Rif Republic
Tagduda n Arif (Berber)
جمهورية الريف (Arabic)
República del Rif (Spanish)
Timeline: Twilight of a New Era

OTL equivalent: Rif Republic (1921-1926)
Flag of the Republic of the Rif Coat of Arms Rif Republic (TNE)
Rif Republic (TNE)
(and largest city)
Tétouan (Tetuán)
Other cities Alhucemas (former Villa Sanjurjo), Nador, Kebdana, Berkane, Taza and Axdir
Arabic and Spanish
  others Berber and Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino)
  others Catholicism and Judaism
Ethnic Groups
Berber (Riffian)
  others European, Arab and Jew
Demonym Riffian (rifeño)
Government Unitarian parliamentary republic
Prime Minister
Area 20,948 km²
Independence from Spain
  declared 1931
  recognized 1932
Currency Riffian rial
Organizations League of Nations (since 1933) and Iberian Republican Federation (Associated member since 1945)

The Republic of the Rif (Berber: Tagduda n Arif, Arabic: جمهورية الريف‎) borders on the north the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (who did not belong to the territory of the Protectorate as they were Spanish territory) and the international condominium of Tangier, both south and east is bordered with the Kingdom of Morocco (former French Protectorate of Morocco).

The Republic of the Rif was proclaimed in September 1931, when the people of the Rif (Riffians) in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco after a long armed rebellion (1920-1931) were granted their independence by Spain, as well as from the Moroccan Sultan.

Although formally independent, the Rif Republic is by all means a satellite state of Spain due to its trade and commercial relationship. Spain also a signed a treaty of Defense and as installed naval and military bases.

Spanish Protectorate of Morocco

After the Algeciras Conference of 1906 and Treaty of Fez (1912) Spain and France assumed the role of protecting powers of Morocco dividing the northern (Spain) and southern (France) Saharan zones.

In February 1913, began the formal occupation of territory, with the peaceful occupation of Tetuan by General Alfau Spanish Felipe Mendoza. Then came the first khalifa or representative of the Sultan of Morocco Mehedi Ould Mohammed Ben Moulay Ismael, replaced by his son Moulay El Hassan Ben El Mehdi in 1923.

The resistance of the Moroccan occupation had made to send re-inforcements in 1913 that totaled 50,000 Spanish soldiers. However, the outbreak of the First World War had Spain ceased to occupy territories, to avoid a war with other European powers.

The Rif War or Rebellion (1920-1930)

It seemed that lasting peace would come to the Protectorate, especially with the expedition of General Silvestre into the Rif, reaching Annual. But the events development quite differently, because a large number of Rif tribes were not abiding the Spanish authorities, quite the opposite: Under the leadership of Abd el-Krim, a Kazi rifeño educated in Spain, they went on the attack and destroyed the Spanish defensive lines, causing a stampede among the inexperienced Spanish soldiers. Within days, the entire Eastern Morocco Spanish Army was annihilated and Melilla was under siege by the armies Rif. Abd el-Krim took the consequences of its huge success and created an independent republic in the Western style and very modern for the time, the Republic of the Rif.

After the disaster of Annual (July 1921) to the Kabyle of Abd el-Krim, in mainland Spain opened the way to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. It would, however, the dictator who in 1925 organized the Alhucemas landing with French aid would mean the end of the wars in Morocco and the beginning of lasting peace in the area and administrative coordination. However, a long guerrilla warfare characterized by isolated and fast raids on Spanish colonists and army outposts made it impossible outside major urban centers to have control of the Spanish Sahara. In 1927 a new Spanish offensive was started, but became a protracted conflict that would cost many lives and one of the sources of criticism against Primo de Rivera.

During the Rif War (specifically, between 1923 to 1927), combined Franco-Spanish forces dropped mustard gas bombs on Berber rebels. Some 100,000 soldiers and 325,000 French Spanish ended up being required to complete control of the territory, until almost complete pacification in 1927.

In 1931, the newly proclaimed Spanish Republic declared the cease of military operations in the Rif, and started a diplomatic approach to end the war. Negotiations were held in London under auspices of the British Government. Finally in 1932 a Peace and Friendship Treaty was agreed between the two parts. The Treaty left intact the status of the Tangier International Zone and keep the border with French Morocco. Spain gave total independence to the Rif Republic and denounced all Treaties that established the Protectorate.

France was reluctant to recognize an independent North Morocco, however the prospect of having long guerrilla warfare prevailed on recognizing the Rif Republic and establishing its neutrality in the internal affairs of French Morocco. Also anti monarchism and its possible spread to the French zone worried the Yusef of Morocco who by no means was friendly to the political stance of the Riffians.

In 1931, French Morocco would be give a greater degree of autonomy and finally independence in 1938 becoming the Kingdom of Morocco.

The Treaties of Tétouan established an economic partnership and union, military assistance and cultural exchange with the Iberian Republican Federation.

Government Pre-independence

Flag of Spanish Morocco

Flag of Spanish Protectorate of Morocco (1913-1931)

Before independence of the RIf the administrative system of the Protectorate was derived from the concept of there being a formal dual authorities. In one hand, the Moroccan administration, the head of which was the khalifa, that exercised, by delegation of the Sultan, all its powers, mainly the legislative,by the Dahir (decree). It was also the highest religious authority. This government led by the Khalifa received the name of Majzén and was divided into departments (akin to ministries), coordinated by the Grand Vizier. The ministers were the qadi al-qudat (chief judge or judge), the Vizier of Habus (inalienable property whose incomes are allocated to pious or religious institutions), the al-amlak amin and amin al-Umana (Minister of Finance). He had an advisory board consisting of two representatives from each of the five regions. The khalifa was appointed by the Sultan of list given by the Spanish government.

