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Hassan II (1929–1999) - PERSONAL HISTORY, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, The Crown Prince, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, Movement toward Reform, CONTEMPORARIES

morocco monarch king oufkir

King Hassan II, known as Moulay Hassan bin Muhammad Al Alawi before he became ruler, was king of Morocco from 1961 to 1999.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Hassan II was born in Rabat, Morocco, on 9 July 1929. The eldest son of Sultan Muhammad V and Lalla Abla, he was named after his illustrious great-grandfather, Hassan I (r. 1873–1894). The Alawi family claims descent from the prophet Muhammad. Hassan was educated at the Royal College and Institute of Law, where he earned a first (bachelor’s) degree in 1951. A year later, the young attorney received a diplôme de droit civil from the Université de Bordeaux in France. The future monarch was ably coached and entrusted with immense responsibilities before he acceded to the throne in 1961. He also served in various French military units when Morocco was a French Protectorate until 1946. Exiled to Corsica and Madagascar with his father between 1953 and 1956, the future monarch shouldered some of the burden of rule immediately after independence in 1956. Between 1956 and 1961, he was commander-in-chief of the Royal Army, vice president of the Council of Ministers (1957–1961), minister of defense (1960–1961), and prime minister (1961–1964 and 1965–1967).

Hassan II succeeded his father, known after independence as King Muhammad V, in February 1961. Throughout his rule, he preserved Morocco’s traditions, as the modernizing country freed itself from French colonial control. Simultaneously, the king projected a conciliatory posture, believing that his country was a natural bridge between the Western world and Muslim civilization. Still, he always protected his country’s interests, and toward that end did not shrink from acquiring disputed territory by force. Said to have a baraka (blessing), Hassan survived several assassination attempts and weathered periodic internal uprisings. To address some of his people’s grievances, he ushered in the creation of a distinctive parliamentary system, although he retained all effective power. Despite his undeniable posture as a strongman, Hassan was popular, as he projected a rare sense of duty and loyalty, best exemplified through masterful oratory skills. His reign of thirty-eight years ended with his death in Rabat on 23 July 1999, as Morocco and the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds entered a period of profound transformations.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Much like their ancestors, contemporary Moroccan kings claim the title emir al-mu’minin , commander of the faithful, traditionally the title of Muslim caliphs. Hassan II made a particular effort to portray himself as a charismatic religious figure, drawing on the customary North African veneration for holy men. Although a highly Europeanized individual with near-native command of the French language, the monarch was often shown in official portraits in conventional Moroccan dress, or clothed as a pilgrim in Mecca, to earn legitimacy and promote the myth that he was the “king of the poor.” For all his piety, the ruler and his entourage allegedly owned about a fifth of the country’s land, and Morocco’s rich phosphate mines were a royal monopoly as well. Undoubtedly, the monarch enjoyed absolute power. Nevertheless, his greatest accomplishment was to usher in a system of government that allowed his successor to rule with dynastic, religious, and nationalist backing.

Hassan’s father, Muhammad V, who was born in 1910, succeeded his father Moulay Youssef as sultan in 1927 and distinguished himself a devout nationalist. Before World War II, he alternatively supported France and plotted against the occupier with ardent nationalist elements. Not surprisingly, his loyalty toward Paris was lukewarm at best and, in 1953, the French opted to depose and exile him to Madagascar from where he was flown to southern France. Faced with growing unrest throughout their Moroccan colony, however, French authorities assiduously concluded that the exiled monarch was their best bet to restore a semblance of order and, toward that end, negotiated his return to power—albeit under French tutelage—in 1955. In return for working with France, Muhammad was promised that Morocco would soon be allowed its independence. Mired in the Algerian debacle, France accepted these conditions, and flew Muhammad and his family into Casablanca on 16 November 1955. This victory weakened the monarch’s domestic rivals and most capitulated. His aide-de-camp and potential competitor, Muhammad Oufkir, was the only figure of any significance with political aspirations of his own, and he would eventually play a critical role in Moroccan history. The mild antagonism between Oufkir and his ruler between 1956 and 1961 symbolized the split between the royalist and the civilian varieties of Moroccan nationalism; nevertheless, in 1955, Oufkir abided by his bay’a (oath of allegiance) and welcomed the monarch with open arms at a time when all political leaders rallied behind the triumphant sultan. When Morocco became an independent state on 11 February 1956, even the secular Istiqlal (Independence) Party became monarchist, though the adulation would not last because, as secularists, they opposed the monarch’s claim to divine authority as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

