The Moorish Wanderer

False Patriotism and Other Tricks

The trouble with events like those we witnessed on May 23rd, is that temptation to say: “I told you so”, where pessimism takes over. The sudden stiffening of security measures -most probably prompted by the May 15th daring picnic project around the Temara security compound– may well be a turning point in the extraordinary times our domestic politics is living through. I have this strange image on my mind of the security apparatus behaving like a wild beast, a bit intimidated by demonstrations on February 20th (and those following on March 20th and April 23th) and definitely entrenched in a hostile defence. But when demonstrators wanted to picnic outside the Temara compound (dumbed Guantemara) the security services’ own lair, the latter stroke back, with their customary violence.

The Dark Side of the (Police/Merda/CMI) Force is taking over, and the Temara headquarters is their Death Star.

Two events put security forces back into the limelight, namely the Marrakesh bombings and the Temara affair. It is basically a sequential, repeated chicken game between the movement and the authorities: at every stage of this process, Feb20 chose the radical outcome, and one way or the other, got away with it. The first stage was the demonstration itself. Regime made some incredible threats, but the demonstration took place nonetheless. Then after the King’s Speech on March 9th, authorities approached the movement for a possible negotiation on the constitutional reforms, they refused to be associated with the commission; At every stage, Feb20 forced the outcome and turned the tables. But the successive blows these last weeks ring out as a recovery of old stick-and-stick policy our security people have been trained and educated for. As a matter of fact, planned demonstration next Sunday, May 29th are going to determine the movement’s next course of action.

If they fail again to mobilize enough people around Morocco, then our Evolution -in contrast with Revolutions in other parts of the MENA region– is likely to be a short fuse, and the Silent Majority, those who do not demonstrate every week, might well slip back into political apathy. This is even more crucial when considering that the movement does not have the power to set the agenda, the King does. And now time is in favour of the constitutional reform process as designed and prepared by Royal advisers; The margin shifts back to the Empire, and the Rebels are so pressed for time.

Referendum day is now scheduled July 1st. This is the only public date available (with no official confirmation yet) and was leaked to the general public, probably as a heads-up to some move in the coming month (June?) on May 18th Khalid Hariry MP mentioned the date on his twitter feed

Proposition Min. Interieur aux partis: “referendum 1 juillet, législatives 7 octobre” ouverture parlement 14 octobre

Mr Hariry may be just an ordinary Member of Parliament, but his social media activism (there aren’t much Moroccan ministers and MPs on twitter, or posting on their personal blogs around) is a convenient way to get the message out about the hidden agenda -first rule of Moroccan politics, the authorities always have a hidden agenda. This is not paranoia, it is only empirical observation. So the Interior Minister tells the MPs that referendum day might be on July 1st, with General Elections on October 7th, and most probably the new parliament in session for October 14th. That means high up, there is confidence these elections will yield some strong majority, or that party leaders will be amenable to any deal presented to them for some government coalition; better still, the old line of ‘national unity’ government following the new constitution might be appealing to mainstream political parties and large scores of Moroccan public.

This ‘rumour’ (there is no official communication about it yet) has also been mentioned by TelQuel Magazine mentioned on their edition May 19th-20th (about the same day) that the Commission has been asked to make haste on their draft:

Dernière ligne droite pour la Commission consultative pour la révision de la Constitution (CCRC). Le cabinet royal aurait demandé à la Commission d’accélérer la cadence afin de rendre sa copie, avant la fin du mois de mai, au lieu de mi-juin. En parallèle, les listes électorales sont en cours d’actualisation dans la perspective du référendum.

So we might be expecting some news on the issue by the end of this week, most likely early June. Are these good or bad news? From the dissidence’s point of view, this is disaster. Because everyday Referendum day gets closer, and when Moroccan citizens go to the polls and vote massively in favour of the proposed draft, then Feb20 movement will lose one of its remaining legitimacies, i.e. a certain representation among the people.

Repression is still there, and kicking. More than ever. (Pic from Demain Online)

I have disillusioned myself quite early on the outcome of this referendum. What I can hope for, on the other hand, is that the combined numbers of boycott (or blank votes) and the ‘No’ Vote would be large enough (say at least 30% of total electoral corps) to build up on a civic platform that would wage large demonstrations from time to time, perhaps venture to publish some alternative proposals, until it forces another reform, this time more amenable to its own agenda. As for the possibility of a swift political confrontation on July or September, or the likelihood of a mass boycott, I foresee it to be very unlikely.

