Sahara has always been a part of Morocco: Mohamed Yatim
The First Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament of the Kingdom of Morocco, Mohamed Yatim, has a PhD in the Science of Education and is the founding member of the ‘Movement of Unification and Reform’, which he chaired from 1981 till 1985 and then from 1994 to 1996.
A firm believer in Democracy, Yatim, was elected for a third term as a member of the House of Representatives in 2012, and as the deputy of the District of Bernoussi – Sidi Moumen which is one of the largest circles in the economic capital Casablanca.
He was elected the Secretary-General of the Moroccan National Union of Labor for the second time, recently. Also a prominent political figure in Morocco, Yatim is known for his efforts to emphasize the Islamic nature of the Moroccan state. Apart from leading a movement to support this cause, he has also written several books like, Islamic work and cultural expression; The Islamic Action among the cultural and political matter; Entries in the expression of civilization; In the theory of cultural reform and Centrism and Moderation.
During his visit to Norway last month, where he represented Morocco at The European Conference of the Presidents of Parliament, the First Deputy Speaker also met with the Editor-in-Chief of the Oslo Times International News Network, Hatef Mokhtar, for an exclusive interview.
In his short rendezvous with The Oslo Time’s, Mr.Yatim, spoke about the current scenario in Morocco, the situation in Western Sahara and Media Freedom in the kingdom. The excerpts below capture his view on everything he had to say:
First of all I would like to thank sir for agreeing to do this exclusive interview with us and it is a pleasure to have you here today.
Can you tell us about the progress Morocco has made in the last couple of years?
First of all let me clarify that the democratic progress is not a result of the Arab Spring uprising, because the monarchs of Morocco had already introduced a lot of democratic changes even before the uprising and the country was already witnessing continuous developments in democratic processes.
We should also understand that the monarchy in Morocco is the most stable form of governance across the Arab world.
After his coronation in 1999, King Mohammed VI has opted for diversity in politics. By diversity in politics I mean his inclination towards liberalism and his innate desire of establishing Morocco as a nation with democratic values where every citizen is entitled to their rights despite, their, creed, caste and religion.The French colonization since 1912, has had a profound impact on the economic, cultural, educational, bureaucratic and legal structures in Morocco, and by 1934 a nationalist movement started it’s struggle for independence on the political front.
In 1954, this movement turned into an armed struggle and by 1956, in an effort to save its face and maintain Algeria as a colony and to avoid an entire appraising in the region France gave Morocco and Tunisia their independence.
Prior to the 1960’s Morocco had faced a lot of political hostilities, and even after that Morocco faced political instability. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the political problems in Morocco increased.
By the mid-70’s, the struggle for a democratic system of governance started to take full shape. After 1975, the king, King Hassan, introduced several reforms in the system of governance and Morocco became popularly known as New Morocco.King Hassan also extended his hand in friendship towards the opposition parties. The one important aspect in governance that all our monarchs have followed and believed in, is maintaining their ties with the opposition, despite their regular spat, the ties between the political parties and the monarchy has always been pretty good.
In the 90’s Morocco promoted new reforms which gradually led to a new constitutional reform in 1996. It was at this point the opposition decided to join the government. This led to a new bicameral legislature with more liberal powers.
After the death of King Hassan 1999, our crown prince at that time Sidi Mohammad assumed the throne to become King Mohammed VI. His climb to the throne brought a new dawn in Morocco’s history.
King Mohammed VI is a very liberal minded intellectual, who has a degree in law, and he believes in changing the dynamics of the governance in Morocco and making it more people-centric.
Upon taking over his responsibilities as the head of state, he worked on forming Equity and Reconciliation Commission in an effort to reconcile victims of human right abuses such as torture and atrocities’ committed during his father’s reign. Ever since its formation the commission has been successful at uncovering the truth and providing justice and reparations to the victims. 2011 a new constitution was formed,in which a lot of his legislative powers have been transferred to the Parliament. This move by the King has helped in strengthening democracy and ensuring the rights of the people.
What is the current situation like in Western Sahara?
The one thing I want to point out is that the improvements in morocco’s system of governance has been an ongoing process throughout history. Our leaders have continuously worked on improving the lives of our citizens, and it happened long before the Arab Spring uprising.
history. Our leaders have continuously worked on improving the lives of our citizens, and it happened long before the Arab Spring uprising.
Morocco’s new constitution promotes Active participatory democracy where our citizens have an important say in the way the country is run. Now coming to the Western Sahara, every Moroccan citizen believes that Western Sahara is a part of Morocco and not a separate nation. We have never treated Western Sahara any differently from other parts of the country.
When we turn back the pages of history, we discover that Western Sahara has always been a part of Morocco and was only separated by the colonizers, so it is only natural for Western Sahara become a part of the mother nation after the Spanish colonizers left.
What we know as the Polisario Front did not exist before the 1970’s and, it only came into existence after the colonizers left. This group actually just comprises of Moroccan university students, vouching for a new nation. The question on Western Sahara’s annexation only came into limelight as a result of the cold war in which the Polisario Front was backed by outside forces like Algeria and Libya. However, the conflict was never fully dragged into the United States-Soviet dynamics like many other conflicts across the world and we worked on resolving it ourselves without much intervention from the outside world.
There is also something very important that the world should know, and that is that the Saharan population living in Western Sahara and their leaders have a tradition of paying respect to the King to pledge their allegiance with Morocco, before they celebrate their festivals. In accordance to this tradition, the international court of justice has declared that Western Sahara is a part of Morocco.
Do You Think Morocco faces challenges in terms of media freedom?
Our constitution ensures and guarantees media freedom. We also have over 200 newspapers and magazines being published across the country. And, if you turn to these papers you will also find a lot of critical news reports and articles that openly criticize the government as well as the king. I think there is a limit to the liberty of expression throughout the world, for example, you cannot demand a Monarchy System in France, or criticize the religions practiced there. So when we talk about media freedom we should understand that no matter how free media is, the media too will need to follow the ethics of journalism.
What is your opinion on the European Conference of The Presidents of Parliament and how was your trip to Norway?
My participation in the conference, as well as my trip to Norway, was very fruitful. I have come here as the speaker of the Moroccan parliament and I am also heading our diplomatic delegation to Norway at the conference. And I would like to thank the Assembly of the Parliamentary Council of Europe for having us here and I would also like to stress that we are partners in democracy. Our participation at the conference today testifies that we have common values that we will promote and defend together. These values are the values of human rights and fundamental freedoms, development values of solidarity and social justice, values of respect for political pluralism and democracy and respect for cultural diversity.
During my visit here, I also met with the President of Parliament of Norway and we spoke about how we can improve and strengthen the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
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