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
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.