Moroccan scholar Ahmed Bennani, a Doctorate of Political Sciences at Lausanne University, has revealed that "... if the [Moroccan] monarchy, starting from the old Makhzen, was reinforced, it is first and foremost because it instituted violence and repression as a system of governance."

 By Khatry Beirouk, May 30th 2002

If you want to know what the "new makhzen" under Mohamed VI is really like, consider the grave warning of Ali L'mrabet's and Ahmed Boukhari's cases.

Ali L'mrabet, the 38-year-old Rifain (from the Rif region) journalist and director of the weekly Demain Magazine, is one of those special handful of journalists of the type whom Morocco desperately needs more. They revel in informing on all the worst of Morocco‚s elite -- and the amazing thing is that virtually all of the reliable news we get about Morocco comes from a very small group of men.

But he is Moroccan. You didn't historically DO this kind of journalistic work in Morocco. You parroted the government's propaganda and lies, most of the time the two being interchangeable, and you knew (oh, how you knew!) that there was nobody there behind you if you chose to "err."

But then came 1999 and the death of Hassan II and, supposedly, the birth of the "new era" so much-trompeted by Felipe Gonzalez and the recently reelected French President. Actually, and amazingly so, a small group of Moroccan journalists now were able to practice honest journalism. L'mrabet was one of those new Moroccan young to emerge out of the Makhzen shadows.

Everyone said the young courageous professional was "really defiant" publishing in his weekly magazine to Moroccans who otherwise would have no idea what was going on. Unfortunately, some accuse him of beign a Mossad's agent, a "mole" working for the Spanish Secret Service (CESID), before we know it, they could well accuse him of being a Polisario spy.

Everybody knows by now that, L'mrabet was sentenced to four months in jail and a fine of 30,000 dirhams. The Moroccan tribunal issued the prison term -- not for the officials who gave the information (the source) but for L'mrabet after publishing an article titled "The royal palace of Skhirat is said to be on sale". It was qualified by the prosecutor of the court of first instance of Rabat as "diffusion of false information and false allegations ". L'mrabet was prosecuted for " diffusing false information in breach of the peace or likely to be a breach of the peace". (Reminds you of the "old days," doesn't it?) Do Moroccans really love that much their palaces that the mere allusion to the probable sale of one may actually "breach peace" and harmony in the country?. It makes you wonder, is the Kingdom, really, that brittle?

According to him, the measure relates to "un ajuste de cuentas" and in no case was intended to ensure the political stability of the country. "Los ajustadores de cuentas" are the old security men, the so-called "dissident hunters," with their special appetite for destroying anyone with "the wrong ideas." You know them: Benslimane, Faidoul, Kadiri, Laanigri, Si Basri (in his time) and the list is long.

" They want to humiliate us. This is today's Morocco", Ali Lmrabet declared to RSF. The journalist, who decided not to appeal, defied the system and said he was ready to go to jail. "Why should I waste time in an affair already judged?", he stated in an interview with a Moroccan weekly.

When asked who gave the order for the arrest, an official said that: "Naturally, such an act could not be undertaken without the orders of the royal prosecutor and the interior minister." Is "Si Driss" back?, one might ask. In short, the order came directly from Mohamed VI and from Rabat itself. (Don't ask why they would admit such a thing: remember, we're dealing here with the "new Morocco".)

" This sentence is outrageous. It is clear that by sentencing the journalist to jail, the Moroccan authorities are only looking for one thing: to silence one of the only newspapers which tries to inform freely", RSF's general secretary Robert Ménard said.

If Ali L'mrabet may have breached the peace, then, Ahmed Boukhari, we could only say, has spurred an all-out war.

In July 2001, this 63 year-old former Moroccan counter-subversion operative, explained- after thirty-six years of silence- in the columns of the weekly magazine Le Journal, details on the death of the late Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka. Mr. Boukhari admits not having had the "courage" to blow the whistle earlier. That "courage" is badly needed in today's Morocco. But with the fear of violence and intimidation, it is hardly surprising that the majority of Moroccans prefer not to participate in any protest actions. Actually, Moroccans do not regard the state as something to even deal with, much less confront; instead, it is an entity of terror and, based on bitter personal experience, one that should be avoided at all costs.

Since his revelations, Boukhari underwent all kind of pressures: interrogations, doubtful lawsuits, and three months of detention. Especially, the Moroccan authorities refused to issue a passport for him so he can testify before a French magistrate, which continues his investigation into the mysterious "abduction followed by disappearance" of Mr. Ben Barka.

Meanwhile, just what kind of government is it that is taking clearer form every day in Rabat? John Entelis, director of the Middle East Studies Programme at Fordham University, New York, has revealed that "Mohamed VI ' lacks personality'. ' He does not have a clear project‚. ' He does not induce confidence in his person...". Ahmed Bennani states that " the Moroccan political system is blocked, it is in this immobilism which, rightly, prince Moulay Hicham el Alaoui denounces. "

Indeed, Morocco is returning more rapidly to many of its old habits. The barter of Saharawi workers brought back rather many memories; the new Makhzen system just encouraged Saharawi phosphate-mines workers to emigrate to the Gulf countries so more jobless settlers can move in and take their jobs. Remember when the old Makhzen did the same by sending young Saharawi students far away from home and moved in settlers from the north?