Morocco, China Sign ‘Belt And Road’ Agreement

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.

 

Morocco and China on Wednesday signed an agreement sealing a strategic partnership between the two nations as part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

The accord, a roadmap for the joint implementation of the key Chinese project, was inked by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and a senior Chinese official, Ning Jizhe, during a video conference ceremony.

The partnership is aimed at facilitating cooperation in infrastructure, trade, investment, industry, agriculture and more, a Moroccan government statement said.

READ ALSO: Senegal Rejects Attempt To Toughen Anti-Gay Law

It aims to promote access to Chinese financing to carry out large projects in Morocco, the Moroccan MAP news agency added.

Under the agreement, Beijing has committed to encouraging Chinese businesses to invest in Morocco, which in 2017 became the first Maghreb country to join the initiative.

Ning Jizhe said China’s direct investment in the country had reached $380 million.

The accord also provides for tripartite cooperation with Africa, in particular in sustainable development.

Launched in 2013, Beijing’s vast, trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative aims to improve trade links with countries across the world by building ports, railways, airports and industrial parks.

 

AFP

Morocco Want To Ditch Underachievers Tag In Africa Cup Of Nations

File: Morocco’s midfielder Hakim Ziyech (R) and Iran’s midfielder Ehsan Haji Safi (C) vie during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Morocco and Iran at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 15, 2018. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Morocco head to Cameroon without out-of-favour Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech and hoping to end a 46-year wait for a second Africa Cup of Nations title.  

The north Africa kingdom boasts one of the strongest leagues in the continent and its stars are dotted across Europe, but the national team consistently underachieves in the flagship tournament.

Ziyech, the leading scorer in qualifying with three goals, has been axed as Bosnia and Herzegovina-born coach Vahid Halilhodzic considers him a “disruptive influence”.

Here, AFP Sport puts the spotlight on the four Group C contenders with the winners and runners-up assured of last-16 places while the best four third-placed teams from six groups also qualify.

Morocco

Halilhodzic has taken Morocco to the final qualifying round of 2022 World Cup qualifying, but could miss out on the play-offs in March if they fail to reach at least the semi-finals at the Cup of Nations.

He succeeded Frenchman Herve Renard in 2019 after Morocco suffered a shock last-16 loss to Benin in the last Cup of Nations and national football federation chief Fouzi Lekjaa set a tough target.

“The new coach has been tasked with reaching the semi-finals of the next Africa Cup of Nations. Failure to achieve that target will automatically result in the termination of the contract,” said Lekjaa.

Halilhodzic will hope forwards Ayoub el Kaabi and Ryan Mmaee repeat the scoring form shown in World Cup qualifying late last year when they netted nine times between them.

Ghana

Ghana are another country that have not lifted the Cup of Nations trophy for a long time with the last of four triumphs coming in Libya 40 years ago.

Teenager Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew starred in that tournament and two of his sons, forwards Andre and Jordan, have been included by Serb coach Milovan Rajevac in a provisional squad.

The impressive form of Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey will encourage supporters of the Black Stars and Leicester defender Daniel Amartey is another Premier League star to be called up.

Ghana are a combative rather than spectacular outfit that is likely to finish runners-up to Morocco at worst and could prove awkward knockout opponents.

Gabon

Gabon have fared poorly in recent Cup of Nations, failing to reach the knockout stage in 2017 when they were hosts and not even qualifying for the last edition.

There is little to suggest they will take Cameroon by storm with a third-place finish behind Morocco and Ghana and the possibility of squeezing into the second round is probably the best they can hope for.

The Panthers’ hopes hinge largely on Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been stripped of the club captaincy and dropped after reportedly returning late from a visit to his ill mother.

Will Aubameyang, the son of a former Gabon international, be preoccupied with his future amid rumours that he could be transfer-listed, or use the Cup of Nations to demonstrate his predatory goalmouth instincts?

ComorosJust reaching Cameroon is a remarkable achievement for the team representing a group of islands off the southeast coast of Africa with a population of less than one million.

