Morocco. In January, the African Union (AU) voted Morocco
as its 55th member, since the country last year formally
asked to join. Of the AU Member States, 39 voted in favor of
the decision, which was however met by opposition from
Algeria and South Africa, among others. Morocco itself chose
to leave the AU in 1984 in protest against the granting of
membership to Western Sahara, as the Saharan Arab Democratic
After Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's failure to
form a coalition government after the October 2016
elections, Morocco's King Muhammad in March replaced
Benkirane with Saad Eddine El Othmani, also a member of the
leading moderate Islamist party PJD (Justice and Development
Party). Othmani is a trained psychologist and was between
2004 and 2008 PJD's secretary general.
At the end of March, Othmani stated that PJD together
with five other parties formed a coalition government. The
coalition was a setback for PJD, which had to give up four
Countryaah.com, the government announced in April that Morocco seized as
much as 421 tonnes of plastic bags and 70 plastic bag
machines, after a new law called Zero plastic was introduced
in the country for environmental reasons. Morocco and Rwanda
are the first nations in Africa to ban plastic bags and,
with the help of inspectors and police, the government has
managed to persuade its residents to switch to bags and bags
of other materials.
A new demonstration wave erupted in several cities in the
Rif region in northern Morocco in May. The protests began in
October last year in solidarity with a fishmonger trapped to
death in a garbage truck when he was to rescue fish seized
by police. Since then, a movement against corruption and
with demands for jobs and economic development has emerged.
The largest demonstrations took place in the city of Al
Hoce´ma, but even in smaller towns and cities such as
Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakech, people went out on the
streets to demonstrate. In connection with the
manifestations, the leader of the movement, Nasser Zefzafi,
was arrested. After his arrest, the protests that in June
became degenerate with clashes between stone-throwing
protesters and police using tear gas.
The reef region is dominated by Berber, who consider
themselves economically, culturally and socially isolated.
This year's demonstrations were the largest since the Arab
Spring of 2011. Even then, the Rif region was the center of
the protests against the government, which then led the king
to implement certain constitutional reforms.
During the year, the government spent around SEK 200
million on countering Moroccan extremism abroad. The
background was the attention to the fact that people of
Moroccan origin participated in several terrorist attacks in
Europe, including in Paris, London, Brussels, Turku and
Barcelona. According to Youssef Gharbi, who chaired the
Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament's lower house, the
money would be used for cultural programs for Moroccans born
abroad. Morocco has long conducted an effective domestic
work against extremism and since 2002 has dissolved 167
terror cells and stopped 341 attacks, according to media
reports, which also stated that close to 10% of residents in
Morocco as well as in Algeria and Sudan support the
terrorist group IS.
In November, at least 15 people died when panic erupted
during a food donation in a market in southwestern Morocco,
where up to 1,000 people arrived. The event was another
example of the prevailing regional and social divisions in
Morocco, where residents, especially in rural areas, suffer
from great poverty.