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Closed Borders

To open or not to open? That is the question swirling around the future of the Algerian- Moroccan borders. Despite appeals from King Mohammed VI of Morocco, several Moroccan civil society groups, and IMF Director General Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Algerian authorities have refused to open the borders with its neighbor to the west. Granted the borders were closed by Morocco in 1994, the situation surrounding the closure has been resolved and Morocco has a new leadership in place that look at this situation under different light.  So, why is Morocco so persistent on opening the borders while Algerian officials are set against it?
The obvious and cliché answer would be: It is the right thing to do. However, the Moroccan Algerian relationship is never this simple. For the Moroccan Monarch, the opening of the borders is a brotherly gesture that only can benefit the two people on a human and economic level. On the other hand, the Algerian side views it from a different window. For many Algerians, Morocco is trying to get on the petro-dollar gravy train that Algeria is riding. I have read on several occasions that Morocco is trying to revive its eastern provinces by opening the borders to Algerian businesses and individuals who are expected to heavily spend while visiting Morocco.

It is true; the Moroccan border city of Oujda thrived during the period of open passage from Algeria. However, since the closure of the borders, the Moroccan government has invested, with mixed results, in several projects in the area to revive the local economy. Against popular believe, today most of the popular markets in Oujda are a bonanza of all products smuggled from Algeria to Morocco. Form gas to tires, you can buy a variety of discounted goods at a good price depriving the Moroccan treasury of much needed tax revenues and hurting the local economy. Also, some of the product crossing the borders are defective, hazardous and represent health risks to the Moroccan public. While some politicians are debating the merits of open borders, smugglers, some with connections to government and military officials, from both sides are flourishing at the expense of the health and well being of the Moroccan and Algerian public. Some of the elements behind these illicit trades have vested interests in keeping it bustling.

Unlike years past, the impact of potential tourists visiting from Algeria, in case the borders open, would be minimal on the Moroccan economy.  With major international financial firms investing millions of Dollars in variety of tourism projects, Morocco is mostly dependent on European and American tourists with robust budgets. Among the major ongoing investments is the Mediterrania Saidia resort, few kilometers from the Algerian borders, which is set to become one of the greatest tourist locations in North Africa. Mediterrania Saidia caters to English and northern European tourists. Along the same lines, the Moroccan government is heavily investing in upgrades to the local infrastructure of the Oujda region, including improvement to the Oujda airport and construction of more roads.

The reality is; the current Algerian establishment is dead set against the open borders because of fear that the free movements of goods and people between Morocco and Algeria would soften the position of a good portion of the Algerian public who currently support the Algerian contrarian position of blind support of the Polisario movement. The more Algerians visit Morocco, the less likely they will believe the lies and misinformation implanted in official Algerian news media about Moroccans.

It is simplistic and naive to believe that a hypothetical deluge of Algerian tourists or businesses will bail out an "ailing" Moroccan economy. The average Algerian like his Moroccan counterpart is having hard time making ends meet. With scarce vegetables and fruits, skyrocketing food prices and lack of affordable housing, the Algerians do not have the buying power to impact any economy. It is sad to read articles in the Algerian media insinuating that Moroccans are beggars asking to open the borders so to get Algerian charity.

Morocco's future is the continued close economic relationship with Europe. A relationship based on mutual respect of each other's religion, culture and identity. Moroccans and Algerians can not change geography and consequently will always have shared borders. For now, let each nation play in its backyard. Morocco does not need Algeria and vice versa.
 
 

 
 
 
 

Comments (16)  

