News / Africa

Moroccan King’s Speech Long on Reform Promises, Short on Details?

In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco's King Mohamed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left ,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right , listens to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation, March, 9, 2011, at the
In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Morocco's King Mohamed VI flanked by his son Moulay El Hassan, left ,and his Brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right , listens to the national anthem after he delivered a speech to the nation, March, 9, 2011, at the

King Mohamed VI has sometimes been called “the King of the Poor” for the reforms he has instituted in that country since inheriting the throne from his father, King Hassan II,  in 1999.  He instituted wider media freedoms and allowed media to report on corruption; he released political prisoners and amended the country’s penal code to ban torture; he acknowledged the government’s responsibility for thousands of so-called disappearances and other past human rights abuses; and he compensated victims and their relatives.    

However, these gestures were not enough to guarantee Morocco’s immunity to the wave of discontent that has swept through North Africa since the beginning of the year.  Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, Moroccan youth began February 20 to stage street protests of their own.  

There is an important difference, however, between the uprising in Morocco and those in neighboring countries. Tunisians and Egyptians were calling for their leaders to step down.  Moroccan activists are calling for reform within the monarchy:  they want greater personal and civil freedoms;  they are advocating independent judicial and legislative branches;  they want something to be done about poverty which is most acute among rural populations.  And activists are insisting on an end to the nepotism and political corruption said to exist in the Crown’s own inner circle. 

Promises

In a speech televised on March 9, King Mohamed appeared to have listened to their demands. He announced he had appointed a committee of legal experts, charged with drafting draft amendments to the constitution. These, he said, would be put to a referendum in June.  He promised that the Prime Minister will in the future be elected, not appointed. 

He also promised to reinforce systems for, as he put it, “boosting moral integrity in public life". It was a clear allusion to corruption scandals that have peppered the press and were further underscored during the WikiLeaks scandal.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 23, 2011, during her meeting with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington, March 23, 2011, during her meeting with Morocco's Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri

Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri was in Washington this week, reinforcing his country’s commitment to democracy. Responding to complaints that activists would not be included in the process of rewriting the constitution, he said that Morocco would take an inclusive approach to reform. 

“Everyone is invited to contribute,” he said. “The large majority of the main political parties participate and trade unions and many NGOs, including youth.  And then because his Majesty fixed the bar high, in terms of reforms, I am sure that there will be a large, large enthusiasm and a large majority of people will vote in favor of this reform.”

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last December cast accused the King and his inner circle of coercing and soliciting bribes in the country’s real estate sector.

Moroccan police officers arrest a demonstrator during a protest against government policy in Casablanca, March 13, 2011
Moroccan police officers arrest a demonstrator during a protest against government policy in Casablanca, March 13, 2011

Activists have since demanded that the King take action against cronies who have abused their positions. When asked whether such investigations might be forthcoming, Fassi Fehri responded simply, “No, no.”

He then added, “Morocco put its fingers on corruption, on justice reforms, on transparency many years ago.  And we work hard in respect of our law to go forward in this specific area.” 

Freedom, transparency

The Minister said that in the next month, many of the new reforms will be institutionalized and he stressed his personal commitment to transparency and freedom of competition among companies. 

However, some democracy advocates remain skeptical that the King will institute any substantial reforms, complaining that while the monarch was long on promises, he was a little short on details.   

Abdoubakr Jamai  is the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Journal Hebdomadaire, one of Morocco’s most independent newspapers, it folded last year due to what at least one rights group termed financial stress and political pressure.   

“The speech remains ambiguous to many Democrats,” Jamai said, “because he [King Mohamed] claims that Morocco will usher in an era of democratization with the institution of a constitutional monarchy, with a Prime minister who will be designated from the winning party in parliamentary elections, with separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, et cetera.  The problem with all these things is that we were supposed to have them before.”

Jamai said that he did not believe the address was the speech of an institution happy to see democratization take hold; rather, it was the speech of an institution had lost some credibility and was being cornered into giving up some of its privileges.  

Democracy activists may be in the minority in Morocco, he added, but they are well organized and have many reasons to continue demonstrating.  “Because this minority is extremely committed, because Morocco is not a democracy, because there is such corruption, because there is such poverty in Morocco, because there is such social inequality and inequity in general, this minority in my opinion can only swell.  I don’t see it shrink[ing].”

If the Monarchy doesn’t consider more serious democratization soon, Jami warns, it could one day end up fighting for its very survival.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Gun Nation

This is who America's gun owners are More

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs