The Republic of the Rif

The Notes of the Rif Revolt

The Rif Revolt was one of the more remarkable bids for self-determination to occur during the European late colonial period, and was pursued by the Rifi and Jibala peoples of Morocco between 1920 and 1926. At the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, the colonial powers occupying Morocco were France – whose zone encompassed the southern part of the country, and Spain – who controlled the northern regions, including territories of the Rifi in the east and the Jibala in the west. Historically the Spanish had maintained at best nominal control over the Berber tribes of the interior, and had in fact suffered military reversals at their hands. After World War I however they attempted to exert their authority, and established an army of 63,000 troops and a series of military outposts there. Rifi tribesmen soon engaged these would-be conquerers in a series of escalating skirmishes, and these actions eventually culminated in the May 1921 rout and massacre of 19,000 Spanish troops – including the commanding general – at Anual.

The Rifi were led in these campaigns by the charismatic military leader Si Muhammad n-Si Abd al-Krim al Khatabi – better known to history as Abdel Krim. Krim was university-educated, and had worked for the Spanish colonial administration, but turned against them in the aftermath of the War, when Rifi German sympathisers were forcibly repatriated to the French zone.

Krim fled, fearing for his safety, and along with his father, and brother Mohamed, worked actively with the Rifi and Jibala tribes over several years to build a united front against the Spanish, and successfully established a disciplined, uniformed military force on a European model which subsequent to the action at Anual, was effectively able to expel the Spanish from Morocco by inflicting a further defeat at Sheshuan.

The Government of the Republic of the Rif was established by Abel Krim on 1 February 1923. It quickly introduced a number of legal and administrative reforms, sought the diplomatic recognition of France, Britain and other nations, and courted interest by mining companies in the Rif s mineral resouces.

These ambitious plans were eventually thwarted due to the uncertainies surrounding the fact that international law still recognised Spain s rights to the region, though in the end it was the spectacular initial success of Abdel Krim s military ventures, and not the republic s economic shortcomings that proved to be the downfall of the independent Rif. Rifi attempts to destabilise the French-controlled areas to the south after defeating the Spanish succeeded in uniting the two European nations against them, and the Republic of the Rif eventually succumbed to the resulting two-front military campaign involving 250,000 troops on 27 May, 1926.

Abdel Krim went into exile on the French island of Réunion, and in 1947 was permitted to live in France, but en route was granted political asylum in Egypt. He died in Cairo on February 6, 1963.

Banknotes of the Rif:

The banknotes of the Republic of the Rif were produced by Captain Charles Gardiner, an English arms smuggler who was also involved in a syndicate that secured a number of commercial concessions from Abdel Krim s government in June 1923 – including one to establish a central bank. It has been suggested that the production of these banknotes was a scam designed to do no more than line Gardiner s pockets, by convincing the Rifi to part with the Spanish and French hard currency that was at that time in circulation, in exchange for his own worthless notes; like most allegations surrounding the background to this issue however it remains impossible to prove.

It is not known where the two single-face notes were produced, nor in fact whether the 10 October 1923 was their intended issue date, or simply the date of Abdel Krim s agreement with Gardiner s syndicate. What is clear is that whoever designed them had little understanding of the cultural background of the nation they were intended to circulate within; the Rifi were for the most part familiar with the Arabic and Spanish languages, and with the Spanish (and to a lesser extent French) currency systems – however Gardiner s notes make prominent use of the English language and currency – neither of which would have meant anything in to the population of the Rif. To add to this insult the English spelling of “Riff” is very prominently incorrect.

Given these facts it is hardly surprising that Gardiner s 1 and 5 Riffan notes were never circulated – although they most certainly were delivered to the Rif – and they remain, like the revolt that gave rise to them, an increasingly elusive historical oddity.

Source: Imperial-collection.net

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