19 December 2012

Morocco: Local, Algerian Activists Partner for Open Border Campaign

Rabat — Citizens on both sides of the border are working together to pressure political decision-makers.

The closure of the borders between neighbouring countries Morocco and Algeria is a constant source of indignation for people on both sides.

Moroccan civil society organisations are working with campaigners across the border to play the civil society diplomacy card and apply pressure, hoping that they will push decision-makers into lifting the barriers that separate the two countries.

The latest action took place in Morocco.

The Afrika Association for Human Rights (AAPDDH), which has chapters across the kingdom, organised a Rabat rally outside Parliament.

The goal was to attract attention from officials of both countries, AAPDDH chief Addi Lihi said.

"On December 9th, we organised a demonstration calling for the borders to be opened. This action follows three sit-ins held in Algerian border towns: Oujda, Ahfir and Berkane," Lihi said.

"We decided to demonstrate in the capital to focus the attention of all Moroccan people on this issue, which is taking on an increasingly humanitarian and social dimension," he said.

The AAPDDH took up the matter after its branches in eastern towns sounded alarms over the adverse effects of border closures, Lihi told Magharebia

"We realised that several activities which generated a living for a good proportion of the population have vanished," he said.

"A number of shops have pulled down their shutters for good. This is true on both sides of the border. In addition, when we started on our series of demonstrations, we agreed with some Algerian NGOs that they would do the same thing simultaneously," he added.

The allied organisations are trying to co-ordinate their actions to bring pressure to bear on political decision-makers and encourage them to move beyond the status quo.

Following the December 9th demonstration, in which Algerians living in Morocco took part, an action plan was discussed.

Three main resolutions emerged from the demonstration, according to Lihi. The first recommended holding an international conference in Jerrada in the coming days. The meeting should enable international experts and diplomats to sit down together and discuss the problem.

The next stage will be to hold a demonstration in the Algerian capital. The third part of the action will be to set up an international civil society committee to engage in parallel diplomacy and work for the borders to be opened.

According to Lihi, the idea is to act on the basis of an international and Maghreb consensus to achieve that objective.

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