Saturday, August 23, 2014

King Mohammed VI urges Maghreb integration

[AFP/Ho/Moroccan Royal Palace] Morocco's King Mohammed VI
prepares to deliver a speech marking the 15th anniversary of his
 coronation on July 30th in Rabat.

King Mohammed VI urges Maghreb integration
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 01/08/2014

King Mohammed VI used his Throne Day speech Wednesday (July 30th) to give another push for Maghreb integration.

"With regard to the Maghreb, we reaffirm our determination to build a strong union based on solid bilateral relations and inclusive economic projects," the Moroccan monarch underlined on the 15th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

The king said he was certain that disagreement was not an insurmountable inevitability and was normal in all groups. He cited the example of the European Union, which he said has always experienced disagreements between its members without these differences leading to a break-up.

He added that whatever the scope of the disagreement, it could not justify the continuing closure of borders.

"The situation has reached a point that Maghreb citizens neither understand nor accept. [Berber families span artificial borders -AK] So much so that many of the people I spoke to during my journeys to certain brother nations were amazed at the reasons why the borders are still closed and called for the barriers between our nations to be removed," he said.

Jamal Farhani, a political analyst, said that the Maghreb Union was no longer a luxury or an optional extra but a duty for all countries in the region so that they can tackle challenges of all kinds.

The first of these, he said, was the socio-economic situation, which necessitates closer co-ordination between the Maghreb nations so that they can deliver the desired level of development for the population. The Maghreb must be built up into a strong regional economic hub so that growth can be increased and employment can be created, Farhani said.

The second challenge, which is by no means the smallest according to Farhani, relates to security and necessitates close co-operation to curb the problem.

He also pointed out that the king said that because of the increase in threats to security, especially in the Sahel and the Sahara, Morocco once again called for a joint response to terrorist organisations, which are finding an ally in the separatist gangs and hordes who traffic people, weapons and drugs.

"The region is under threat. The Maghreb nations must pool their efforts to defeat extremism and terrorism and create the stability that is so desired. What is happening in Libya is not a matter for it alone. The four other countries are affected and must act," he said.

Many members of the public hope that the Maghreb Union will take shape quickly so that it can deal with issues, implement long-awaited reforms and achieve the growth and stability that people are hoping to see.

Dounia Mbarki, a teacher, said that the Maghreb Union was a noble aim but has appeared to be an increasingly remote possibility over the years despite being a legitimate goal.

"It is high time to set political differences aside, because the socio-economic and security issues are very serious. What is happening in Libya is very worrying and necessitates a joint response," she said.

17th Century Map of North Africa and its kingdoms (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Maghreb Short History


Around 3,500 BC a tilt in the Earth's orbit created a rapid desertification of the Sahara and natural barrier that extremely limited contact between the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.[12] The Maghreb or western North Africa is believed to have been inhabited by Berbers since from at least 10,000 BC.


Maghreb coast ports were predominately occupied or constructed by the Phoenicians, who were then followed by the Carthaginians. The main Phoenician settlements centered in the Gulf of Tunis (Carthage, Utica, Tunisia) along the North African littoral between the Pillars of Hercules [Gibralter and Ceuta - eastern end of autonomous Berber region in Morocco - AK] and the Libyan coast east of ancient Cyrenaica. They dominated the trade and intercourse of the Western Mediterranean for centuries.

The Carthage defeat in the Punic Wars during 206 BC allowed Rome to establish the Province of Africa and control many of these ports and eventually control the entire Maghreb north of the Atlas Mountains. Rome was greatly helped by the defection of King Massinissa and Carthaginian's eastern Numidian Massylii client-allies.

Some of the most mountainous regions such as the Moroccan Rif remained outside Rome's control and the pressures put on the Western Roman Empire by the invading forces of the Barbarian invasions (the Vandals and Spain) in the 5th-century reduced Roman control and establishment of the Vandal Kingdom with its capital at Carthage in 430 AD. A century later, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I sent a force under General Belisarius that succeeded in destroying the Vandal kingdom; Byzantine rule lasted for 150 years.

The Berbers contested outside-the-area control although after the 640s-700 AD period the Arabs controlled the entire region.

Middle Ages

The Arabs reached the Maghreb in early Umayyad times. Arab expansion and the spread of Islam pushed the development of trans-Saharan trade. While restricted due to the cost and dangers, the trade was highly profitable. Commodities traded included such goods as salt, gold, ivory, and slaves. Arab control over the Maghreb was quite weak. Various Islamic variations, such as the Ibadis and the Shia, were adopted by some Berbers, often leading to scorning of Caliphal control in favour of their own interpretation of Islam.

The Arabic language became widespread only later, as a result of the invasion of the Banu Hilal, unleashed by the Fatimids in punishment for their Zirid clients' political defection and abandonment of Shiism in the 12th century. Throughout this period, the Maghreb most often was divided into three states roughly corresponding to modern Morocco, western Algeria, and eastern Algeria and Tunisia. The region was occasionally briefly unified, as under the Almohads, and briefly under the Hafsids.

Early modern history

After the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Empire loosely controlled the area east of Morocco.

Modern history

Today, more than two and a half million Maghrebi immigrants live in France, many from Algeria and Morocco. In addition, there are 3 million French of Maghrebi origin (in 1999) (with at least one grandparent from Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia). Another estimation gives a number of six million.

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