Western sahara Major events
The North Africa Post
Euronews has recently published a report shedding light on some of the projects that turned out to be success stories at the continental level, making the kingdom a model to follow in Africa.
“Morocco has been taking solid steps to apply its development strategy to improve its economic growth and presence in regional markets,” said the European news platform, adding that the success of the projects led by the Moroccan enterprises is largely driven by two sectors: energy and health.
In this regards, the European news outlet zooms on the projects launched as part of Morocco’s export promotion strategy, Maroc Export, in collaboration with the African Development Bank.
In the energy sector, special attention was given to Fabrilec a firm that put up to 800 km of power lines across Burkina Faso in addition to Energy Transfo which has recently won a Great Africa award for its work highlighting “Made in Morocco” across the continent.
As for the health sector, Euronews highlights the breakthrough made by CooperPharma in Rwanda where it will build a new factory.
Posted by North Africa Post
North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
The North Africa Post
As soon as Morocco expressed and submitted its reintegration request to the African Union, panic spread among the kingmakers in the Algerian regime amid prospects of an upcoming eviction of the Polisario from the pan-African organisation, France-based Algerian journalist Farid Alilat wrote on Jeune Afrique magazine.
The journalist, who is well versed on Algerian domestic politics, gave an analysis showing Algeria’s desperate schemes to foil Morocco’s bid to regain its legitimate place within Africa’s institutional family. Citing several editorials of Algerian regime mouthpieces such as EL Moujahid newspaper, Farid Alilat writes that the military junta in Algiers is set on hindering Morocco’s African endeavor.
Alilat notes that Algerian officials have been so far orchestrating a propaganda campaign through the media claiming that Morocco’s return to the African union will create divisions within the organization.
Moreover, Algerian media and diplomacy has indulged in a vicious circle of terminology manipulation by saying that Morocco is rather seeking an “adhesion” or “integration” of the African union instead of a reintegration or return.
In this respect, the journalist quotes Ramtane Lamamra, Algeria’s foreign minister saying that “Morocco is welcome as a 55th member of the African union on an equal footing in rights and obligations with the other current 54 members.”
The journalist notes, however, that the Algerian political class is not unanimous in showing hostility to Morocco. Lakhdar Brahimi, Algerian United Nations diplomat and former foreign minister, recently called for normalizing ties with Morocco and opening the closed land borders.
The Polisario Front has been warned by one of its continental backers that there are odds that its seat as member of the African Union is at risk as several countries aligned with Morocco are set to vote for the eviction of the separatist front and its self-proclaimed pseudo Sahrawi Republic (SADR) from the Union.
A team led by Legal Affairs Adviser of the outgoing chairperson of the African Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has travelled to Tindouf camp in Algeria to inform members of the separatist movement of the future loss of their seat within the pan-African organization, Moroccan daily Assabah reported recently.
At the latest African Union summit, 28 states expressed full support for Morocco’s reintegration of the African institutional family and called for suspending the membership of the Algerian-backed polisario separatist entity. The number of backers of Morocco’s return to the AU has since then increased to about 40.
Posted by North Africa Post
North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.
Middle East Monitor
The US Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, has warned Morocco that Daesh could carry out attacks in Morocco and Tunisia using trucks similar to those in Berlin and Nice in the coming days.
Morocco’s Al-Sabbah newspaper revealed yesterday that the CIA has warned Morocco specifically that Daesh may have instructed its members to return to their home countries for the purpose of organising truck attacks and targeting crowds at important, well-populated events.
The CIA report noted that nearly 30 per cent of Daesh foreign fighters have recently escaped from conflict zones in Iraq and Syria and returned to their home countries.
Algeria has recently tightened controls at its border with Tunisia fearing returning members of the Jundullah terrorist group may hit strategic interests in the country.
The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) estimated that some 1,500 Moroccan have joined Daesh.
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) (www.Hilton.com) has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki (www.GroupSadiki.com) to open its first hotel in Casablanca.
The news follows the conclusion of a landmark year for Hilton in Morocco which saw it re-establish a presence in the country in March 2016, with the opening of Hilton Garden Inn Tanger City Center.
The mid-scale Hilton Garden Inn brand (www.HGI.com) will now be soon represented in Morocco’s largest city, with construction set to begin this year.
Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf will consist of an initial 118 guest rooms with space available on site for further expansion. The hotel forms part of a mixed use development with a 550sqm ballroom and Moroccan-oriental restaurant also to be built in the vicinity. The Hilton Garden Inn will contain three dining options on property, in addition to another 300sqm of event space to the complex. It is forecast that the hotel may welcome its first guests in 2021.
Carlos Khneisser, VP, Development, MENA, Hilton Worldwide said: “Casablanca is a market we’ve been looking at for some time and we’re confident that we’ve now identified the right partner and the right location for our debut property. Sidi Maarouf is rapidly establishing itself as not only the gateway to the city center, with the construction of its new suspension bridge, but as a significant business district in its own right.”
Sidi Maarouf is located in the South West of Casablanca and has emerged as the city’s new business district with several multinationals establishing a presence in recent years. It enjoys an enviable location for hosting meetings and events, at just 25km from Mohamed V Airport and also directly accessible by tramway.