The Crown Prince

Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, who witnessed these colonial maneuvers, absorbed their political lessons. The monarchy soon faced severe economic problems as wealthy landowners claimed the need to hold on to capitalized agriculture. The king wanted to regulate agricultural production, especially by allocated prices, but some of these landowners refused to sell their products. The monarch obliged them by introducing regulations, sensing an opportunity to divide putative opponents. For their part, Istiqlal leaders championed the adoption of various projects to encourage freedom of market prices, while calling for minority voices to be heard. Not surprisingly, given the palace’s negative opinion of Istiqlal, the palace was not impressed, and when in 1958 a rebellion started among the landowners in the Rif (the mountainous region along the Mediterranean coast), it was Hassan who, as heir apparent, was entrusted with resolving the crisis. Hassan led the troops that crushed the Rif rebellion and undermined Istiqlal. The party splintered as the ruler seized the moment by playing one political group against another. Where the monarch miscalculated, however, was in his assessment of the rising influence of Arab nationalism that was then spreading from Cairo throughout the Arab world. With his father’s full consent, Hassan slowly donned the cloak of Arab nationalism, ostensibly to limit whatever damage might be caused by such sentiments among North Africans. He expanded the internal crisis over agriculture into a political dispute with Istiqlal, positioning himself as the only leader capable of looking after the Moroccan people. In 1959 Hassan negotiated the closure of U.S. military bases—from which Morocco was earning hefty revenues—although American troops were not fully withdrawn from the country until 1962. Hassan welcomed Washington’s financial assistance after the terrible 1960 earthquake in Agadir, while advocating transparency and accountability in the use of the funds. His father was so impressed with his performance that he sacked the cabinet and appointed Hassan as deputy premier and defense minister.

When Muhammad died in February 1961, Moulay Hassan acceded to the throne as Hassan II, having learned a lesson in governance from the legendary ambiguity, tact, and prudence with which his father had ruled. Morocco had a constitution, a parliament, and political parties, but in reality all were under palace control. The only political venue outside the ruling family’s full control was the religious community.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Moulay Hassan bin Muhammad Al Alawi (Hassan II)

Birth: 1929, Rabat, Morocco

Death: 1999, Rabat, Morocco

Family: Wife (first), Lalla Fatima; (second) Lalla Latifa; by Lalla Latifa, two sons, Muhammad [VI], Moulay Rashid; three daughters, Lalla Myriam, Lalla Asmah, Lalla Hasnah

Nationality: Moroccan

Education: First (bachelor’s) degree, Royal College and Institute of Law, Rabat, 1951; diplôme de droit civil , Université de Bordeaux, France, 1952

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1931: Appointed heir apparent
  • 1936: Appointed colonel in Sultan’s Guard
  • 1953–1955: Is exiled by France with his father to Madagascar; acts as sultan’s primary adviser
  • 1956–1961: General and commander-in-chief, Royal Army
  • 1956–1967: Vice president, Council of Ministers
  • 1960–1961: Minister of defense
  • 1961: Accedes as king on death of Muhammad V
  • 1961–1964, 1965–1967: Prime minister
  • 1969: Chairs first summit of Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) following burning of al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
  • 1971: Survives attempt on life
  • 1972: Survives another attempt on life; Chairs summit of Organization of African Unity (OAU)
  • 1973: Avenges third attempt on life
  • 1974: Chairs Arab League summit recognizing Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as sole and legitimate representative of Palestinian people
  • 1975: Initiates Green March into Western Sahara to claim territory for Morocco
  • 1976: Annexes northern third of Western Sahara to Morocco

As king, Hassan confronted a series of problems, including mild but growing opposition among Islamist forces. Morocco experienced mass demonstrations and street violence in January 1984 in connection to official proposals to raise the price of basic commodities, including food. The official explanations for the troubles emphasized the role of “agitators” of various kinds; nevertheless, King Hassan recognized the root cause of the disturbances and appeared on television on the evening of 22 January to announce that were would be no further increases in the price of basic goods. Although the Islamists’ influence reached a peak after the 1984 disturbances, the rise occurred because of deep economic and political straits, fueled by legendary neglect. At first, the emergence of Islamist elements in the educational and cultural sectors was encouraged by the regime, to undermine support for a more established opposition from the left. As an unintended consequence, however, Islamism spread from social organizations into the state’s security institutions, including the army, police, and customs forces. Even the trade union federation, a traditional stronghold of the government, recorded an increasing Islamist presence. What Islamist leaders planned was nothing short of a total remake of the relatively liberal Moroccan society. From 1975 to 1986, the leadership and organization of Islamist groups improved steadily, as they adopted a gradualist strategy to gain power.