I also keep thinking about the following scenario: the latest declarations of our own Ron Ziegler, Mr Khalid Naciri (Communications Minister and government spokesman) are very worrying, because the explicit criticism made on the May 23rd demonstrations was that Al Adl and Left-wingers (he did not specify which ones, certainly not his own PPS party) manipulated the youth, and were also guilty of their lack of patriotism. After his blunt denial of any torture infrastructure at the Temara Compound, Minister Naciri only confirms his favourite line, which brands dissidents and ‘nihilists‘ as potentially traitors to the nation and fully-paid foreign agents.

When one considers the previous referendums, the late King Hassan II resorted more than often to this ‘Patriotism’ line (this seem to confirm what S. Johnson said about scoundrels and patriotism) to appease opposition parties and elicit their support for his constitutional projects. Istiqlal was more than often ready to do his bidding, but overall Koutla parties held steady, especially on the 1992 Referendum, but not so much on 1996. The subsequent Alternance was also the result of this alluring proposal to save the country. Former Prime Minister Abderrahamane Youssoufi -as well as his USFP party- still justify their compromise by stating that “Morocco was in danger“. All elements indicate the same old tricks will be used and followed by the gullible.

It’s a bit overconfident -and peculiar- of the Interior Minister to tell Members of Parliament about the project of holding elections straight after referendum (spare August for a Ramadanesque truce), and even more brazen, to call parliament in session ten days after elections. It means there’s strong confidence a government with a workable majority has been formed, or that the King stepped in and called for a National Unity government (a governmental consensus built around the new constitution, presumably). I don’t know why I keep thinking about this. Perhaps because for many mainstream politicians, Feb20 has shaken their monopoly over partisan politics, so they would only too obligingly gather and denounce the demonstrations as unpatriotic and revert back to the old accusations of  ‘Commies, Atheists, Faggots, Islamists and Pro-Polisario‘.

Because of the security tightening, the old mantra of Fifth Column accusations will be yet again put to use to discredit the movement. Last Sunday, ordinary citizens stood idly by while demonstrators were beaten up. If things do get worse, the young people might be branded as traitors and lose whatever sympathy they might enjoy among the Silent Majority. This June will certainly turn out to be the moment of truth, both for the constitutional reform and Feb20’s future as an alternative movement.

Ecouvillon 1958

I am proud to say that I have left my nihilist filthy habit out of this post. Since some of our would-be young political leaders need to be punched in their unsubstantial guts and for those of you with a healthy thrust for modern history, I shall provide some insights on how Morocco found itself trapped in the Sahara problem; And I will too talk about a glorious feat unfortunately little known to the Moroccans. Broadly speaking, I claim the Makhzen made a mistake in neglecting -at best, if it’s not simply betrayal- the Moroccan Liberation Army. I sincerely believe that, if the Abdellah Ibrahim government had its way, that is, if the MLA commanders got the support they were requesting, this whole shebang wouldn’t happen. But of course, History cannot be re-written, but we should learn from it; The claim is justified, but it the truth should be told, the patriot is so indeed when they are fully aware of the Motherland history (and to be honest, I don’t think the CJDM people know much about it…) Ecouvillon. A bottle-brush. a tool you need to clean-up clogged stuff. Ecouvillon-Ouragan is a little-known episode of the immediate years following Morocco’s independence.

I’ve got a question: How come no one of our fiercely patriotic young people was shocked we’d got half-independence? Morocco recovered a little under 40% of its present area (Sahara included) with bits and chunks still under foreign supervision. We were indeed protected, though actually Moroccan territory was divided up between France and Spain (and we do know who signed the treaty, don’t we?) And, to remind the amnesic generations, the Green March was not the only, nor the first attempt to affirm Morocco’s claim over the Sahara.

Shortly before independence, the MLA started building up its strength. The first units of the Moroccan Liberation Army started guerrilla warfare on French garrisons, October 1955, on the border from their Spanish Morocco bases. After the independence, some of these units start moving southwards, directly into the Rio De Oro Sahara. Colonel Benhamou, deputy commander, moved then most of his troops to Attar early January 1957. Let us also note that right from the start, the Monarchy tried bribing some of its leaders, either by giving them grima, or a civil-service posting, or money (there were even official communication about that to the local commanders shortly after the Saint Cloud treaty was signed). In any case, the monarchy wanted to get hold of the MLA as soon as possible, seemingly to restore ‘law and order’ as this 1957 AFP communiqué suggests:

Répondant au désir de Sa Majesté Mohammed V relatif au retour au calme et à la stabilité, (…) l’Armée de libération se devait de cesser toute action que les circonstances l’avaient obligée jusqu’ici d’entreprendre pour assurer le maintien de la sécurité publique. Dorénamvant, il appartient au gouvernement de Sa Majesté, qui a pris en main les pouvoirs nécessaires, d’assurer ses responsabilitées et d’accomplir les tâches qui lui incombent(I.Dalle, p53)

Those who refused to do so continued the struggle, as Morocco was not fully independent, a large chunk of its territories (including the disputed Mauritania until 1960) was still under French and Spanish control.

