“A short distance from our estates, the Algerian military set up their camp, I see the Algerian flag flying in the Moroccan region of Arjeh,” said Moroccan citizen Omar Boubakri, after he was informed of the need to abandon his farmland by officials from the Algerian army.
The stages of the story go back to the beginning of this March, when a high-level political and military committee, comprising employees of the Algerian Ministry of Agriculture, along with members of the army of different ranks, led by two generals, met with Moroccan farmers in the border area of Arja in the city of Figuig, located between South-eastern Morocco and southwestern Algeria, and they told them that they should evacuate and leave their lands on the grounds that they are Algerian lands and not Moroccan.
Boubkri recalls, during his interview with Arab Post, that “Algerian forces, made up of 15 individuals, between civilians and soldiers, had landed two weeks earlier in the region, conducted studies and discussed with the Moroccan local authorities, to leave without informing them of anything. Days later they arrived again. They ordered farmers to evacuate before March 18, ”he said.
A fertile valley whose farmers are being displaced
According to approximate statistics obtained by the Arab Post from private sources, between 40 and 50 Moroccan families are sharing the fertile lands of Al-Arja, which includes more than 10 thousand fruitful palm trees.
In the village estates of the area stand tall palm trees for centuries, dating back to the ancestors of the inhabitants who are living the tragedy today, describing it as a tragedy that words do not help them to express properly.
“Some of us remember the date palm planting in 1941 when we were young children with our parents, before we, with our children, planted others during the 1970s and 1990s,” Boubkari said in his interview with “Arabi Post”.
A member of the writer of the branch of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces in the “Figuig” region, who preferred not to be named, due to the “sensitivity of the topic”, confirmed to “Arabi Post”, that “great harm is inflicted on Moroccan farmers.”
The young political activist emphasized that “his city lost nearly 70% of arable land since the 1970s, until today, and the tragedy was repeated again in the fertile Al-Arja region.”
The spokesman says, “After Zouzfana, Tazmougt and Amgrour, it is the turn of the Al-Arja region, despite the fact that Moroccan farmers have documents proving their entitlement and ownership of these lands.”
The limp … and the issue of borders
Possessing documents proving the Moroccanness of the land and the estates is what was confirmed by a number of the affected estates farmers whom Arab Post spoke to.
Omar Boubkri recalled the 1972 treaty published in the Official Gazette that defines the Moroccan-Algerian borders, “Algeria claims that the border between the two countries is Wadi Al-Arja, but the truth is that the matter is related to another valley called (the unnamed valley), which is the natural border between the two neighboring countries and not Wadi Al-Arja and its lands. He says.
The Al-Arja region is not the first land on the border strip between Morocco and Algeria that raises anew the border issue. Before that, the same “tragedy” took place in the Zouzfana, Amgrour, Tmazougat and other regions, despite the terms of the treaty concluded between the two countries on the 15th June 1972, ratification documents were exchanged in 1989.
Chapter 7 of the said treaty, which was published in the Moroccan Official Gazette in 1992, stipulates that “the two High Contracting Parties have agreed that the requirements of this treaty settle definitively the border issues between Morocco and Algeria.”
The people of the region, to whom “Arabi Post” spoke, indicated that the treaty is flawed by loopholes that are being exploited by the Algerian state, so that every time they can strip Moroccans of their lands that they are well invested and take care of, pointing out that “the Algerians neglect the estates they seize from the Moroccans and leave them to the populace. “.
Compensation .. Will it be satisfactory?
The Socialist Union Party branch in Figuig called on the Moroccan state to resolve this file with neighboring Algeria regarding the borders once and for all, and to preserve lands for future generations. So that the same tragedy does not happen again.
As for the political activist, a member of the Socialist Union’s writing, he called on the Moroccan Ministry of Interior to communicate with the affected people, asking about the position of the Moroccan state about what is happening to its citizens, and directing his speech to the Ministry of Agriculture, saying: “What will you offer these farmers, lands, facilities, or financial compensation?” Arab Post.
As for Omar Boubakry, he said with an outrage: “It was not a secret for the Moroccan state that these lands will one day be gone, so why did they leave us to invest our money and our efforts for long decades, to be stripped of them overnight?”
The Moroccan authorities have already started negotiating with farmers, and a report issued by the Ministry of the Interior confirmed a meeting with the governor of Figuig city, whom they called “the exploiters of agricultural lands located in the Arja region”, which was allocated to study developments related to the situation of agricultural lands in the part north of Wadi Al-Arjah on the Moroccan-Algerian border. The impact of the Algerian authorities’ taking a temporary and circumstantial decision to prevent entry to this region, as of March 18th.
At a time when Moroccan officials affirmed their commitment to studying and preparing formulas of solutions that take into account all the possibilities presented, the affected farmers are demanding the documentation of these promises. So that it is guaranteed and not just words.
The issue of the Arja border region between Morocco and Algeria does not seem to be an interesting issue in Algeria, whether on the official, media, or even political level.
The issue for everyone relates to a simple detail related mainly to the recovery of a small oasis from Moroccan farmers who were allowed for decades to exploit it, given their need and the proximity of their city to Figuig.
For many years, the Algerian authorities had turned a blind eye to Moroccan farmers crossing the border and going to the Al-Arja Oasis in order to seek a livelihood. When the bonds of blood and brotherhood bind the two peoples.
Many Moroccans in general, and residents of the Figuig region in particular, ask an important question: Why now? Why, after all these years, did Algeria remember that the Al-Arja Oasis is an Algerian oasis that Moroccan farmers should leave?
The answer to this question is an official from the Beni Nif department, which is administratively affiliated with the Al-Arja Oasis. He tells the French-speaking Algerian newspaper, Al-Watan, which is close to the security services, that “the problem is directly related to drug smuggling operations on the road between Figuig and Al-Arja, and it is the same path of Moroccan farmers towards their loss “.
Another senior security official added to the French newspaper Al-Watan, “Algeria has the right to secure its borders with a country known by the United Nations organizations as the main producer of cannabis. The quantities of hashish that Morocco discharges on our lands is constantly increasing. In recent years the kingdom has introduced dangerous hybrids. From drugs to our borders, and for any country, this act is almost a declaration of war and must be confronted in various ways. “
Is limp Algerian?
A former commander of the third military district in Algeria, which is the area in which the Al-Arja Oasis is located, who preferred not to be named, while speaking to Al-Watan newspaper, says, “In the late seventies and early eighties there was a rebellion in the Figuig region, and the region was characterized by its frequent skirmishes with its government, because of The difficult social and economic conditions in which it lived, and at the same time Al-Arja was an abandoned oasis between two small mountains crossed by a valley, and the southeastern side of the two mountains was on the Algerian side and the other on the Moroccan side, and after years some Moroccans came from Figuig to collect dates and then began planting palm trees, and stayed There until the day that the Algerian authorities asked them to leave the region before March 18th, because the place had turned into a crossing point for drug smuggling to Algeria.
The same Algerian newspaper reveals, “The Algerian security authorities in the district of Beni Ouif informed their counterpart in Figuig, after seizing a huge quantity of drugs, to inform their farmers to leave the area before the date of March 18th, but they did not do so, forcing the Algerian authorities to personally inform them. Moroccan farmers in a friendly manner, and they accepted the decision, according to the newspaper, as they know very well that Al-Arja is 100% Algerian land.
And adds the media outlet close to the Algerian security authorities, “The farmers demanded a time limit in order to remove their equipment and livestock, and they had that, so that they were given ten days, which ends on March 18,” he said.
Legalization of cannabis cultivation and the border crisis
The Director General of the National Institute for Comprehensive Strategic Studies (affiliated with the Algerian Presidency) Abdelaziz Megahed linked the expulsion of Moroccan farmers from the Algerian oasis of Arja with the Moroccan government’s legalization of the cultivation of hemp.
Mujahid said in a statement to “Arabi Post” that this law applies to Moroccan farmers, but it is unacceptable that it takes place on Algerian lands, referring to the possibility that Moroccan farmers who exploit the Arja Oasis grow cannabis, he said.
With regard to the border problem between the two countries by the Moroccan media, Mujahid emphasized that “the borders in that region have been drawn since the seventies, and the late former king Hassan II signed the border demarcation agreement, ratified it by the Moroccan parliament and the United Nations owns a copy of it.”
A psychological war against Morocco
For Abd al-Rahim Manar al-Selimi, professor of political and international studies at Mohammed V University in Rabat, this decision amounts to a “psychological warfare used by Algeria’s generals against Morocco,” explaining that “the 1972 agreement is vague and vague, and places the Arja region within Algerian territory, but certified documents confirm the ownership of Moroccan farmers have her. “
The political analyst highlighted, in a statement to “Arabi Post”, that “the residents of Al-Arja are in possession of irrefutable documents regarding their possession of these lands,” indicating that they have full rights as they have used the lands for a very long time, explaining that “there are laws that protect lands and people’s property at borders.” “.
The head of the Atlantic Center for Strategic Studies and Security Analysis believes that this step is a desperate response to Morocco’s full control of the “Guerguerat” border crossing, and after the success of Moroccan diplomacy and its gains in the southern regions.
The university professor considers that it is necessary to compensate the Moroccan farmers, indicating that the decision of the Algerian generals, and if it was based on the 1972 treaty, this directly means their recognition of the Moroccan Sahara, which will enable Morocco to demand the return of many kilometers, but in the event that the decision came based on the demarcation of Borders, so Morocco can re-raise the issue of the Sahara again and present the documents and evidence in its possession.
“Even if the Moroccan state does not want to open the file directly, it will enable the population who owns the documents to go to the French and European courts. Farmers also have the right to file cases against the generals after decades of exploitation of lands, in a way that enables them to guarantee their rights,” says Al-Selimi.