muslims.”
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