Spanish Legion at Al-Aiun. These and the Tropas Nomadas fought against the MLA.

Early 1957 saw the first actions the MLA started out against small Spanish garrisons. Desert warfare gave significant advantage to the MLA flying columns: as they rely on local tribes‘ guidance, support and protection, they easily make up for their lack of air and heavy support, especially against fixed positions the Spanish forces were desperately trying to hold against the Moroccan raids. It must be pointed out that while some political factions in free Morocco where wholeheartedly supporting the MLA raids, other elements close to the Monarchy were actually afraid of this increasingly popular political and military force. Even the newly-founded FAR (Forces Armées Royales) were no match to the battle-harden –and ideologically committed- members of the MLA. Furthermore, because how unique battlefield the Rio De Oro is, modern weapons did not matter: save for the relatively new light weapons (sub and support light machineguns) the MLA as well as their ennemies fielded WW2-era rifles and mortars. The Spanish couldn’t make good use of their close-support jet fighters, so the technological gap between the MLA and the Spanish garrisons was narrowed down. The French, on the other hand, were increasingly concerned with the Algerian uprising (1954) and couldn’t commit enough troops to protect their territories. They where however in the same position, as they were fielding relatively obsolete weaponry, with the advantage of larger mechanized forces, compared to the Spaniards. The French were more than worried the MLA raids could affect their position north Port-Etienne (Nouakchott)

Early February, Ecouvillon is set up with big resources: the Suez fiasco prompted the French command (and their Spanish allies) to commit as much equipment and manpower to their venture in order to make out a swift and blitzkrieg-like operation. In facts, the field allowed for large-scale attacks, very much like the raids (rezzou) Sahrawi tribes were quite fond of. According to Attilio Gaudio, the French AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française) command committed 630 vehicles of all kind, Jeeps, GMC 6×6 Trucks, M8 Armoured cars and miscellaneous light tanks, in order to supply the 10.000-strong column with motorized support. These highly mechanized crack units, mainly paratroopers from the Légion Etrangère and the colonial troops (7e Régiment de Parachutistes Coloniaux), had also local levies, mainly the Méhariste troops with natives acting as guides. The Spanish fielded their own Legion (la Bandera), as well as their local levy, the Tropas Nomadas.

Inspection Line, French Meharists. They Provided Reconnaissance support for Ecouvillon

The strategic goal for the French was to secure a safe corridor near Tindouf, The Spanish, being subject to attrition and on the verge to lose their control over their Sahara, considered that a large-scale operation could indeed allow them to get rid of all hostile activities between Cap-Juby, Villa Cineros and El Aiun. This was a major shift in the ongoing war, as the colonialist forces heavily updated their arsenal and gathered impressive air support for their upcoming attack. The Moroccan Liberation Army, on the other hand, was not as modern as their enemies; the troops were a mixture of Sahrawi tribes and Moroccan irregulars, mainly veterans from the North-Spanish Morocco campaign. The MLA tactics were mainly guerrilla and the troops are mostly Camel-borne. Abdellah Ibrahim recalled that the very existence of the MLA was considered to be most dangerous for the Monarchy’s stability: “One time Colonel M. Benhamou and Fqih Basri met me in order to brief me on the difficulties the MLA is facing, namely the declining supply of food rations, hardware supplies, weapons and ammunitions, They then went on the serious breaches military and high-ranking officials were guilty of, relating to the secrecy of the whole operation (for the benefit of those who might have misunderstood, supporting the MLA was quite unofficial, and it upset lots of people, many of whom were on foreign powers’ payroll) Following his claims, 1958 was also a year of political tensions, as the monarchy increasingly worried the MLA was a serious rival to legitimacy. Abdellah Ibrahim also believed that then-crown prince Hassan was behind this, as well as the right-wing side of the Istiqlal were pushing for political rather than a military solution on the Sahara issue, making them objective allies in the plot against the MLA.

