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How Morocco Dodged the Arab Spring
Miércoles, 11 de Julio de 2012 13:16
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Nicolas Pelham

AP Photo/Azzouz Boukallouch Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, center, after inaugurating a new phosphate fertilizer plant, Jorf Lasfar, December 22, 2011

Since the Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself and the Arab world aflame in December 2010, young men all over the Middle East have tried to imitate him. In no country have they done so more often than in Morocco, where some twenty men, with many of the same economic grievances, are reported to have self-immolated. Five succeeded in killing themselves, but none in sparking a revolution.

It is not for want of causes. Morocco’s vital statistics are worse than Tunisia’s. Its population earns half as much on average as its smaller North African counterpart. One of every two youth are unemployed, and the number is rising: failed rains have cut the country’s wheat harvest in half and have compounded a mounting budget deficit hiked by rising fuel prices and a downturn in tourism and exports to Europe, Morocco’s beleaguered main trading partner. In late May, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Casablanca to protest the government’s failure to tackle the country’s social ills.

Meanwhile, widely circulated accounts by veteran Moroccan and French journalists describe the cronyism clawing through the palaces. The personal assets of King Mohammed VI—based on his control of the country’s phosphate mines, it is reported —have quintupled to $2.5 billion over the past decade. This makes the monarch of the impoverished realm more wealthy—according to Forbes—than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

But whereas Ben Ali, Tunisia’s policeman, pigheadedly sought to keep power when the streets erupted in late 2010, Morocco’s po-faced but retiring King has kept one step ahead by offering to share it. On March 9, 2011—just weeks after Ben Ali’s exile—King Mohammed unveiled a new constitution that gave up his claim to divine rights as sovereign, but left him as Commander of the Faithful, much—said palace advisers—as Britain’s Queen remains head of the Anglican Church. And while other Arab monarchs, like Jordan’s, dithered about whether to risk parliamentary elections, Mohammed held them quickly and fairly last November; when an Islamist party won the most seats, the King declared its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, the prime minister.


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Morocco Asks US For $1B Upgrades To General Dynamics Abrams Tanks
Miércoles, 20 de Junio de 2012 07:22
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Posted in Govcon wire by on June 19, 2012

Morocco wants to purchase nearly $1 billion in upgrades for its fleet of General Dynamics-made (NYSE: GD) tanks from the U.S. government through a foreign military sales agreement.

In a Monday notice, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it notified Congress that the country has requested upgrades for 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks and associated parts, equipment, logistical support and training.
If the sale goes through, up to 64 U.S. government and 13 contractor representatives would travel to the country over five years to manage program fielding and training.
Morocco originally purchased the tanks in April 2011 through a grant excess defense article transfer.
The potential sale covers 150 single channel ground and airborne radio systems, nearly 600 machine guns, 12,049,842 ammunition rounds, 200 smoke grenade launchers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, communication support, personnel training and training equipment.
So far, fiscal year 2011 has seen nearly $50 billion in foreign military sales for the U.S.
Slavery in the Saharawi Refugee Camps ?
Miércoles, 20 de Junio de 2012 06:53
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"Robbed of Truth” Screening + Q&A: The Western Sahara Conflict and the Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking – 11 July 2012

OzDox is hosting the first screening of the film in Sydney. Following the film, Melbourne-based Walkley award winning journalist and filmmaker Carmela Baranowska will moderate an interview with L.A. based director, Carlos González, followed by Q&A with the audience.


The session will debate some of the thorny ethical issues involved in documentary filmmaking: What happens when the main subject of a film withdraws their consent? Should the filmmakers respect their decision? Should filmmakers proceed with the production and editing of a film if there are no release forms? What is the role of reconstructions in documentary? What is the relationship between fiction and non-fiction? What is the role of evidence and cross-examination of facts in documentary? Are criteria and standards different from journalism? Can eyewitnesses lie and how do filmmakers know and deal with this? Should testimony only be accepted if it is filmed to camera? Should the Screen Australia Indigenous protocols also be applied to Australian filmmakers working in third world countries?

Robbed of Truth is about Fetim Salam, a Saharawi refugee represented as a slave in the Australian documentary, Stolen (Directed by Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw and produced by Violeta Ayala, Dan Fallshaw and Tom Zubrycki). The day the film premiered at the Sydney Film Festival on June 11, 2009, Fetim and her husband were flown to Australia by the Polisario Front, the independence movement that runs the Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria, to confront the filmmakers and assert her right to withdraw from the film.  This dramatic act, with Fetim declaring: ‘I am not a slave!’ made front page news in Australia triggering a controversy which continues to this day.

