Two weeks after the violent earthquake that killed nearly 8,3 people on September 000 and devastated the High Atlas region, with its epicenter 80 kilometers south of Marrakesh, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Ajanuch was visiting for the first time the area hardest hit by the earthquake along with other members of his government. After the apparent initial paralysis, the Rabat government has accelerated plans for the replacement or repair of the nearly 60,000 damaged homes. Some 2.8 million inhabitants, two-thirds of the population of the High Atlas provinces, have been affected by the disaster. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is preparing to hold its main annual meeting next week in Marrakech, has given a boost to Ajanuch's plans by announcing last Thursday the granting of a loan of 1,300 million dollars (about 1,230 million euros) to face the financial tensions derived from the reconstruction in Morocco.
The Cabinet had remained in expectation at first, waiting for the visit that King Mohamed VI made on September 12 to the wounded of the earthquake admitted to a hospital in Marrakesh. It now seems to have taken a central position, after initial criticism, in crisis management through the creation of the High Atlas Development Agency, which will centralize the tasks of rebuilding houses, infrastructure and educational and health centres. After having cleared the accesses to the more than 2,900 towns and villages hit by the most intense telluric shock of which there are records in the Maghreb country, the authorities have found that a third of the affected houses, simple constructions of adobe and masonry in their majority, are uninhabitable.
At a meeting of the crisis cabinet chaired by the king and held on September 20 in Rabat, Morocco laid the foundations for a program of 120,000 million dirhams (about 11,000 million euros) aimed at dealing with the consequences of the earthquake. The project includes a compensation plan for housing in five provinces that will range between 80,000 dirhams (7,300 euros) and 140,000 dirhams depending on whether the damages have been partial or total. These grants will be complemented by 2,500 dirhams (230 euros per month) per family for one year. The minimum wage in Morocco has just been set at about 3,000 dirhams per month. Faced with the strict limitation that was set on the arrival of foreign rescue teams, which did not affect those sent by Spain, Mohamed VI has made it clear that his country is open to the contributions of "brother or friendly countries" for the reconstruction.
Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Ajanuch (left) visits the town of Uirgan, one of the hardest hit by the Atlas earthquake on September 22.
Prime Minister Ajanuch pledged to "use all means for a rapid reconstruction" of the earthquake damage during his visit to Al Hauz province, where half of the fatalities and most of the material damage have been recorded. However, the economic impact of the cataclysm has not yet been evaluated, according to the veteran governor of the Bank of the Maghreb (central bank), Abdelatif Juahri, who has just recommended to the Government "an in-depth analysis of the incidence of the earthquake". For example, more than a thousand schools in the High Atlas region have been totally or partially damaged. Some 60,000 pupils were studying there, of whom 10,000 have been transferred to boarding schools in safe areas and the rest, the youngest, attend classes in temporary classrooms set up in tents and barracks.
The IMF and World Bank had planned to hold their 2020 annual sessions in Marrakech, the first on the African continent in 50 years, but had to be postponed because of the pandemic. The consequences of the earthquake initially threatened to move the forum to another location, until the heads of international financial organizations confirmed the appointment of both organizations in the Moroccan imperial city. The head of the IMF, Crystal Georgieva, announced last Thursday a long-term loan for Morocco, aimed at strengthening the resilience of the economy and mitigating the impact of climate change. The objective of the loan of 1,230 million euros is to allow the country to be better prepared to face possible natural disasters.
King Mohammed VI and Crown Prince Mulay Hassan on 27th September at the Mulay Hassan Mosque in Rabat, Morocco. MAP
The king calls for the reform of the Family Code
As the government accelerated programs for reconstruction after the earthquake, King Mohammed VI retreated into the background. The monarch of the Alaouite dynasty traveled to his summer residence in Midiq (Rincón, during the Spanish Protectorate), about 30 kilometers south of the autonomous city of Ceuta, where he stayed between September 21 and 25. After the unexpected vacation on the Mediterranean coast, the sovereign returned to the capital to come out of silence and demand that Ajanuch implement the reform of the Family Code or Mudawana. The king himself had already asked the prime minister for a review of personal status legislation in a public speech in July 2022. The amendment, however, has remained in the limbo of the priorities of a government that preferred to avoid a confrontation with the Islamist and conservative sectors of society.
Mohamed VI has now given her six months to present the bases of a new Mudawana, prior to the drafting of a legislative project that ends the discrimination that women still suffer. In terms of inheritance, for example, they receive half as much as their male brothers. At the beginning of his reign, he already promoted in 2003 and 2004 a change in the Family Code that was considered advanced within Muslim countries, but left open numerous legal exceptions (polygamy, marriage of minors ...) that have ended up becoming the rule.
After being seen in public at the meeting of the Royal Palace on September 20, the King of Morocco presided a week later over the celebration of the feast of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad as commander of the believers or caliphal religious leader. As is tradition on these occasions, Mohamed VI granted pardon, total or partial, to 742 prisoners imprisoned or on parole. The Eid al Mawlid ceremony at the Hassan mosque in the Moroccan capital in memory of the Prophet Muhammad marked the beginning of a long festive bridge with which Moroccans have bid farewell to September, one of the most convulsive months in the recent history of the Maghreb country.
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