The first Moroccan Islamist movement, the Harakat al-Shabiba al-Islamiyya (Movement of the Islamic Youth), was created in 1969. Its founder, education inspector Abdul Karim Muti, was influenced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Muti preached a moderate stance and was rewarded with full legalization in 1972, even if only as a social and cultural association. That privilege allowed the group to recruit and indoctrinate freely within the boundaries of religious proselytizing at various mosques throughout the country. Yet, as the movement grew in strength, Rabat applied a measure of repression, which (intentionally) provoked a division. In 1977 the Harakat reemerged as the Jama’a al-Islamiya (Islamic Community) and the Usrat al-Jama’a (Family Community), two rival organizations competing for public attention. To avoid Hassan’s repression, Abdul Ilah Benkirane, an educator who led the Jama’a al-Islamiya, adopted a truly moderate strategy while distancing the group from leftist pressures. In fact, the movement quickly changed its name to the Islah wa Tajdid (Reform and Renewal), to dissipate any suspicions among conservative as well as secular streams that dominated the establishment. Islah leaders recognized the legitimacy of the monarch, endorsed democracy and the principles of human rights, and dissociated themselves from the secularist assemblies that propelled Morocco on a heavy Westernization curve. Islah leaders were so confident of their initiatives that they created a pro-government section, which quickly transformed itself into the Party of Justice and Development (PJD).

Movement toward Reform

Morocco remained a relatively poor country under Hassan, though it enjoyed a parliamentary revival when the legislature was transformed into a bicameral body. The regime encouraged the formation of legal political parties without, as befit an absolute monarchy, sharing any aspect of the decision-making process. Still, constitutional reforms proved difficult, as the monarch cherished his ability to manipulate various political constituencies. In fact, the first moves for genuine reforms occurred after Hassan became prime minister in 1960.

A few days after his ascent to the premiership, Hassan oversaw the country’s first-ever local council elections. Istiqlal, the muzzled pro-government party, won 40 percent of available seats, while the Union National des Forces Populaires (UNFP), the opposition group led by Mehdi Ben Barka, netted another 25 percent. Since the UNFP was an offshoot of Istiqlal, and given that the regime seldom trusted its putative allies, the combined UNFP-Istiqlal presence in the 1960 parliament illustrated how strong nationalist parties actually were. Still, the mere fact that a division existed among them benefited the government. Muhammad V had been satisfied that cosmetic reforms altered little as he husbanded his slowly degrading power. There would be no elected parliament under his rule, and when he died in February 1961, it fell on his son to oversee a new constitutional draft that anticipated power-sharing with a duly elected legislative branch.

CONTEMPORARIES

Muhammad Oufkir (1920–1972) was a trusted ally who stood by Hassan II and repressed political protests through numerous clampdowns. Named interior minister in 1967, the general may have organized the 1971 failed military coup, although he claimed innocence at the time. Amazingly, Hassan II named him chief of staff and minister of defense, positions that made him the second most powerful man in Morocco. Within a year, he turned against his ruler, ordering an attack on the king. Hassan survived and ordered Oufkir’s execution. His entire family was placed under house arrest in difficult conditions and not released until 1991. Most fled to France, to tell their stories, most vividly recounted by his daughter Malika in the book Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail .

Few observers were optimistic that Hassan could rule Morocco over any length of time. The young monarch was not known for his political aptitude, as he preferred European jet-set playgrounds to the harsh environment of his country. The young monarch dutifully declared that he planned to pursue his father’s policies, while in reality he planned a complete break with the past. Still, because he lacked the popularity enjoyed by his father, Hassan quickly concluded that he needed to earn his legitimacy. Toward that end, and from his relatively stable military base—perhaps the only section of society where he was truly admired—Hassan affected a religious outlook, assiduously stressing his Alawi traditions. His regular Friday mosque attendance earned him a significant following, as did his keeping annual Ramadan customs.

