mardi 14 juin 2011

Civil Society Actors in Morocco

Human rights, reconciliation and social development

 Kamal Lahbib, the gatherer, an ex-Maoist, imprisoned 5 years for belonging to a Marxist radical secret organization during the years of ‘Plomb’ in Morocco. He participated from the 90’s in the creation of generally all NGOs in Morocco. He is a dynamic connoisseur in the field of NGOs and civil society organizations in Morocco and the manager of antiglobalisation movement in Morocco. He organized 2 social forums in Morocco in 2002 and 2004; and also the Maghreb social forum in 2005. Kamal Lahbib calls himself the gatherer and the ‘porte-parole’ of civil society associations and social movements in the modern Morocco; and also the facilitator of negotiations between social movements and the monarchy in Morocco ( telquel-online, N.174). He created also the FMAS, Forum des Alternatives Maroc (see the website:  this forum groups very influential NGOs : Action Jeunesse, Observatoire Marocain des Libertés Publiques, Collectif pour l’Observation des Elections. The latter is network grouping Moroccan NGOs and also transnational NGOs of Moroccan migrants; its role would be the observation of 2007 elections in Morocco. Kamal Lahbib really changed the civil society scene in Morocco. He conducts workshops, seminars, and writes reports and papers on managerialism, professionalism, and expertise in NGOs in Morocco. He created one of the biggest networks of NGOs in Morocco: Espace Associatif (

Kamal Lahbib epitomizes the volunteer activist in Morocco. A whole generation of ex-Marxists and revolutionaries investigating the field of civil active citizenship to change from the bottom, new grassroots’ strategies based on social development engagement, local activism and the negotiation of political needs. A whole generation believed in reconciliation and transitional justice during the democratization phase. Kamal Lahbib and others[1] believed in the democratization process climax and got engaged to institutionalize social and political change in Morocco from the first government of opposition in 1997 till the reign of Mohamed the 6th. They started as volunteers and built their social and political capital from volunteering and gained power within social movements and negotiated with the monarchy for reform sand democratic opening.

Their story is the story of a dynamic society, a dynamic civil society and dynamic volunteers, responsible activist willing to democratize the public sphere in an emerging powerful alliance with the king and civil society NGOs to combat radicalization, to improve human development and consolidate democratization.

The emblematic late Driss Benzekri, president of Justice and Truth Forum, later Reconciliation and Equity Instance, and later CCDH (Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l’Homme) (see the website: reconciliated Moroccans with their past, though a painful past of human violations and dictatorship during the reign of Late Hassan II. During his funeral, in a very isolated countryside not far from the capital Rabat and with no infrastructure, the monarchy, government, and all civil society representatives marched in his funeral. Driss Benzekri belongs to a poor family, a French secondary school teacher believed in Marxism and poetry to change Morocco. Driss Benzekri returned to civil society after his release from 15 years of prison and embraced democratization to change from within the system and to tell the truth of all activists alive and dead who fought for democratic Morocco. He headed the Equity and Reconciliation Instance, gave ex-prisoners panels to exorcise their sufferings during years of imprisonment, and exorcise hatred so as to be replaced by trust and love for changing Morocco. He believed also that transnational migrant actors should participate in building democratic Morocco. He offered the CCDH as a platform for migrants to negotiate their representativity within the Moroccan political system as transnational citizens ‘here and there’.

Abdou Menbhi, the famous migrant activist in the Netherlands, founded EMCEMO (Centre Euro-Méditerranéen Migration et Développement) in Amsterdam. He created one of the biggest nongovernmental development organization Network in the North of Morocco (FONORD: Forum des ONG du Nord du Maroc. See the website: EMCEMO and FONORD with the funding of CORDAID in the Netherlands mobilized civil society activists in the north of Morocco for social development. EMCEMO also created a centre in Tangier for migrants who returned to live in Morocco to help them integrate and solve their administrative problems. Abdou Menbhi and FONORD NGOs mobilized northern NGOs for local governance and the creation of thematic networks, for instance, they created a network of feminist NGOs in the north of Morocco and another one on NGOs working with Handicapped people.

Abdou Menbehi now is very active in migration and development agenda especially as now the Moroccan state is trying to set up a body of migrants. It will deal with migrants’ representativity within the Moroccan political system. He organized a big conference called: ‘Almonadara: a Transnational Debate on Moroccan Migration’ in Rabat in 2006 where the government representatives and ministers attended to dialogue with migrants, to listen to their demands and think of ways to voice their political ideas. CCDH now is trying to set up this council where Abdou Menbhi is so active and maybe he will be appointed by the king as a member of the counsel.

Gender, family law and the feminist movement

Leila Rehiwi, a devoted feminist, lobbied for the adoption of the national plan of action for the integration of women into development in 2000 during the government of opposition led by the socialists. He created a big network of human rights and feminist and local NGOs called: ‘Spring of Equality’; it grouped the major progressive NGOs in Morocco. They were against the Islamists stand that was against the plan. She was able to secure a meeting with the king, Mohamed the VI, and gave him the demands of feminists and their propositions for the reform of the family law, the famous ‘Moudawana’.

Leila Rehiwi and ADFM ( Association Democratique des femmes Marocain) organized workshops, seminars, conferences, and posters in streets and TV programs to convince masses that family code must change to the benefits of women and the whole society. They confronted Islamists who were ardent opponents to a secular family code reform. Leila Rehiwi believes that secularism will secure a place for gender equality within Islam as a structuring system of the family law. Leila Rehiwi and ADFM were not only destabilizing the religious foundations of family law as a text but also the monarch himself who gains his legitimacy from mobilizing Islam as a mode of governance. Leila Rehiwi now is a coordinator of UNIFEM in Morocco.

The Amazigh cultural Movement

Mohamed Chafik is respectfully called ‘Amghar’ in Berber, meaning the leader; Chafik is even a charismatic spiritual leader of the movement in Morocco. A pedagogue in profession and personality, Chafik believes that education is the way in to human development. After years of teaching, he became a pedagogical inspector then a pedagogical expert in the ministry of education in Morocco. It is there where he met his friend Abdessalam Yassine, the famous spiritual leader of one of the biggest Islamists group in Morocco. A.Yassine wrote a book titled ‘To my Friend, the Amazigh’ addressing the book to Mohamed Chafik and trying to convince him that the history of Islam in North Africa is a history of ‘Imazighen’. A.Yassine is also an Amazigh in origin.

Mohamed Chafik continued his cultural and intellectual activism without reluctance. In 2001, he was appointed by the king Mohamed the VI as a rector of IRCAM (Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh). It was a historical event and it was launched by the king in ‘Ajdir in Elhouciema’, the city where the famous charismatic nationalist Abdelkarim Khattabi launched the war of independence of the Rif against the Spaniards. This was a historical event commemorating reconciliation with Rif’s people and also with the Berber culture, history and language. Mohamed Chafik played a major role in changing the Amazigh movement radicalization tendencies and because he was respected by all activists within the movement, he was able to convince them that the process of democratization is also in favor of their cause and that the new king, his mother is Berber too from the Atlas Regions, believes that all society should embrace the democratization process in Morocco.

[1] - the late Driss Benzekri, Salah Elouadie, Fouad Abdelmomni, Latifa Jbabdi, Fatna Elbih,…..

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