Morocco Recent History

The first inhabitants of Morocco were the Berbers. They landed on the African coast several centuries before the birth of Christ, but it is not known where they came from.

According to Abbreviationfinder, Morocco was dominated by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Greeks and Arabs, who introduced Islamism. But in the twelfth century BC the Phoenicians, merchants and navigators who inhabited present-day Syria, reached the coasts of Morocco, built ports there and began to colonize the area, taught the natives the use of iron, the cultivation of trees and of agricultural products.

In the 6th century BC the Carthaginians arrived to use its ports, they improved their equipment and built new ones. At that time the inhabitants of Morocco were divided into small rival states: Mauretania Tingitana, Getulia and Numidia.

In the 4th century BC, Mauretania, or “Land of the Moors”, reached the greatest importance, given its proximity to the coast. And when at the end of the “Punic wars” the Carthaginians were defeated by the Romans (146 BC), the Roman empire extended to Africa and Mauretania also became a Roman province. In that region there were already important cities such as Tingis (today’s Tangier), Sana, Banasa, Volubilis.

Mauretania was annexed by Caligola and in 42 after Christ the emperor Claudius divided it into two provinces: Mauretania Tingitana, almost the current northern Morocco, which had as its capital Tingis and Mauretania Caesariensis, between Mulucha and the Numidia. These provinces were governed by the “Procuratores Augusti”, directly dependent on the emperor.
But the Roman penetration of the territory was faced with less effort than elsewhere, so that Morocco never reached a real Romanization. To demonstrate, however, that the Romans performed grandiose works, monuments, signs of urban civil life, in many cities and towns, there were excavations carried out in the areas of Volubilis and Sala, the certificates of which were received through the written work of Ptolemy.

The influence of Rome on those lands was very important: houses, monuments, Roman customs were taken as a model by local populations; uncultivated lands were reclaimed, trade developed. But, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century after Christ, the Vandals, coming from Spain, occupied the northern area and the cities of Tangier and Ceuta, destroying in their path all that the Romans had built. Then, after a short period of Byzantine domination, it was the turn of the Arabs, who in the seventh century occupied Morocco to spread the Mohammedan religion. They dominated the country, treating the inhabitants as their slaves, until in 739 they rebelled against them.

Morocco Recent History

After liberation from the invaders in Morocco, independent states formed which later became rivals and began to fight each other.

In 786 Mohammed’s son-in-law, Idris, arrived in Morocco, persecuted by the caliphs of the east; he started a dynasty of “sheriffs” (title corresponding to that of prince), which conquered numerous Moroccan states, thus forming a single state. Life in the country progressed: new cities were founded, including Fez, which became the capital and the most important western center of the Mohammedan religion: the “sultan”, that is the king of Morocco, resided here.

In 985 rival leaders ousted the Idris dynasty: Morocco was once again divided into small states in constant struggle with each other, until in 1062 the southern Berber tribes had the upper hand and invaded the lands to the north, where they founded the city of Marrakech: Morocco it could thus be reunified and the period of the “great Berber empires” began.

In the fifteenth century, Europeans also began to take an interest in Morocco, to fight the spread of the Mohammedan religion and to put a stop to the piracy of the Berbers. In 1471 the Portuguese occupied Tangier and some areas of the interior. The sultan in charge was cast out; Fights broke out among the aspirants to succession: until in 1666 the Alawite “sheriffs” predominated, who dismissed the Portuguese and subdued all the rebels. Their rule continued until the 20th century.

In the 19th century, Africa’s natural wealth attracted the interest of some European nations. In 1844 France, which already owned Algeria, had attempted to occupy Morocco but had been forced to withdraw. However, he signed agreements with the sultan, but not all Moroccans were in favor of establishing relations with Europe and some tribes rebelled (1911); to defend himself, the sultan asked for reinforcements to France who took advantage of the opportunity to send his troops to the country. The following year, central and southern Morocco was forced to accept the French “protectorate”; thus the sultan remained at the head of the country, under the control of the Paris government. The same fate happened to the western part of Morocco, which was entrusted to Spain.

However, all operations related to Morocco were stopped due to the advent of the First World War. Nor did they resume at the end of this war for the entire period in which negotiations were held to end hostilities.
France then proposed a vast economic development program as its main objective and the Moroccan franc was linked to the fate of the French franc, just as in the Spanish part the official currency became the “peseta”.

Meanwhile in Paris in 1934 a “Moroccan Action Committee” was created, animated by strong nationalistic sentiments and fueled by the adhesion of the sultan.

Under the administration of the shrewd general resident Nogues, Morocco was recognized as having greater respect for the will of the population, especially the young one, the abuses were condemned, so much so that on the threshold of the Second World War, a state of fullness was registered in Morocco loyalty to France. And troops were sent to fight alongside the Allies.

