Aymeric Chauprade: "Today’s Morocco is multipolar"


INTERVIEW. A few days before the celebration of the 20th anniversary of King Mohammed VI ‘s accession to the throne , the geopolitician Aymeric Chauprade, who wrote "Geopolitics of a King", spoke to Le Point Afrique.

Morocco holds a leading position among emerging African countries. Morocco has moved from a kingdom that is perceived as a political area into a major economic area that advantageously integrates into the global value chain around, among other things, automobile production, port activity, new technologies, renewable energies, etc. On the political, social and societal levels, the Sharifian Kingdom made reforms that allowed it to experience the famous Arab Spring differently, as an evolution rather than a revolution. On issues of populations’ mobility, Morocco moved from being a country of emigration and passage to Europe, to becoming an ​​immigration area with regularization of the number of sub-Saharan migrants. Faced with Islamism, Morocco developed a preventive as well as a repressive strategy that allows it to anticipate malicious acts and to build a moderate Islam. So many aspects that make it a country to scrutinize. This is what Aymeric Chauprade did in his work Geopolitics of a King*. The geopolitician shared his ideas with Le Point Afrique about Morocco’s internal situation, its place in Africa, its relations with Europe, and the destiny it has built for itself since the beginning of the reign of Mohammed VI.

Le Point Afrique : Why did you choose "Geopolitics of a King" rather than "Geopolitics of Morocco" as a title? 

Aymeric Chauprade: Twenty years ago, I set foot in Morocco for the first time in my life, this was the very year of the advent of King Mohammed VI, while I was teaching geopolitics, within the framework of military cooperation between France and Morocco.  

Since then, I have closely followed the transformations of the kingdom on-site, but also in the European institutions in Brussels. Of course, this modernization is due to all Moroccans, but it was done under the impulse and with the constant will of a man, a king. The personification of my analysis (hence the title of this essay) is simply the causal link between these transformations and the strong legitimacy of a sovereign.  If we do not understand this, we cannot understand what has been happening in Morocco in the last two decades.  For example, I explain in my book why Arab springs in some countries have been able to bring down regimes and in Morocco, on the contrary, to consolidate the sovereign’s connection with the nation. 

The twenty years of King Mohammed VI's reign revealed a creative and ambitious Morocco at the political, economic, social, and cultural levels. However, there remains a major challenge, that of a better inclusion of a large part of the youth faced with obstacles in their education, training, and work opportunities. What is your take on how this is taken into consideration by the Moroccan government, by King Mohammed VI?  

I always analyze the evolution of a society with the gaze of a long-term historian, not with the myopia of the western short-term history. Our problem, in Western Europe in particular, is "short-termism" and ideological temptation rather than respect for reality. Like spoiled children, we want everything, and right away, without realizing that every society has its own elasticity that means that we do not change a country in a few years! Young people in Morocco constitute nearly a third of the population, about 11.7 million people! Of course, youth unemployment is still massive, those who work still have very low wages, social security coverage is still very low ...  But let us ask ourselves what is more scandalous: 25% youth unemployment in a developed country like France or more than 60% youth unemployment in a country that has recently entered modernization and globalization? In my book, I also focus on the transformations that are underway in the training of young people and I demonstrate how all Moroccan society and its elite are mobilized to achieve this social and economic modernization. Morocco, like European societies, is integrated in globalization and thus faces the same challenge as our European societies: the risk of breakage between winners and losers of globalization.  

The religious diplomacy promoted by King Mohammed VI promoting moderate Islam is undoubtedly a shield against extremism and political Islam. What initiatives must be taken today to strengthen the results, because on the opposite side the financial means deployed by the countries of literal Islam (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.) are increasingly important?

One of the strengths of the king of Morocco is that he is the commander of the believers. This adds to his political legitimacy- a religious legitimacy that is all the more essential in the Muslim world. His vision is fortunately that of a moderate Islam and he refuses radical interpretations of the religion of his people, interpretations that do so much harm today in the whole world.  

Today, Mohammed VI Institute for training Imams, inaugurated in March 2014 in Rabat, undoubtedly best characterizes the king's doctrinal commitment to this "Islam of the middle way", against the spread of 'a radical Islam'. There are many other manifestations of this will, and I speak about it in a chapter devoted to this subject. And it is not just a financial problem, because what is essential is that the "top" must hold a loud and clear message. It is this lack of clarity at the highest level that is sometimes lacking in some Gulf countries. 

On the social level, the 
Moudawana has not solved all the problems of women. I am thinking of inheritance rights, among others. What makes you think that the momentum impelled by King Mohammed VI is still strong while traditionalist and conservative forces work behind the scenes to curb this opening perceived as too liberal? 

Let us be clear, what we call social modernization is only a form of societal Westernization, which surely contradicts a certain Islamic tradition. Yet, the democratization of Moroccan society also allows the expression of contradictory forces, some traditionalist and conservative, which can rely on the support of an electing majority. The modernizing vision of the king turns out to be all the more decisive in the evolution of the country; it is by the incontestable strength of his spiritual legitimacy that the king manages, despite these opposing forces, to advance Morocco towards modernity.  

Of course, things take a little time since evolutions are not authoritarian, they are the result of discussions, of democratic compromises. 

The dazzling achievements of the two decades of Mohammed VI's reign brought to light enormous economic and social disparities within the kingdom, between the educated and the numerous illiterates, the urban and the rural, those formed in a mold tinged with the West and others. What are the signs given by Morocco, the king and the government, which make you think that this challenge is being taken up?

First, an essential number. In fifteen years, Morocco has gone from an adult literacy rate of 50% to almost 80%. A determined policy of fight against poverty, access to healthcare, social support programs accompanying economic growth have borne fruit, although, it is true, and I believe I made the objective statement in my book, many problems remain. We must understand that we cannot achieve equality between men and women, religious freedom, the rights of all minorities, in a few years! If we respect the identity of a society, we also respect the time it takes to evolve. Once again, what counts is the direction taken, and that which the King wants is undeniably modernity, but without the negation of the Islamic identity of the country, of its traditions.

On the political and economic fields, Morocco under Mohammed VI reaffirmed its African dimension illustrating its desire not to be locked within the Arab world. How was this the right choice?

Morocco has reintegrated the African Union. It has become again what it has always been during its long history, an African power, with its Saharan extension that binds it historically to sub-Saharan Africa. In 2050, the African continent will have three Africans under twenty-five years old for a European close to fifty years old. 

The influence of Morocco in Africa will prove very useful to Europeans in their relationship with this young continent in full demographic explosion, and with the migratory challenges that we know, and which, if they continue not to be treated in Europe will one day lead to a brutal closure of Europe to its African and Mediterranean neighbors. 

It is precisely because I am a lucid geopolitologist when it comes to the exacerbation of the clash of civilizations that I stress here the importance of a Morocco allied with Europe that faces the double challenge of Islamic radicalism and African demography! 

Being the privileged partner of the United States and Europe, Morocco is one of the main bulwarks against international terrorism which it dismantles regularly due to its efficient intelligence services. With the importance it gives to South-South cooperation, is Morocco the new emerging power of the world?

During the cold war, Morocco was in the Western camp against the socialist regimes, and it still pays the price in the Western Sahara issue, corseted in a UN legacy that is now outdated. Morocco today is multipolar, close to France and the United States, but which also maintains good relations with Russia, and discusses with Beijing steps of the silk routes in the Maghreb. I repeat, with all the challenges facing Europe, identity challenges, demographic, climatic, Morocco is a reliable and stable partner for France and, beyond, for Europeans.

About Den Marokkanske Ambassade

Den Marokkanske Ambassade