Algeria's announcement, Saturday September 9, of the opening of its airspace, closed since September 2021, and its availability to “provide humanitarian aid and mobilize all material and human resources in solidarity with the people Moroccan brother in the event of a request from the Kingdom of Morocco", was greeted with relief by Algerian opinion. Despite the detestable state of relations between the two countries, many Internet users rushed to social networks, in the hours following the terrible earthquake in Al Haouz, to recall that support for “Moroccan brothers” was an imperative moral.
“There is an emergency, there is a moral duty from which our country cannot evade: to clearly demonstrate its solidarity with Morocco and send humanitarian aid as quickly as possible. No political conflict should silence our humanity,” posted on X (ex-Twitter) Sid Ahmed Semiane, author, director and photographer.
Following the presidency, the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented “its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the brotherly Moroccan people, assuring them of its deep compassion”, and wished “a speedy recovery to the injured”. Its spokesperson indicated that Algeria was ready to urgently dispatch 80 civil protection rescuers, namely “a dog team specializing in the search and identification of people under the rubble, a rescue and search team, a medical team, as well as first-aid humanitarian aid, including tents, camp beds and blankets.”
The beginning of a de-escalation?
For the moment, no response to this aid proposal has come from the Moroccan authorities. The latter said that they had so far accepted assistance from only four countries: Spain, the United Kingdom, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Could the outstretched hand of Algiers, occurring in a tragic context, nevertheless be the beginning of a de-escalation between the two countries? Few people in Algiers venture to predict it, the permanent tension on the question of Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony - having worsened with the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel.
Algiers, which supports the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, severed relations with Rabat on August 24, 2021 and closed its airspace to Moroccan planes the following month. A divorce caused by the dissemination of a note distributed by the Moroccan ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, during a meeting of the non-aligned in New York in July 2021, affirming that “the valiant Kabyle people deserve, more than any other, to fully enjoy their right to self-determination". This support displayed by Rabat for the autonomists in Kabylia, a traditionally rebellious region, was only the response of the Cherifian kingdom to the support provided by Algiers to the Polisario. But it precipitated the schism.
A few weeks earlier, revelations about Morocco's use of Israeli Pegasus software to potentially target 6,000 Algerian numbers had also caused a stir. Anger fueled on August 13, 2021 by the visit to Rabat of Israeli Foreign Minister Yaïr Lapid. In the presence of his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, he then spoke of the “role played by Algeria in the region” and its “rification with Iran”. Comments perceived as “thinly veiled threats” by the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Ramtane Lamamra.
On March 21, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune concluded that relations between Algeria and Morocco had “reached the point of no return.”
Endless battles on the networks
If the question of Western Sahara is widely perceived in Algeria as a cause carried by the regime and has not affected the close ties between Algerians and Moroccans, Israel's anchoring in the Maghreb via Morocco, is very frowned upon. This assumed rapprochement between the Hebrew State and the Shereef kingdom fuels, on the Algerian side, an official discourse on the existence of a serious threat against the country.
At the same time, social networks, whose real impact within societies is difficult to measure, have become places of bitter or even hateful exchanges between Moroccans and Algerians. Endless battles, probably exploited, which seize any subject to attack the other. In October 2022, Morocco very officially protested to Adidas after the manufacture of a jersey for the Algerian national team inspired by the Maghrebian and even Mediterranean art of zellige.
These accusations of cultural appropriation have multiplied, relating to couscous, caftan, raï and even the singer Khaled... Those who continue to cling to the idea of an open Maghreb space see in this claim of exclusivity of a common heritage revealing it, beyond political contingencies, of the profound unity of the peoples of the Maghreb.