France still had a large chunk of southern Morocco, and since they launched the operation from two directions (as seen on the map) they account for some interesting reports on how helpful the Moroccan border guards were cooperating with them. The Monarchy actually made a deal with the French to help -however passively they were, but help nonetheless- to crush the MLA, and in exchange, they abandon Northern Sahara and could get the Spanish to cede Sidi Ifni. There’s nothing to be ashamed of this (after all, we were ‘protected’ then granted independence through treaties and negotiation) but we shan’t overlook the fact that the crown prince -the one so much praised for his genius on many, many things- voluntarily and consciously sold out true patriot just to make sure no one would appear as a political alternative to him.

Alongside the military operations, the Sahara problem was far beyond Moroccan internal affairs: France needed a safe corridor west of its Algerian territories, and engaged in a ‘chassé-croisé’ strategy with both Spain and Morocco; as A. El Ouali rightfully underlined: “Dès 1957, face à l’opposition franco-espagnole, l’Armée de Libération Marocaine, après avoir contribué à la libération des parties septentrionales du pays, dirige son action vers la libération de tous les territoires sahariens du Maroc. Elle choisit pour ce faire de s’attaquer d’abord au maillon le plus faible du colonialisme franco-espagnol : la présence espagnole au Sahara. Dès le mois de novembre 1957, elle parvient, dans une action éclair, à prendre de revers les forces militaires espagnoles et à s’installer dans l’ensemble du Sahara marocain” which is quite right, the sucessful raids against Al Aiun were rather a surprise for many observers:

“Guerrillas of the old Moroccan Army of Liberation, no longer occupied with fighting the French, moved into the scrublands around the Ifni frontier. No sooner had the King departed for his visit to the U.S. than the irregulars assembled a motley force of some 1,200 townsmen and tribesmen and launched an attack on Ifni. […]Their first thrust the black-turbaned, khaki-uniformed irregulars swept into Sidi Ifni itself, a small (pop. 10,000) fishing town of unpaved streets. They slaughtered a score of sleeping Spanish sentries and made off with some trucks and mules. The Spanish, who last month jailed a few local Moslems for demonstrating in favour of King Mohammed, had quietly reinforced the Ifni garrison with several hundred paratroopers and Foreign Legionnaires. Shouting their battle cry of “Long Live Death,” the Legionnaires led a counterattack into the hills that drove most of the invaders back across the frontier and cost them an estimated 100 dead, 200 wounded. Announced Spanish casualties: 5 dead, 43 wounded. The Moroccans managed to hang on to some of Ifni’s border outposts. Spanish paratroops dropped from the skies to retake one, a heavy cruiser lobbed shells into others.

The Time also accounted for some interesting articles on the ongoing operations the MLA carried out successfully against Spanish, then French outpost on the desert. The MLA was so successful that it carried out long-range raids on Al Aiun: “After two months of fighting, irregulars of the Moroccan Liberation Army, under the leadership of a squat ex-Marrakech street vendor named Benhamou, have driven the Spanish out of most of their Atlantic Coast enclave of Ifni. Ifni is not much but rocky rubble and scrub, but its single city, Sidi Ifni (pop. 10,000), has been used by the Spanish as the seat of the governor of all its desert provinces—Ifni, Rio de Oro, Spanish Sahara, as well as the part of southern Morocco that they have continued to rule on the ground that King Mohammed’s government is unable to establish its authority there. Last week, with Moroccans encircling Sidi Ifni’s tightly held perimeter, Madrid merged all the rest of its West African colonies under one military governor, and set up the new administration at the fortified town of Aiun, 250 miles south of Ifni

But Benhamou’s nationalists and tribesmen were moving fast. Now calling themselves the new Saharan Army of Liberation, they appeared at Edchera, near Aiun, in the midst of a blinding sandstorm, launched a fierce attack on its garrison of Spanish soldiers and Legionnaires. It was the most murderous battle since the 1934 French “pacification” campaign. The Spanish claimed the Moroccans fled, leaving 241 corpses and 20 camels. The communiqué also listed 51 Legionnaires dead, but a knowing Madrid source indicated that total Legion casualties almost equaled the Moroccan dead”.
The fact is, the military option was going well, very well indeed, and so the political negotiations ‘official’ Morocco engaged with the Spanish were of marginal interest. The crown prince’s involvement in Ecouvillon was for internal politics: the desire to get rid of the MLA, in order to assert his own power. The betrayal of true patriots (not matter what has been written and said on people like Basri, or Ait Idder) is nothing but treason. History is so ironic that, in 1963, Hassan II’s pity revenge was to accuse and sentence to death these people for treason. As Churchill once said: ‘What kind of people do they think we are?’ I guess this has been overlooked by our esteemed historians, has it not?