 
Hmimarmad
0 #1 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersHmimarmad 2009-01-02 07:31
Morocco was dead wrong to impose Visa on the Algerians and we no longer have Driss lBasri to thank.
Morocco was also wrong to remove the visa requirement for the Algerians without first consulting with the Algerians.
The Algerians are like a little spoiled kid who is not happy no matter what.
The Algerians are always suspicious of any good sign that comes from Morocco. The more good signs we send the more snobbish they get.
The time has come for Morocco to live without worrying about the Algerian Government. We have tried every possible way to get closed to Algeria but in vain. Now we look like we are desperate and that's something the Algerian Generals thrive on.
As for the Moroccan, why do they keep trying even though they know in advance that no matter what they do, it will not work? It becomes suspicious.
As for the borders, Morocco will benefit more if they are open, the numbers are there to substantiate Algeria's claim; but then again, if the Algerian doctrine was valid, France will not have their borders open with Spain and so on.
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Nazim
0 #2 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersNazim 2009-01-02 09:57
Since Morocco does not care about Algerian Tourists or the petro dollars that they might bring, why is it that your Government keep requesting the opening of the border? and please spare me the \" brotherly gesture\" argument.
First, Algerian has nothing to gain from the opening of the borders, and as matter of fact we are already suffering from the narcotics that are coming. Second, Remember 1994? Let me refresh your memory, Morocco accused Algeria of being behind the Marrakesh incident and every single Algerian visiting Morocco at that moment was expelled in a very disgraceful way, and to add insult to injury Morocco imposed visas on all Algerian, and just after that Algerian closed the borders. Finally, its only up to the Algerian government to open or keep the borders closed, and at this moment we do not feel an urgent need to do so, and as you said so eloquently Morocco does not need Algeria, so let\'s move on.

So please try to state all the facts next time.

respectfully
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3bika
0 #3 Elephant in the living room!3bika 2009-01-02 10:15
Thanks Mr. Misiki for yet another well written article.

What give me pause, though, are the last two statements in the article, which state: “... For now, let each nation play in its backyard. Morocco does not need Algeria and vice versa…”

This is contrary to reality as we all know it – as evidenced by the hostile activities of Algeria leadership/mili tary inside the Moroccan borders, which aren’t limited to Moroccan Sahara; if you want to hear some horror stories, just ask some of the peoples living at the borders (eg Figig) who can only see members of their families through razor sharp wires while perhaps being tracked through the binoculars of sharp shooters. Algeria’s involvement in the Moroccans Sahara has been detrimental to Morocco and its people. As the saying goes, Moroccans have paid “L’ghali wa-rrakhiss” at the great expense of their country’s advancement.

What has changed?

The price tag associated with this conflict is very heavy, and it is difficult to imagine that the country will be able to keep up with its flirtation with democracy, and continue to strive to meet its young population ambitions while continuing to feed this cancer.

Indicators of changes!

The indicators that clearly convey a change of policy are the last statements made from each side. Morocco now with no hesitation is pointing its sharp finger at Algeria as the only culprit; the Algerian side was quick to counter with similar statements. I doubt this is going to stop and, in high insight, this long due confrontation is likely to pick up some steam, which would move this conflict from “well controlled” to the red zone of only “marginally stable” and we all know what means. This is an inevitable.

Should this be a surprise to anyone? Don’t think so!

Morocco cannot advance with this cancer continuing to feed on its muscles and bones. One way to push the Algerian thugs back into their territory is through “balance of power” with all options open and ready to act upon on a moment’s notice. This is meant to promote a sense of ownership by all while recognizing that "Al-7akko laa you3ta bal you2khad."

Incidentally, if you are a “game theorist” and have interest in Morocco, I suggest you put your resume together because your skills are in great demand whether those on the high chair recognize that or not.
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adnane b.
0 #4 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed Bordersadnane b. 2009-01-02 20:54
3bika ~

"if you want to hear some horror stories, just ask some of the peoples living at the borders (eg Figig) who can only see members of their families through razor sharp wires while perhaps being tracked through the binoculars of sharp shooters."