Although hard to beat at home for some years, the Coelacanths (rare fish) were not expected to finish among the top two and qualify from a group including seven-time champions Egypt, Kenya and Togo.

But it was improved away form — winning in Togo and drawing in Kenya — that allowed them to come second behind Egypt.

Amir Abdou has been the coach since 2014 and a squad including players from the lower French leagues will view their opening match against Gabon as the best chance for a win and third place.

AFP predicts 1. Morocco, 2. Ghana, 3. Gabon, 4. Comoros.

AFP

Morocco Coach Halilhodzic Fears Africa Cup Of Nations Could Be Called Off

AFCON trophy.


Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic on Thursday expressed his fear that the Africa Cup of Nations, due to kick off in Cameroon on January 9, could be called off due to the renewed threat of Covid-19 and the possibility that European clubs might not release players for the tournament.

“With the health situation, it is getting more and more complicated and difficult,” Halilhodzic told AFP in a telephone interview.

It emerged on Wednesday that the European Club Association, which represents leading clubs across the continent, had sent a letter to world governing body FIFA expressing its concerns about the Covid-19 health protocol for the four-week long competition.

It also implied that clubs may come together to refuse to release players.

Many of Africa’s leading players are based at clubs in Europe, including Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and Morocco star Achraf Hakimi, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

“There is a big question surrounding whether it will happen or not,” admitted Halilhodzic, the veteran 69-year-old former Yugoslavia international who has previously coached the likes of Ivory Coast, Algeria and Japan.

“At the moment there is a big battle going on between all the different lobbies.

“Players are obliged to come to their national teams, but all the clubs are fighting to stop their players from coming, some have threatened their players and said they could lose their places or be sold,” he claimed.

“In all likelihood it would be a big problem if all the players based in Europe,” missed the competition.

When Morocco beat Guinea in their last World Cup qualifier in November, they fielded an entire starting line-up of players based in Europe.

Halilhodzic added: “For me, if a player doesn’t come, that suggests he doesn’t have enough of an attachment to the national team.

“I could refuse to call up someone who doesn’t want to come, even if there is a threat from the clubs. That player can say goodbye to the national team.”

The Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) on Wednesday dismissed any suggestion the tournament could be called off as “fake news”.

The country was initially supposed to host the Cup of Nations in 2019 before fears about its lack of readiness led to the tournament instead being handed to Egypt.

It was then supposed to host the event last year only for the pandemic to force its postponement by 12 months.

Moroccan Lecturers In ‘Sex For Good Marks’ Trials

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences.
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences.

 

Four Moroccan university lecturers appeared in court on Tuesday accused of trading good grades for sexual favours, a source close to the case said.

A fifth faces the more serious charge of indecent assault and battery, and will appear before a Settat judge on Wednesday, the source said.

The scandal erupted in September, when Moroccan media picked up social media leaks of messages purportedly exchanged between the lecturers and students.

Four of the accused, all of whom teach at Hassan I University in Settat near Casablanca, face charges of “incitement to debauchery”, gender discrimination and violence against women, the source told AFP.

Moroccan media reported that their trial was adjourned until December 14.

Three of the defendants are in detention.

In recent years a string of high-profile sexual harassment scandals have shaken Moroccan universities, but most have not resulted in trials, let alone convictions.

Rights groups say sexual violence is widespread in Morocco but that pressures from a conservative society mean women are reluctant to report sexual violence for fear of reprisals or damage to their family reputation.

In 2018, after years of heated debates, the law was changed to allow perpetrators of “harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment” to be punished with prison terms.

But some argue that the law still fails to protect women from widespread sexual violence.

AFP

Women Elected Mayors In Morocco’s Leading Cities

A photo combination of Fatima Zahra Mansouri, Nabila Rmili and Asmaa Rhlalou

 

Morocco’s capital Rabat elected a woman as mayor for the first time on Friday, meaning three of the kingdom’s main cities are led by women following elections earlier this month.

“It’s a historical day for the city of lights,” Asmaa Rhlalou, 52, said after Rabat’s municipal council chose her as mayor of the city of 550,000 people.