The 18 November 1962 constitution specifically provided that the form of government in Morocco was a monarchy, under Alawi rule, with the king as both monarch and emir al-mu’minin . A multiparty parliamentary system was also implemented, a benefit to the monarch since such multiplicity ensured political fragmentation. Nevertheless, the process of ostensible democratization engaged Moroccans, who overwhelmingly approved the constitution in December 1962, even as opposition parties opted to boycott the referendum.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were demonstrations against the blatant manipulation of the process, and these turned violent; in March 1964 Morocco experienced major civil disturbances. Muhammad Oufkir, then head of internal security, deployed a wide dragnet. Abdul Rahman Youssouffi, Muhammad Basri (known as the “Faqih” [Learned One]), and Mehdi Ben Barka were arrested and either imprisoned or exiled. Hassan rewarded Oufkir by appointing him minister of the interior, and by June 1965 the monarch opted to prorogue parliament to rule by decree. Oufkir’s harsh treatment of students and demonstrating peasants fixed his image for millions who, a few years hence, were called to distance themselves from the “traitor.” Few shed any tears when Oufkir was ousted in 1971, having honed repression into an art form.

Repression and Its Consequences

Between 1965 and 1971, shantytowns grew around most Moroccan cities, where people lived at a level of bare survival. The government subsidized staple foods to avoid starvation as generous American aid kept the restless population in check. To be sure, economic stagnation had developed over several years. Despite key economic reforms, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) data indicated that Morocco recorded growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) of only 3.5 percent per year after the 1960s and until the 1990s, an insufficient growth rate to curb unemployment and poverty. Morocco relied heavily on agriculture—occupying 40 percent of the labor force that produced less that 15 percent of the GDP—that was at the mercy of unreliable rainfall. Hassan was aware of the severe political risks involved in political repression. At one point in 1965, he extended an offer to Ben Barka to return home and join the monarch in governing the country, but the latter never returned to his homeland. He disappeared in Paris on 29 October 1965. Rogue elements within the Moroccan government, probably under the direct control of Interior Minister Oufkir, were most likely responsible for the disappearance. That a prominent member of the Moroccan opposition simply disappeared in the French capital necessarily implied some complicity by local actors, although no formal ties were ever established. Still, in a 1967 trial, two French officers were convicted for their putative roles in the kidnapping. The presiding magistrate ruled, however, that the main guilty party was Oufkir. Several witnesses asserted that Ben Barka was tortured and murdered by Oufkir himself. Georges Figon, a witness with a criminal background, testified that Oufkir personally stabbed Ben Barka to death. Ali Bourequat, a dissident and former prisoner of conscience, claimed that a fellow prisoner in Rabat revealed how he and several colleagues, led by Colonel Oufkir and Ahmed Dlimi, murdered Ben Barka in Paris on the orders of King Hassan II. Allegedly, French security personnel knew of the plot and opted to allow the Moroccans to proceed, although President Charles de Gaulle broke diplomatic ties after “l’affaire Ben Barka” became public. Formal relations between Paris and Rabat were restored only in December 1970, a full month after de Gaulle died and ten months after he left office.

Oufkir perceived Ben Barka as a threat to the regime but it was unclear to what extent, if any, the interior minister followed directives issued by the king. In the event, Rabat balanced its multipronged policies with a new openness, as Parliament reconvened in 1970. An amended constitution mandated partial elections for two thirds of available seats, a provision which drew the ire of the opposition. Patronage certainly permitted Hassan to exert power, but only because Oufkir kept the masses down. This overemphasis on security directly translated into an economic morass, as the state squandered scarce resources. As a diversion from what ailed society, the king revived the dormant Western Sahara dispute (see below), to bank on raw nationalism and to strengthen his legitimacy. Under normal circumstances, an appeal to popular nationalism should have mobilized disenfranchised elements, but not in this instance. In fact, a simmering crisis limited any contemplated maneuvers, as strikes and demonstrations increased in frequency and intensity. On 10 July 1971, over a thousand military cadets stormed the palace at Skhirat, where international personalities were gathered to celebrate the monarch’s birthday. Hassan II survived the coup attempt—although 28 guests were killed and 158 rebel soldiers perished when loyal forces launched a counterattack—but he quickly authorized Oufkir, who may have instigated the coup, to purge the army. Ten high-ranking officers were later executed for their alleged involvement in the plot. Within a year, on 16 August 1972, the king’s plane—a bulky Boeing 727—was attacked in flight by Royal Moroccan Air Force F-5 jets, although Hassan II miraculously survived once again. His baraka held, but Oufkir was dead the next day. It was unclear whether the interior minister committed suicide or whether the monarch shot him, but the entire Oufkir family paid a heavy price for transgressions that their father may or may not have committed.

