In a newly published article in the Hill, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch and Ahmed Benchemsi, Communications Director for the MENA region at the same NGO, demand the boycott of Morocco.
The article begins with a narrow-lipped summary on Morocco’s political achievements which they felt obliged to list, before dedicating the next ¾ of the publication to a drastic evaluation of the situation in the country, based on allegations and individual cases, and calling to The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. foreign aid agency that granted Morocco $697 million over the past five years and whose approved a second package of nearly $450 million in mid-September, to stop supporting the country.
The article presents a few grave issues that I would try to enumerate.
1. The description of Morocco’s achievement is overhasty, incomplete and does not take into account key elements.
One of them is that Morocco, while pushing through important political and juridical reforms, launches in the same time a range of infrastructure projects that have changed the face of the country and offer citizen access to urban services.
These projects are mostly dedicated to sensitive areas like the Rif region that had been at the margin of any attention before the last 15-20 years, and have substantially improved the living conditions of the people and stopped their disconnection from the rest of the country.
It does not take into account either programmes that the World Community has hailed such as Morocco’s progress on agriculture and food security, or the country’s evolvement to one of the biggest actors of renewable energy world-wide. Both are example of programmes that provide not only jobs but also safety and improvement in life quality for the present and future.
These are also human rights. Running this while other Arab countries are under war and uncertainty is impressive and does not deserve to be ignored.
2. The article criticises the fact that the King still holds all powers in his hands which is not factual.
While the King plays the role of the highest State representative he openly and realistically respects the results of the elections and symbolically confirms the winner of those elections as President of the Government, letting him of course build their team for their government.
The article omits that it was the King who not only pushed to reform the constitution during the so-called Arab Spring, saving his people from war and chaos, but also stood behind all reforms of the law on elections and political parties. These reforms played a major role in running proper elections, a key for political stability.
Finally, the article omits to mention that the situation in the Arab countries show the fact to weaken the state executives comes along with weakening the security services which leads to civil war like in Syria and Libya, or to a situation of permanent tension, insecurity and vulnerability like in Tunisia and Egypt. The last terror attacks in the latter countries have led to massive employment and disinvestment in their economy.
Morocco is stable because of its approach of dual power which offers a true opportunity to diminish the Monarchic involvement when the executive power increases.
3. The above are example only, the list can be extended. On the background of the substantial political, social and economic achievements the allegations listed look overstretched by the two authors to create an opportunity for severe criticism.
First, most of what they list is allegations only, as they partly admit. Several cases have shown that people denunciate the police and the State wrongly because they can hope of the backing of human rights organisations. Other cases show that militants of minority extremist groups outrage and provoke security forces in demonstration because it is more beneficial to publish photos of beaten people in the street rather than 15 people standing around for a demonstration.
Second they are individual cases that cannot be taken for a systematic generalised practice.
Third, the Moroccan State has already expressed its regrets, and while acknowledging that it will do efforts to improve the situation it also explained that the practice of violence by the police is also inherited from the past, and that it takes time to retrain security services, run awareness and change minds.
If this standard is used for Western democracies probably more than half of them will no longer be seen as democratic free countries. The images of police violence against minorities or demonstrators from Spain, the USA, France, Germany, Canada and others, let alone the Latin American countries show that even for those States it is impossible to abolish police violence.
Mr Obama, president of the USA, would wish to no longer white policeman shooting innocent black young people, he can’t do much about it. And this does not make the USA a less democratic country.
Fourth, the direction in which things are developing is important. Everyone observing reality in Morocco would witness that things improve.
HRW’s allegations – as those of any other NGO - must be taken seriously, discussed and looked at carefully. However they are far from being a ground to any criticism of this kind.
The Millennium Challenge has been very successful in Morocco; this was the main reason for the programme to grant the second part to the country. To call the foundation to boycott Morocco is to call to prevent millions of Moroccans from the benefits of such a programme.
This is extremely violent and unjust as it targets the people and the vulnerable.
As Moroccan officials repeatedly stated criticism is welcome and helps the country to develop. So why are HRW using tanks to shoot sparrows? Why this extreme, radical and unbalanced view?
The answer might not be surprising though.
One of the co-authors, Mr Benchemsi is known for his tight relationship with Prince Hicham who is a cousin of King Mohamed VI and a member of the advisory board for the Middle-Est North-Africa region at HRW.
Prince Hicham is known as a fierce opponent to King Mohammed. He already published several articles and a book in which he criticises the Moroccan Monarchic system. Prince Hicham has already declared that he has political ambitions. Moroccans criticise him for wanting to be king at the place of the King.
Prince Hicham also maintains good relationships with other Moroccan radical opponents and journalists, he allegedly supports them financially and otherwise, one of them is the co-author Ahmed Benchemsi who followed him to the University of Standford in the USA before being appointed next to him in HRW.
Major world-wide NGOs enjoy a high credibility in the world and credibility is their most important asset. To remain credible NGOs must be neutral, independent and objective in their activity and in their reports. When an NGO however hires opponents of a country to work on that same country, it starts playing the role of political opposition in that country, and its credibility is urgently questioned. Like this article shows, facts are biased and the demand of boycott is overstretched because Prince Hicham and Ahmed Benchemsi are political opponents and political opponents have political goals and cannot be objective.
In general, for countries that are in change and transition such as Morocco it is extremely hard to find citizens who would provide an objective and balanced view. It is imperative for HRW to correct this, and to hire different people for the MENA region, making sure that they do not have any political interests in the country or region, and that they have enough distance and own much methodological expertise to deal with the country in a fair, unbiased and constructive way.
Mr. Salah Bourezza