You can't expect me to believe this unless you provide a credible source. Besides, using words like "... just ask some of the people.." is a sign of fabrication.
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Samir
0 #5 grow upSamir 2009-01-03 02:11
it is sad to see two neighbors acting stuplidly. most of the ordinary Algerians and Morrocans get along fine. it is their governments who are both dead wrong about the views of their people. Why can't we act and behave in a civilized manner and resolve our issues amicably so people can enjoy their lives and move freely between borders. Europe for that matter disagree and agree all the time and the French may not like the Enlglish and vice versa but they found a formulae to cohabitate.
I know our Algerian country has the perto dollar and it's a shame on us to let the French capitilize on it rather than our neighbors. We need to be unified and help each other to get stronger. Europe are no friends to us. Remember they colonized us for years and prevented our fathers from going to schools etc... so all of a sudden we love France now? why, because they have nice stores?? why can't we have the same in our country. Let's get UMA back on track so our region will ne another Europe...
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fares
0 #6 Give chance to peace through young generationsfares 2009-01-03 07:29
Dear Masiky, I do agree with some of your views either in this article or in the previous ones. I should recognise that I do not fully agree with the last statement saying that "Morocco does not need Algeria and vice versa." I find it too pessimistic and a bit provocative, thus not fully constructive.
If Algeria needs China to build its infrastructure and Morocco needs Europe for an advanced status, this means that Morocco needs Algeria and vice versa.
If Algeria and Morocco put their efforts together they will both gain from the situation. Yet, apparently, Morocco will benefit more than Algeria, relatively and in the short term, but there will be benefits for all no matter how big they are. It is obvious how Algeria and Morocco can complete each economically and they have many things to share socially and culturally for the welfare of both populations.
The big question now is "how positive and constructive Algerian and Moroccan leaders are towards this situation". As you have noticed, the Algerian part is still more reticent for that and we should bring some possible reasons to understand that. Algeria has just been out of a period of internal instability followed by some years of economic prosperity thanks to the gas and petrol high prices. Both the two situations, occurring in this order, do not seem to be in favour of thinking about any agreement with Morocco. This is even more difficult given the historical animosity due the diverse events among which the sahara issue is the most complicated. I believe Algeria and Morocco, leaders and population, are both suffering from the sahara issue and if the leaders knew about the current result, they would not have taken some wrong decisions in the past. Time has worsened the problem and it needs time to be solved. So please let us make the return to peace from now.
I won't go into details about the sahara issue here neither about conflicts. This has already been done thoroughly in this board many times.
One day should come when Moroccans and Algerians say together: "STOP thinking about the past, we were both acting bad! Now, forgive and come to build the future". I hope constructive people either in Algeria or in Morocco will get powerful enough to not repeat our predecessors’ errors who are dying with regrets for the hard heritage they left for us. Time is not yet coming but we should start the process to peace, love and prosperity between Algeria and Morocco from now. How can this happen in fact? One major solution in my eye is to prevent young people from the tumour of hate. People from both parts should get more and more in contact and learn to know each. The contact and exchange are apparently easier between young and highly educated people. Universities in Europe and North America are full of Algerians and Moroccans who can initiate such process. Why not an Algero-Moroccan Friendship Foundation? Afterwards, the project will move progressively to the region through the creation of students’ exchange, like Erasmus program in Europe, and common organised events for youth.
This is because one should not forget that in Algeria and Morocco there are persons who are ready to act in such direction. Please give them some illumination at least on this board.
Thanks
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3alami
0 #7 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed Borders3alami 2009-01-03 07:49
Mr 3bika look at it on the bright side..who's barking now to open the boarders...and without giving any facts..and who cares about driss basri that was not the Algerian problem..that was your problem as he oppressed you for so long remember the 80's whit he did to you with his army...So let\'s just keep it closed and everyone is happy....
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Nazim
0 #8 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersNazim 2009-01-03 08:05
First, I do believe that according to the 1991 ceasefire agreement a self determination referendum was to be held to determine if the W.Sahara is to become an independent entity or part of Morocco, and that the voters will have to be part of the1974 Spanish census that claimed there were some 74000 Sahrawis plus their dependents, and not the Moroccan settlers moved to the W. Sahara after 1976.
Second, after establishing the fact that Morocco did agree to hold a self determination referendum why did Morocco change its mind? suddenly all what Morocco is offering is some self Autonomy.
Third, Morocco has to address the Polisario not Algeria.

Finally, As for the refugees of Tindouf, they are guests of Algeria and last time i checked, the Humanitarian Organizations did not say anything about human right abuses there.



Respectfully,
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3bika
0 #9 The guerre du sable!3bika 2009-01-05 03:47
My dear Adnane:

Look at the facts and make your own decision. However, if you are looking for “ready to eat/swallow” then, obviously, you are not going to advance your knowledge of your own country since much of our stories and the stories of our people are yet to be put to paper.

As for your request of “credible support”, I suggest you start your search on the internet with the key words such as “sand war aka la guerre du sable and Morocco-Algeria war in the 1960’s with some emphasis on Tindouf and Figuig provinces in the 1963-1964 years. This isn’t all there is -- one your start your research, it will quickly branch out to many other areas.

What you should not expect to find readily available are the stories of the families at the borders, which, as of now, still require more of “get down and dirty” approach.

I can assure all that once you start interrogating this issue from its root, your understanding of the illusive current conflict with Algeria over our Sahara will take another dimension. Keep in mind that the thugs in the Algeria leadership/mili tary are from that era.

