For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Official Name:
Kingdom of Morocco

Area: 446,550 sq. km. (172,413 sq. mi.); slightly larger than California.
Cities: Capital--Rabat (pop. 1.2 million in urban prefecture of Rabat-Sale). Other cities--Casablanca (3 million), Marrakech, Fez, Tangier.
Terrain: Coastal plain, mountains, desert.
Climate: Mediterranean, becoming more extreme in the interior.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Moroccan(s).
Population (est.): 28 million.
Annual growth rate (est.): 2.2%.
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%. Religions: Muslim, Christian 1%, Jewish 0.2%.
Languages: Arabic (official), several Berber dialects; French is often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Education: Years compulsory--7. Literacy--43%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--53/1,000. Life expectancy--66 yrs. male, 69 yrs. female.
Work force (7.4 million): Agriculture--50%. Services--26%. Industry--15%. Other--9%.

Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: September 1992.
Independence: March 2, 1956.
Branches: Executive--king (chief of state), prime minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral legislature (6-yr. term). Judicial--Supreme Court.
Political parties: Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), Istiqlal (independence) Party (PI), Popular Movement (MP), National Popular Movement (MNP), National Rally of Independents (RNI), Constitutional Union Party (UC), National Democratic Party (PND), Party of Progress and
Socialism (PPS), Organization for Democratic and Popular Action (OADP).
Suffrage: Universal over 20.

GDP (1992): $27.7 billion.
Per capita GDP: $1,030.
Natural resources: Phosphates, fish, manganese, lead, silver, copper.
Agriculture (18% of GDP): Products--barley, wheat, citrus fruits, wine, vegetables, olives, livestock, fishing.
Industry (34% of GDP): Types--phosphate mining, manufacturing and handicrafts, construction and public works, energy.
Trade (1992): Exports--$4.7 billion: food and beverages 28%, semiprocessed goods 25%, consumer goods 26%, phosphates 8%. Major markets--EU 62%, India 7%, Japan 5%, U.S. 2%.
Imports--$7.6 billion: capital goods 27%, semiprocessed goods 16%, raw materials 12%, fuel and lubricants 15%, food and beverages 13%, consumer goods 9%. Major suppliers--EU 54%, U.S. 6%, Canada 3%, Japan 2%.
Official exchange rate (October 1994): 8.6 Dirham (Dh)=U.S.$1.

Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixedArab-Berber stock. The Arabs invaded Morocco in the 7th and11th centuries and established their culture there. Morocco's Jewish minority numbers about 7,000. Most of the100,000 foreign residents are French or Spanish; many are teachers or technicians.

Arabic is the official and principal language, but French is widely used in government and commerce, except in the northern zone, where Spanish is spoken. In rural areas, any of three Berber dialects--which are not mutually intelligible--are spoken.

Most people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range which insulates the country from the Sahara Desert. Casa-blanca is the center of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Morocco from Spain and also a major port; "Arab" Fez is the cultural and religious center; and "Berber" Marrakech is a major tourist center.

Education is free and compulsory through primary school. Education now surpasses national defense as the largest item in the government's budget. Of Morocco's several universities, the most important is Muhammad V University in Rabat. Its students study medicine, law, liberal arts, and
the sciences. Most university students benefit from government stipends. In Fez, Morocco's religious capital, students from around the world study Islamic law and theology at Karaouine University, which is more than 1,000 years old.

Morocco's strategic location has shaped its history. Beginning with the Phoenicians, many foreigners have come to this area, some to trade or settle, others as invaders sweeping the land and dominating it. Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, and Byzantine Greeks successively ruled the area.
Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the seventh century A.D., bringing with them Arab civilization and Islam. Other invasions followed. The Alaouite dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since 1649, claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.

Morocco's location and resources led to early competition among European powers in Africa, beginning with successful Portu-guese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Following recognition by the United Kingdom
in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco, the Algeciras Conference (1906) formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. The Treaty of Fez (1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed
the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones.

The first nationalist political parties based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint statement issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill that sets forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live). A manifesto of the Istiqlal
(Independence) Party in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.

France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Muhammad V in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Muhammad Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Muhammad V to return in 1955; negotiations leading to independence began the following year.

