The Moorish Wanderer

Founding Myths and the Green March

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Moroccanology, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on November 6, 2010

That’s today apparently. the Green March I mean. As I am writing those lines, I am awaiting by the speech His Majesty the King delivers on that occasion. Awaiting because of the recent troubles down under, at Agdayme Izik near Laayoune in the Sahara.

Dissidents' camps (source: Le Soir-Echos)

These protesters camped up in hundreds and thousands (15.000-20.000 following various sources), apparently expressing their ras-le-bol of a situation that is, to put it euphemistically, delicate.  Will he mention this formidable show of force? Threaten or Assure the dissident masses?

The reason why I wrote this post is not the Green March anniversary itself. I have been baffled by the sheer alacrity a colleague blogger displayed on celebrating the Green March (on Tweeter that is. He did not have the wit to write something up about this glorious second ملحمة الملك و الشعب). Now I am no iconoclast, in the sense that I believe every state-nation, real or artificial, needs founding myths. And Morocco is no exception to that. I am just surprised that someone like him, so well-taught and of such keen insight could be so blatantly blinded by mere propaganda. Why would I then demur the Green March as a founding myth? In broad terms, because it is the founding myth of one side in the Moroccan political spectrum, i.e. the monarchy. We live in interesting times, where one is required to be a patriot, though prevented from lifting the veil off some unpleasant truths. So to the benefit of the one watching us, I would like to remind him of some facts about the Sahara case. what is the fuss about the Green March? I mean any sane individual would note that Morocco got its independence out of France and Spain like a mortgage payment: French zone first, Northern Spanish zone afterwards, then bits and chunks until late 1960’s, when it was sort of frozen up until early 1970’s, when late king Hassan II got things heated up in Morocco to finally reach its apex with November 6th, 1975. Oh, another thing that bemuses me, Rio de Oro and Mauritania. How come a territory that was Mauritanian, and accepted as such by Moroccan authorities (as part of the signed tripartite treaty signed November 1975) was swiftly claimed as own after they pulled out of the Desert war? And how come the Monarchy toned down so vividly the claims on Mauritania itself? My claim is, the Green March, and beyond that, the Sahara issue was means to an end. It was a nationalistic move to overcome the increasing remoteness the monarchy was in. It succeeded in gathering popular support as well as extracting a nation-wide consensus from political parties; Nonetheless, and it is certainly not out of malicious thought, one cannot standby idly looking on a propaganda piece -a successful one, not because it is so, but because generations of Moroccans believe in it.

The Green March walkers, holding flags and portaits of King Hassan II, November 1956

To be sure, the sight of 350.000 peaceful demonstrators hurdling towards the border is chilling to say the least. The vermilion forest of national flags and the remarkable devotion of the walkers boosts up one’s nationalist pride (yes, even the radical crypto-communist nihilist has nationalist feelings). The Green March hymn burnishes the whole thing up. But it eludes an array of facts that are either ill-known to the general public -and it seems, to some of the would be elite- or just belittled because they do not fit their respective weltschaaung. Why, the mere fact that the same monarchy prevented -indirectly of course, and for matters of internal politics- some patriots from defeating the French-Spanish occupation of the Sahara and restoring it back to the Moroccan rule should refrain one from being ecstatic about the Green March; It was no a matter of gaining back our rightful soil, merely a short-term political move that developed into a matter of legitimacy.