Operation Ecouvillon-Ouragan. The Northern part of Sahara still under France's supervision (Map 1958-1959) France committed Colonial paratrooper and desert troops to crack down on MLA activities.

What is then the point in telling the tale? Does it have a link with the current problem? Directly, yes; Instead of giving a free hand to the MLA, and therefore achieve an earlier complete independence (with no Polisario, no RASD, ولا ستي حمس) Hassan II sort of confirmed Spanish control over Western Sahara, and waited to wave the patriotic flag in 1975 –and ever since- in order, again, to deal with left-wing opposition. The very same tactics is set up whenever it’s necessary to suppress dissent. It is, as usual, the ‘enemy from within’ theory.

Why do I need to bring this forgotten history?

First off, to remind the ‘young elite’ that the Makhzen played a Machiavellian part with this Sahara business: first by sacrificing the MLA to the colonialists (in order to assert their power over Morocco) and in a time it was under considerable strain and low popularity, to play the nationalism card.

Second, because of this betrayal, and ever since 1975, the Moroccan people were constantly out of touch; all what was asked –oh, I should say imposed- was silence. 3 decades later, there still are people claiming urbi et orbi the Sahara is Moroccan.

Of course it is, but do we know why we are in such a mess in hands? Do we even admit the Makhzen’s responsibility in this? Of course not, populism and demagogy just point out to the Algerian and shout:’they’re the baddies, we are the goodies’ while young sahrawis in Tindouf are raised in hatred and resentment towards the ‘Colonialist Moroccans’. Meanwhile, dark forces in Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario are taking advantage and loot the people.

Third, because we need a radical shake up of the constitution: speaking for the Moroccan side, my fellow citizens need to be involved in the process. They need to know the negotiators, those in charge of the Sahara issue, should be accountable to the people’s will, and then, our claims will be entirely justified, or at least, with a rigorous and representative voice, that could win the international community’s respect. Perhaps I need to remind that Morocco craves international recognition in order to win their case, It is one of the basic conditions for a state to assert its sovereignty.

Ecouvillon just shows that the Makhzen cannot admit nationalism outside its boundaries. A sad indictment of the MLA Legacy, some consider the FAR’s involvment with ecouvillon as a glorious feat;

In any case, the venerable Ait Idder gives a very interesting account of his experience with the High Command.


23 Mars 1965 : fiction historique

Posted in Polfiction by Zouhair ABH on December 10, 2008

… L’air était lourd ce matin-là. Près du palais royal, le nombre incroyable de véhicules militaires, aux couleurs d’un vert kaki qui tranchait violemment avec les façades blanches et pacifiques des bâtiments environnants. Ce matin là, le long boulevard Mohamed V était vide, désespérément désert, inquiétant de calme, à une heure où des foules pressées devaient vaquer à leurs occupations.

Spacieux boulevard se déroulant de la mosquée jouxtant le palais royal, jusqu’à la vieille médina, en passant par des bâtiments modernes et imposants : L’Hôtel Balima, Le Quartier Européen, le tribunal … Des allures d’un petit boulevard Saint-Germain ou Saint-Michel. Un quartier calme, peut être trop calme, pour le centre de la capitale. Etrangement, les trains ne circulaient pas à la gare de Rabat-Ville. Le lourd portail de fer était fermé, et autour de la petite esplanade, des sacs de sable ont été disposés, deux nids de mitrailleuses et des véhicules légers barrent la route. Autour de la gare, des patrouilles de soldats, des policiers en uniforme ou en civil, radios et talkie-walkie à l’oreille, les ordres fusent, les crachats radiophoniques se mélangent aux ordres donnés de vive voix. Guerre? affrontement ? manœuvres en pleine ville? Il faisait beau ce 23 Mars : le soleil éclatant jetait ses rayons sur les beaux palmiers majestueux, à leurs pieds gisaient, merveilleuses et brillantes, les dattes jaunes et dorées, comme de larges auréoles protégeant l’arbre auguste. On voyait de temps à autre une petite hirondelle, petite flèche noire audacieuse sortir littéralement du vieux mur d’enceinte de la “vieille ville” pour aller se perdre dans un des bâtiments environnants. Curieux contraste ! le printemps a pris à peine le temps de s’installer, qu’une foule belliqueuse, armée jusqu’aux dents, prenait ses quartiers dans le centre de Rabat, attendant les ordres, fourbissant les armes pour une improbable bataille, contre un ennemi invisible.