The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956. By agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored (see box, p. 2). On October 29, 1956, the signing of the Tangier Protocol politically reintegrated the former international zone. Spain, however, retained control over the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north and the enclave of Ifni in the south. Ifni became part of Morocco in 1969.

After the death of his father, Muhammad V, King Hassan II succeeded to the throne on March 3, 1961. He recognized the Royal Charter proclaimed by his father on May 8, 1958, which outlined steps toward establishing a constitutional monarchy.

A constitution providing for representative government under a strong monarchy was approved by referendum on December 7, 1962. Elections were held in 1963. In June 1965, following student riots and civil unrest, the king invoked article 35 of the constitution and declared a "state of exception." He
assumed all legislative and executive powers and named a new government not based on political parties. In July 1970, King Hassan submitted to referendum a new constitution providing for an even stronger monarchy. Its approval and the subsequent elections formally ended the 1965 "state of

An unsuccessful coup on July 10, 1971, organized by senior military officers at Skhirat, was followed by Morocco's third constitution, approved by popular referendum in early 1972. The new constitution kept King Hassan's powers intact but enlarged from one-third to two-thirds the number of directly elected parliamentary representatives.

In August 1972, after a second coup attempt by Moroccan Air Force dissidents and the King's powerful Interior Minister General Oufkir, relations between the opposition and the Crown deteriorated, due to disagreement on opposition participation in elections. The king subsequently appointed a series of nonpolitical cabinets responsible only to him.

Stemming from cooperation on the Sahara issue (see box), rapprochement between the king and the opposition began in mid-1974 and led to elections for local councils, with opposition party participation, in November 1976. Parliamentary elections, deferred because of tensions with Spain and Algeria over the Sahara dispute, were held in 1977, resulting in a two-thirds majority for the government-backed independent candidates and their allies, the Istiqlal and the Popular Movement. The Constitutional Union finished first in local elections in June 1983 and parliamentary
elections in 1984.


Western Sahara
The Western Sahara, scene of a decade-long conflict between the Polisario and Morocco, comprises 267,028 square kilometers (102,703 sq. mi.)--an area about the size of Colorado--of wasteland and desert, bordered on the north by Morocco, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east and south by Mauritania, and for a few kilometers on the east by Algeria. From 1904 until 1975, Spain occupied the entire territory, which is divided into a northern portion, the Saguia el Hamra, and the southern two-thirds, known as Rio de Oro. Calls for the decolonization of these territories began in the 1960s, first from the surrounding nations and then from the United Nations.

The discovery of phosphates in Bou Craa in the Saguia el Hamra heightened demands for Spanish withdrawal from the territory. Morocco's occupation after Spain's 1975 withdrawal led to long-term armed conflict between Morocco and the Polisario, an independence movement based in the region of Tindouf, Algeria.

Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara is based largely on the historical argument of traditional loyalty of the Saharan tribal leaders to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. The International Court of Justice, to which the issue was referred, delivered its
opinion in 1975 that while historical ties exist between the inhabitants of the Western Sahara and Morocco, they are insufficient to establish Moroccan sovereignty.

The Polisario claims to represent the aspirations of the Western Saharan inhabitants for independence. Algeria claims none of the territory for itself but maintains that a popular referendum on self-determination should determine the territory's future status. In 1969, the Polisario Front
(Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro) was formed to combat Spanish colonization. After the Spanish left and the Moroccans and, initially, the Mauritanians moved in, the Polisario turned its guerrilla operations against them.

In November 1975, 350,000 unarmed Moroccan citizens staged what came to be called the "Green March" into the Western Sahara. The march was designed to both demonstrate and strengthen Moroccan claims to the territory. On November 9, 1975, King Hassan requested that the marchers withdraw. On November 14, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania announced a tripartite agreement for an interim administration under which Spain agreed to share administrative authority with Morocco and Mauritania, leaving aside the question of sovereignty. With the establishment of a Moroccan and
Mauritanian presence throughout the territory, however, Spain's role in the administration of the Western Sahara ceased altogether. Mauritania withdrew from the territory in 1978 after several defeats by the Polisario.