Parliamentary Politics

For four decades, Morocco had a working parliament with genuine multiparty competition, but little legislative power. If the monarch successfully played elites against each other in the 1960 and 1963 elections to buttress his legitimacy, throughout the 1990s, Hassan II empowered the institution, to channel dialogue with specific opposition parties. (His successor has adopted similar schemes, in recognition of the body’s hidden values, as well as its potential for internal harmony.) Before 1996, when the constitution was amended to provide for a bicameral legislature, parliamentary seats were allocated to specific districts. Moreover, public organizations like unions and local municipal councils could also field candidates for voting, which permitted the government to pit urbanized, and therefore more sophisticated, voters against rural and more supportive populations.

Parliamentary and municipal elections were held in November and December 1997, respectively. The parliamentary elections were widely characterized as a stalemate, as three main blocs fielded sure-bet candidates. A total of 102 seats went to the Kutla or Democratic bloc, whose members were in the opposition in previous parliaments. Another 100 deputies represented the outgoing government, and 97 emerged from the Wasat or centrist alignment. The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), a longtime left-wing opposition party, won the most seats of any party, 57, as so-called leftist parties and those backed by the Berber population were also successful with a total of some 91 seats spread among various blocs. A few Islamists entered Parliament for the first time under the aegis of a legal political party. The major loser of the 1997 elections was the longstanding nationalist party, Istiqlal, which barely managed to hold 32 seats. Zealous party members claimed that vote fraud, electoral gerrymandering, and assorted other shenanigans were responsible for this defeat.

After the 1997 elections, Hassan II quickly appointed Abdul Rahman Youssouffi, head of the Socialist Party, as prime minister, as he signaled a new openness. This candidacy certainly was not the monarch’s first choice but was made to quell internal tensions. Youssouffi, a determined and vocal opposition leader, had been imprisoned in the 1960s and exiled to France from 1965; allegedly he had been sentenced to death in absentia in 1971 and pardoned by the king in 1980. He returned to Morocco in 1980 after Françis Mitterand, the Socialist president of France, goaded Rabat to change its ways. In the event, Hassan II probably issued his pardon to placate the French president, but also because he concluded that Youssouffi would balance the powerful interior minister Driss Basri. In fact, while Hassan II trusted Basri to the utmost, he was fully aware of dramatic internal changes and of the unpopularity of his interior minister. Giddy Moroccans actually perceived Youssouffi’s rise as a sign that a move toward a more genuine constitutional monarchy was not impossible. Whether Hassan II actually intended to curtail the absolute powers of the monarchy—perhaps emulating the Spanish model—is impossible to know, but the clash between the regime and the power of the country’s elected representative bodies could not be ignored. The ruling family probably was not ready to share power and continued to count on its loyal security services to balance the power of the elected Parliament.

The Western Sahara

Because of its rich phosphate deposits, Morocco—along with Mauritania—claimed sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara that fell south of the mainland. Each country advanced a similar but competing claim that the vast, largely uninhabited area had been artificially separated from its territory by Germany and Spain, and that it must be restored to its rightful owner. Algeria, which shared a border with Western Sahara, viewed these demands with suspicion, the result of a long-running rivalry with Morocco over ownership of Western Sahara. Still, when Algeria under Houari Boumédienne committed itself in 1975 to assisting the indigenous nationalist Polisario Front, which opposed both Moroccan and Mauritanian claims and demanded full independence, Hassan II took action. On 6 November 1975, Hassan organized a gathering that became known as the Green March, when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfayya before crossing into Western Sahara. At a time when Francisco Franco’s Spain was weak, the ploy worked, as Rabat brought more than a third of Spanish Sahara under its own administration, and Mauritania took the southern third. Madrid abandoned the territory in December 1975, a month after Franco died, and even repatriated Spanish corpses from its cemeteries.

The Polisario initiated a staunch opposition, which was backed by Algeria. A guerrilla campaign ensued at great cost to all and Mauritania withdrew from the confrontation in 1979. Morocco gradually contained the guerrillas. It erected an impenetrable sand berm, or wall, an approximately 2,700 kilometer-long defensive structure that further isolated the Polisario. The war ended in a 1991 cease-fire, overseen by a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission known as MINURSO (Mission des Nations Unies pour l’Organisation d’un Référendum au Sahara Occidental), although a called-for referendum originally scheduled for 1992 to permit the indigenous population to choose between independence or inclusion in Morocco, was left in abeyance. Neither Hassan’s government nor the Polisario could agree on the identities of those who could be registered as indigenous voters. In 1997 Moroccan and Polisario representatives met under the auspices of UN special representative James Baker, the former U.S. secretary of state, and both sides accepted the Houston Agreement that made yet another attempt to implement a referendum in 1998. This effort failed as well. Hassan’s original goal of doubling the size of the country and to further expand the rich base of the area’s natural resources backfired as indigenous Sahraouis rebelled against him and drained the Moroccan treasury. The dispute was not resolved when the monarch was alive and remains an albatross for the country.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

