Morocco king marks two stable decades despite woes



King Mohammed VI is preparing to mark 20 years on the throne of Morocco, a North African country seen as a regional island of stability but bedevilled by economic inequality. The kingdom’s towns and cities have been decked out with flags to mark the anniversary on Tuesday, while newspapers have published editorials praising the monarch’s achievements.
But recent weeks have also seen a wave of criticism over the “Moroccan decline”, with commentators citing economic stagnation and its crippling effects on the young. When he took the throne in 1999 following the death of his father Hassan II, the then-35-year-old inspired great expectations, earning the nickname “king of the poor”.
In his first speech as king he listed the ills facing the country: poverty, unemployment and social inequality. Twenty years later, those same ills haunt the kingdom, where news magazine Maroc Hebdo recently ran the headline “It’s better not to be Moroccan in 2019″. The article slammed “the persistence of unemployment…, the slow pace of structural change and the deepening of inequalities”, along with the dearth of opportunities for the young who make up a third of the 35 million population.
Royal advisor Omar Azziman, in a rare interview with AFP, admitted that there was “dissatisfaction” in the country. “We can’t find jobs for our young people, we have regions that are too poor,” he said. As the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and beyond, Mohammed VI nipped swelling protests in the bud by offering up constitutional reforms and promising to curb his powers.
The country’s long-marginalised Rif region was rocked by months of protests from late 2016, sparked by the death of a fisherman.—APP

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