Rabat – As part of King Mohammed VI’s yearly speech to commemorate Throne Day on Sunday, July 30, the Ministry of Moroccans Residing Abroad (MRE) revealed that the Western Sahara and the kingdom’s return to the African Union would be covered, but many people expect the King to discuss the Hirak protest movement in the Rif region too.
Unlike his father and predecessor, the late King Hassan II, King Mohammed VI rarely makes speeches, so Moroccans both in the kingdom and abroad are waiting eagerly to see what topics the King deems most important to raise.
Return to African Union
Morocco’s “triumphant return” to the African Union (AU) on January 31 following a 33-year absence is the result of on-going efforts by the King since his ascension to the throne in 1999.
The kingdom left the AU in 1984 as a response to the organization’s recognition of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a fully-fledged member state. However Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said in June this year that the AU was no longer “hostage” to the Polisario agenda.
Through its re-admission to the AU, Morocco is and will continue benefit politically and economically cross the world. The kingdom will also demonstrate its status as one of the continent’s most stable and reliable countries, helping develop fellow African nations.
Despite problems with Polisario inside the kingdom, the Western Sahara has benefitted from mostly positive reactions in an international sphere during the past twelve months. These include: a Panama court dismissing a Polisario-attempt at stopping a Moroccan phosphate shipment, a European Parliament rejection of an anti-Moroccan amendment, and a new pro-Morocco US Appropriations Bill.
Tension in Al Hoceima
The death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in Al Hoceima on October 28, 2016, sparked the Hirak protest movement, which led regular protests across the Rif region and called for social demands to improve the region’s lack of healthcare, education, employment and infrastructure.
Following the arrest and ensuing imprisonment of leading activist Nasser Zafzafi in May for interrupting a Friday mosque sermon, protests intensified, leading to a wave of arrests, causing around 180 Rif protesters to be imprisoned.
The government has tried to respond to the socio-economic demands by quickening the pace of the area’s development projects, but many have argued this is not enough, as evidenced by the nationwide march on July 20.
Possible Royal Pardons
The King offers royal pardons to prisoners on public holidays each year, reducing convictions and sometimes removing them completely. On Throne Day in 2016, 1,272 former prisoners were pardoned, while during the coronation anniversary in 2009, a record 24,000 achieved the royal pardon.
A Hirak sympathizer told Spanish media that 60 Al Hoceima detainees had applied for a royal pardon, and the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (CNDH) was “acting as a mediator between the prisoners and royal palace.”
Aside from Hirak protesters, a video by the nine-year old son of Moroccan mother-of-three Hind El Achchabi released this week has motivated many citizens to call on the King to pardon her. El Achchabi was sentenced to a three years in prison (shortened to two years), after adultery charges were filed by her husband, Kuwaiti ambassador to Austria, Sadiq Marafi.
King Mohammed VI’s speech will be broadcast across national television and radio channels at 21:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 28.