Abderrahim Sadiki of Group Sadiki said: “It is a privilege for us to bringing the Hilton name to Casablanca for the very first time. As more and more businesses seek to locate their operations in Sidi Maarouf we see a demand for an increase in the levels of accommodation. In taking the decision to expand our existing operations at this site to include a hotel, we are pleased to be doing so in partnership with a major international operator such as Hilton, who we believe will help us achieve optimum results.”
John Greenleaf, Global Head, Hilton Garden Inn, said: “Having successfully launched our brand in Morocco earlier this year we are confident that Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf will serve the needs of travellers seeking a trusted yet affordable international hotel brand. Hilton Garden Inn is known across the world for offering amenities and services for travellers to sleep deep, stay fit, eat well and work smart while away from home.”
The construction site of Hilton Garden Inn Sidi Maarouf will be located in close proximity to the interchange between three main highways, the N11, A7 and A5 making it an ideal choice for travellers with interest both in Casablanca and in greater Morocco.
Distributed by APO on behalf of Hilton Worldwide.
Media Contact: Huw Harrow Hilton Worldwide Huw.Harrow@Hilton.com+971 (0) 56 416 1323
About Hilton Garden Inn: The award-winning Hilton Garden Inn hotel brand (www.HGI.com) provides guests with upscale accommodations and the modern amenities needed for a successful and comfortable experience for both business and leisure guests. The satisfaction promise affirms that Hilton Garden Inn will to do whatever it takes to ensure every guest is satisfied, or they don’t pay. You can count on us. Guaranteed™. Approachable Team Members operating at more than 700 hotels around the world are committed to guaranteeing today’s busy travelers are appreciated and have everything they need to be productive during their stay. Hilton HHonors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels receive instant benefits, including an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else, free standard Wi-Fi and digital amenities like digital check-in with room selection and Digital Key (selected locations) available exclusively through the industry-leading Hilton HHonors app. For more information about Hilton Garden Inn visit www.HGI.com or News.HGI.com or connect on social media at Facebook (www.Facebook.com/HiltonGardenInn), Twitter (https://Twitter.com/hiltongardeninn), YouTube (www.Youtube.com/hiltongardeninn), and Instagram (www.Instagram.com/hiltongardeninn).
About Hilton: Hilton (NYSE: HLT) (www.Hilton.com) is a leading global hospitality company, comprising more than 4,800 managed, franchised, owned and leased hotels and timeshare properties with nearly 789,000 rooms in 104 countries and territories. For 97 years, Hilton has been dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences. The company’s portfolio of 13 world-class global brands includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty program, Hilton HHonors®. Hilton HHonors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to benefits including an exclusive member discount, free standard Wi-Fi, as well as digital amenities that are available exclusively through the industry-leading Hilton HHonors app, where Hilton HHonors members can check-in, choose their room, and access their room using a Digital Key. Visit http://News.HiltonWorldwide.com for more information and connect with Hilton on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/hiltonworldwide), Twitter (www.Twitter.com/hiltonworldwide), YouTube (www.Youtube.com/hiltonworldwide), Flickr (www.Flickr.com/hiltonworldwide), LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/company/hilton-worldwide), and Instagram (www.Instagram.com/hiltonworldwide).
About Group Sadiki: Group Sadiki (www.GroupSadiki.com) is a private corporation which was founded in 1980 and based in Casablanca, Morocco. Group Sadiki is a family owned and operated business, which through its subsidiaries, operates in a wide range of activities, which engages in the following sectors: • Oil and Gas sector; operating auto service stations through multinational brands • Auto Mechanic Services • F&B Outlets • Food Catering and Event Planning Services • Real Estate • Hospitality • Philanthropy Group Sadiki aims to be the driving force in Morocco in redefining industries across key sectors that Group Sadiki currently operates in as well as other underdeveloped fields in Morocco and it’s region.
Contact: Angle 10 Mars et Boulevard Abdelkader Sahraoui, Sidi Othman, Casablanca, Maroc 20700. Email: contact@GroupSadiki.com; Website: www.GroupSadiki.com. Group Sadiki Office: +212 522 37 84 42 or +212 522 37 15 57.
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Hellenic Shipping News
in Freight News
by Aziz El Yaakoubi
Moroccan state-owned power utility ONEE has picked HSBC Middle East Limited as financial adviser for its plan to boost its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), ONEE said in a statement.
It has also chosen the law firm Ashurst LLP as legal adviser for the same plan.
The HSBC contract is worth $7 million while Ashurst will earn around $2 million, the statement said.
The entire project, worth up to $4.6 billion, includes the import of up to 7 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas by 2025, the construction of a jetty, terminal, pipelines and gas-fired power plants.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Adrian Croft)
by Ali Haidar
The Polisario leader, Brahim Ghali, who is reportedly critically ill, was flown to Spain and admitted to a specialized hospital in Madrid, according to corroborative sources.
Ghali must undergo surgery for a cancerous tumor in the stomach, according to medical sources in Madrid.