Morocco gained formally its independence March 2nd, 1956 following the Saint-Cloud Treaty undoing the Fès treaty -thus effectively ending the French protectorate- (another myth was to promote November 18th as independence day, the day Sultan Mohammed V went back from his exile, while Morocco was still under French and Spanish rule). the Northern zone was retro-ceded to the newly independent Morocco in April 1956. Nothing was said about the Spanish Western Sahara that the Moroccan nationalists -not the monarchy- were claiming as part of Morocco; Indeed the monarchy was much suspicious in its own discretion during this period. Truth of the matter is, it was busy strengthening its hold on power, especially the crown-prince, to the expenses of the other major political players. If it so sordid politics, why an overwhelming majority of Moroccans still identify more closely with the Sahara issue than any other issue, seemingly closer to their common, everyday shores: consumer prices, and level of wages for instance? I would like to venture some explanation by taking a leaf out of “Psychologie des Foules” by a 19th century right-wing positivist Gustave Le Bon. The whole idea of using signs and symbols that are sympathetic to the masses, or in an almost bawdy way, to their instincts is well described in his book: “La foule, jouet de tous les stimulants extérieurs, en reflète les incessantes variations. Elle est donc esclave des impulsions reçues. […] On peut physiologiquement définir ce phénomène en disant que l’individu isolé possède l’aptitude à dominer ses réflexes, alors que la foule en est dépourvue.” I wouldn’t go as far as describing the whole propaganda behind the Green March as one of Pavlovian inspiration, but when one looks at the cornucopia of flags, korans, portraits of the king, and the enthusiastic tune -the famous نداء الحسن– are close to external stimulii. That was in 1975. From that year onward, TV, education, books, newspapers, all possible means of communication have been more or less explicitly marshalled into supporting the cause, effectively waving the patriotic flag whenever internal difficulties arise.

Far from me denigrating the founding myth the Green March became over the years (do I sound like I am?) my point is, the motivation behind it, namely the peaceful demotic demonstration fro bringing back the Sahara to the Morocco has not been motivated by selfless, patriotic means to a rightful end. It is the starting point of a purely political gambling, and the denouement of a hypocritical policy the monarchy followed since the days of independence. How could one be uncompromising about Moroccan Sahara, while they were in the past silent about it, or about the Mauritanian claim too? And why prevent equally if not even more fiercely patriotic people from taking it away militarily -with greater glory no doubt- when they had the means, the motives and good likelihood to achieve it. It is, quite simply, a call for sanity: cheer the green march as you want, cherish it as a founding moment of Moroccan pride and history. Don’t spoil it by ignoring its political backdrops and the hidden conflict for influence that laid behind it. If there’s one thing that can advance the cause, it is surely, for the Moroccan regime, to recognize its past lapses, and be open about it to the widest extent possible. Can one presume things will be dealt with in a reasonable and a grown-up manner? thank you.

Let me go gooey and optimistic a moment: an autonomous republic within a federal monarchy is just as fine a settlement solution as another. One could even think of the Polisario as some sort of regionalist party that would compete for the regional parliament just like federal-wide parties. This supposes that their hard-line people would come to terms (Morocco does not have hard-line people, ony warring tribal interests), that the corrupted officials from one side of the defence wall and the other are routed out, that Morocco delivered a clean bill of health on its constitutional reforms, and finally that the Algerian officials chose to focus on their home issues more courageously.

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hisham said, on November 7, 2010 at 00:37

    The whole of Moroccan recent history is up for grabs for historians to rewrite. The official history, taught in schools, is ludicrously fabricated. But the Moroccan monarchy is growing more and more sensitive. Given the recent rather Kafkaesque suspension of Aljazeera and the ongoing termination of the independent press, plus the tone of today’s mantra in the king speech, I’m afraid the prospects of the transparency you’re calling for seem as remote as ever.

  2. Mohammad said, on November 7, 2010 at 00:37

    Dear fellow Moor,

    The while I do coincide in most of what you said, I was a bit surprised that you haven’t cited the tentative of the “Army of Liberation” to liberate Sahara in the late fifties.. When, once again, the state turned its back to resistants : The result was that they were eventually smashed by the Spaniards and the French… The way Riffians were let down in the 20’s.. The Myth is not the one about the Green March, but rather the one about our independence .. the French tried to negotiate a gradual independence (hence keeping the desert in the south for a while) with algerians who refused the proposal.. We were not able to do the same thing with the spaniards (should I remind that it was Franco’s Spain though)