Mauritania signed a peace treaty with the Polisario in Algiers in 1979 renouncing all claims and vacating the territory. Thereupon, Moroccan troops occupied the vacated region, and tribal leaders pledged allegiance to King Hassan. Later, local elections and the election of representatives to the National Assembly took place and Morocco proclaimed the area reintegrated into Morocco. It
has since built fortifications that control about three-fourths of the Western Sahara and protect the economic and population centers, including the phosphate mine at Bou Craa.

At the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in June 1981, King Hassan announced his willingness to hold a referendum in the Western Sahara. He took this decision, he explained, in deference to African and other leaders who had urged him to permit a referendum as the accepted way to settle such issues. Subsequent meetings of an OAU Implementation Committee proposed a cease-fire, a UN peace-keeping force, and an interim administration to assist with an OAU-UN-supervised referendum on the issue of independence or annexation.

Domestically, King Hassan's agreement in 1981 to hold a referendum evoked criticism from Morocco's socialist party (USFP), leading to the arrest and conviction at that time of USFP leaders for actions considered detrimental to national security and public order.

In 1984, the OAU seated a delegation of the Sahara Democratic Arab Republic (SDAR), the shadow government of the Polisario; consequently, Morocco withdrew from the OAU.

In late August 1988, Moroccan and Polisario representatives, meeting separately with UN officials, agreed on a peace plan proposed by UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar. A UN-brokered cease-fire and project for a referendum went into effect on September 6, 1991, between Morocco and the Polisario. The referendum, which aims at determining whether the region will choose integration with Morocco or independence, was originally scheduled for 1992 but has yet to be held because of differences between the two parties regarding the details of implementation.

The United States has consistently supported efforts to end the war through negotiations between the concerned parties leading to a cease-fire and referendum. While recognizing Morocco's administrative control of the Western Sahara, the United States has not endorsed Morocco's claims of sovereignty there. It is the U.S. position that a political solution to the Western Sahara should take into account the views of its inhabitants. [End box]

The King is head of state, and his son, the Crown Prince, is heir apparent. Under the 1992 constitution, a prime minister appointed by the King is head of government. Of the 333-seat unicameral parliament, two-thirds of the members are chosen directly by universal adult suffrage; the
remaining one-third is indirectly elected by community councils and business, labor, artisan, and farmer groups. The parliament's powers, though limited, were expanded by the 1992 constitution and include budgetary matters, approving bills presented by the King and establishing ad hoc commissions of inquiry to investigate actions by theexecutive branch.

The highest court in the independent judicial structure is the Supreme Court, the judges of which are appointed by the King. Each province is headed by a governor appointed by the King. Morocco has divided the former Spanish Sahara into four provinces (see box).

Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--King Hassan II
Prime Minister--Abdellatif Filali
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation--Abdellatif Filali
Ambassador to the United States--Mohamed Benaissa
Ambassador to the United Nations--Ahmed Senoussi

Morocco maintains an embassy in the United States at 1601 21st Street NW., Washington, D.C. 20009 (tel. 202-462-7979).

The pro-government RNI and UC parties won the largest number of seats in local elections in 1992. In 1993, parliamentary elections gave 50% of the vote to the six parties of the previous governing coalition but the two largest opposition parties, the Istiqlal and USFP, which ran common candidates, received the highest individual party vote totals. Together they took 41% of the seats contested (four smaller parties and independents won the remainder). These elections demonstrated a significant increase in the opposition's representation. The expansion of parliament's authority under the September 1992 constitution was another indicator of Morocco's political liberalization.

The most prominent political parties are:

  • The Istiqlal (PI), Morocco's oldest political party, was founded in 1944 and helped lead the fight for independence from French and Spanish colonial domination. The party retains its strongly nationalistic philosophy and also is among the most active on pan-Arab issues.
  • The Union of Socialist Popular Forces (USFP), established in 1974, is to the left of the Istiqlal, and its leaders present it as being in the tradition of the social democratic parties in Europe. It is strong in urban centers, among organized labor, and among youth groups.
  • The Berber-based Popular Movement (MP) and breakaway National Popular Movement (MNP) have as their main issue the promotion and protection of Berber culture and interests.
  • The National Rally of Independents (RNI) was founded in 1977 by then Prime Minister Ahmed Osman, who continues to lead the party.
  • The Center Right Constitutional Union Party (UC), was founded in April 1983. Its president is former Prime Minister Maati Bouabid.
  • The National Democratic Party (PND) was formed in 1981 when it broke off from the RNI. Led by former cabinet member Arsalane El Jadidi, it is principally rural based.
  • The Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) is the latest label for the small Moroccan communist party. Although tolerated, the party has been officially illegal at various times since its founding in 1943, the latest from 1969 to late 1974. The party bases its main support in urban areas and among younger, disaffected elements of society, and is led by Secretary General Ali Yata.
  • The Organization for Democratic and Popular Action (OADP), has traditionally adopted strongly leftist positions on most domestic issues. However, like all the other Moroccan parties, it strongly sup-ports Morocco's claim of sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Party Secretary General Mohammed Ben Said leads the formation.

