Friday, September 13, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #104

A round up of the latest news from around Morocco

Pharmaceutical price drop for Moroccans

The Moroccan Ministry of Health have scheduled a price drop for around 1000 pharmaceuticals. The list comprises the most prescribed drugs in the kingdom and those most consumed by Moroccan patients.

The list includes the common classes of antibiotics , aspirin and other painkillers, treatment for sexual dysfunction, anti-diabetic drugs and those prescribed for cardiovascular problems.

According to the Arabic daily Al Khabar, who reported the news yesterday (Thursday, September 12 ), the price drop could reduce the costs by 80% of the current price. This is extremely good news for Moroccan consumers as traditionally pharmacies have had a reputation for very high prices.

Syrians caught attempting to smuggle 20 tons of cannabis from Morocco

On Sunday the French navy intercepted a cargo ship carrying 20 tons of cannabis from Morocco. According a source, the sailors who were aboard the boat set fire to their goods. The value of the cannabis is believed to be between 40 and 50 million euros.

After three days of towing, the freighter-S Luna arrived at Toulon, where investigators were able to carry out investigations onboard the vessel. A judicial investigation has been launched into large scale drug trafficking. The eight crew members, who are Syrian, could be sentenced to ten years imprisonment. According to French police sources, this is the third cargo of drugs intercepted in Mediterranean waters in recent weeks.

Morocco to set up military hospital in Mali for humanitarian relief

Morocco will set up a military hospital in Mali's capital and send humanitarian aid to the Malians who are affected by recent flood which has left 34 dead.

"King Mohammed VI issued instructions for the setting of a field military hospital in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and dispatching humanitarian assistance to the Malian people" - MAP
According to an official release the military hospital "will be rendered accessible to all Malians, including those living in the north of the country."

A medical team made up of Moroccan specialists is to be deployed to Bamako soon while the humanitarian relief effort will be handled by the Morocco's royal armed forces, according to Morocco's official news agency (MAP).

At least 34 people were killed in floods caused by torrential rain in Bamako at the end of August according to United Nations agencies. More than 100 homes, mostly poorly constructed mud-brick buildings on drainage sites, were swept away as the river Niger burst its banks in torrential rain on Wednesday, bringing down bridges and submerging entire streets.

“I have been told of at least 34 dead. Damage to property is widespread and the evaluation is ongoing,” Die Dao, deputy head of the Department of Civil Protection rescue mission, said on Friday.

Mali's independent newspapers have reported higher death tolls of up to 50 deaths.

Flooding often leads to widespread displacements and casualties during West Africa's June to October rainy season, as well as disease outbreaks due partly to poor sanitation. Local television broadcast images of homeless residents wandering Bamako's streets, apparently in shock, as others waded through chest-high, fast-flowing muddy water to rescue stranded neighbours.

The old hillside district of Taliko suffered the brunt of the flooding, with victims finding refuge in a primary school equipped with mats, kettles and mosquito nets. Headmaster Abdoul Konate said the victims were desperate for money and clothes.

The international community expressed its appreciation for King Mohammed’s continuous efforts to support peace and achieve stability in the region. Once again, Morocco has shown a continuous commitment to respond to the innocent victims all over he world not only by issuing communiques denouncing aggressions against civilians but by deploying humanitarian aid in an effort to alleviate their suffering and setting up a humanitarian model in an attempt to encourage and to invite other countries to do the same.

Prime Minister recalls five resigned ministers

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, recalled five ministers who resigned after the second largest party withdrew its support of the coalition government.

In a press announcement after the cabinet meeting, government spokesman and Minister of Communication Moustapha El-Khalfi said that PM Benkirane spoke highly of the resigned ministers due to their previous performance and called on them to return to duty.

The Istiqlal Party, the second largest party of the coalition government in Morocco, withdrew its support after accusing Benkirane of taking personal moves on issues which would affect the fate of the country, and of giving an opportunity for corruption.

Resignations were submitted by Minister of Economy and Finance Nizar Baraka, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment Fouad Douiri, Deputy Minister of Cooperation and External Affairs Youssef Amrani, Minister of Moroccans Residing Abroad Abdellatif Maazouz, and Minister of Craft Abdessamad Qaiouh.