After President Ronald Reagan revived an American friendship with Morocco dating back to George Washington by accepting certain concessions on the Western Sahara question, Hassan II mystified U.S. allies by announcing a political alliance with Libyan leader MU’AMMAR AL-QADDAFI . This was an illustration of the king’s forte, positioning himself as an indispensable mediator. He certainly maintained useful friendships but always with a unique twist. Algerian president ABDELAZIZ BOUTEFLIKA stated, for example, that “Hassan II was my friend and companion in arms,” although Morocco and Algeria were literally at war over the Western Sahara conflict.

The United States and its allies certainly considered Hassan one of the most Western-oriented Arab leaders, a ruler who outmaneuvered Islamic militants in his country, and because he stood out among his peers for his openness to rapprochement with Israel. Hassan was adept at managing Arab-Israeli ties, and he viewed Morocco’s Jewish population, which numbered around eight thousand, as a bridge between Israelis and Arabs. During World War II his father, Muhammad V, had defied the Axis and protected his country’s Jews even if the country estimated 275,000 Jews in the mid-1950s emigrated to Israel, Europe, and elsewhere. By September 1993 Morocco was so sure of its international position that he recognized Israel de facto when he welcomed Prime Minister YITZHAK RABIN , the first time an Israeli leader visited an Arab country other than Egypt.

Despite such bold gestures, he was careful to play both sides of a conflict when necessary. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he sent thirteen hundred troops to Saudi Arabia, a gesture that pleased Western governments while gaining support among fellow conservative monarchs.

A KING MUST DO EVERYTHING BUT ABDICATE

My function, in short, is to judge what is good and what is bad, what is possible and what is impossible, to see that our pledges are honored, and hence to lighten the burden of our compatriots…. The risks run by a monarch who does not govern are certainly not negligible; but it seems to me that a king who governs is just as much exposed to them…. The temporal sovereign who willingly accepts “the risks of the calling” would be a pitiable king. And if at the same time the king is Commander of the Faithful, his duties towards his people are even greater and more demanding…. A king must do everything but abdicate; and a king who does not feel at one with his subjects abdicates and abandons his mission. That I shall never do.

        HASSAN II, THE CHALLENGE: THE MEMOIRS OF KING HASSAN II OF MOROCCO , PP. 145, 151.

LEGACY

The years of Hassan II’s reign came to be known as " les années du plomb " (the years of lead), when an iron fist approach was applied. Forced disappearances, killings of government opponents, and secret internment camps such as the one at Tazmamart, were a blight on the country. To examine the abuses committed during his father’s reign, Muhammad VI has authorized the creation of an equity and reconciliation commission, which was equipped to rehabilitate victims, pay compensation for state outrages, and foster reconciliation. Toward the end of his reign, and in the aftermath of these tragic internal events that were a black mark on his otherwise popular rule, Hassan appreciated the pace of changes occurring in Morocco. For various reasons—outside pressure, recognition of inevitable political change, perhaps for altruistic reasons, but certainly to buttress the monarchy—he authorized the creation of a Consultative Council in 1990, whose primary objective was to defend human rights. This was followed in 1994 and 1995 with several royal pardons, including a partial rehabilitation of Ben Barka. A prominent Rabat boulevard was named for the late opposition leader in November 1995, and within a year several Oufkir family members were allowed to leave the country. Whether the monarch felt remorse for the excessively brutal treatment to which Oufkir offspring were subjected is impossible to determine. What is certain is Hassan’s effort to redeem his policies throughout the 1990s. A special effort was thus made to modernize the monarchy while keeping the opposition in check. It must be emphasized that the king’s baraka served him well in this instance too, as Moroccans rallied behind the ruler, most fearing a spillover of the violence that rocked and destabilized neighboring Algeria starting in 1992. Indeed, the ruler was so confident of his demarches that he accepted strict IMF conditions to reform the Moroccan economy starting in 1996, and in 1997 acquiesced in the results of parliamentary elections that ushered in opposition leaders. Even his tested and well established divide-and-rule tactics were made with added confidence, especially after an upper chamber was added to Parliament. Thus, Hassan II ended his reign in relative harmony, confident that his successor would not face the dynastic challenges that he and his predecessors had confronted.

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