Dans le véhicule “command-car” un officier, l’oreille collée à son appareil de transmission, recevait les ordres crachés par une voix métallique, au débit saccadé, aux mots durs et brefs. Autour de lui, des visages fermés, casqués et en sueur, car s’il faisait beau, il faisait aussi chaud, chaleur exacerbée par l’impressionnant paquetage des soldats, mal à l’aise dans leurs lourds treillis, les pieds dans leurs brodequins depuis plusieurs jours. Visages fermés, fatigués peut être. Ils ne savent pas pourquoi ils se battent. Pour une grande majorité d’entre eux, ce sont d’anciens goumiers qui ont combattu avec les Français en Italie, en France, en Allemagne, et plus tard, en Indochine… Ils n’ont pas besoin de savoir pourquoi, ils sont là pour exécuter les ordres du chef, point.

Dirigez-vous avec votre unité vers rue Descartes, opérez un mouvement tournant pour rallier la rue Mokri puis prenez l’objectif 1-8-3 en tenailles” entendait-on malgré les crissements agaçants de la radio.

Vérifiez vos armes” aboya l’officier “le groupe de reconnaissance avec les jeeps, le reste dans les camions” vociféra son adjoint.

Aussitôt, le calme relatif qui régnait sur l’esplanade surplombant l’avenue céda la place à un tumulte guerrier, les soldats cherchant leurs véhicules, les officiers excitant leurs hommes de la voix et du geste, et le beau soleil, le soleil éclatant comme un sourire d’enfant, commença a être éclipsé par les volutes de fumée d’essence et de gasoil. Une colonne de fer et d’acier se forma, se dirigeant lentement vers ses objectifs.
Pendant ce temps, l’atmosphère était toute autre dans le beau quartier des orangers : sous les yeux effarés des surveillants généraux, les lycéens se sont regroupés sur le vaste terrain de sport.

La place, noire de monde et de têtes d’adolescents, était comme parcourue par une rumeur distincte mais inintelligible. Des petits groupes de discussions, en cercle, se formaient et se déformaient au grès des déplacements des lycéens.

En ce 23 Mars 1965, les élèves du Lycée Les Orangers étaient en grève. “Ces salauds ne veulent pas nous laisser étudier” soutenait un jeunot  imberbe “Bien sûr, c’est ce que Marx appelle la reproduction sociale, ils veulent maintenir leur supériorité en empêchant les enfants du peuple de s’instruire” renchérit un autre, apparemment plus politisé. Au milieu de cette foule dense, vivante, nullement agressive mais très motivée, circulaient des tracts : “Le Gouvernement réactionnaire a décidé de fermer le système d’enseignement aux enfants du peuple, les privant ainsi d’un de leurs droits les plus élémentaires” pouvait-on difficilement lire sur une feuille de papier toute racornie, impression approximative de linotype, provenant de je ne sais quelle imprimerie clandestine.

Des exemplaires “d’Al Mouharir”, (Le Libérateur) circulent aussi. de meilleure qualité, le style est aussi plus recherché, on peut y lire : “Le ministre de l’éducation nationale, Youssef Belabbès a décidé d’interdire le cycle de baccalauréat aux élèves de plus de 17 ans. Ceci est une atteinte intolérable aux droits inaliénables du peuple marocain. Les forces réactionnaires et féodales du pouvoir cherchent à ralentir et à étouffer le processus de progressisme et de libération sociale des masses laborieuses”. S’ensuit une longue harangue aux élans de libération populaire, de critique acerbe du pouvoir, de la féodalité, des réactionnaires, des ….

Un bruit inhabituel se fit soudain : au lointain, c’était comme un coup de tonnerre, plutôt un bruit de canon, pour ceux qui ont déjà vu des films de guerre. Les discussions, passionnées ou quelconques, ont aussitôt fait place à un silence inquiétant, un silence de mort, un silence assourdissant. Rien, sinon les échos d’une canonnade en règle, portée par le vent.

Chaque lycéen réalisa soudainement que l’enceinte de l’établissement devenait plus un piège qu’un havre sécurisé, plutôt un cercueil spacieux, mais un cercueil surtout. La jovialité des visages adolescents ou jeunes adultes, faisait place à l’inquiétude, à la crispation, à la peur… Du haut du bâtiment faisant face à la cour et aux terrains de sport, une voix de Stentor se fit entendre. Une voix ferme, puissante :

“ILS ARRIVENT !”

Ils ? “Les policiers ?” se demandèrent les lycéens. “Mais nous les avons battus !”