Before Brahim Ghali was flown to Spain, where he is summoned to appear before the National Audience for “torture, forced disappearances, illegal detention, rape and sexual abuse, and serious human rights violations”, the Algerian government had to ask Spanish authorities to suspend the arrest warrant issued against him because of his serious health condition.
Since 2008, the torturer of the Tindouf camps has been summoned to appear before the National Audience, the highest Spanish criminal court, to answer for the crimes he committed as a senior executive of the Polisario in the Tindouf camps and also against some thirty fishermen from the Canary Islands. The fishermen were killed at his orders, while he was leading an armed militia operating off the Western Sahara between 1976 and 1989.
But Brahim Ghali never appeared before Spanish judge Pablo Ruz who summoned him after he heard the testimonies of several of his victims.
The arrival of the torturer of Tindouf in Madrid did not go unnoticed. Several Spanish and Sahrawi associations have demanded that he be arrested after his recovery so that he answers for the crimes he is being charged with.
Another Spanish Judge, José de la Mata, decided last summer to reopen the case of crimes committed in Tindouf between 1974 and 1988, following two complaints. One of the complaints was filed by the Sahrawi Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADEH) against Brahim Ghali and 28 other individuals, including Polisario members and senior officers of the Algerian army.
At their hearing before the National Audience, the victims of these torturers gave heartbreaking testimonies about the tortures and the inhuman treatments that they had undergone in the Polisario jails.
These survivors also unveiled before the Court the names of the Sahrawi detainees who died under torture as well as the names of the authors of these crimes.
Now that the main defendant is on Spanish soil, his fate depends on the ability of the justice to convince the Spanish executive to arrest him when he leaves the hospital.
Asharq Al Awsat
by Hatim Betioui
Head of National Rally of Independents Aziz Akhannouch received a proposal concerning the new cabinet from the appointed Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.
On Wednesday, Benkirane received Akhannouch in his home in Rabat where the two discussed the formation of the new government. With Istiqlal Party (IP) not likely to be included, Akhannouch has achieved a partial victory.
But, the great win goes to Benkirane himself who has the support and of IP with 46 members of the parliament. Istiqlal Party considered it was part of the majority formed by the PM even though the party won’t participate in the government.
Akhannouch said he received an offer from the appointed PM and described the meeting with Benkirane as “important”.
He added that he will discuss the matter with his allies: Secretary General of the Constitutional Union Party Mohamed Sajid and Popular Movement’s Secretary-General Mohand Laenser.
Akhannouch didn’t give any further details concerning the proposal, yet he said he would announce it to the public within two days, the duration Benkirane granted to Akhannouch to deliberate the matter with his partners before giving his final response.
Informed sources at Justice and Development Party’s (PJD) and National Rally of Independents told Asharq al-Awsat that the new government is formed of the same previous majority which included: PJD, National Rally of Independents, Popular Movement, and Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS).
Secretary General of PPS said that both Akhannouch and Laenser informed him of Benkirane’s intentions of forming the new government from the former majority.
It seems that Benkirane still hasn’t forgiven Sec-Gen of Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) Idris Lashkar for not clearly stating his opinion and being vague when the discussions about government’s formation first began.
Earlier, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that Benkirane will suggest to the secretariat two governmental formations. The first one will be as follows: 125 seats for PJD, 37 seats for National Rally of Independents and 12 seats for Party of Progress and Socialism, while the second formation includes 395 seats composed of the above three parties in addition to the Popular Movement.
Asharq al-Awsat also mentioned that Benkirane asked during the meeting whether the seats that were supposed to be given to IP should remain for the Justice and Development Party or should be distributed to some technocrat candidates, close to Istiqlal Party.
Destination & Tourism
by Carson Poplin
Morocco has a long, rich history that today lives on in traditional arts and crafts. The native Berber culture has been influenced by so many cultures that have left their mark on the area: Arab, Jewish, Andalusian and French. If you travel to Morocco, Fez and Marrakech are must-see cities and home to many artisans who make typical Moroccan arts and crafts.
Tours like Intrepid Group’s North Moroccan Adventure Tour make sure you get a good taste of their historic medinas, which are the older, walled and maze-like parts of town. Within these walls, merchants sell all kinds of goods and craftsmen sell their products. Seeing them being made is as uniquely Moroccan as you can get.
Technique generally adheres to guild traditions where masters pass their trade down to apprentices, even father to son through many generations. Today the survival of crafts depends on tourists and foreign support; and oftentimes tour groups may have deals with certain shops they take their customers to. In the end, you can rest assured knowing that you get authentic Moroccan souvenirs.
There’s no escaping the beautiful tile work that exists all throughout Morocco. Much of the architecture is Moorish design, which consists of three elements: stucco, painted and carved cedar wood and mosaic tiles, called zellij. One of the most impressive examples of mosaic tilework exists in Casablanca, in the Hassan II Mosque. Other ceramics famously made in Fez utilize the local fine red clay. They are still hand painted and assembled by skilled craftsmen. Workshops are open to visitors who wish to watch and see the ceramic making process.
