Morocco: five things to know

Here are some key facts about the North African nation:

Morocco won independence from French rule in 1956.

Less than a decade later, in 1961, King Mohammed V died and was succeeded by his son Hassan II whose reign became known as the “years of lead” because of widespread human rights abuses.

King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in July 1999 on the same day as the death of his father Hassan II.

A descendant of the Alawite dynasty which ruled over Morocco since the 17th century, Mohammed VI undertook many reforms aimed at modernising his country but retained overall power as head of state and the military.

Morocco regards the former Spanish colony, which is under its control, as an integral part of the kingdom.

The Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory’s independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops, which had been sent to the Western Sahara in 1975, and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

But a promised referendum to settle the status of the vast desert territory home to half a million people has yet to materialise.

It is the only territory on the African continent whose post-colonial status has not been resolved and the conflict continues to poison relations between Algeria and Morocco.

Tourism accounts for 10 percent of Morocco’s wealth but the number of foreign holidaymakers has dropped following deadly jihadist attacks in the region, namely in Egypt and Tunisia.

Marrakesh in the centre and Agadir on the Atlantic coast are Morocco’s main tourist hubs.

Agriculture, money sent home by Moroccans working abroad and exports of phosphates and their by-products, including fertilisers, are also key pillars of the economy.

Rabat has long been at odds with Madrid over the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco’s northern tip.

Considered by Rabat as an integral part of its national territory, the two enclaves are the only land entry points to Europe for illegal immigrants from Africa.

Morocco is preparing to host the next world climate conference known as COP22 in Marrakesh on November 7.

It is expected to map out the implementation of last year’s Paris accord through which countries commit to take action to stem the planet’s rising temperatures.

Source: SUNDAY TIMES – Morocco: five things to know

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