Robbed of Truth filmmaker, Carlos González, alerted by alarmed Saharawi friends, travelled to the refugee camps in search of the truth.  He interviewed the alleged slaves, as well as aid workers and regular Saharawi citizens.  He flew to London and Paris to interview anthropologists familiar with the area.  He interviewed Australian journalist Bob Ellis and documentarian Philippe Mora, after both had seen Stolen and met the filmmakers at the Sydney Film Festival.  He interviewed Fetim’s sister and mother in the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara.

Violetta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw, Co-Directors, and Co-Producers (along with Tom Zubrycki) of the film, Stolen have been invited to participate in the Q&A via Skype (TBC).


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Morocco: Western Sahara - Realpolitik to the Rescue of Colonization?
Lunes, 18 de Junio de 2012 07:23
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Is it possible to cure cancer with aspirin? Can we do justice in a murder by relentlessly "assaulting" the victim's body looking for excuses to the murderer?

It may sound strange, yet it seems to be the remedy recommended by the UN, some powerful governments and "experts" when it comes to the question of Western Sahara.

How many times have we heard about the "need to find new ideas" to resolve the conflict or "a solution of no winner no looser"? And so, instead of applying international law, we are advised to tolerate abuses committed by powerful states or "protected" regimes, such as the Moroccan and the Israeli, so that they can get away with their crimes and get on top of it some benefit in hand.

In an analysis of the latest report of Ban Ki-Moon, published on the website "Affaires stratégiques.Info", dated May 29, the researcher Khadija Mohsen-Finan believes that "Morocco is deprived of the benevolence of the UN". She presented in effect the criticism this report addressed to the Moroccan position, accusing Rabat of being the source of obstacles hindering the resolution of the last conflict of decolonization in Africa.

The report indicated in fact that Rabat spies on the UN mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO; hinders the work of the UN mission and puts administrative constraints in front of its efforts; continues to violate human rights and maintains MINURSO in a position of incapacity to fulfil its initial mandate.

The report said Mrs. Mohsen-Finan "rightly wonders what is legitimate and what is legal in the action of Morocco in the Sahara, as it challenges us on the credibility of the UN mission..."

All this is true, and one can even say that this "sudden awareness" of the UN is very late, if we take into account the statements and criticism made since the 1990s by US Ambassador Frank Ruddy, Mr. Johans Manz (cited in the analysis of Khadija Mohsen-Finan) or Mr. Francisco Bastagli and other ex-officials and soldiers of MINURSO, who denounced those obstacles put by Morocco but fail to get any kind of response or reaction from the international organisation.

But this is not the purpose of this article. What seems really vague, just to avoid saying "fishy", is this new tendency of developing "new ideas" and introducing new "terminology" and "propositions", which certainly do not help to find the solution of the conflict, or may even make it more complicated, because they are turning attention away from real problems and seek to heal a "cancer of occupation" with "aspirin" that aim to calm the claims of an occupied and oppressed people.

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As Weisbrod-Weber Gets W. Sahara, Ladsous' Water Down, Eritrea Water Up?
Domingo, 17 de Junio de 2012 09:37
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By Matthew Russell Lee (Intercity Press)

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- Back on May 9 Inner City Press reported that Morocco was trying to block the appointment of Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber as head of the UN mission in Western Sahara.

A letter of appointment was sent to the UN Security Council, on which Morocco is six months into a two year elected term. But Morocco objected.

After more than a month's delay, on June 15 Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber was finally named SRSG of the MINURSO mission. But the status of envoy Christopher Ross is less clear.
Since Morocco says they've lost confidence in him, he hasn't traveled to the region; he is in limbo.

Western Sahara was the topic, after higher profile Malvinas / Falkland Islands, in the so-called Committee of 24 on Friday. Inner City Press went and asked Frente Polisario representative Ahmed Boukhari about the confirmation of Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, and how Morocco's blocking of Ross differed, if it does, from Polisario having lost confidence in previously envoy Van Walsom.

Boukhari said that Ross was neutral, while Van Walsom "issued his own report, against Western Sahara independence." He said that Ross had never made such a comment, noting that the UN's reports on Western Sahara are edited by, among others "Herve Ladsous, who is French." France supports Morocco.

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