The Moroccan king risks pushing the country into a second Arab Spring uprising similar to 2011, over a slow uptake on assisting thousands of people left homeless in the Atlas mountains after the earthquake.
Hundreds of protesters on October 24th took to the streets of a small town near the epicenter of a devastating earthquake that hit Morocco last month to express anger and frustration after weeks of waiting for emergency assistance.
As the weather turns colder and with storms on the horizon, many living in tents are worried that the speed of the compensation claims and rebuilding is taking too long.
Surrounded by honking cars and motorcycles, demonstrators in the High Atlas town of Amizmiz chanted against the government as law enforcement tried to contain the crowds, according to AFP.
The protest followed a worker’s strike and torrential weekend storms that exacerbated hardship for residents living in tents near the remains of their former homes while winter looms. For two days all shops in this picturesque town at the foothills of the Atlas mountains remained closed.
“Amizmiz is down!,” men yelled in Tachelhit, Morocco’s most widely spoken Indigenous language.
Entire neighborhoods were levelled by the Sept. 8 quake, forcing thousands to relocate to temporary shelters.
In Amizmiz and the surrounding villages of Morocco’s Al Haouz province, nearly everyone lost a family member or friend. Some, interviewed by Maghrebi lost both their families and their homes.
The October 24th protest was initially organized by a group called Amizmiz Earthquake Victims’ Coordination to draw attention to “negligence by local and regional officials” and to denounce how some residents had been excluded from emergency aid.
According to our own inquiries, a vast number of residents living in tents in Amizmiz haven’t even seen the elusive government “inspectors” and have no word from the local mayor even as to when they might arrive causing tensions to rise while the condition in the camps only worsens by the day with litter and poor sanitation.
Furthermore, according to one official who wished to remain nameless, Rabat has made a series of huge errors in the operation in the region with the local regional authority arranging financial compensation for only 50,000 families – only later to discover that the reality is closer to 600,000 in the Al haouz region.
“The state of the camps is catastrophic,” Mohamed Belhassan, the coordinator of the group told a government sponsored news website.
The group, however, called off its planned march after meeting with local authorities who ultimately pledged to address their concerns. Despite the organizers’ cancelation, hundreds still took to the streets to protest the conditions.
Protesters waved Moroccan flags and directed their anger toward the way local authorities have failed to provide the emergency assistance announced by Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s Royal Cabinet. They chanted “Long Live the King” but implored him to visit Amizmiz to check on how local authorities were carrying out his decrees. They protested about a need for dignity and justice, decrying years of marginalization.