Insecurity on the Periphery: Socio-Economic Grievances and the Amazigh Movement in Morocco

By Bruce Maddy-Weitzman
Submitted to Session P3720 (Human (In)Security in the Maghreb: Power, Governance, and the Limits of Democratization, 2014 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Maghreb Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The Amazigh identity movement, which has made considerable strides in advancing its demands in recent years, has always included a socio-economic component in its master narrative of neglect and repression by the state authorities, including the absence of basic infrastructure and appropriation and exploitation of tribal lands and forests. It has called for fundamental change in national priorities and policies that address the concrete issues of human insecurity. However, there has always been a certain disconnect between the urban based movement spearheaded by intellectuals and educated professionals, who largely focused on socio-cultural demands, and the concrete health, economic, infrastructural and environmental problems of the villages and towns of the mountains and valleys in the hinterland, which have placed a break on the movement’s mobilization capacities. Morocco is ranked 130 among the countries of the world in the UN’s Human Development report for 2013, below the other four Maghreb countries. The report dryly quantifies the deep insecurity of health, food and livelihood faced by much of its population, particularly those living in the country’s primarily Amazigh-populated peripheral regions.

Although the energy of the “February 20th” 2011 protest movement has largely dissipated, Morocco has entered into a new and more contentious era, one in which the traditional huf min al-makhzen (“fear of the authorities”) has weakened, resulting in an increase in protests, strikes and social mobilization on local and sectoral levels.
One particular manifestation of this trend is the ongoing protest by villagers in Imider, in the Atlas Mountains, against a large silver mine, owned by a company which is ultimately controlled by the royal family. The grievances are many, from the lack of employment opportunities for locals to the damaging of the area’s water supply. The protests have now taken on a life of their own, gained international media exposure and feature the symbols of the Amazigh identity movement.

This paper will examine the Imider protests and a number of other “local” issues which have generated public protests (e.g., health care issues in the town of Bouzikarne, the death of infants from severe cold in the village of Anifgou), the ways in which the Amazigh movement is attempting to deepen its base through the foregrounding of human security issues and the efficacy of their efforts. It is part of an ongoing project analyzing the dynamics of the Arab Spring and their relationship to the Amazigh movement.