With little progress from Maghreb governments on regional unity, young activists are taking the issue into their own hands.

By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 15/09/11

Members of the Euro-Maghreb Youth Union (UJEM) wrapped up a three-day visit to Nouakchott on Wednesday (September 14th), in which they pressed their call for a united, democratic Maghreb.

Members of the UJEM Follow-up Committee said the visit was in part to help plan for the group’s general conference this December in Nouakchott, as well as a chance to explain their hopes for a united Maghreb and review recommendations made at last April’s UJEM conference in Tunis.

UJEM is based on a new and different approach to build a unified and democratic Maghreb Union (UMA) in which borders and visas between the countries of the Maghreb disappear and in which intellectual, political and cultural pluralism is respected,” said the group’s Morocco representative, Rabaii El Ouafoudi.

El Ouafoudi, said that the association was founded “with consensus and the participation of youth organizations from the Maghreb countries and a number of political officials, academics and Maghreb citizens, after the organization of many round tables and brainstorming workshops”.

“The Arab Maghreb Union is obsolete and moribund,” El Ouafoudi said in explaining why the youth movement was founded. He said civil society took the initiative to push for a Maghreb Union after “official failure”.

Abdessamad Filali, the head of the Tunis Conference Follow-up Committee, said that current situation in the region with democratic revolutions serves the youth movement’s purpose and fits with their goals.

“We realize we are still in the framework of building the Maghreb Union and still have a lot of work to do, because things remain ambiguous in the countries changed by revolutions,” Filali said. “This is what we are working to guide and to rectify its course through our community youth work.”

Ahmed Ould Mouhamedou, with the Mauritanian Youth Movement Party, said that his group backed the idea of a Maghreb Union.

“We recognize that the founding fathers of the Arab Maghreb Union were advocating the same thing we are calling for today, with different circumstances and facts, but the veteran political class that came thereafter abandoned that approach,” Ould Mouhamedou said. “This prompted us to call for getting rid of that political class, because we believe its ideas are what prevented formation of a unified Maghreb Union based on democracy, human rights and economic integration.”

Abdullah Ould Sid Mohamed, a member of the February 25th Youth Movement, said he attached high hopes to the UJEM Nouakchott conference set for December.

“We appreciate this initiative for Arab Maghreb unity as long as its source is independent of the current Maghreb governments, because those governments do not seek to achieve unity for fear of compromising their own narrow interests,” Ould Sid Mohamed said. “Meanwhile, the youth of Arab Maghreb countries share in the daily concern of searching for work and making a living, and they also share ambitions and aspirations.”

Mohamed Vall, an independent youth, does not stray far from that proposition, saying that “young people can achieve what official governments have failed to do, because there are facts helping that, such as a unified sense of belonging, facing the same challenges and the intersection of contemporary culture, all of which encourage unity. But the role of governments is still necessary to overcome other obstacles.”

“Economic integration can only be achieved with the desire of the rulers, as well as open borders and abolition of the visa,” Vall added. “There thus must be pressure on governments to respond to such demands.”

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/09/15/feature-04.