Protests in impoverished Jerada pressure the Moroccan government

Grinding conditions. People shout slogans during a protest after two miners died while working in a clandestine coal mine in Jerada, on December 29. (Reuters)

2018/01/14 Issue: 139 Page: 3

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Casablanca- The death of two broth­ers, who were trying to scrape together a living from an abandoned coal pit in Jerada in eastern Morocco, sparked a wave of pro­tests against economic and social marginalisation, putting pressure on the government to act.

Houcine Daioui and Jedouane Daioui, aged 23 and 30, died in a tunnel accident, 85 metres below ground. They have become sym­bols of social unrest in Jerada, a once-thriving city that now strug­gles from years of government neglect.

The community had heavily re­lied on the coal industry, which em­ployed 9,000 people until the late 1990s when it was deemed too cost­ly. The economic and social effects of the coal industry shutdown were devastating, greatly increasing local unemployment and forcing thou­sands to leave Jerada because of a lack of alternative job prospects.

Protesters took to the streets after the brothers’ death to express anger at being marginalised — scenes rem­iniscent of Al Hirak al-Shaabi (Popu­lar Movement), which held protests last year for social justice, jobs and health care in the neighbouring Rif region.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani said he was ready to meet lawmakers from Jerada to discuss problems in the former mining city, which is one of the poorest areas in the country.

Energy and Mines Minister Aziz Rebbah’s recent measures to create jobs in the region failed to meet the public’s demands. He pro­posed 140 jobs be provided by the National Office of Water and Elec­tricity.

He said the country was building a coal-fired power station near Jera­da that would employ 500 people, mostly from the region. Protesters, however, have called for the crea­tion of 5,000 jobs.

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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