Vrai. La veille, le commissariat du IVème arrondissement, haute bâtisse aux couleurs blanches et jaunes, ressemblait à un véritable château assiégé. Le quartier de l’Océan, un beau quartier européen, bordé d’arbres et de maisons coquettes, était envahi par une foule hétérogène et hurlante : lycéens bien sûr, mais aussi chômeurs, parents d’élèves, pilleurs, badauds… Cette foule, agressive et incontrôlable, gémissante et menaçante à la fois, s’étonnait elle même à invectiver les policiers, mal à l’aise du fait de leur infériorité numérique et l’efficacité dérisoire de leur arsenal, qui contenaient à peine la masse grouillante d’une misère insoutenable, qui cherchait à faire libérer ses enfants arrêtés et enfermés dans le bâtiment. On appela en renfort les forces auxiliaires. Même cette soldatesque moustachue, ventrue, habillée d’un vert-kaki improbable et unanimement détestée des Marocains ne put obliger la masse à se disperser. Jusqu’au matin, une pression régulière, nullement concertée mais naturellement de mise, fut exercée sur le commissariat, les policiers commençaient à paniquer. Leurs armes n’étaient plus menaçante pour le peuple conquérant.

“La Rue est à Nous”, “Les policiers ? ils ne peuvent venir…”

“ILS ARRIVENT !” cria une seconde fois la vigie. Ce second appel commença à dissiper l’équivoque “Les MILITAIRES !” dans le lointain, une rumeur enflant renseigne aussitôt les esprits les plus vifs : des véhicules militaires se dirigeaient vers le Lycée.

Que faire ?

Un petit groupe sortit par la porte donnant sur l’avenue Pasteur, petite avenue en vérité, que bordaient des villas calmes, cernées de hauts murs dont dépassent des plantes exotiques, mais à l’efficacité redoutable, des plantes aux épines pareilles aux piques des hallebardiers. Ce calme tranchait bizarrement avec l’anxiété qu’on pouvait lire sur les visages à peine sortis de l’adolescence de ces lycéens, sortis de l’établissement pour découvrir l’inconnu. Au moment où ils débouchent sur l’avenue, une jeep passant en trombe faillait écraser l’un d’eux. Cette jeep était équipée d’une mitrailleuse lourde, dont le servant, ayant remarqué la présence des étudiants, ouvrit machinalement le feu.

Pour la majorité d’entre eux, les lycéens ne savaient pas à quoi ressemblait une arme à feu, ni son bruit, et ne mesuraient pas ce qu’elle pouvait occasionner comme dégâts. l’un d’eux se rappelle : “L’arme faisait un drôle de bruit. On aurait dit un marteau-piqueur… Je ne comprenais pas quand je voyais des petits morceaux de pavés s’élever dans les airs, soulevant de la poussière qui se rapprochait de plus en plus” le ballet des projectiles labourant le sol se rapprochait dangereusement du petit groupe qui commençait à se grossir des autres étudiants sortant du lycée. L’un d’eux s’affaissa, tenant sa jambe et criant de douleur. Les balles de 12,7mm lui avait sectionné au niveau de la cheville.

Un misérable petit morceau de chair, approximativement habillé d’un tissu sanguinolent et d’une chaussure improbable traînait quelques mètres plus loin. Le pauvre gamin criait de douleur, son visage se tordant en un rictus effrayant, sa cheville, ou plutôt ce qui était sa cheville, pissait le sang et arrosait le trottoir. Ses camarades, interdits, semblaient fascinés par le spectacle macabre qui s’offrait à leurs yeux. ils n’avaient pas le loisir de l’observer longtemps. remontant rapidement, deux automitrailleuses déboulèrent par la rue Descartes, prenant sous leurs feux la foule médusée par le déchaînement de feu et d’acier. Les volutes de poussières des balles traçantes se mélangeaient allègrement avec des morceaux de chair arrachés, parfois accompagnés de jets de sang, ou de matière cérébrale. Les cris étaient inaudibles, tant le fracas des armes automatiques étaient assourdissant. petit à petit, la sortie de la rue qui débouche sur l’avenue, engorgée par les étudiants, s’éclaircit, ou plutôt se remplissait de cadavres. Les chanceux du premier groupe qui avaient rompu le charme macabre du spectacle avaient déjà rallié l’autre bout de l’avenue, se cachant derrière les arbres, retenant leur souffle devant le spectacle dantesque qui s’offrait à eux.

Un vieux Français qui habitait dans une des villas jouxtant le Lycée, réveillé par le bruit des véhicules et le ronflement des armes automatiques, se réveilla, et, en ouvrant sa fenêtre prudemment, tomba sur un spectacle sanglant : Les soldats, casqués et portant des masques à gaz, descendaient précipitamment de leurs camions, et sous les ordres de leurs officiers, chargeaient leurs fusils. Par petits groupes, les escouades, protégées par des lanceurs de grenades lacrymogènes, s’avançaient lentement. Graduellement, les staccatos des mitrailleurs étaient rythmés par les claquements des fusils.