The largest and oldest leather tannery is in the medina of Fez, called Fez el-Bali, and is pushing a thousand years old. The tradition of Moroccan leather-making is well established, and was even featured in an episode of the Amazing Race during season 25. Vessels are filled with mixtures that make the hair and other excess parts of the hide easy to remove. Then they are soaked in another mixture containing pigeon poop that prepares the hide for dyeing. All the work is done by men who knead the hides with their feet to soften the leather. The hides can be dyed a variety of colors, and still resist synthetic materials by sticking to natural dyes.
Metal work is prominent in Moroccan architecture on doors and windows as elaborate decorations on hinges, knockers, knobs and grills. Other workshops make items for the home out of brass, silver and pewter. A big purchase for any Moroccan family is a teapot, which should be of such good quality one is enough for a lifetime. They can be as elaborately decorated as one wishes, and used daily to serve the Moroccan favorite, mint tea.
The Berber tradition of rugs is over 2,000 years old. Each one produced is unique, and traditionally hand-made by women. Traditionally, rugs represent a story that is never finished. This is expressed through the tendency to have fringe only on one edge.
The opposite side won’t have fringe because it represents the continuation of time. Just like with leather, the dyeing materials are usually natural and remain so to this day. Rugs are very popular as collector’s items for tourists.
The Moroccans are known for a number of other goods as well, including textiles and jewelry. Additionally, each city may specialize in its own craft or version of a craft that makes it unique.
There’s no way to leave Morocco without some genuinely special souvenirs.
AFPJanuary 5, 2017
Morocco has ordered the closure of schools it says are linked to a US-based Islamic preacher that Turkey blames for a failed coup last year, the interior ministry said.
“Investigations on the establishments of the Mohamed Al-Fatih group, linked to Turkish national Fethullah Gulen, showed they use education to spread the group’s ideology and ideas contrary to the principles of the Moroccan educational and religious system,” a ministry statement said.
After a series of warnings from the education ministry, “it was decided all the group’s educational establishments would be closed within a delay of one month”, it said.
The statement did not say how many schools or pupils would be affected but said the government would strive to ensure the students continued their education in other schools.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied any involvement in the July 15 failed coup aimed at toppling Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The preacher heads the Hizmet group which includes schools, associations and companies.
Turkey, which calls it the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), has embarked on a massive crackdown of the group.
Since the coup, Turkey has piled pressure on the United States to extradite Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally.
In August, an official Turkish delegation visited Morocco to convince the authorities of the danger of Gulen’s group.
A school director from the Mohamed Al-Fatih group at the time rejected any link with Gulen for seven schools teaching 2,500 students including 2,470 Moroccans.
He said 90 percent of their teachers were also Moroccan nationals.
TWO United Nations (UN) peacekeepers have been killed and two others have been wounded in an attack by an unknown armed group.
The UN peacekeepers (not pictured) were killed by an unknown group in the Central African Republic.
The peacekeepers, from Morocco, were killed in the southeast of the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN mission said.
The group was escorting fuel trucks on Tuesday afternoon about 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of the town of Obo when they were attacked, before the assailants fled.
No claim can justify individuals directing their grievances against peacekeepers
Head of the mission Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said in a statement: “No claim can justify individuals directing their grievances against peacekeepers whose presence on CAR soil is only aimed at helping the country emerge from the cycle of violence.”
Central African Republic descended into chaos in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation, ousting then-President Francois Bozize and sparking a backlash from Christian militias.
The UN mission has 13,000 peacekeepers on the ground, but some civilians complain that it does not do enough to protect them against dozens of armed groups.
The UN last month said violence was spreading throughout the country
The UN has 13,000 peacekeepers on the ground in CAR.
Last month, UN sanctions monitors said that violence was spreading despite successful polls that elected a new government last February.
Human Rights Watch said a new armed group had killed at least 50 civilians in a growing campaign to control parts of the northwest.
US News & World Reports
Morocco has become the latest Muslim-majority country to authorize Islamic banks, amid growing market demand for Sharia-compliant banking.
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco has become the latest Muslim-majority country to authorize Islamic banks, amid growing market demand for Sharia-compliant banking.
The Moroccan central bank announced this week it has approved five such banks, fulfilling a long-standing promise of the Islamist party leading a coalition government since 2011.
Among them are leading national banks Attijariwafa, linked to the royal family, state-owned Banque Centrale Populaire and private BMCE Bank of Africa. All three hold increasing assets around French-speaking Africa. The others are CIH Bank and Credit Agricole du Maroc.
Four of the five will be partnerships between Moroccan banks and Islamic financial institutions in the Gulf, according to a statement from the central bank.
The approval of Islamic banks was long awaited by the market and the political scene.
Morocco had been reticent about Islamic finance, seeing it as politically sensitive, but now sees it as a growth prospect. The Islamist PJD party had made the opening of Islamic banks one of its campaign promises in 2011, when it won parliamentary elections.
The regulatory framework was updated in 2015 with a law authorizing independent Islamic institutions labeled “participative banks.” A board was created within Morocco’s Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars to rule on the conformity of financial products to Sharia, or Islamic law. Sharia forbids interest, which is key to most banks’ operations.
