The accession of King Mohammed VI to the Throne on July 23 1999 was welcomed with great comfort and enthusiasm among Moroccans and all political trends including the hard liners of the Islamist movements.
The new King is known to be very close to his people and always ready to answer their needs. Hundreds of poor Moroccans, old and young, used to stand near his residence in Sale waiting to hand him letters where they expressed their needs. He formed a special team whose main duties were to study every single letter and to take immediate adequate actions in favor of the requester.
Other young Moroccans used to see him surfing or jet skiing in the most frequented beaches in Rabat or Tetouan with no bodyguards and again that was an opportunity for him to listen directly to people’s needs and problems. He encouraged a group of young Moroccans surfers from very modest families to form an association and then helped them to build a surf club where they meet, learn new surfing techniques and he even bought surfing equipment to all of them, some of them were able to make a living later by becoming surf coaches and others become jet skiing champions.
During a conversation with some young Moroccans in Casablanca, they all agreed that the most interesting image they still have of the King Mohammed VI was when he used to go out –no protocol- during Ramadan and tour all orphanages and hand out himself food to the poor. Hassan said “He even used to look in every bag to make sure that the recipients did not lack anything.”
Apparently King Mohammed VI has a direct contact with the Moroccans. He studied in a school inside the palace but his father made sure that his classmates were selected form different social classes. He graduated from Mohammed V university, school of law in Rabat where the majority of Moroccans go to study because it is free and subsidized by the government. There he refused any privileged status and used to mingle with students talking to them about different issues. A university professor said “We used to see him talking to other students wearing jeans and casual clothes with no bodyguards.”
This image of a very modest Crown Prince Stayed with Sidi Mohammed everywhere he went in Morocco. I was driving once and all cars stopped at the red light. My wife surprised and almost speechless asked me “Isn’t that the King?” Yes, that was the King Mohammed waiting for the green light like the rest of the other people. This of course gained him more respect and love.
The day when he rode the carriage to go for this first Friday prayers as a new King, people all over the country were in front of their TVs, happy and curious to see their new beloved King wearing a gorgeous white djellaba on his way to the mosque. That was a reassurance for them of the continuity of the constitutional monarchy in Morocco. Every body shouted “May god have mercy upon King Hassan and long life to King Mohammed VI.”
In his first years in office, King Mohammed took actions signaling a break with the old ways of Morocco’s past and a commitment to an open, democratically ruled and prosperous society, launched a series of very important reforms that have direct positive impact on Moroccans mostly economic ones.
However, he recognizes that there are still serious challenges ahead, mostly economic but with his world acknowledged commitment and good will, he continues to tour the country (cities, towns and villages) to be close to the Moroccans and to listen directly to their demands. This has gained him the respect and esteem of many leaders around the globe.
Now Morocco has become one of the world potential investments hubs but a lot of work is still need to be done. Many acknowledge that with a reform-minded leader Morocco can win the bet of becoming a well developped nation.
About the author: Said Temsamani
Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center and member of the National Press Club, Washington DC. Said Temsamani is a political analyst who follows events in Morocco and across North Africa.