    What triggers me in the way our officials deal with this problem is that they still think that bribing and bakshish alone work.. It used to make me laugh to hear some talking about an active Moroccan Lobby in the States. Hearing them would give you the impression we have our own AIPAC and JStreet. The reality is merely different : No strategic scenarios, no communication campaigns.. usw .to sum it up, we have a diplomacy of “Tajine” .. which is not really shocking if one knows that the state had delegated a consultancy firm to advice it on future development of Moroccan economy, which hints at the fact that the HEC, X, Ponts, Mines, Centrale Alumni we have are of NO USE (some auto critique is useful sometimes) .. Most of them go back to nail the country and take their share of the cake…Should we have a look-alike of Mahathir Muhammad who has studied in Dahr Mehraz or Taroudant with the necessary inner political intelligence, we wouldn’t be of any need to go to the bottom of the world to learn how to rule our country.

    Now the interesting question is: Which model is to apply ,for us to analyze the Sahara conflict? South Sudan, Nagurno Karabakh, East Timor are all recent examples that are very insightful. Hence, a referendum would be lethal because we would have to face the conclusions of the sudanese and indonesian precedents.. The military option would also be hazardous the way it was to Azerbaijan in the past.. Even a confederation or a broad autonomy would definitely lead to a secession or in the best case to each Moroccan government kissing the ass of Polisario the way Baghdad prostrates itself on the bare floor of Arbil.

    The state has made a big mistake by playing the tribal game of Sahraouis.. Instead, It had to populate their areas with fellow Moroccans from the rest of Morocco (way more than what it did so far), to impose standard modern ways of life the way Israel did with the Bedouins of Negev… That had to be done in the turmoil of 70’s and 80’s now that there is no cloud to cover such actions: We count on our officials to be creative..


    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on November 7, 2010 at 00:41


      I did. there was a link to an earlier post I wrote on Operation Ecouvillon. it goes without saying that the treason the crown prince was guilty of should be publicized as wide as possible.
      I don’t think a federalist option would lead to secession. Call me utopist but I believe we can do politics like grownups in this country. We just need the right conditions to do so.
      thanks for stopping by!

  3. Mohammad said, on November 7, 2010 at 01:04

    Sorry I have skipped that

    I am optimistic as well but you see I am allergic to everything that calls itself “Arabic” and the A in RASD stands for that A word.. their speech is very old fashioned that it seems like we have to wait for decades so that they become “mature”..


    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on November 7, 2010 at 01:12

      the Polisario is very complex. fascinating in the sense that they encapsulate many contradictions within; they rely on tribal structure but the official speech is very left-wing for one. I am certainly not talking about El Marrakchi’s clique, but the growing new elite, the Sahrawi that were educated in Cuba, Algeria and other countries and came back to Tinduf as intermediate officials. These -like Ould Salma- could be good negotiators and later on, good politicians and officials when a settlement is reached. I don’t see it as impossible to have these people in charge of a republic that would be autonomous within the monarchy. The same scheme can be applied to the Rif, too, and other regions where particularism or regionalism is very strong. risks of secession arise when there’s instability; I hope that when Morocco reaches that stage of devolution, our democracy would be stronger than ever. that remains hope, unfortunately.

      My feeling is, there are people in Morocco, Algeria and in Tinduf that do not want a settlement, and play a pervert game in prevent it.

  4. Mohammad said, on November 7, 2010 at 01:50

    I think it is more urgent than ever for young Moroccans , Sahraoui Moroccans and Algerians to have their say on the matter.. I am looking forward to witnessing an initiative taken by that layer of Maghrebin population.. At least here in the West. As long as trades between Morocco and Algeria have to transit by Marseille, such initiatives are not feasible back home.. What a shame

  5. fawzi said, on November 7, 2010 at 13:05

    We have what is mostly a tribal society dominated by the theocratic rule of an absolute monarch. The divine and earthly are mitigated in a(n evil) genius legal tour de force. The myth, if any, is that Morocco is a democratic state or even aspires to it. Everything else is but a consequence of it.

    Big Bro is a populist twat living in a voluntary state of perpetual cognitive dissonance. Il n’y a pire sourd que celui qui ne veux pas entendre, as the French say. The sooner you’ll realize that, the better off you’ll be.

    Fantastic blog by the way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: