This chapter provides an analysis of the links between development and conflict in the context of the protest movements that have arisen during the last decade in response to the growing commodification of collective land in Morocco. This land is subject to a particular form of land tenure that forms the basis of the collective property rights granted to ‘tribes, fractions, villages and other ethnic groups’,1 and is governed by the 1919 dahir, a royal decree introduced in colonial times. Collective land extends over an estimated area of 15 million hectares and is home to 60 prefectures and provinces and
Examined from the ‘development’ point of view, the conflicts inherent in the institution that is collective land in Morocco often appear to be an obstacle to its effective exploitation, to human development and even to the maintenance of social cohesion.4 This approach places more particular emphasis on ‘unresolved or inadequately resolved’ conflicts within and between communities (El Alaoui, 2002, 61)—conflicts that are increasing, particularly due to the weakening of traditional authorities and the failure of those authorities to adapt to changes in the market and society, but also because of the over-exploitation of resources, the ineffectual measures taken by the state, and the inadequacy of the legal framework. To overcome these obstacles (and thus to move away from a ‘time of conflicts’ and enter a ‘time of development’), various options have been considered: legislative reforms, privatisation and registration of communal land, the revival of traditional authorities by their
Property relations, the commodification of land, and the political movements related to it, lie at the crossroads of a great number of political and social issues. This area thus lends itself particularly well to an examination of the link between development and conflict. As noted by Jacob and Le Meur, the body of work on these issues has grown considerably over the past thirty years, ‘in a new context characterised by a complex dialectic between tendencies towards deterritorialisation and the commodification of the world, the rise of environmental concern and a renewed affirmation of forms of belonging and identity’ (2010, 5, our transl.). Of these inquiries, those conducted in Africa deal more specifically with processes that can be observed south of the Sahara, and analyse the link between ownership conflicts on the one hand and the formation of the state and political identities on the other (Lund, 1998 and 2011; Boone, 2014). These same processes are still understudied in North Africa.
Apprehended from the point of view of the transformation of the institution of collective land, the issue of ‘development’ has many meanings, on several levels (economic, legal, political, and social). In this chapter, ‘development’ refers first to the issue of the expansion of the land market in a global context marked by an increasing commodification of land. Second, the notion of development means the economic programmes implemented by states to ‘make better use’ of these territories and to the legal and administrative reforms that accompany, regulate, and make possible this accelerating commodification. Lastly, the issue of ‘development’ also refers to the protest movements that
The work of Karl Polanyi (2001 ), presented by Ayşe Buğra in this volume, encourages us to think of these different meanings of development simultaneously. In the context studied, they are constitutive of the same process, the development of a land market in a neo-liberal context marked by increased investments and land-grabbing in countries of the South (Bush et al., 2011). While the development of this economic sector appears as ‘disentangled’ from the political, it still remains dependent on the implementation of institutional reforms, and therefore on political interventions. Moreover, the expansion of this land market is accompanied by what Polanyi calls ‘countermovements’. These stem from society and seek to regulate and limit the potentially devastating effects of this expansion. Therefore, the increasing commodification of collective land, the implementation of institutional reforms, and the emergence of protest movements will be discussed below as three intrinsically linked meanings of development that suggest an interpretation of the demonstrated interrelationship between development(s) and conflict(s) on different levels. What form does the interrelation between these processes take in the case of the current commodification of collective land in Morocco? What are the conflicts and inequalities that this commodification makes visible and/or generates? What are the countermovements that develop in this context?
To address these issues, I conducted a documentary survey (letters, reports on meetings, press articles), carried out ethnographic observations, and—finally—held unstructured interviews, between 2011 and 2015,6 with different participants in the province of the Gharb (in Qasbat Mehdia and the environs of Kenitra) and near the cities of Meknes, Fez and Ifrane.7 These data underscore the fact that in Morocco the transfer of collective land is accompanied
By focusing my research on one of these conflicts (between women and the representatives of their community), I will show that, among the multiple forms of inequality inherent in the status of collective land, those relating to women’s rights have become particularly important on the political scene. The struggle for women’s rights has indeed demonstrated its capacity to advocate a vision of development that is both ‘consensual’ and similar to the vision currently promoted by the state. By referring to elements related to gender equality in the Constitution and the international conventions to which the country is a signatory, this movement has forged a status for itself as a ‘legitimate movement’ on the national public stage. However, this process of effectively including women on the lists of land beneficiaries has also strengthened social boundaries based on a rhetoric of autochthony and the politicisation of social inequalities based on tribal membership. If this process illustrates the conceptualisation of what many authors call ‘local citizenship’ (Jacob and Le Meur, 2010, 9–17; Lund, 2011), it also highlights the existence of many other inequalities and asymmetries that the women’s movement and the demands it is voicing both conceal and (re)produce.
2 ‘It’s all the fault of custom’: Collective Land and the Rhetoric of Development
Since its creation in colonial times, the legal status of collective land was meant to allow for the necessary economic, social and political development of the country.8 The administration of the protectorate passed the 1919 decree
Moreover, the new land regime has contributed to the institutionalisation of ‘custom’, freezing a number of practices and power relations that had previously been flexible and based on the principle of ‘group consensus’ (Bouderbala, 2013, 190).9 The 1919 decree gave ‘customary law’ a central role in the daily management of land use. The definition and application of these ‘habits and customs’ were entrusted to the ‘traditional representatives’10 of each community (nouâbs), whose mission was to resolve local conflicts, distribute land and provide an interface between the group (or jmâa) and representatives of the ministry responsible—namely, the Ministry of the Interior. Depending on the case, representatives from the communities concerned were also asked to develop new norms (Tozy and Mahdi, 1990). This form of government allowed the development of ‘a free and separate area of rights where other participants [could] be freely active without challenging the state’s monopoly’ (our transl.), while relieving the state of the responsibility for managing conflicts within communities (Bendella, 2009, 292).
While subjecting much of the territory to a codified legal status, the institutionalisation of collective land thus strengthened the political control of the
The commodification of collective land is not new, but it has been expanding since the late nineties with many new major economic projects such as the ‘Plan Maroc Vert’ in the field of agriculture, the ‘Plan Azur’ in the tourism sector, and the development of the extraction of raw materials such as phosphate (Mahdi, 2014). The land has also been used to respond to needs arising from demographic and urban growth. In the name of the economic, social and human development of Morocco, the transfer of this land to new owners (including public and private companies, both national and international) has therefore spread, in the form of long-term leases or final transfers for which the communities concerned have been variously compensated. In some cases, development or infrastructure projects have been implemented. In others, material compensation in the form of money or equipped plots of land has been distributed to persons identified by the delegates of the community as ‘beneficiaries’.
In this transferral process, the Rural Affairs Department of the Ministry of the Interior plays an intermediary role. Project promoters must demonstrate how their proposal for ‘upgrading’ collective land will contribute to the economic and social development of the region. Their argument is all the more important as the law stipulates that the transfer of communal land is possible only if it contributes to economic development and meets a communal need. The speech by Mohammed vi on the occasion of the opening of the National Conference on State Land Policy, held on 9 and 10 December 2015 in Skhirat, was one of the most recent manifestations of this rhetoric. In his speech, the King developed the idea that institutional reform and an acceleration of the ‘settling of the legal status of collective land’ was required, as this would allow such land to be ‘upgraded’, ensuring ‘that it can contribute to the development effort’ and ‘making it a means of integration of the beneficiaries […] within the framework of the principles of law and social justice, apart from any outdated
The Ministry of the Interior’s argument creates a very clear contrast between the measures implemented by the state to modernise and reform the institution of collective land and the obstacles and resistance created by customary (or ‘outdated’, as the King put it in his aforementioned speech) types of management methods. These obstacles are first of a human kind: the demographic growth of communities, the resistances of their representatives and the failure of their members to take out loans or to show any initiative. They also derive from the ‘bad’ management, the underutilisation, or the ‘anarchic’ use of collective land. Of the practices presented as backward and in contradiction with the development process that Morocco is currently embarked upon, the ministry particularly denounces the way local delegates have managed women’s issues. The ministry regrets that local resistance opposes the efforts made by its departments to include women as beneficiaries of collective land. Yet, the advocacy of women’s right on the part of the ministry arose only recently, in response to the movement of a number of women from the communities concerned; women who, since 2007, have been struggling against their exclusion from the right to enjoy this land.
3 Distributing the ‘Development Rent’: Collective Land and Social Inequalities
The legal status of collective land is based, as we have seen, on the principle of ‘permanent and exclusive occupation’ granted to communities as a right of use. Some categories of the local population are therefore excluded by definition from this form of ownership. The law provides only a loose definition of the group owning collective land (or the community) and the individuals (or ‘beneficiaries’) from within this group who are granted the right to use the land. The dahir of 1919 only mentions that the right of use is entrusted to ‘heads of households’, without defining the characteristics of this category. The delicate and contentious task of managing collective land—including the distribution
Consequently, the ways of sharing out the right of use vary from community to community due to the criteria chosen by each community: birthright, the effective use of the land, notability, or marriage among others. While the criteria for determining beneficiaries vary from community to community, women are denied—totally or partially—the right to be given a plot of land in almost all communities. This practice, apparently based on practices dating from the pre-colonial period, was not questioned by the dahir of 1919. By making ‘heads of households’ the main beneficiaries of collective land, this legislation has given free rein to the dominant representations that associate this role with the figure of the man.13
The fact that certain categories are excluded from this right of use has undeniably led to conflicts and tensions. Disputes relating to rangeland use by livestock, the sharing of territory and the exploitation of plots of land are indeed part and parcel of the management of collective land (Bendella, 2009). They have long preserved a temporary, local character, being confined to life within communities and families. In addition, ‘social pressure made it extremely rare that this type of conflict was dealt with in judicial terms’ (Bendella, 2016, 276, our transl.). The situation changed with the increasing commodification of collective land, which has intensified the pressure on land and increased its value. The often definitive dimension of these transactions has also introduced the concept of a ‘final deadline’ (Lund, 1998, 6), defined as the date after which it is no longer possible to claim a share of the indemnities or plots of land distributed at the time of the transfer. This deadline has created a sense of urgency that has exacerbated tensions and made more visible the social inequalities inherent in the status of collective land, including cases of material compensation given to the individuals comprising the community.
As individual compensation has to be distributed according to the lists established at the time of each transfer by the community’s assembly of delegates under the supervision of the ministry responsible, the criteria used to define ‘beneficiaries’ have become a significant issue. By legitimising their choice with reference to the customary uses mentioned above, local delegates have established these lists by applying criteria that they themselves drew up, and thus excluded certain categories of the local population. In the communities studied in the regions of the Gharb and Fez-Meknes, the excluded
4 The Movement for Women’s Rights to Land
Women from communities were the only ones able to impose their claims on the public stage through their movement, earning the sympathy of the national and international media as well as the support of the ministry responsible. This movement began in 2007 and is now better known as the ‘Soulaliyate’ movement, a reference to the soulâlâ, the kinship between members of the same ethnic community. This movement initially demanded women’s right to receive a share equal to that of men when compensation was handed out.
The fact that women were excluded from the lists of beneficiaries exacerbated existing gender inequalities. Transfers made while the land was still being used and inhabited had dramatic consequences: Men who were compensated were able to settle in other geographical areas, but women (especially those who were widowed or single) found themselves in a very precarious situation. In other contexts, gender tensions were exacerbated by the emergence or intensification of economic and social inequalities between men and women within individual families, neighbourhoods, or villages. It is with great bitterness and anger that the women interviewed mention, for example, the substantial improvement in the economic situations of their brothers while they continue to live in very modest and even precarious conditions. The aggravation of these differences has resulted in significant conflicts within families.
Resorting to an appeal to public authorities or to justice is a long, expensive and difficult process for women who very often come from modest backgrounds and are almost illiterate. For many of them, joining the Soulaliyate movement was a way of seeking advice and support. The movement was born in 2007 with the support of a number of influential civic associations, including the Democratic Association of Women of Morocco (Association démocratique des femmes du Maroc; henceforth the adfm) whose mission is to protect and
Springing from the Gharb region where collective land is now rare and the pressure of investors particularly strong, the movement has since spread to other parts of the country. This expansion of the movement has led to a broadening of its demands, which now include the equal division of collective land in contexts where such land is not sold or leased. The movement is particularly distinguished by very high-profile actions that aim to turn the various local conflicts into a national problem. For example, the movement organised two demonstrations in front of Parliament in 2008 and 2009. In March 2009, following the second demonstration, six women resorted to the Rabat Administrative Court to lodge a case against the government, directly incriminating the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior in his capacity as the guardian of collective land. In the meanwhile, the movement is conducting negotiations with, and direct lobbying of, the public authorities handling the case, and of various elected officials.
5 Women’s Rights and Development: What Consensus?
The women’s rights movement is distinguished not only by the media exposure it has gained nationwide but also because its demands have been partially met. Between 2009 and 2012, the ministry responsible issued three circulars that gave women the right to benefit—like men—from compensation when the ownership of collective land is transferred, and a share of that land when it is divided out. The walis15 and governors were invited to ensure that these
Among the reasons that may explain the rapid reaction of the Ministry of the Interior to the Soulaliyate movement’s demands is the movement’s consensual approach.17 While the movement’s members claimed their right to land and criticised the practices of exclusion that then prevailed, they used a set of arguments and principles that are considered to be legitimate and therefore licit in the contemporary Moroccan context.18 Their argument gives a central place to development, to which they refer in a manner similar to that employed by the state. The Soulaliyates’ demands are based first on a critique of ‘customary law’, which they view as responsible for the exclusion of women. Depending on the individual case, this law is presented either as pre-Islamic—a legacy of the jâhiliyya, the era of ‘ignorance’—and as contrary to the precepts
These critical voices include the women’s division of the Justice and Spirituality (Al Adl Wal Ihsane, awi) movement. As Merieme Yafout shows in this volume, awi defends ‘a vision of women’s emancipation based on Islamic reference points’, a vision that contrasts with those of organisations like the adfm, which consider the rights of women to be human rights. In justifying their position by highlighting the pre-Islamic character of applied customs, awi also promotes the inclusion of the Soulaliyates within the category of beneficiaries. According to this movement, these customs are indeed contrary to Islamic precepts that guarantee women the right of inheritance.19 While the adfm and awi do not share the same vision of the role of Islam in society, the two organisations have found common ground in their condemnation of customary law and in their defence of the principle that the economic rights of women are guaranteed (in the name of Islam for awi, in the name of human rights for the adfm).
The arguments used by the movement gives a central place to the constitution, which guarantees equality between men and women and to the international conventions to which the country is a signatory. It thus refers to human rights, and specifically women’s emancipation and their economic and social rights as formulated by international organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank. This reference to human rights is part of the broader discourse on the country’s transition towards a state of law in which these rights must be respected. The reference also appears in the three circulars issued by the Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, according to an adfm official interviewed in Rabat in September 2011, the reference to gender equality was the strongest argument available to the movement because the ‘Ministry officials could not
The Soulaliyate movement, however, does not question the actual foundations of the land policies pursued by the state via its sale of vast tracts of land to private investors. It differs in this respect from more recent local movements, which cast doubt on the scope of development of collective land as conceived and implemented by the public authorities and the companies to whom this land had been sold. Unlike the Soulaliyate movement, these movements were violently repressed or ignored by the authorities. In 2011, for example, the population of Khouribga staged a protest demanding the right to top-priority, unconditional recruitment to the Office Chérifien des Phosphates. Also, since 2011 the inhabitants of a village near Tinghir have organised daily sit-ins to protest against the abusive exploitation of natural resources (particularly water) by the Société Métallurgique d’Imider (smi) and to demand a fairer distribution of the wealth generated. In 2013, the people of Taourirt protested against local officials and community representatives who appropriated profits from the transfer of the ownership of communal land. While public authorities can depoliticise the issue of gender inequality by presenting it as a ‘special’ issue created by the local ‘resistance’ of authorities that are applying the customs of another age,20 they find it more difficult to do so when demands challenge the power relations underlying the way in which politicians, national companies and international ones are rapidly appropriating resources.
Furthermore, the demands of the Soulaliyate movement do not pose any challenge to the actual foundations of the political system. The movement even calls on the Ministry of the Interior to fulfil its supervisory role as required by law and to ensure that the egalitarian principles of the constitution and relevant international conventions are respected. The consensual nature of the movement is ultimately based on its ‘disciplined’ form. Drawing on over
In a context in which the hegemonic conception of development places special emphasis on respecting women’s rights, equality between the sexes thus functions as a powerful tool when the demand for new rights turns confrontational. When grounds for agreement exist, the link between development, conflict and consensus reveals and (re)produces certain inequalities, fuelling conflicts at other levels.
6 Development and Ethnic Divisions: Who are the Legitimate ‘Beneficiaries’?
While a national consensus was created in the name of gender equality so that women can benefit from collective land, the same has not been true of the actual ways in which this land and its associated benefits have been shared out. Ministerial circulars specify neither the size of the share that women are supposed to receive21 nor the selection criteria for beneficiaries. Under the regulatory regime for collective land, the members of a council of delegates decide on these issues in each community. The definition of ‘beneficiary’ thus remains unclear, generating conflicts and inequalities based on the exclusion of certain categories of the population. As we shall see, the Soulaliyates contribute, as do others concerned, to the reproduction of these inequalities and thus to reinforcing those social boundaries that are based on the argument of autochthony. I will illustrate this point by referring to the case of Qasbat Mehdia, a town near the Atlantic coast, which is located at the heart of the land owned by the Mehdawa community. After being repeatedly excluded from the sharing out of compensation, a group of women from the community joined the Soulaliyate movement shortly after its creation. Since, nearly 800 women from the community have received financial compensation and a plot
With their new visibility and support from representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and from the media, the Soulaliyates of Mehdia actively participated in drawing up this list. Their interest was focused on what they call the ‘purification’ (tasfiyat) of the list. In the person of the chairwoman of their association, a widow in her sixties, they very carefully checked the registration of the names on the list of beneficiaries reserved for women, and excluded those they considered to be ‘fake Soulaliyates’. During the registration sessions, which took place on municipal premises, the main mission of the association’s chairwoman and two delegates from the community was to distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ Soulaliyates, applying an analysis of the genealogy of each postulant. These three persons legitimised their role on the grounds of their age and their detailed knowledge of the different families that make up the community. Moreover, the chairwoman of the local association of Soulaliyates considered that her function as a representative conferred on her the powers necessary to carry out this task. Once the list had been drawn up, she then demanded that the local authorities strike off a number of women included on it—women she considered to be ‘fake Soulaliyates’. These included women who were not related to the community by kin ties, those who had been adopted, and those residents whose ancestors had settled there well after the ‘founding fathers’ (believed to number ten).
The distinction between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ Soulaliyates is not specific to the establishment of lists of women beneficiaries. Genealogy occupies a central place in the land registry of collective land and, in particular, in the arrangements approved by the Ministry of the Interior when land is shared out or compensation paid. Anyone wishing to register on a list of beneficiaries must prove their membership of the community and only those related to the community by their father can be called soulâlî (soulâliya in the feminine). In the current context of land ownership transfers and the distribution of compensation, the stakes of such a reappropriation of the notions of ‘tribe’ and filiation assume particular importance, as access to significant material resources is conditional on the ‘purity’ of a patrilineal genealogy.
This change was accompanied by a reconstruction of the history and genealogy of the group.22 The new version contrasts with the reality experienced by
For the women of Qasbat Mehdia, referring to the distinction between ‘soulâlî natives’, ‘non-soulâlî locals’, and ‘foreigners’ has turned into a prime resource. By focusing on their own patrilineal relationship with the community, they are reclaiming the rules of belonging in order to demand their right to a share of compensation. They do more than just use this genealogical link; they are actively involved in reproducing these categories. In all interviews conducted in Qasbat Mehdia but also in other parts of the Gharb, the women involved in the establishment of lists of beneficiaries stressed the importance of their role as guarantors of the ‘purity’ of the lists established under their supervision, in order to distinguish themselves from men who implemented practices deemed ‘corrupt’ when they had a monopoly on this function. The remarks made by representatives of the Soulaliyate movement show that the exclusion of ‘non-beneficiaries’ has become a virtue. However, this process is giving rise to new conflicts between beneficiaries (including women) and excluded groups like the descendants of berrâni who have lived for generations in Qasbat Mehdia.
The soulâla is a commonly used term in the discourse of the women of Qasbat Mehdia, but it also finds its place in the discourse of representatives of
This observation recalls the role played by elites in the production of representations of autochthony (Bayart et al., 2001, 181). In the cases studied, these representations are gaining in strength and visibility thanks to the actions and discourse of the movement created in collaboration with the adfm and the use of references to the constitution, which applies to all Moroccan citizens. At the intersection of these two sources of political identity (that of autochthony and that of national citizenship), the representation of a ‘local citizenship’ (Lund, 2011) with a plural and ‘exclusivist’ shape comes into being—a representation that draws both on references to so-called universal rights and on a ‘constituted equality,’ which refers to ‘the conception of a natural and exclusive community’ (Cutolo and Geschiere, 2008, 6, our transl.).
The analysis of the transformations that are accompanying the commodification of collective land in Morocco enables us to highlight the many links between development and conflict. Thus, the transfer of ownership of collective land, which is accompanied by a discourse linking the economic assessment of collective land to the furtherance of human and social development promoted by the state, has rendered visible—by exacerbating them—inequalities inherent in such a legal status. Until now, the countermovements born of this process have mainly challenged the terms upon which the profits resulting from the transfer of land ownership are shared out. In this context, the struggle for women’s rights to land has been able to impose its demands on the political scene by drawing upon references considered ‘legitimate’ and without questioning the state’s authority. Conversely, local movements that have (sometimes violently) challenged the power relations underlying the rapid appropriation of resources by politicians and national and international companies have either been suppressed or ignored by the government.
The consensus that was formed at the national level around the movement for women’s rights is also a vector of exclusion. Processes of exclusion crystallise around the definition of the ‘beneficiary’. By invoking the argument of patrilineal descent upon which the sharing out of resources generated by collective land repose, the Soulaliyate movement reproduces and strengthens social boundaries based on ‘tribal identity’, a process that Fariba Adelkhah discusses with regard to Afghanistan in this volume. These boundaries are the source of new conflicts, but also of new conceptions of citizenship that refer to local and national considerations. The link between development and conflict, thus, allows us to approach from a new angle the contrast usually made between, on the one hand, culturalist representations of ‘tradition’ focused on local particularities that are seen as causes of conflict and, on the other, a ‘modernity’ considered superior in the name of economic and managerial rationality, social justice and universal rights.
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