“Les balles en caoutchouc ?” s’interrogea le Français. Détournant son regard vers l’autre fenêtre à gauche, il eut la confirmation de ce qu’il écartait comme hypothèse : sur l’asphalte, sur le trottoir, des cadavres gisaient. Certains, ayant été en plein champ de tir des mitrailleurs lourdes étaient littéralement sectionnés en deux. Sur l’enceinte longeant le lycée, un trait disgracieux ponctué d’impact de balles étaient zébrés de petites touches de sang. Là où des lycéens avaient le malheur d’être trop proches des Jeeps, et donc de leurs cracheurs de feu et d’aciers, d’immenses gerbes de couleur pourpres ponctuaient le mur, comme une mystérieuse oeuvre d’art d’un artiste incompris. Le convoi n’avaient pas seulement pour mission de boucler le lycée, mais aussi de remonter aussi vite que possible le boulevard menant au commissariat toujours assiégé par une foule de plus en plus agressive.
“Tirez à vue, pas de quartier” le chef de l’escadron d’automitrailleuses reçoit cet ordre bref et sans appel dans ses oreillettes.

La mitrailleuse aboie, alignant comme des lapins les civils perdus dans leur fuite, se bousculant, se mettant involontairement dans la ligne de mire de l’arme meurtrière.
“Commissariat dégagé, jonction opérée.” conclut laconiquement le chef de char à la radio. Il ne fallait pas moins de 5 minutes pour faire place nette. Un jeune chômeur, grand, mains nues et chemise ouverte, se trouvait maintenant devant l’immense amas d’acier. Une pensée insensée passa par son esprit, et prestement, se saisit d’un galet qui traînait. Son geste, stupide, vain, absurde, lui coûta la vie. Une rayure sur la peinture du véhicule militaire contre la vie
d’une homme, aussi insignifiante soit-elle, c’est cher payé…
Au Lycée, on sonnait la curée. Les soldats, forçant le maigre obstacle que leur offraient les lycéens, bousculèrent aisément la petite barricade de tables et de chaises, et entrèrent dans l’enceinte de l’établissement. Ceux qui se risquaient à rester sur place avaient le vie sauve, mais à quel prix ! Les soldats, déchaînés par une décharge d’adrénaline, tabassaient à bout de bras, usant de gourdins, des crosses de leurs fusils, de leurs mitraillettes. Leurs lourds brodequins piétinaient sans ménagement des corps jeunes, foulant la vie palpitante d’adolescents les implorant de les épargner…

La poursuite s’engageait partout : dans les classes, sur le terrain de sport, où les soldats, mettaient en joue des cibles faciles, tirant les fuyards comme des lapins. Ceux qui avaient la chance d’escalader le mur donnant sur la rue Udari tombaient dans le piège : une file de soldats des BLS (Brigades Légères de Sécurité) les attendaient, gourdins à la main. Ceux-là étaient plus cruels, car c’était leur spécialité que de mater les révoltes.

Il transpirait abondamment… Par peur ? effort physique ? Il n’avait pas le temps de penser à prendre une décision qu’une jeep – heureusement non armée- lui fonça dessus. Si ce n’était le poteau électrique sur lequel il pivota, il aurait été fauché par le lourd véhicule.

La peur aidant, il redoubla d’efforts pour rejoindre son domicile, quelques pâtés de maison plus loin. En courant, il sentit à peine le mince filet de sang coulant sur son visage : un petit bout de pavé c’était fiché dans sa tempe. en remontant discrètement à travers les ruelles sinueuses, il voyait un bâtiment détruit. Les coups de canons avaient défoncé la chaussée à plusieurs endroits, et des pans de maisons décharnées pendaient lamentablement, comme des cadavres d’animaux égorgés et éventrés. Il entendait distinctement le bruit de bottes, les ordres transmis, les véhicules qui démarraient et qui patrouillaient un peu partout… Arrivé chez lui, il monta directement à la terrase de l’immeuble où habitait sa famille, sans même prendre la peine de rassurer ses parents.

Du haut de la terrasse, il observait tristement d’épaisses volutes de fumée noire et des automitrailleuses, encadrant des camions bourrés de soldats en armes filant en trombe vers le commissariat ou le Lycée…
23 Mars 1965, le petit lycéen qui n’avait que 14 ans entrait de plain-pied dans l’âge adulte.

Fiction historique