Friday, October 7 afternoon I was enraged. I cried out at people; I, who almost always tries to discuss peacefully. I swore; I, who always tries to be nice to others. I exploded from rage and couldn’t stand listening to arguments or silly justifications; I, who always tries hard to give others the benefit of doubt. I cannot deny that it was an ill behavior from me, that I hurt myself and, maybe, have caused some inconvenience to others. Despite all this, I can’t help thinking I had to do it that way. I had to behave that way.
After leaving the office in Casablanca, almost one hour earlier, to be able to reach Kenitra on time and have the possibility to vote on the sidelines of Morocco’s 2016 general elections, I took the 4:50pm train heading from Casablanca Port to Kenitra. On our way, the train stopped several times causing a delay of about 45 minutes. The information communicated then was that the ONCF needed to clear the rail from a previous train that kept breaking down. Eventually, we reached the Rabat-Agdal train station only to find that all passengers from the previous train needed to embark on our train. While the majority of the other train’s passengers joined us, others chose to protest by standing in front of it, eventually stopping it from departing. Clumsy as it is, ONCF staff couldn’t manage the situation promptly and we remained there for about 45 minutes. At some point of time, staff from the ONCF started asking passengers to evacuate our train, as it was still blocked by protesters. At their request, we moved to another train, one heading to Fès. At that point, the situation became more complex and problematic for the following reasons:
1. The train heading to Fès took more than 15 minutes to arrive and it was already full of people;
2. By that time, the number of people waiting to take the train was so huge that it required at least two trains to take all passengers to their destinations in decent conditions;
3. People were in panic, lost, too exhausted, frustrated and angry. The crowd included regular commuters wishing to reach home after a long tiring week. It also included people willing to reach their hometowns to vote, in addition to old and sick people, teenagers, and women with children; and
4. Not a single ONCF staff member could provide passengers with information about the situation. Worse, the train station’s manager was nowhere to be found.
When the train heading to Fès finally arrived, more passengers (from Rabat) were ready to hop on the train. The scenery was terrifying at that point: people piling up inside the train to a point where they barely had the possibility to breath. Even the first class doors couldn’t be closed as there were so many more passengers than the train can contain.
To add insult to injury, the train bound to Fés remained in the Rabat-Agdal station more than half an hour. And in the meanwhile, lo and behold, to our utmost surprise, the first train we had to evacuate passed by, heading to Kenitra. We understood that the person responsible for managing the station, in the absence of the station manager, took the decision of piling up people in the Fès-bound train and sending the other train, almost with no passengers, in the same direction. When I asked the so-called person in charge about what was happening, he asserted in a nervous way that he is “managing the situation”. What an ill management it was!
That day was such a heavy day for me, with a terrible feeling of inner and physical exhaustion. That day, my voice was not listened to, not at the train station where I was shouting in anger, nor in my hometown where I needed to vote. ONCF simply silenced my voice.