By Ahmed Benchemsi
By Ahmed Benchemsi
Morocco World News
Santa Clara, California, August 5, 2012
(“My policy against corruption, is as follows: “God forgives what occurred in the past, and if anyone backslides, God will take revenge from him”)
So here is what was said by the head of the Moroccan government, Abdelilah Benkirane, on Al Jazeera on 25 July 2012.
In itself the fact of allowing those who have looted the state coffers to get away so lightly is shocking. It is difficult to establish a culture of accountability when one grants an amnesty to all corrupt people.
But if one can be against the general amnesty (which is my case), this principle is not totally absurd either, and it was not invented by Mr. Benkirane. This is a policy that, sometimes, in other countries and other contexts, has yielded some results.
Its principles are as follows:
1. Build a solid arsenal of law enforcement, especially a strong and independent justice system, which would be reluctant to grant any favors;
2. Once this arsenal is functional, that is to say ready to be set in motion immediately and relentlessly, to announce a general amnesty coupled with a firm policy of zero tolerance from the time the amnesty is granted;
3. From that same moment, to be ready to swiftly and severely punish any offender and under maximum media coverage. The objective of this would be to quickly set epochal examples to demonstrate that the amnesty was a measure of reconciliation and social appeasement, not a weakness of the state.
As we can see, the general amnesty is a practice that has its rules and logic. We cannot pronounce it without being solidly prepared.
But what did the leader of the Moroccan government do? He declared a general amnesty, as simple as that, during an interview. His sole argument was a verse from the Quran! What could function only as a deliberately and carefully planned state policy became, in the mouth of Mr. Benkirane, a rhetorical figure, or worse still, an oratorical moment with a religious connotation.
The interviewer of Al Jazeera could not believe his ears. He interrupted the head of government, insisting that Morocco was “the only country in the region to adopt the policy of the general amnesty.” One would think that upon hearing this, Mr. Benkirane would wake up, and suddenly realize that the general amnesty is a “policy” and not a cookie cutter formula to be announced in an interview without measuring its impact.
But no, showing off is also part of the personality of our head of government. Mr Benkirane has persisted, twisting the folds of his mouth as a sign of contemptuous defiance, as he knows to do so well: “Yes sir, it is in the Quran: God will take revenge.” Subliminal message to all those who will criticize this sally: “What, you do not believe in God?”
More than the principle of amnesty (which remains questionable, although its three rules are applied), it is the incredible irresponsibility of Abdelilah Benkirane that really shocked me. Does this man realize what he says? Does he realize that his cheeky spontaneity, which contributed to his success when he was in opposition, is now totally inappropriate given the function he holds?
When you are a Prime Minister, Mr Benkirane, you do not say anything, especially on something as serious as corruption. Morocco has suffered enough from this scourge, no need to add a dose of ridicule.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
Ahmed Benchemsi is a multiple award-winning, US-based Moroccan journalist. He is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University in California, researching “The Seeds of Secularism in the Post-Spring Arab World.” Before joining Stanford, he was the founder, publisher and editor of Morocco’s two best-selling news magazines TelQuel (French) and Nishan (Arabic).