July 30 is a very special day for Morocco and it’s whole nation, it’s one of the most celebrated days of the year. This year it will be It’s the 16th anniversary of His Majesty King Mohammed VI enthronement.
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. King Mohammed VI is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his family has ruled Morocco for close to 400 years. He is also constitutionally the Amir al Mu’minin, or Commander of the Faithful, thereby combining religious and political authority. King Mohammed VI is lauded for his domestic reform policies and pioneering efforts in modernizing Morocco and countering terrorism. He tackles issues of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion at home, and has improved foreign relations. King Mohammed VI influences the network of Muslims following the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, and is a leading monarch in Africa.
King Mohammed VI 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.”
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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 in Africa and around the globe.
In a Royal message to the participants in the Crans Montana Forum held in Dakhla from March 12-14, King Mohammed VI stressed that “Morocco’s African policy is based on a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive approach designed to promote peace and stability, encourage sustainable human development and safeguard the cultural and spiritual identity of our populations, while respecting the universal values of human rights.”
“Morocco has been working untiringly to help forge a modern, bold, entrepreneurial and open Africa; an African continent which is proud of its identity, which derives its vibrancy from its cultural heritage and which is capable of transcending outdated ideologies,” he said
The King acknowledged that “the borders inherited from colonization often continue to be a major source of tension and conflict,” and that “Africa is a continent with growing and unsettling security issues”; but he stressed that “Africa’s tremendous human and natural resources should, instead, be a powerful catalyst for regional integration,” and urged that “It is up to us — Africans — to innovate in order to turn them into open spaces where fruitful exchange and interaction can flourish between African states.”
In 2000, King Mohammed VI revealed the new tone and the new ambitions of Morocco in Africa when he announced, on behalf of South-South cooperation, the cancellation of debts of the least developed countries (LDCs) and Sub-Saharan Africa and to exempt their products from tariffs.
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. The King Mohammed VI came to the throne with new ideas and the will to make of Morocco an example for the rest of the Arab world when it comes to human rights, openness, individual freedom and reforms.