So there are actually other countries in North Africa than Egypt you guys! Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. My Algerian friend from college would be so mad I only gave a shout out to him at the end of this whole thing, because the big countries do tend to overshadow the smaller ones in everything. If anybody knows me they know I have an ongoing beef with South Africa over this issue. Let’s talk about what has been going on outside of Egypt in North Africa. Starting with Morocco.
Morocco is a pretty popular travel destination. Earlier this year I got to visit it and enjoy Marrakech but it was for work. From what I hear Casablanca is beautiful and there are some beaches to die for in that country, so do put it on your travel list sometime!
Morocco is also one of the only countries in Africa that is still ruled by a monarch, besides Swaziland. The current one, King Mohammed VI has been in power since 1999. While in previous years the monarch has wielded a lot of power and has been above the law of the land, King Mohammed has been the most progressive to date and he started his reign with a reformist rhetoric, which was not favored by Islamic conservatives and fundamentalists in the country.
For instance, in 2004 he set up some new laws or “ Mudawana” that promoted the status of women in Moroccan society and addressed their role in issues such as regulation of marriage, polygamy, divorce, inheritance, and child custody. In addition in 2011, he proposed a series of changes to the country’s constitution that would strip him of his political power and give some constitutional power to the parliament . This was mainly a response to the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement that swept the Middle East and North Africa and toppled governments.
Morocco also just got welcomed back into the African Union after a 33 year absence. They left the organization over their role in the Western Sahara Conflict which we will talk about in the article the Western Sahara fiasco.
Let’s go over to Libya. Since the fall of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is a near failed state with two rival group fighting to seize control of the power vacuum amid the increased lawlessness in the country since then. Libya’s Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has also upped its presence in the area, as the 2011 armed conflict has continued to drive internal displacement within the country.
Libya’s importance of late has been its status as a gateway to Europe. Since 2013, the number of refugees from African and Middle Eastern countries using Libya as a springboard into Europe by crossing the Mediterranean to reach the shores of Greece has increased. Turkey became a non- viable option at some point and refugees instead turned to North Africa to cross through Libya and the relatively short distance between Libya’s shoreline and Italy’s island of Lampedusa made the trip more appealing. Refugees coming through Libya are from more than 12 countries across the North African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian regions, including Tunisia, Syria, Algeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Kenya, the Sudan region, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria.
The migrant experience in Libya has been reported to be harrowing. Libya has an expansive 1,100-mile coastline — the longest in North Africa -that has been left without border control because the country has lacked a centralized government since 2014. When Libyan Coast Guard members intercept migrants and refugees hoping to flee by boat, many of these individuals are put in overcrowded, terrible detention centers to await deportation proceedings back to their countries of origin. Migrants and refugees in these detention centers are subjected to torture, severe whippings, beatings, and electric shocks, according to a 2014 report by the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch.
In addition, smugglers and gangs take advantage of these refugees all the time, and often force them to pay more to fund their water-bound trip into Europe by confiscating their passports and extorting them and many a boat have capsized in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe. Sadly a boat full of African immigrants barely makes BBC news :(.