The Spanish administration was headed by a High Commissioner, formally accredited by the khalifa, representing the sultan, but in fact the highest authority in the Protectorate. The High Commissioner political action led the Protectorate, and from it emanated the orders and instructions. The High Commissioner was assisted by various departments (Indigenous Affairs, Development and Finances). There was a territorial auditor in each of the regions represented directly to the Delegation of Indigenous Affairs. Subordinate to him were county auditors and, finally, local auditors.

Maintenance of order was in charge of the Regulars (Spanish military forces to "indigenous" Rif) and the Indian Police. On the military side, the High Commissioner was assisted by three commanders based in Ceuta, Melilla and Larache.

Government after independence

Beginning the RIF war a provisional assembly of tribes and government was established. After the ratification of the Peace and Friendship Treaty elections were called for a constituent assembly to write and vote a constitution for Rif Republic. In 1932 the assembly approved a republican constitution.

According to the constitution the republic is a free and sovereign military and political association of tribes living in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco. The Rif Republic adheres to Arab nationalism with the stated aim of "raising the level of the Arab nation to the level of modern nations", and fraternal relationships with other Arab states. The constitution establishes freedom of speech and freedom of association, extended suffrage to women, allows divorce and abolishes polygamy. All citizens 21 years of age and older have political rights and duties.

The official religion is Islam and Sharia is only applied in personal status issues (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody) and according to the law and decisions of the courts of justice. The duties of Office of Religious Affairs are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places. Informally the government promotes ijtihad (independent interpretation). The public and private observance and practice of Catholicism and Judaism is guaranteed.

The supreme legislative and executive powers are exercised by the National Assembly, elected every four years. The assembly elects a President for a five year term. The Council of Minister is chaired by the Prime Minister, named by the President on proposal of the National Assembly. The ministers of the Council are appointed by the President on proposal of the Prime Minister.

Along the National Assembly, a council for Tribal Affairs exists has an advisory body. Its members are named by the tribes of the Kabylia and the President of the Republic.

The Judiciary is in charge of the Supreme Court, Provincial Courts and local courts.


Regions of Rif

The Rif is organized in five regions under the rule of a governor appointed by the President. The local administrative unit is the Kabylia (Cabila). It is the territory of tribe headed by a kaid (caíd) and an elected community council (jamaah). The kaids are subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Council for Tribal Affairs. Local government is in charge of municipalities. Each municipality is a corporation with independent legal personality (municipal council). The municipal council is composed of the mayor, the deputy mayors and the plenary assembly of councilors.


The Republican Independence Party is the dominant political party. While it was founded with socialist leanings and a radical revolutionary bent, it has since become the party of the ruling elite. It has embraced liberal economic policies, while maintaining populist rhetoric. The party is still quite popular among Riffians, but remains in power more due to its stranglehold on the levers of government than due to its popularity.

The opposition is formed by the Democratic Independence Party (a right wing party), Riffian Communist Party and Worker-Peasant Party (Partido Obrero Campesino, center left reformist party). All three party have strongholds in the coastal cities and large cities of the more populous Kabylias.

In the late 1930s Spanish and Portuguese immigrants and local residents  founded the Iberian Citizens Union (Unión de Ciudadanos Ibéricos) to pressure and lobby for political participation at local level.


The Riffian economy is mainly agricultural, its most important crops are barley, wheat, rye, grapes, almonds, and olives. In the highland the main source of exploitation is animal husbandry that provides meat, milk, and skin of cattle, goats, and sheep.

Massive deforestation due to overgrazing, forest fires, and forest clearing for agriculture, particularly for the creation of cannabis plantations, has taken place over the last century. This deforestation has led to soil degradation due to the washing away of topsoil, which has aggravated the process.

The main activity, iron mining, is exploited by the Compañía Española de Minas del Rif S.A. (CEMR).

Transport is carried out by ferries and small and medium sized shipping lines. The Compañía Transatlántica Española (CTE), also known as Spanish Line is the main operator of the Transatlantic and Mediterranean route.

Education and culture

Public education is free for male and female citizen children through the university level. All schools are government-run and nonsectarian, although there is mandatory religious instruction, provided in Islam and/or Christianity and Judaism.

Public and private International schools (primary and secondary education) for Spanish speakers are established and under joint supervision of the educational authorities of Spain and Riff by means of a treaty.

The fight of illiteracy is one of the most important campaigns of the educational authorities.

Armed forces

The Spain-Rif Mutual Defence and Help Treaty, gives access to the naval bases in Larache and Alhucemas, and the deployment in Rif territory of the Spanish Foreign Legion, that assist the local gendarmerie. The Treaty also provides for assistance and training from the Spanish Armed Forces. The Treaty provides protection against an attack by an external enemy (i.e. Morocco) and non intervention in local affairs.

The armed forces of the Rif Republic, are divided in three services:

  • Army of the Rif
  • Air Force of the Rif
  • Naval Service of the Rif

Law enforcement is in charge of the National Republican Corps of the Rif, organized as gendarmerie, except in large cities that are under charge of the National Police and Assault Guard Corps.

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