Mohamed Chtatou
Last updated: 30 June, 2014

“He preaches one thing while living a lavish life in the West”

Dissidence, the Moroccan way

The long history of the monarchy of Morocco is strife with princes who plotted to dethrone the ruling monarch and take his place. Indeed, many of these entered into open rebellion and gathered a group of ulemas, who, in exchange for some privileges, declared the prince as the legitimate monarch of the country. There were several instances where Morocco had more than one sultan at the same time, before the opponents squared him off in the battlefield.

Until the arrival of the French protectorate in 1912, Siba (“dissidence”) was a congenital feature of the Moroccan political system. There was the siba of the princes who aspired to become sultan in the place of the legitimate sultan and who led the country into bloody wars that created instability and affected negatively the lives of the population. And there was tribal siba which recognized the political and religious attributes of the monarch but refused to pay him taxes. As such, his name was mentioned in the Friday prayer khutba as the rightful “Commander of the Faithful” amir al-mou’minin, his governors were welcomed and tolerated but had no right, whatsoever, to collect tax money or impose new duties.

“Amazigh territory was most of the time in dissidence”

Until 1912, Morocco was divided into two areas:  bled siba “land of dissidence” and bled l-Makhzen “land under government control”. Moroccan sultans, during the whole of their reign, had to face bouts of dissidence from their own family ranks or from Amazigh tribes. Indeed, Amazigh territory was most of the time in dissidence for two main reasons: firstly they abhorred being under control of central governments whatever they are, and secondly, they resented the idea of paying taxes to the state that is not receptive to their needs and demands, and practically did nothing for their wellbeing.


The self-banished prince

Since his self-banishment and his open criticism of his cousin Mohammed VI, Moulay Hicham, who is super media-hungry, helped circulate so many titles to describe his person and his political actions, mainly the Red Prince, the Rebel Prince and lately the Banished Prince.

Who is Moulay Hicham? That is the question that many people are, quite rightly, asking today. Many Moroccans, especially among the young, have no clue who this person might be, since he has been living in self-exile for almost two decades.

Moulay Hicham was born in Rabat on October 4, 1964 to the Prince Moulay Abdellah from his wife Lamia Solh, daughter of the first Prime Minister Riad Solh of Lebanon. He is the direct cousin of Mohammed VI and Moulay Rachid. He is also the cousin of Prince Al-Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, whose mother Mona Al Solh is another daughter of the famous Lebanese politician.

“He is also the cousin of Prince Al-Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia”

He attended the Rabat American School and graduated from Princeton University in 1985. He later attended Stanford University for graduate study in political science. In 2002, Prince Moulay Hicham relocated to Princeton, New Jersey with his family.

Since the arrival of his cousin Mohammed VII to the Alouite throne in 1999 by legitimate succession, Moulay Hicham has been openly critical of the monarchy and its traditional political structure known as makhzen. The prince advocates full democracy in Morocco since 1999, and in the Arab world since the advent of the Arab uprisings.

For many of his critics, he is an opportunist prince who is expert in manipulating the Western press by playing on the concepts dear to this part of the world, mainly: democracy, devolution of power and human rights, but beyond talk he does nothing to make the change happen, even starting with his own person and way of life: he preaches one thing while living a lavish life in the West far away from the daily grievances of the masses in Morocco with poverty, illiteracy and lack of opportunity.


The image of the self-banished prince in Morocco

One wonders why the prince is failing miserably in his recurrent attempts to create havoc within the Moroccan political scene. Worse, his repeated attacks strengthen more and more the monarchy and the sympathy of the Moroccan people for it, even in its makhzen format.

The answer, to this seemingly difficult riddle, is simple: you cannot gain the sympathy of the Moroccans by political salon talk at distance, and attempt to initiate change by remote control. The prince has left Morocco and its problems a long time ago to live in the luxuries and amenities that a country like America offers, so how can he  know in depth the immediate concerns of Moroccans and how can he identify with them and their urgent needs? The answer is so simple, he does not know their daily pains and struggles and consequently he cannot provide real relief for their headaches.

For the majority of Moroccans, the prince’s discourse is hypocritical for the following reasons:

1. He wants to have his cake and eat it too:

The Moroccans do not trust him or believe his preaching because while he is criticizing the actual political system in its makhzen form directly, and the rule of his cousin indirectly, he unabashedly continues to enjoy the privileges of the system fully. He has plenty of business in Morocco and it is believed that he employs lots of people at ridiculously low wages. So he is using his prince status to make maximum benefit. Moroccans will believe in him if he gives up his privileges of prince hood once and for all and becomes a simple citizen.

2. The prince is filthy rich and Moroccans are damn poor:

The Moroccans want him to give to the state most of his businesses here and repatriate his wealth sitting in foreign banks and give it to the treasury because most of this wealth originated in this country in the first place and should be refunded back fully.

3. Prince talks in the name of Moroccans:

The prince always talks about the plight of the Moroccan people, but all he knows about their plight is what his retinue of bourgeois Moroccan intellectuals tell him. He has never been anywhere close to the poor and struggling Moroccans. So, how can he talk in their name?

4. The prince says one thing and does another:

He wants to save the Moroccans from the claws of the makhzen and the exploitation to which they are subjected by its economic correlate and instead of investing his wealth in the country to create jobs for the unemployed, he prefers to use his money elsewhere and as a result he has no credibility whatsoever among the rank and file.

For all these reasons – and more – the Moroccan people think the preaching of the prince is nothing but hot air and that all he has in mind is a strong resolve to take personal revenge on his cousin and become Caliph in the place of the Caliph.moroccoprince2.jpg
Iznogoud plotting to inflict harm on the Caliph