The vote follows nationwide parliamentary, regional and municipal polls on September 8.

Rhlalou’s party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), thrashed long-ruling Islamists nationally to put its leader, businessman Aziz Akhannouch, in line to lead a new government.

On Monday, Nabila Rmili — another RNI member — was elected as mayor of Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial capital and biggest city with 3.5 million residents.

READ ALSO: Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

And in tourist hotspot Marrakech, Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) candidate Fatima Zahra Mansouri returned at the age of 45 to the mayor’s office which she had occupied from 2009 to 2015.

The PAM came second in this month’s parliamentary elections and third in regional polls. The party was founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, now an advisor to King Mohammed VI.

Prime minister-designate Akhannouch was also elected Friday as mayor of seaside town Agadir, his stronghold where he was the only candidate.

AFP

Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Tuesday that his country has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco due to “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The countries have long accused one another of backing opposition movements as proxies, with Algeria’s support for separatists in the disputed region of Western Sahara a particular bone of contention for Morocco.

“Algeria has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco from today,” Lamamra announced during a press conference.

“History has shown… Morocco has never stopped carrying out hostile actions against Algeria,” he added.

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There was no immediate reaction from Rabat to the announcement.

Algiers’s move came following a review of bilateral relations announced last week as it alleged Rabat was complicit in deadly forest fires that ravaged the country’s north.

Lamamra accused Morocco’s leaders of “responsibility for repeated crises” and behaviour that has “led to conflict instead of integration” in North Africa.

Late last month, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI deplored the tensions between the two countries, and invited Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune “to make wisdom prevail” and “to work in unison for the development of relations” between the two countries.

‘Provocation’

But Algeria’s forest fires, which broke out on August 9 amid a blistering heatwave, burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest and killed at least 90 people, including more than 30 soldiers, further stoking tensions.

While critics say Algerian authorities failed to prepare for the blazes, Tebboune declared most of the fires were of “criminal” origin.

Algerian authorities have blamed the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie extending along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital.

Algiers has accused Rabat of backing the separatists.

“The Moroccan provocation reached its climax when a Moroccan delegate to the United Nations demanded the independence of the people of the Kabylie region,” Lamamra said Tuesday.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination in that region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Algerian authorities have also accused the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in lynching a man falsely accused of arson during the recent forest fires, an incident that sparked outrage.

Algeria last week accused Morocco of supporting the group, which it classifies as a “terrorist organisation”.

‘Bad decision’

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency had said.

It also said there would be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

Mohamed, a Moroccan bus driver, called Algeria’s latest move “a bad decision”.

“It’s like cutting ties with your next-door neighbour,” he told AFP.

The two North African countries along with Tunisia were united, he added, saying “there are no differences, this happens between governments”.

Algeria’s foreign minister also accused Morocco of leading “a media war… against Algeria, its people and its leaders”.

But Lamamra also said consular assistance to citizens of both countries would not be affected.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

A normalisation deal between Morocco and Israel in December triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord.

Lamamra on Tuesday accused the Israeli foreign minister of “senseless accusations and veiled threats” after Yair Lapid expressed “worries about the role played by Algeria in the region”.

On his first visit to Morocco since the countries normalised ties, Lapid said his concerns were based on fears Algeria was “getting close to Iran”, as well as “the campaign it waged against the admission of Israel as an observer member of the African Union”.

 

AFP

Algeria To Review Relations With Morocco After Forest Fires

Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP
Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria will review its relations with Morocco after accusing it of complicity in deadly forest fires, a presidency statement said Wednesday, in the latest tensions between the North African neighbours.

At least 90 people, including 33 soldiers, were killed in dozens of forest fires that broke out amid a blistering heatwave on August 9 across swathes of northern Algeria.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said most of the fires were “criminal” in origin.

The decision to review relations with Rabat was made during an extraordinary meeting of the country’s security council, chaired by Tebboune and dedicated to evaluating the situation after the fires.

READ ALSO: Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency statement said.

It said there would also be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

The statement did not clarify what the review might mean.

Algeria’s DGSN security agency said investigations had discovered “a criminal network, classed as a terrorist organisation” as being behind the fires, according to the “admission of arrested members”.

Algerian authorities point the finger for the fires at the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, which extends along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital Algiers.

Fraught ties

The authorities also accuse the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in the lynching of a man falsely accused of arson, an incident that sparked outrage. The mob also set the victim on fire.

Authorities have arrested 61 people over the incident.

Some of the suspects have confessed to being members of the MAK, according to confessions broadcast on Algerian television.

Algiers has also accused the Islamist-inspired Rachad movement of involvement.

“The high security council has decided… to intensify the efforts of the security services to arrest the rest of the individuals involved in the two crimes, as well as all members of the two terrorist movements that threaten public security and national unity,” according to the presidency statement.

It said it aimed for their “total eradication, particularly the MAK, which receives the support and aid of foreign parties… Morocco and the Zionist entity”, the statement added, referring to Israel.

The Paris-based MAK told AFP it rejected the accusations.

Algiers classified both the MAK and Rachad as “terrorist organisations” in May.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador in Morocco for consultations.

The move came after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination for Algeria’s Kabylie region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

Algeria is among several Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including Morocco.

The blazes in Algeria burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest, with emergency services on Wednesday declaring all the fires had been extinguished.

Critics say the authorities failed to prepare for the blazes.

AFP

Nonuplets: Malian Woman Gives Birth To 9 Babies 

One of nine babies kept in incubators, a day after the Malian woman at the clinic in the western Moroccan city of Casablanca delivered, on May 5, 2021. PHOTO: CASABLANCA, MOROCCO

 

A Malian woman who gave birth to nonuplets in Morocco is “doing well” and her nine babies are being treated in incubators because of their weight, the Moroccan clinic where she delivered said Wednesday.

Such a case of multiple births is “extremely rare, it’s exceptional”, said Professor Youssef Alaoui, medical director of the Ain Borja clinic in the city of Casablanca.

The verified world record for the most living births is eight, born to an American woman, Nadya Suleman, nicknamed “Octomum”, in 2009 when she was 33.

Alaoui said the 25-year-old Malian mother, Halima Cisse, a woman from the north of the poor West African state, was “doing well”.

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Her premature babies, weighing only between 500 grams and one kilogram (1.1 and 2.2 pounds), would be looked after “for two to three months” in incubators, Alaoui added.

Cisse was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted and medical staff had managed to extend her term to 30 weeks, according to Alaoui, until contractions started.

A medical team of 10 doctors assisted by 25 paramedics was mobilised for the deliveries of the five baby girls and four boys.

Mali’s government flew Cisse to Morocco for better care on March 30. She was initially believed, after ultrasounds, to have been carrying septuplets.

Cases of women successfully carrying septuplets to term are rare — and nonuplets even rarer.

Mali’s health ministry said Cisse had given birth Tuesday by Caesarean section.

Doctors had been concerned about Cisse’s health, according to Malian press reports, as well as her babies’ chances of survival.

Mali’s Health Minister Fanta Siby congratulated “the medical teams of Mali and Morocco, whose professionalism is at the origin of the happy outcome of this pregnancy”.

AFP

Morocco, Ivory Coast Book Places In Africa Cup Of Nations

 

 

 

Morocco and the Ivory Coast secured places at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in contrasting ways Friday, as they raised the number of finalists to 16 with eight more places up for grabs. 

The Moroccans booked an 18th appearance after Group E rivals Burundi and the Central African Republic drew 2-2 in Bujumbura, where the visitors surrendered a two-goal matchday 5 lead.

That result assured the former champions of a top-two finish four hours before they play Mauritania in Nouakchott later Friday.

Morocco have 10 points, Burundi and Mauritania five each and the Central African Republic four in the section.

Ivory Coast trounced Niger 3-0 in Niamey to clinch a Group K place, with Ethiopia and Madagascar in contention for the other.

Tottenham Hotspur full-back Serge Aurier starred for the Elephants, scoring the first goal and creating the others for Max Gradel and Wilfried Kanon.

Congo needed maximum points against Senegal in Brazzaville to qualify from Group I but had to settle for a 0-0 draw and the satisfaction of ending the 100 per cent record of Sadio Mane and his Teranga Lions.

The Congolese have a two-point lead over Guinea-Bissau, who beat Eswatini 3-1 in Manzini, and they clash in Bissau Tuesday to decide who finishes runners-up behind Senegal and goes to Cameroon.

-AFP

Morocco Cuts Contacts With German Embassy 

Morocco Rejoins African Union
Flag of Morocco

 

Morocco has suspended contacts with the German embassy, the foreign minister announced in a letter published late Monday, in what officials said was a protest over Berlin’s stance on the Western Sahara dispute.

In the letter addressed to the prime minister and published by Moroccan media, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the decision to suspend dealings with the embassy as well as German cultural organisations was taken in response to “deep misunderstandings” on “issues fundamental for Morocco”.

“Morocco wishes to preserve its relationship with Germany but this is a form of warning expressing unease over many issues,” a senior foreign ministry official told AFP late Monday.

“There will be no contact until we have received answers to the various questions we have posed.”

READ ALSO: Boko Haram ‘Directly Targeted’ Aid Facilities In Borno, Says UN

Morocco was angered by German criticism of former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for moves by Rabat to normalise its relations with Israel, the official said.

It was also dismayed that it was kept out of discussions on Libya’s political future at a congress in Berlin in January 2020.

Morocco insists its claim to sovereignty over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara is non-negotiable, despite the rival claims of the pro-independence Polisario Front, with which it fought a 1975-91 war.

Morocco has had generally good relations with Germany, which is a major donor.

Three months ago the foreign minister hailed the “excellence of bilateral cooperation” after Berlin released 1.387 billion euros in support for Moroccan financial reforms and coronavirus countermeasures.

AFP

Morocco Seizes 9.5 Tonnes Of Cannabis In Refrigerated Truck

Morocco Rejoins African Union

 

Around 9.5 tonnes of cannabis resin was seized from a refrigerated lorry near Morocco’s capital Rabat, the national security service said Monday.

A police operation intercepted “a refrigerated lorry carrying 380 bales of around 9.5 tonnes of the drug, hidden among a cargo of foodstuffs,” Morocco’s DGSN security service said.

The driver of the vehicle was arrested in possession of cash equivalent to $3,600, it added.

It is the latest in a string of large-scale seizures of cannabis.

Nearly 9.2 tonnes of cannabis resin hidden in bales buried in sand were seized in the southwest, the DGSN announced in early February.

In December, it announced the seizure of over a tonne of cannabis transported on the backs of a herd of unaccompanied camels in the south.

That came a day after the discovery of nearly two tonnes of resin in the vicinity of Laayoune, in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.

Morocco is one of the world’s biggest cannabis producers, although the authorities say they are cracking down on the illegal trade.

They seized nearly 180 tonnes of the drug in 2019.

-AFP

24 Killed In Morocco Underground Factory Flood

File photo: Morocco map.

 

 

At least 24 people died after heavy rain flooded an illegal underground textile workshop in a private house in Morocco’s port of Tangiers, the state news agency reported Monday.

Rescue workers recovered 24 bodies from the property and rescued 10 survivors who were taken to hospital, the MAP agency said citing local authorities. A search of the premises was continuing.

Local media outlets indicated at least some of the victims may have been electrocuted as the incoming water interfered with power facilities, but there was no immediate confirmation of those reports.

Morocco has experienced heavy rains in recent weeks, after a long period of drought.

In early January, the inclement weather caused several dilapidated buildings to collapse in Casablanca, the country’s economic capital, causing at least four deaths, according to local media.

Poorly maintained drainage systems often exacerbate flooding in cities.

Fifty people died in floods in 2014 caused by heavy rains in the south of Morocco.