The central bank also allowed the subsidiaries of three leading French banks to sell Islamic products in Morocco: Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole.
The historic Jewish quarter in Marrakech (Flickr)
A historically Jewish neighborhood of Marrakech will have its original names restored under the instructions of Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
The Interior Ministry announced that, following the King’s recent visit to what is currently known as the Essalam district, it will be rechristened as El Mellah, according to Maghreb Arabe Press.
The authentic names of the area’s streets and squares will also be returned.
According to the Ministry’s statement, the “royal instructions emanate from the concern of the Sovereign […] to safeguard the civilizational heritage of the Kingdom as well as the cultural heritage of all the components of Moroccan society.”
The royal intervention was made at the request of the president of the city’s Jewish community, which is thought to number no more than a few hundred.
“Mellah” means salt in both Arabic and Hebrew, and was used to refer to the Jewish neighborhoods kept separate from their Muslim neighbors by high surrounding walls.
While the majority of the district’s residents are now Muslim, the Huffington Post reported in its Arabic edition that the majority were pleased with the decision, which they said would reawaken the history of their quarter.
Abdel Aziz Saylan, the president of a local association, said that the move was “very, very important, because it will refocus concern on the neighborhood and its residents”. He also highlighted its potential advantages for drawing tourism.
Many have also responded positively on social media, with one user writing “Mashallah…formidable (terrific)…brilliant news!” and another commenting “Good for you, Morocco.”
This is not the first time the Moroccan Kinghas shown support for the country’s Jewish minority. In 2013, he funded the refurbishment of Slat Alfassiyine, a 17th century synagogue in Fez.
Judaism has a long history in Morocco, with Jews thought to have settled there as early as 70 CE. Many Spanish Jews fled their native land to Morocco during the Inquisition. Before the foundation of modern Israel, there were around 350,000 Moroccan Jews, however the country’s historic Jewish presence has hugely declined following years of emigration to Israel.
by Isla MacFarlane
Islamic banking is set to take off in Morocco after five applications to open Islamic banks were approved, a further three banks gained permission to sell Islamic products and a central Shari’ah committee was announced.
Five Islamic banks are set to open in Morocco after Bank Al-Maghrib, the country’s Central Bank, approved five applications. A further three banks have been given permission to sell Islamic products.
A Shari’ah committee which will govern all Islamic finance activities will also be established, according to a statement from the Central Bank.
The five banks are: CIH Bank in partnership with Qatar International Islamic Bank; BMCE Bank of Africa jointly with the Saudi/Bahraini group Dalla Al Baraka; Banque Centrale Populaire with the Saudi group Guidance; and Crédit Agricole du Maroc in partnership with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD).
Attijariwafa Bank is currently in talks about a future partnership. Banque Marocaine du Commerce et de l’Industrie, Crédit du Maroc and Société Générale have all been given the green light to sell Islamic products.
A Shari’ah committee will be established from the country’s Supreme Council of Ulema (religious scholars), which will have the sole authority to issue fatwas on the Shari’ah compliance of financial products.
“The launching of participative (Islamic) finance products in Morocco complements and expands the range of products offered by the domestic banking sector and opens it to new financing capacities,” a statement from the Central Bank said. “It will strengthen the attractiveness of Casablanca as a leading financial hub in Africa, in accordance with the will and guidance of His Majesty the King, may God assist Him.”
At least 800 sub-Saharan African migrants have tried to cross into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco by storming a border fence, though most were turned back, the Spanish and Moroccan governments say.
Dozens of migrants made it to the top of the six-metre barbed wire fence early on Sunday before being lifted down by cranes, footage from local TV station Faro TV showed.
Spain said about 1100 migrants attempted the crossing. Only two were allowed into Ceuta to be taken to hospital while the rest were returned to Morocco, the Spanish government said in a statement.
Five Spanish police and 50 from Morocco were injured, the government added, after migrants used rocks and metal bars to try and break through gates to access the fence and clashed with authorities.
Morocco’s interior ministry reported that some 800 migrants had tried to storm the enclave, and that all had been arrested. It said 10 members of its security forces were seriously wounded.
“From now on those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom (of Morocco) or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act,” the ministry said in a statement.
Spain’s two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.
Troubled waters: 2016 the toughest year for asylum seekers worldwide.
This year will go on record as the year that saw the highest number of asylum seeker deaths globally, as millions sought protection in an increasingly unwelcoming world.
Spain has drawn criticism from human rights groups for allowing some migrants to be immediately turned back to Morocco in such incidents. They argue that skipping the lengthier deportation procedures deprives people of the opportunity to claim asylum.
In early December more than 400 sub-Saharan African migrants managed to force their way over the Ceuta border fence.
Refugees on Manus allegedly severely bashed by PNG police released from custody.
Two Iranian refugees who were arrested after allegedly being bashed by up to 10 police on Manus Island on New Year’s Eve have been released from custody.
By Nora Fakim BBC News, Morocco
Ilham Benami: “The Moroccan woman has evolved so… I have to think of what she wants for tomorrow”
Ever since she was a child Ilham Benami had wanted to make kaftans.