One of the interesting vexing questions to contemplate is why Morocco stopped short from taking this conflict to Algeria capital literally – it is very well documented that at that time, the Moroccan military power was far more superior than that of the Algerians. As you contemplate these questions, recognize that the French never envisioned leaving their “the deuxieme France” aka Algeria.

Thanks
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Rubbish
0 #10 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersRubbish 2009-01-05 04:38
It is a shame on both the Algerian and the Moroccan governments for the state of the relationship between the countries. They should take cues from the relationship between their two peoples. I cannot and will not defend action of any party. Complete Rubbish!
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Fedwa
0 #11 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersFedwa 2009-01-07 18:01
Still big differences between the two....besides W. Sahara that Algeria looking for the best of the Sahraouis people...Algeri a does not have any relations with Israel...morocc o underneath of the table is a strong ally to Israel....I think better keep the borders closed....we are fine as Algerians by ourselves...plu s who\'s yelling loud about the borders to be opened..morocco ...and we have no idea why...??? strange as whole...bye keep it closed.......
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mostefa
0 #12 Bordersmostefa 2009-01-15 02:53
I have one question: who decided to close the borders. We don't decide to close the borders as we wish and decide to reopen them.
Moroccan authorities should have thought well before taking such decision a long time ago....
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mazyan si omar
0 #13 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed Bordersmazyan si omar 2009-01-15 13:18
the problem with Algeria is that they still live in the past even their bouteflika is from the distant past. I like to remind our good neighbors that we now live in the 21st century and that China is the 3rd economic power.
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Kamal Sami
0 #14 Algeria has deeper hatred than just the Moroccan SKamal Sami 2009-01-17 06:17
Seriously, our neighbors, on the East of Morocco, are great, but, we as Moroccans, should wake up, our differences are NOT as simple as Sahara, or the borders, Algeria - hopefully just the regime- holds such hatred, that it could come up with such lousy indictments against Morocco such as that we closed our embassy in Venezuela because Venezuela shut down its relations with Israel, Algerian media, is marketing this idea, that Morocco is such an ally of Israel, that it is willing to cut it\'s diplomatic relations with whomever has the guts to shut down Israel, Algerian regime, YOU ARE TROUBLED, and need to get some REHAB. check www.elwatan.com and search Maroc, you\'ll see what I\'m talking about.
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abdi
0 #15 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed Bordersabdi 2009-01-17 06:18
mazyan...the reason there are some new people in government because your king Hassan II died ....otherwise he would not leave power...there is no difference in that..also what morocco is looking for is to get everything on it\'s side......we know you..very well now..no more mistakes...keep it close
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Guest
0 #16 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Closed BordersGuest 2009-01-31 12:43
The resentment towards Morocco goes way back in history, the Algerians people have always respected, admired and expected a lot from the big Makhzen and the Amir al Mouminine to the West.Morocco has generally abandoned them to outside powers(Turcs, Spanish,French) in a self preservation effort. Since the Merinides, the Moroccan central power retracted to Tlemcen Eastward where the prayer was made in the name of the Sultan all the way til the turn of this century.
Historically, Algeria exists only in relation to Morocco.
Psychologically, we are so similar( culture, religion, ethnic stock)we are a self reflecting image for the Algerians.And we know that Algeria suffers from a deep identity crisis which entails major self hate complex as shown during the slaughters of the 90s.
Morocco and France have always been the perfect scarecrow for the governing elite,to blame for all their ills. Paradoxically,a ll Algerian presidents have elected to live in Morocco either as refugees(BenBel la,Boumedienne, Boutefleka),or as retirees(Benjed id an Boudiaf).
It is a shame that in 2009, when economic and political regional ensembles are forming worldwide,the border between us is closed.Ironical ly, the main crossing point,post frontier is called " zouj bghal" two mules, go figure!
This situation in Morocco has developed an insular mentality, closed borders North and South, ocean to the West, emptiness to the South.
Can Morocco force the issue any further with Algiers? Probably not. As Masiky brilliantly demonstrated they have made the "the decolonization of the Sahara"the cornerstone of their policy", they can't justify simply abandoning it.
We will remain separated from our brethren to the east. Thanks to the FLN, the only close contact between our two people is happening in land of the former colonial power.
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