Morocco: #Feb20 campaign

The video above is part of a viral campaign to encourage people to protest in Morocco on February 20. The call to protest was initially put out by the center-left PSU party, but it is also backed by civil society movements. Many are skeptical that this movement will end up very far: unlike Egypt or Tunisia, Morocco has not been ruled by the same man for over two decades (Muhammad VI became king in 1999). 

But there are similarities with these countries: over the last five years or so, Morocco has regressed after initially showing promise. Freedom of expression is at the lowest since the late 1990s, with independent voices shut out by campaigns of intimidation and libel lawsuits. Political life has been hijacked by a party run by the king's closest friend. Economic life is being suffocated by the palace, with the king's economic interests now harming entrepreneurship with its anti-competitive measures. There is also still no new constitution making Morocco into a real constitutional monarchy, with Muhammad VI effectively an absolute ruler. The Makhzen — the state and business elite that runs the country — acts with ever more impunity. Rule of law suffers, notably because people close to the royal family can get away with anything — including, a few years ago, shooting a police officer.  

Moroccans deserve better. We need rule of law and a monarchy that respects citizenship and political life. We need to reduce the Makhzen's micro-management of politics and its encouragement of tribalism and feudalism. The Sidi Ifni uprising of 2008 and Agdaym Izik protest of 2010 showed there is a lot of underlying tension caused not just by poverty but because of corrupt management of the country, notably by the palace and its walis (governors). This is why you need accountable government: not because it will make Moroccans richer overnight, but because you need an interface between people and government that is accountable.

Already a campaign of accusations against this movement has started in Morocco, with these people being branded as "Islamo-leftists," "nihilists" and the other buzzwords favored by the ridiculous Ministry of Communications. Moroccans at home and abroad are getting tired of this bullshit, empty promises, and a king who is not the "executive monarch" he claims to be (if so, he should be taking responsibility for the people he surrounds himself with and spend a lot less time on leisure trips abroad) and who has done nothing to give Moroccans a dignified relationship to the state in the 21st century. Morocco's government has had a chance to initiate more profound reforms in the past decade and failed to seize it. Intimidation continues and torture has been making a comeback. It's about time it got a little push in the right direction.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.