“I would watch the tailor,” she says. “I would tell myself that one day I would love to design and make kaftans like him – but even better.”
As a woman, it was not easy starting up her own business in Morocco. The only daughter of a conservative family, she was not allowed to study abroad, but she was permitted to study fashion in the capital, Rabat.
After Ilham graduated, she started to make kaftans for her family in a spare room in their home in the Sale working class suburb outside the capital.
But soon she was catering for more than just her family and as the business expanded she moved downstairs to the basement. “It grew through word of mouth, more and more people wanted kaftans from me,” she says.
Ilham Benami started her kaftan business in her family’s spare room
Now aged 33, she has at least 10 women working for her and the kaftans sell for an average of €300 (£250) each, although, depending on the quality of the material and the time spent on making it, prices can run to thousands of euros.
In a country where a good middle-class family income is about €500, Ilham makes an above-average salary.
The kaftan industry is rooted in tradition. It is a dress for women that dates back to at least the 16th Century. But it is evolving – “just like Moroccan women”, says Ilham.
With modern cuts, which some families may still frown upon, Ilham designs kaftans that mix European and Western influences.
Ilham says the cuts of today’s kaftans are more modern and the style more Westernised
They are part of the booming Moroccan textile sector, which accounts for 30% of the country’s industrial employment and 15% of its exports.
Now that kaftans are moving from the domestic into the international market, their success is pulling women into the workforce. It is a good way to earn a respectable income, given the fact that a third of women in the country are unemployed.
“For women’s independence these days, it’s a lot easier compared with when I was growing up,” says Ilham. “I wanted to work and fashion has always been a passion of mine, so I was going to still follow my passion no matter what my circumstances were.”
In Marrakech, Morocco’s tourist capital, 32-year-old Wafaa Redwani and her younger sister Sana have been running their own kaftan business for seven years with their Vallasco Gallery brand.
Najim El Ouahabi
Sana Redwani (left) and a model wearing a Vallasco Gallery kaftan
It is an haute couture boutique. Sana is the fashion designer and Wafaa manages the business. The kaftans here range in price from €200 to about €2,000. The business has been so successful they have opened up in Taroudant in the south of the country.
The kaftans have been modelled in Africa Fashion Week in New York and are exported to Portugal. Wafaa says the designs have a more Western cut with a “Moroccan touch”, which explains why they are becoming more successful internationally.
The success of women like Ilham, Wafaa and Sana, demonstrates that Moroccan women are becoming more financially independent.
The president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Fouzia Assouli, is optimistic about women’s opportunities in business, but says there is still a lot to be done.
“I think that there is a big emphasis on women entrepreneurship these days in the country,” says Fouzia. “I believe it’s thanks to Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, who is president of the CGEM [business lobby group] and is one of the most influential businesswomen in Morocco and in Africa.”
Najim El Ouahabi
The success of women like Wafaa and Sana Redwani shows Moroccan women are becoming more financially independent
Fouzia believes that since Chaqroun was appointed it has opened doors for Moroccan women in the business sector. But she says there is more of an awareness of women’s rights among the elite than among the poor, who are are still lagging behind.
However, she says the illiteracy rate of women in the countryside has fallen from 90% a few years ago, thanks to associations which help poor women to read and write and help them work.
Many of these vulnerable women are now collaborating with businesswomen like Ilham, Wafaa and Sana to help make kaftans – work which can sometimes take months to complete.
For Wafaa, the kaftan industry is a symbol of the Moroccan woman of today. “Our kaftans are like us. We are caught between the East and the West just like the designs, but we still have our Moroccan identity and we will still fight to move forward.”
Throughout the year, kitesurfers in need of an adrenaline rush travel the globe to glide on the waters of the Dakhla lagoon in Western Sahara. It is a unique seaside treat which the Moroccan government has turned into a touristic mirage, writes Camille Lavoix.
Some see it as Morocco reinforcing its hold on the region claimed by the Sahrawi people, an indigenous Berber ethnic group, over the past 40 years.
For others, the kitesurfing oasis is the best example of Morocco’s efforts to develop the disputed territory.
However, there is now a renewed risk of conflict in the region.
Flights always land in Dakhla at night. You can barely see the oasis in the middle of the desert. In the shadows, the dunes separate the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean.
Every day a plane disgorges a new wave of tourists. With sunglasses on their heads, the passengers push their wind and surf boards into the hotels’ 4x4s.
The weather and strong winds make Dakhla coast a desired destination for surfers and kitesurfers
Some tourists might notice the numerous military convoys and the checkpoints dotted along the route.
But the majority do not imagine they are about to travel near a 2,700 km (1,700-mile) wall separating hostile forces which are just 120 metres apart. It is guarded by 120,000 Moroccan soldiers and packed with anti-personnel mines.
The day after their arrival, the tourists wake up in a small paradise in the middle of Western Sahara.
Listed by the United Nations as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, the former Spanish colony has been bound to hold a referendum on independence since a UN-brokered truce in 1991.
How did we get here?
- 1975-76: Morocco annexes two-thirds of Western Sahara after colonial power Spain withdraws.
- 1975-76: Polisario Front declares the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile in Algeria. Thousands of Sahrawi refugees flee to western Algeria to set up camps.
- 1984: Morocco leaves the Organisation of African Unity (which later became the African Union) in protest at the SADR’s admission to the body.
- 1991: UN-monitored ceasefire begins in Western Sahara, but the territory’s status remains undecided and ceasefire violations are reported. The following decade sees much wrangling over a proposed referendum on the future of the territory but the deadlock is not broken.
- March 2016: Morocco threatens to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon uses the term “occupation” when referring to the territory.
- May 2016: Long-time Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz dies aged 68
Profile: Western Sahara
Meanwhile tourism is booming.
“I think I can hear the sound of the waves,” said 19-year-old tourist Jules, who had difficulty sleeping on his first night here.
But it is actually the sound of the powerful wind which blows for more than 300 days a year, much to the kitesurfers’ delight.
Ten years ago, Jules’ father was one of the first visitors to set up his tent on this unexposed spot.
Since then, the desert has seen kitesurfing traffic jams, especially during the high season between April and November.
Richard Branson’s Virgin group sponsored the 2015 Kitesurfing World Cup series with Dakhla hosting the opening event.
Morocco’s ‘soft power’
For King Mohammed IV of Morocco, this spot is not merely a tourist attraction but is an ambitious project that can foster development and unity.
“This province has potential in terms of security, stability and infrastructures which allows it to become integrated in the economic cooperation at a continental level,” he said recently.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco says enhancing Dakhla’s tourism industry will improve collaboration and solidarity
Major investments have undoubtedly been made in the region which can today welcome tourists. Some hotel owners agree with the king’s assertion that the “conflict is an artificial one”.
Dakla Evasion Hotel owner Ghali is a Sahrawi but he is “happy [with] the Moroccan administration”.
“Not all Sahrawi disagree with the Moroccan government. A lot, like me, feel free and do not want to be independent,” he said.
“Of course, this touristic spot is in a conservative country, it is normal that politics and religion are touchy but it is safe and open.”
But others beg to differ – they believe the site is not safe enough for the many tourists who throng the desert resort.
“It is an illusion, a strategy; people die over there. I have seen a child with a missing foot. He played too close to the wall,” said French MP Herve Feron.
The legislator from the Parti Socialiste, which forms France’s government, realised the influence Morocco was trying to exert on Western Sahara when he decided to film a documentary on the culture of the Sahrawi people.
He described it as a “soft power Morocco tries to impose”, explaining that activists loyal to the North African country had tried to prove how “normal” the territory was by showing him photos of tourists kitesurfing.
He was also quick to chastise other politicians he claimed have looked the other way after receiving favours from the Moroccan government.
“I have been invited by the Moroccan consulate but it would make no sense to go to idyllic resorts. Since most politicians accept the invite, they stay quiet and take a coward’s stance on Western Sahara.”
‘My way to be free’
Abdellahi lbikam, 28, used to be a kitesurfing instructor in Dakhla.
“I was born there and tried to open my own business but I never received the authorisation from the Moroccan authorities,” he said.
“I fled the country because in 2013, I talked to an Irish journalist and consequently was fired from my job. Then my cousin died in jail in 2014, he was sick and no-one took him to the hospital. I was afraid for my life and asked for asylum in France.”
Locals in Western Sahara want equal opportunities in order to benefit from tourism boost
Living in Paris now, Mr Ibikam speaks freely about the “marginalisation” he suffered. “Lots of qualified Sahrawis are not hired anywhere,” he lamented.
“If the Moroccans want to organise sport and touristic events, let it be, but we would like to be able to work there too. There are only two Sahrawi kitesurfing teachers left.”
One Sahrawi, who did not want his name to be used, said he had to set up on his own, offering private lessons to tourists.
“Hotels would not hire me; the only one which did paid me only €200 (US$210; £170) a month for an extremely physical job,” he said.
“But I am not resentful towards the Moroccan people. Many of them are my friends and also struggle to make a living.
“I know it’s a government problem, a politician’s story. Every time I can, I explain the situation to tourists whom I teach. It is my way to be free.”
Abuses on both sides
Amnesty International has expressed concern over the fact that neither the Moroccan government nor the Polisario Front allows outside observers to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the disputed region.
“The population lives under the daily threat of suffering abuses at the hands of the Moroccan authorities and of the Polisario,” the rights group said.
The Spanish authorities have reopened a case against new Polisario leader Brahim Ghali, who has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Eleven Moroccans are also facing the same charges.
In September, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric, warned that “any resumption of hostilities, with the potential to have wider regional implications, remains of significant concern”.
Soldiers belonging to both sides are stationed “approximately 120m” apart.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon also expressed his “deep concern” over the situation.
Since April 2016, some 146 journalists and activists have been arrested or expelled for reporting on the conflict.
The tension between the two sides has, however, not prevented kitesurfers from seeking adventure at the disputed location, while hotels continue to earn good profits.