With the withdrawal of the Istiqlal Party, the remaining 160 deputies of government must compromise with another party with at least 38 deputies in order to achieve the 198 deputies necessary to make a decision in parliament.

Morocco to reform judiciary

After a long delay and more than a year of dialogue, Morocco's Islamist-led government has finally moved forward on a major campaign promise and unveiled a reform plan for the country's much-criticised judicial system.

The system has been a major sore point for Moroccans because of a widespread perception that courts serve the rich and powerful. Critics allege that verdicts in civil trials can be purchased for a few thousand dollars, while a phone call from a high-ranking official can ensure a guilty ruling in political cases.

The justice system was listed as one of the most corrupt sectors in the country by the 2013 World Corruption Index.

The Islamist Justice and Development Party won the right to head Morocco's next government in the 2011 elections, and one of its main campaign promises was battling corruption and creating a truly independent judiciary.

Mustapha Ramid - Photo Paul Schemm
Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid unveiled the new plan late Thursday describing it as a product of an extensive dialogue that has the backing of King Mohammed VI, who first pushed for judicial reform in a 2009 speech.

"This is a historic moment we are living as we meet to reform the judicial system," Ramid said at the conference's opening, which included high government officials and diplomats. "Our dialogue was distinguished by the fact that we all wanted a profound reform requiring the mobilisation of all forces in society."

The ambitious plan addresses many of the criticisms of Morocco's justice system, including higher standards and more training for judges, prosecutors and lawyers, as well as greater transparency in appointments and penalties on members of the judiciary.

Judicial reform has long been discussed, but never implemented, and in 2010 the European Union scaled back its funding for the reforms after complaining that nothing was happening.

The charter, which has to be voted on by parliament, also talks about setting up a mechanism to oversee judges' expenditures and lifestyles to ensure they are in line with their income.

The plan follows up on measures in the new 2011 constitution, which was amended in response to pro-democracy Arab Spring demonstrations, to get the judiciary out from under the shadow of the Ministry of Justice and make it more independent. In the past, executive control over judicial appointments and salaries ensured pliant judges.

The prosecutor's office will now be under the Court of Cassation, the country's highest court, instead of the Ministry of Justice, a move that has been welcomed by the Judges' Club, an association that has pushed for reform.

One key aspect of the reform — long demanded by human rights activists — is a revision of the penal code "to bring it into harmony with the new constitution and principles of international conventions" that Morocco has signed.

The presentation gave no specifics, but there has been repeated criticism of the criminalisation of abortion, sex outside marriage and alcohol consumption for Muslims, as well as allowing rapists to marry their underage victims to escape prosecution.

Rabat's 18th Festival de Jazz au Chellah

The programming for the 18th Chellah Jazz Festival has been described as "esoteric, kamikaze and certainly not wise" - it sounds great!

With a modest budget, bold programming clashes and an extraordinary location, the Festival Jazz au Chellah is setting the bar high for Moroccan festivals.

The historic site of Chellah is located away from the modern buildings of Rabat, south along the Bouregreg. The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Colonia Santo and the Merinid Chellah necropolis are the most important of Rabat's historical sites.

The Jazz au Chellah festival is a successful partnership between the European Union and the Moroccan Ministry of Culture. For this 18th edition, the scenes resonate with a mixture of oriental amber, the icy north and fiery Latin America.

The soaked jazz music "from whorehouse" with Nuevo Tango Ensamble, very influenced by Latin music Italian group. Then it is the turn of Tamara Obrovac Quartet jazz hybrid inspired by Croatian folk music with Mediterranean influences, Slavic and Balkan. It will happen with a collaboration with Rachid Zéroual a mâalem of the ney (Eastern flute)

The fourth evening will be 100% female with the Greek group Savina Yannatou Salonico Quartet merging jazz and Greek folklore. Cellist Asja Valcic and accordionist Klaus Paier then take over with their contemporary tango. Both will be joined by oud player Karim Kadiri. The epilogue of this 18th edition sounds stunning. Spanish musician Daniel Casares offers up flamenco with his show "75 Guernica". The epic closing night  (the 15th) will feature the Gourmet Sextet from Finland, who will perform with the famous mâalema Gnaouia Khadija el Ouarzazia & Bnet Houariyat Quintet.

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