By Khaled Majdoub
Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddin al-Othmani said Monday that ongoing social unrest in the northern Al-Rif region would only subside when the nation’s youth had adequate job opportunities.
He made the remarks while giving a speech at the first meeting of the government-run Ministerial Committee for Employment, which convened in capital Rabat on Monday to discuss means of developing the national employment sector.
“The government must create enough jobs to prevent vulnerability and marginalization,” al-Othmani said, stressing that highly unemployment rates continued to pose a “real problem” for the country’s young people.
The prime minister’s comments come amid ongoing social unrest in Morocco’s northern Al-Rif region, where for the last 10 months young demonstrators have demanded jobs and an end to perceived government corruption.
“The government is looking for solutions to the unemployment problem,” al-Othmani said. “We want to facilitate the creation of jobs for young people.”
“Despite the launch of several past initiatives, government efforts to reduce unemployment over the past decade have met with limited success,” he conceded.
According to Morocco’s state-run High Commission for Planning, the national unemployment rate stood at 9.3 percent for the second quarter of this year -- up from 9.1 percent in the same period last year.
For the last 10 months, Morocco’s northern Al-Rif region -- especially the flashpoint city of Al-Hoceima -- has been rocked by protests by local youth demanding jobs and stepped-up regional development.
On several occasions, demonstrations have been forcibly dispersed by security forces, leading to injuries -- and at least one death -- among protesters.
The unrest first erupted last October when a local fisherman, Mohsen Fikri, was crushed to death by a garbage truck in Al-Hoceima while protesting attempts by police to confiscate his fish.
Since then, at least 250 people have been detained for taking part in the demonstrations, dozens of whom remain in police custody.