© REUTERS/ Fabrizio Bensch
Italian Interior Minister Confirms Death of Berlin Attack Suspect in Gunfight in Milan (VIDEO)
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Moroccan law enforcement agencies warned Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) about the threat posed by Amri and his potential links with the Islamic State (IS, outlawed in Russia) jihadist group, on September 19 and on October 11, the Mondafrique news portal reported.
On Monday, a truck rammed into a crowd at the Christmas market in the center of Berlin, killing 12 and injuring 49 people.
The German Prosecutor’s Office offered on Wednesday a reward of up to 100,000 euros ($104,200 at the current exchange rates) for leads that would help detain Amri.
Drill success has flagged up the world-class potential of its Tendrara acreage.
What a year it has been for Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU), whose shares have quadrupled over the past 12 months.
Success in Morocco, where it has drilled two wells, has flagged up the world-class potential of its Tendrara acreage.
It moves into 2017 fully financed having concluded a £26mln share placing in late November and ready to advance into the next phase of development.
So what should we expect from the oil sector’s outstanding performer of 2016?
Well, in a short, more of the same. Tendrara will continue to be the focus, but we should also have drilling results from a well in Italy, which also has the potential to move the dial.
We should also receive the results of the extended reservoir test of TE-7, the company’s second well in Morocco, which was drilled horizontally.
It flowed at 32mln standard cubic feet of gas a day and could eventually go “significantly above” 40mln standard cubic feet.
To put that into context, Sound told analysts and investors ahead of its first ever well on Tendrara that 3.5mln standard cubic feet of gas would be commercial.
The new landmark was hit during the clean-up phase and post stimulation.
The company is planning a third well on Tendrara, called TE-8, on the outer fringes of the TAGI reservoir to test the extent of this gas-bearing layer.
The company hasn’t actually tapped the Paleozoic horizon, below the TAGI, which could also be host to significant accumulations of gas. But it will with the next drill hole.
In a presentation given to private investors in Edinburgh in October, Parsons said the Tendrara discovery could be host to “tens of tcf” (trillion cubic feet) of gas.
Asked to be more specific, he said it might be of the order of ENI’s Zohr gas field, offshore Egypt, which weighs in at 30tcf. Currently, the internal estimates are a lot more modest at 300-500bn cubic feet of gas, rising to 1.5bn if TE-8 is successful.
The confidence of Sound’s management has been bolstered by the results TE-7.
“What we learned after we drilled TE-6 well is all the various wells on this structure and beyond, including TE-2, which is 30km to the north-east, is they all sit on the same gas gradient,” said Parsons.
“That’s a near-perfect correlation and doesn’t happen very often.
“There are not many hypotheses you can develop that can explain that other than this is a huge connected reservoir.
“If that were the case you could plot it out as in a simplistic way as tens of tcf.”
Independent oil analyst Malcolm Graham-Wood reckons Tendrara is host to 3-5tcf. He said every 1tcf discovered is worth £1 to the share price (the stock is currently changing hands for 73p).
“If it gets to the stage of being a really huge development then clearly bigger companies than Sound will take an interest,” he said in a recent interview.
“But the good thing is, because it’s not an offshore development or a huge, long [development] needing a significant amount of cash, it’s something that Sound can develop themselves for the time being.”
According to the latest presentation Sound will start the process of finalising the development plan and concession application for Tendrara in next year and the year after.
In tandem there will be further development and step-out wells, the re-entry of historic wells and acquisition of seismic data.
The latest funding will no doubt help in this regard.
Tendrara up and running by 2019
By 2019 it is hoped Tendrara will be up, running and generating significant cash flow for the business.
Aside from Sound Energy’s existing production operations in Italy – which are valuable as cost-covering cash generation – the growth and upside in the portfolio comes from three assets – the aforementioned Tendrara, Sidi Moktar (Morocco) and Badile (Italy).
Ground work is already underway on Badile, a potential ‘needle-moving’ well in northern Italy.
The licence has a bit of ‘nearology’ to it as it is next to the ENI-run Gaggiano oil field, which is host to around 400mln barrels of crude.
In fact ENI originally held the permit and shot some 460 line-kilometres of seismic before surrendering it 12 years ago.
Work in 2013 by the oil and gas reservoir evaluation specialist, ERC Equipoise, confirmed Badile as a potentially high-impact prospect.
It reckoned it was worth more than £400mln if hydrocarbons were uncovered in the quantities anticipated.
The figure was based on a gross prospective resource of 178bn standard cubic feet of (bscf) gas and 12mln barrels of gas condensate.
That was a “mid-case” estimate. The high and the low cases were respectively 673bscf and 46bscf.
Sid Moktar, meanwhile, only really officially joined the portfolio in the middle of the month when the Sound completed the acquisition of a 75% stake in the licence area.
So it will be interesting to see how exploration and development programme plays out here.
CEO Parsons in a recent interview said Sound was “opportunistically” looking around for potential acquisitions to add to the portfolio.
However he is also very excited about what the company already has under its management.
“The recipe here is high-value piped gas,” he said.
“It is assets that have the potential to be super-giant. You look at our three strategic plays; they could be huge if they work in the upside case.
“We have really been looking at that balance of risk and reward.”