Rabat is launching the construction of a new military base on the border with Algeria, according to a decree published on 21 May in the official gazette. According to the Moroccan site Le Collimateur, it will help to monitor the border between the two countries.
The Moroccan head of government signed a decree published Thursday, May 21, in the official newspaper of the Cherifian Kingdom authorizing the construction of a military base of strategic importance near the border with Algeria. This decision comes three days after another decree validating the purchase of VL-Mica ground-to-air missiles from France.
“The head of government, Saâdeddine El Othmani, has issued a decree on the transfer to the private domain of the State of a plot of land under the forestry regime for the construction of a military base in the province of Jérada for the benefit of the Royal Armed Forces,” the decree says.
According to the document, the land selected covers an area of 23 hectares. It is located in the Ben Ali forest, in the Laâouinate region, which is part of the municipality of Jérada.
The Moroccan news website Le Collimateur reports that the construction of the new military base “is part of major efforts by Morocco since 2014 to further armour its land border with Algeria [particularly with regard to cannabis trafficking, editor’s note]”. In this context, “a 150-kilometre fence has indeed been built on the border between Saidia and Jerada,” he added.
Is there an arms race?
As announced in January by the French daily La Tribune, the Moroccan government has endorsed the decision to buy land-based VL-Mica anti-aircraft systems from France.
Indeed, the head of government signed a decree published in the Official Gazette on 18 May 2020, validating a loan of 192.1 million euros to finance “a commercial contract” concluded between the National Defence Administration and the French missile manufacturer MBDA France. According to the decree, the purchase of VL-Mica ground-to-air missiles will be financed by a loan from BNP Paribas under an agreement signed between the two parties in April.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in its report published on 27 April on world military expenditure in 2019, reports an increase in the military budget of North African countries. It amounts to 57% of the total expenditure for the whole of Africa. Algeria, ranked 23rd, is the only country on the continent to appear in SIPRI’s Top 40 largest military budgets. Egypt, Africa’s leading military power, is not included.
SIPRI explains this increase by the “context of persistent tensions between Algeria and Morocco, national insurgencies and the continuing civil war in Libya”. “Military spending in the sub-region [North Africa] was 4.6% higher than in 2018 and 67% higher than in 2010,” the document adds.
In addition, the report indicates that the overall volume of Africa’s spending is $41.2 billion. North Africa’s expenditure is $23.5 billion, or 57% of the total.