Throughout the period of their occupation, the Germans tried everything to detach Morocco from France but without success. Only around June 1943, when General E. Puaux was a resident, did Moroccan nationalism begin to show signs of restlessness with the establishment of the “United Independence Party” led by Ahmed Belafrej and headed by Sultan Mohammed Ibn Yusuf (Muhammad V).

In January 1944 the Movement presented two petitions to the resident and the sultan, asking for the independence of Morocco and the application of a constitutional government under the sovereignty of the sultan alone. And this nationalist movement soon had to verify how France was not willing to comply with its requests, when, following some riots that broke out in Rabat, Fez and Marrakech, it arrested the most important leaders, including Belafrej. However, a reform program was announced which was also carried out by the successor of Puaux, the resident general E. Labonne, in office since March 1946. These reforms were to lead to an increase in the indigenous people in government administration, to a vast development of the school services, a codification of Moroccan laws but, above all.

To the difficulties brought about by this program, Labonne had to add the opposition of the sultan who called him “socialist” and at the same time encouraged the pan-Islamic inspiration. In May 1947 there was a change to the general residence and Labonne was replaced by General Juin, who started a “policy of order” without, however, excluding the continuity in the renewal work started by his predecessor.

The Moroccan struggle for independence continued and Ibn Yusuf, after his speech in Tangier in which he reaffirmed the right to unity for his country, attracted the hostility of the French government which, in August 1953, deposed it and he deported him to Madagascar, replacing him with one of his creatures, the “Sheriff” prince Ben Arafa. The uprisings continued and finally France accepted the inevitable and began negotiations for the dismantling of the protectorate.

In November 1955 Ibn Yusuf returned to the throne and Morocco regained its complete sovereignty, with the recovery also of the Spanish part and of the city of Tangier, until then “international state”.

Restored its independence, Morocco was admitted to the Arab League and to the United Nations, although it declared solidarity with the Algerians in struggle, and did not break the bridges with France. Its new political leaders, Allal Al-Fasi, Sidi Bekkai, Balafreg, immediately committed themselves to improving the state with a particular regard to the modernization of the country and the spread of education and culture.

In November 1962 King Hassan II, successor of Muhammad V, proclaimed the Constitution which was approved with a popular referendum. With it, Morocco was defined as a monarchical, constitutional, democratic and social state. Legislative power was entrusted to a Chamber of Representatives, elected every 4 years by universal suffrage, and to a Chamber of Councilors composed of: representatives of the municipal and provincial councils, trade union and professional associations and entrepreneurial categories.

The elections for the first chamber were called in May 1963 and those for the second in October. They contributed: the United Independence Party, the National Union of Popular Forces and the Front for the defense of the Constitutional Institutions. The latter obtained the majority of seats in both elections.

In October 1964 Ahmad Bahanini, president of a new Socialist Democratic Party, formed the new government with the intention of obtaining collaboration from the opposition too. This did not happen so much that the United Independence Party in February 1965 asked for the elections to be repeated. Strikes and unrest ensued: a state of emergency was proclaimed, the Constitution was suspended; all this made the internal situation very precarious. In parallel, the international one also degenerated when in France there was the disappearance of Ben Barakah, an exponent of the National Union of Popular Forces of which the French government accused General Ufqir, a close collaborator of King Hassan.

In July 1970, after a popular referendum, a new Constitution was promulgated which envisaged a single Chamber with 240 members, 90 of whom elected by universal suffrage, 90 elected by the municipal and provincial councils and 60 elected by a College of representatives of professional and trade union associations.. The August elections were the preserve of the Independentists.
In August 1972 there was an attack on the king: military fighters attacked the plane in which Hassan was staying. The Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff, General Ufqir, confessed that he committed suicide.

In February 1973 there were student strikes and clashes with the police and the Moroccan National Students Union was dissolved. In April of the same year, the National Union of People’s Forces was also suspended, accused of conspiracy and terrorist activities (in league with Libya): 157 people were arrested, 15 were shot.

The king, meanwhile, had announced that within two years he would complete a plan of “Moroccanization” of the economy, with the expropriation of the lands belonging to foreigners and their distribution to farmers, and with the extension from 12 to 70 miles of territorial waters. For the seizure of lands conflicts and tensions arose with France, for the waters with Spain.

This policy led to a rapprochement of the king with the oppositions as regards foreign policy. The same was not true for the internal one since other death sentences were carried out following the events of 1973. The National Union of Popular Forces reorganized itself assuming the name of Socialist Union. The far left for its part formed another party, the Party of Progress and Socialism, while Berber elements, closer to the Crown, formed their Progressive Liberal Party.

