Mohamed Loulichki’s interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Moroccans, unaccustomed to see their diplomats interviewed on American television, are split on their diplomat’s “quality of performance” during the CNN interview. As a former NGO spokesperson who was interviewed on National Networks, I know it is a hard task to defend a specific political agenda when grilled by a journalist of the caliber of Amanpour. Yet, Mr. Loulichki, a veteran diplomat, looked out of place and unprepared.
The hardened interviewer Amanpour was in control of the interview and the message, while the Moroccan diplomat stayed on the defensive. Christiane Amanpour invited the Moroccan diplomat to discuss Javier Bardem’ documentary on Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria, and to answer charges made against Morocco in the Spanish actor’s movie. Bardem, who spoke earlier to Amanpour about his project, did not address the political aspect of the so-called “Western Sahara” conflict; he rather presented this “war” as a humanitarian cause that needs an outside intervention.
The CNN veteran journalist interviewed Bardem as a Hollywood star but turned her “journalistic horns” on Loulichki who was far from shrewd in his responses. After all, Ms. Amanpour, who presented Bardem as a warrior for freedom and righteousness, should have asked the Spanish actor about his work, if any, on behalf of the hundreds of Spain’s lost children kidnapped during the Franco era. As a human right militant, Bardem ought to seek justice, first, for the thousands of his compatriots who are still unaccounted for, presumed killed by the Franconien forces and buried in secret common graves during Spain’s civil war.
By accepting CNN’s invitation, Mr. Loulichki’s should have used the occasion to present Morocco’s stand on the hot diplomatic subjects of the day and not necessarily answer Bardem’s accusations. It is common for politicians to get on television not to answer questions posed to them but rather promote their agenda. In staying within the perimeter of the interviewers questions, Morocco’s UN ambassador missed the opportunity to present the true picture of the Western Sahara as a Moroccan-Algerian conflict over supremacy in North Africa.
When asked about the U.N. referendum on the future of the Western Sahara, Mr. Loulichki should have used an example to project Morocco’s position. As he stated, the referendum is not an issue of contention, the outstanding matter remains the makeup of the electoral body. In fact, if Spain agrees to let the Catalans hold a referendum, would a “Spanish” of Catalan descent who is born in Malaga be eligible to vote on the independence of Catalonia?
Mr. Loulichki failure during the interview to stress the regional nature of the Western Sahara conflict remains the most exasperating aspect of the Moroccan’s diplomat performance. The Polisario was created by Algeria and Libya, armed by the communist bloc during the cold war and is supported today by the enemies of the United State. Why Did Mr. Loulichki avoid talking about Algeria’s role in prolonging this conflict and the lack of access to the civilians in the Tindouf Camps?
Mr. Loulichki failure to clearly articulate abuses in the Tindouf camps, including the Polisario’s crackdown on the rights of Sahrawis to enjoy the freedoms of assembly, movement and speech, is frustrating.
When asked about human rights in the Moroccan Sahara, Mr. Loulichki should have invited Mr. Amanpour to visit Laayoune and Tindouf to investigate the situation on the ground. The Moroccan diplomat was asked enough open ended questions to turn the debate into a summary of the regional and international geopolitical state of affairs and avoid the trap of singling out of the so-called Western Sahara as a standalone conflict.