The Moroccan economy is becoming increasingly diversified. Morocco has the largest phosphate reserves in the world. Other mineral resources include copper, fluorine, lead, barite, iron, and anthracite. It has a diverse agricultural (including fishing) sector, a large tourist industry, a
growing manufacturing sector (especially clothing), and considerable inflows of funds from Moroccans working abroad.

The export of phosphates and its derivatives account for more than a quarter of Moroccan exports. Morocco is increasing production of phosphoric acid and fertilizers. About one-third of the Moroccan manufacturing sector is related to phosphates and one-third to agriculture with virtually all of the remaining third divided between textiles, clothing, and metalworking. The clothing sector,
in particular, has shown consistently strong growth over the last few years as foreign companies established large-scale operations geared toward exporting garments to Europe.

Agriculture plays a leading role in the Moroccan economy, generating between 15 and 20% of GDP (depending on the harvest) and employing about 40% of the work force. Morocco is a net exporter of fruits and vegetables, and a net importer of cereals; over 90% of agriculture is rain-fed.
Fishing is also important to Morocco, employing more than 100,000 people, including the canning and packing industries, and accounting for $520 million of exports in 1992.

The Moroccan Government has pursued an economic reform program supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank since the early 1980s. It has restrained
spending, revised the tax system, reformed the banking system, followed appropriate monetary policies, lifted import restrictions, lowered tariffs, and liberalized the foreign exchange regime. Over the last decade, the reforms have contributed to rising per capita incomes, lower inflation, and narrower fiscal and current account deficits.

Nonetheless, population growth, rural-urban migration, and higher labor force participation rates (particularly among women) are contributing to rising urban unemployment, in spite of generally strong economic growth and job creation. The rapid increase in secondary and university (but not
primary) enrollments in the 1980s exceeded the economy's capacity to create jobs, resulting in rising unemployment rates for graduates, which are about 33% for high school graduates and 11% for university graduates.

As part of its IMF program, the Moroccan Government has reduced its budget deficit. The central bank operates as an independent entity, and, following economic reform measures, has been remarkably successful in restoring domestic and international confidence in the value of the kingdom's currency. The government has made the dirham convertible for an increasing number of transactions over the last few years. The central bank sets the exchange rate for the dirham against a basket of currencies of its principal trading partners. The rate against the basket has been steady since a 9% devaluation in May 1990, with changes against the dollar being due to movement of the dollar against major European currencies.

The Moroccan Government actively encourages foreign investment. It has opened virtually all sectors (other than those reserved for the state such as air transport and public utilities) to foreign investment. The government also has made a number of regulatory changes designed to improve the investment climate in recent years, including tax breaks, streamlined approval procedures, and access to foreign exchange for the repatriation of dividends and invested capital.

Since Morocco attained independence, its foreign policy has been sympathetic to the West. Long-term goals are to strengthen its influence in the Arab world and Africa and to maintain its close relations with Europe and the United States. It is a member of the UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Morocco served a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from January 1992 to December 1993. It also belongs to the Arab League; Arab Maghreb Union (UMA); Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); INTELSAT; and Non-Aligned Movement.

The major issue in Morocco's foreign relations is its claim to the Western Sahara relinquished by Spain in 1976. This has involved the country in a costly war against the Polisario forces seeking creation of an independent Saharan Republic. Since September 1991, Moroccan and Polisario
forces have observed a cease-fire, established under the UN Secretary General's plan to hold a referendum in the Western Sahara in order to resolve the dispute. No date has been set for holding the referendum because of differences between the two parties over voter eligibility, although identification of potential voters by the UN has begun. The U.S. Government fully supports the efforts of the UN Secretary General to work with the parties to overcome these differences.