At the end of 1976, Morocco returned to a part of the Spanish Sahara, which reassured the nationalists. On June 3, 1977, the political elections delivered the victory to the party of the independent, loyal to the Crown. Immediately after these elections the economic crisis was accentuated, which had important repercussions, firstly because the government decided a significant cut in public education expenses, which triggered rebellions and strikes by the students. In June 1981, the situation worsened further when 66 people were killed in Casablanca in the riots of a general strike proclaimed to challenge the rise in food prices. Meanwhile, political elections were also postponed, which should have taken place within the year.

At the beginning of 1984 other accidents occurred, following the increase in the prices of some foodstuffs and school fees; police fired on demonstrators killing 110 civilians. Legislative elections were held in September 1984 which were again won by the center-right, despite a notable increase in the Socialist Union.

Despite the elections, the provisional government remained in office until April 1985 when the king appointed the new government always entrusting it to Al-Amrani (Lamrani) who, however, in September 1986 was forced to resign for health reasons. Izz Al-Din Al-Iraqi succeeded and immediately faced a heavy opposition situation, created by left-wing extremists, but above all by organized groups of Islamic fundamentalists. Many of them were sentenced to death, but in favor of their amnesty the king was pronounced in 1987/88, with the aim of protecting the human rights of the population more.

In March 1992 Hassan II brought a further amendment to the Constitution to ensure a better balance between legislative and executive power.

One of the most important tasks carried out by Morocco in recent years has been the mediation between the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine and Israel, which led to mutual recognition in September 1993.

King Hassan II during the early years 90, continued to pursue a policy more open to opposition and manifested its intention to involve progressive forces in government responsibilities. For this reason, in 1995 two of the most prominent personalities among the opponents of the regime returned to Morocco. One was Abd al-Rahman Yusufi, head of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and the other Muhammad al-Basri, founder of the same party and the National Union of Popular Forces.

During all that year the attempts to create a national unity government were in vain, but in 1996 the opposition forces decided to vote in favor of all the constitutional amendments proposed and submitted to a popular referendum.

These amendments proposed a two-chamber Parliament, one of representatives, to be elected by direct suffrage and one of councilors elected by indirect suffrage. Throughout 1996 and much of 1997 the government was busy quelling the various protests of students and many other sectors, all caused by lack of work, by the present high rate of illiteracy, especially in the Maghreb, by too deep differences social and the continuous infiltration of Islamism, especially on the Algerian side.

Political elections were held between November and December 1997 which distributed the majority of the votes to the 4 oppositions. The first party on the left was the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, which thus also became the country’s first party. And this for the House of Representatives, while for that of the Councilors the majority of votes went to parties close to the right-wing government block.

In March 1998, a socialist, Abderrahman Yusufi, was called to compose the first center-left coalition government of Morocco. Except for some privileges which the king refused to deprive himself of, such as the direct election of the country’s strong man, the Minister of the Interior Driss Basri, made immediately operational, by approving important decrees that led to a greater contribution to health and education and a greater attention to those human rights, for too long disregarded by past regimes.

In the international arena, Morocco, while expressing its intention not to isolate itself, also remained outside the Organization of African Unity. This is because this organization had recognized and admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, founded in 1976 by the Polisario Front, that is, the national liberation movement of Western Sahara. Previously, that is towards the 1980s, Morocco had started massive colonization works in that area, encouraging Moroccan citizens to settle there. Saharawi forces then intervened to hinder Moroccan works with looting and sabotage in order to prevent their occupation. Armed clashes then began and United Nations intervention had been requested. After the ceasefire, a referendum was proposed for the self-determination of the Saharawi people, which never occurred due to the always ready and growing difficulties posed by the Polisario Front. And the question had remained unsolved.

Morocco, after Egypt, was one of the first countries to recognize the state of Israel in September 1994. But in 1997 it found itself in a critical position towards that state when the Arab League interrupted the dialogue that should have led to normal relations diplomatic all Arab countries. This is because, in the meantime, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had declared that he wanted to establish himself more widely in the Har Homa area of ​​East Jerusalem.

Relations with European countries were considerably strengthened even if there were disputes over fishing rights in the Mediterranean. And also with Spain there had been a situation of conflict due to the suspected involvement of Morocco in a trafficking of illegal immigrants to the Iberian peninsula. But with Spain also another problem had arisen. This concerned the areas of Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish outposts on the northern coasts of Morocco, of which Premier Yusufi claimed sovereignty since April 1998.

On July 23, 1999 Hassan II died; his successor son Sidi Muhammad, crown prince, ascended the throne with the name of Muhammad VI.