In 1984, Morocco signed a Treaty of Union with Libya, primarily aimed at ensuring a cessation of Libyan support for the Polisario. This disturbed some of Morocco's traditional friends, including the United States. Morocco described the union as a limited tactical alliance, and the King terminated the agreement in mid-1986.

Morocco adheres to sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Libya in April 1992 in the wake of the Pan Am 103 bombing. Relations between Morocco and Algeria have improved in recent years, as reflected in the 1988 resumption of diplomatic relations and in King Hassan's 1992 ratification of the long-pending border agreement with Algeria.

Morocco continues to play a significant role in the search for peace in the Middle East, participating in the multilateral phase of the peace talks and urging Arab moderation in the bilateral phase. King Hassan is Acting Chairman of the Arab League until the next regular Arab League Summit and Chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference's (OIC) Jerusalem committee. In 1986, he took the daring step of inviting then-Israeli Prime Minister Peres for talks, becoming the second Arab leader to do so. Following the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, Morocco's economic ties and political contacts with Israel accelerated. In
September 1994, Morocco and Israel announced the opening of liaison offices in each other's countries.

Morocco has expanded its regional role. In May 1989, the King hosted the Casablanca summit which reintegrated Egypt into the Arab fold and endorsed a moderate Palestinian approach to the peace process. In February 1989, Morocco played a leading role in the formation of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) made up of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, and Morocco. The UMA's formation owed much to the May 1988 restoration of diplomatic relations between Morocco and
Algeria after a 13-year hiatus.

Morocco has close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which have provided Morocco with substantial amounts of financial assistance. Morocco was the first Arab state to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and sent troops to help defend Saudi Arabia. Morocco
follows the UN Security Council-imposed sanctions on Iraq. Morocco remains active in African affairs, contributing troops to the UN peace-keeping force in Somalia in 1992. The Moroccans have worked to promote reconciliation between the Angolan Government and UNITA.

Moroccans are proud to have recognized the Government of the United States in 1777. Formal U.S. relations with Morocco date from 1787, when the two nations negotiated a Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Renegotiated in 1836, it is still in force, constituting the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.

U.S.-Moroccan relations are characterized by mutual respect and friendship. They were strengthened by King Hassan's visits to the United States in March 1963, February 1967, November 1978, and May and October 1982, and September 1991.

The U.S. and Morocco share key foreign policy objectives, such as promoting regional peace and development. Morocco's strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar, its moderate and constructive positions on Middle East issues, its religious tolerance, and its past opposition to communist
aggression are factors contributing to harmonious bilateral relations.

U.S. objectives include maintaining cordial and cooperative relations; promoting respect for human rights and continued-democratization; supporting Moroccan efforts to develop an increasingly effective administration; and aiding its domestic, social, and economic progress.

In addition to U.S. Navy port visits, Morocco has granted rights of transit through its airfields for U.S. forces and conducts joint exercises with various U.S. Armed Forces. The recently completed $225-million Voice of America (VOA) transmitter in Morocco will be the world's largest VOA

Since independence, more than $1.5 billion in U.S. grants and loans has been provided to Morocco. Total U.S. economic and military assistance (foreign military funds, economic support funds, development assistance, and PL 480 loans) to Morocco has averaged around $100 million annually. The assistance programs are aimed at increasing the food supply, improving food distribution, reducing population growth, improving health care, promoting the private sector, and
assisting Morocco in meeting its legitimate defense needs.

The Peace Corps has been active in Morocco for more than 30 years, and its program is among the largest in the world, with 100-140 volunteers in 1994. Peace Corps volunteers are involved in English language instruction, medical and veterinary care, sanitation, and environmental education.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Marc C. Ginsberg
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gary Usrey
Director, AID Mission--Michael Farbman
Public Affairs Officer--Richard Peterson
Consul General, Casablanca--Anne O. Cary

The U.S. embassy in Morocco is located at 2 Avenue de Marrakech, Rabat (tel. 212 (7) 76-22-65.

[This is a mobile copy of Morocco (11/94)]

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