What should be taken from the “DanielGate”

By Ranya Sossey Alaoui

At the time of the writing of this column, Daniel Galvan got arrested in Spain, and Mohammed VI gave a closure to probably one of the most controversial cases of his reign by cancelling his pardon, and receiving the victims’ families in his Palace on August 6th.

But is this reaction, however, enough to toss the “Danielgate” in the dustbin of history? Let us go back for a moment and review the week that is supposed to have given a great political lesson to all Moroccans (even the most uninterested in Politics).A lesson that gives a concrete example of the flaws of monarchial absolutism in Morocco.

One of the most important aspects King Mohammed VI focused on in his Throne speech on July 30 regarded his satisfaction of the progress made in justice reform.  Isn’t it Ironic? Presenting the “notable achievements” of the past year, he was far from anticipating that on the same day , the royal pardon, one of the habits he is known for on such holiday occasions, was going to put him in an exclusive position where he will have to explain himself to his subjects for the first time, in 14 years.

Among the long list of prisoners pardoned, specifically the 48 of Spanish nationality, stands the name of Daniel Galvan, a multi-recidivist pedophile who has raped and filmed at least 11 Moroccan children from age four to fourteen. In addition to the seriousness and gravity of the crimes committed by Galvan, the fact that he was offered to regain his liberty after serving less than two years of his 30-yearssentence went beyond the bonds of the logical. Soon, his liberation will stir outrage and fury among the public.

How can a monster like Galvan who poses a threat to society, and most importantly children’s’ lives, be pardoned? It is a scandal, a political one in which a great number of Moroccan citizens will subscribe, regardless of their political views and affiliations, or social and educational background. It is one of these cases that affect the most cold-hearted human being, a case Moroccans are niether ready to ignore, nor let pass. And to a surprising degree, they will question directly one of the actions made by the King. Even more startling, for the first time, subjects blame their king for a mistake committed in his name, a mistake he signed for with his own hands, and for which he is, therefore, constitutionally responsible, regardless of the internal circumstances that led to this pardon.

Moroccans want to know the real story behind the liberation of Daniel Galvan, they want to know who is responsible for putting his name on that list in the first place, and most importantly, they want the pedophile back in jail. This indignation is demonstrated via an important mobilization on social media. And on August 2, it takes part through the streets of Rabat, Tangier and Tetouan, where the demonstrations are repressed and put down violently. Regular citizens, fathers and mothers, journalists and intellectuals are attacked and insulted by authorities. Welcome to Morocco: The country where PhDs-holdersare beaten up by no SATs. Isn’t that Ironic as well? No, it is actually sad.

 Deafening silence of media, government, political parties and NGOs:

Apart from “AMDH” and a small number of NGOs, many associations defending children and Human Rights remained silent, or as was the case for Najat Anouar’s association, should have actually remained silent.  It must also be recalled that a few months ago, many artists and activists asked citizens on a video to join them in a march in Casablanca, calling for protest against pedophilia. Where these activists and NGOs were last week when childrens’ dignity was offended the most? Is it all just business and marketing campaign camouflaged under serving great causes?

As for Media, on Saturday, the “Danielgate” and the violence committed against protesters caught the headlines all over the world. Meanwhile in Morocco, except for some local media outlets, especially online newspapers, the rest of the national media landscape remained silent. Is it because of censorship? Not really, after all, some articles pointed the finger directly to the Monarchy and its entourage, and were yet released. Even some very daring caricatures of the King were published on Facebook, and were made as cover photos by some users. So what is it that has prevented these media outlets from doing their job? The fear of an indirect kind of censorship: The financial one.

 By upsetting the Palace’s entourage, the latter can put pressure on companies to boycott newspapers and stop buying advertising which could inevitably lead, as witnessed some years ago, to fatal bankruptcy. But isn’t it a patriotic obligation for media to be willing to take that risk and inform citizens about the evolution of such a scandal, if not at least for the sake of ethics, and good journalism?

 Let us stop looking for excuses. If most of media outlets did not cover the “Danielgate” the way it was supposed to, it is because they chose not to.  And by making that choice, media, often called the fourth estate mainly for being an important tool in restoring democratic standards, will prove its inefficiency and worthlessness in the country.

Same for government and political parties, except for a few like “PSU” (Parti Socialiste Uni in French) that denounced the royal pardon, no official reaction was heard by neither government nor politicians before the Monarchy made its first official reaction. Where did all the well-written official speeches made during election campaigns go?

Speeches claiming love for this country and its people, full of promises of better outcomes and tomorrows,  swearing to protect Moroccans’ and their children, and to stand by them no matter what? Is the “RNI” ’s (Rassemblement National des Independants) leaders only good for getting involved in financial prosecutions? Are the Istiqlal’s leaders only good at driving a wedge in the government, while being part of that same government? What about the “USFP” (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires) is this what the humanistic vision of the political left is all about? What about the “PAM“ (Parti of Authenticite and Modernite) and its demagogical communiqué? does the main existence of this party consist in watching the PJD falling, or die trying? And in the spirit of saving the “best of the last”, where did Morocco’s overexposed PJD head of Government and his party disappear last week-end?

What kept them all of them from denouncing this pardon: conflict of interests, because the pardon is royal. It is understandable that these parties wouldn’t want to draw the wrath of the power, but it is nevertheless inexcusable, and simply disrespectful toward the ones who matter the most: Moroccans, people they are supposed to represent for better or for worse.

And for politicians pretending to have Moroccans’ best interests at heart, their silence proved that the only interest they served in the past, they are serving  today and are willing to serve in the future are no one else’s but their own. If these politicians preferred to keep their mouth shut, it is because they chose to.   

One of the most important lessons to be learned from the “Danielgate” is that it showed the true face behind the hypocritical mask –if not already seen- of some, not to risk any generalization or misconception- opinion leaders from Politics, Media, and civil society.

Palace’s communication campaign: a successful exit to the crisis.

Mohammed VI’s first reaction came as an introducing measure to contain the emotional damage. In a formal note made public on August 3rd, the palace took the care to carefully specify that “the king was not informed, at any time and in any way, of the gravity of the crimes committed by Daniel Galvan” adding that the King would obviously never consented to set the pedophile free If he did actually know about his crimes, calling for an investigation to “identify the responsible of such neglect”.

 Starting from the next day, the monarch launches a series of immediate actions. A second communiqué announces his decision to revoke the royal grace, which leads to Galvan’s arrest in his hometown on Monday August 5th, while Hakim Benhachem, Head of Prison Administration was dismissed from his post on the same day.

On Tuesday, the King welcoming the victims’ families in the Palace gave a humanist closure to the “DanielGate”, delivering quite moving images of surely sincere compassion from a King probably affected by his mistake, and families whom smiles and embraces expressed the forgiveness the King was longing for.

And it works! Within less than 48 hours, a large amount of the angry posts on social media gave place to praise, thanks and pride for “having such a compassionate King”, while other citizens were not convinced by the Palace’s version and measures. To them, Hakim Benhachem was only used as a scapegoat. They kept protesting asking for public apology and more clarification.

But the following demonstrations in Kenitra, Casablanca and Rabat struggled to gather large crowds, and mostly, the indignation movement began to run out of steam.

Would the “Danielgate” have happened under a parliamentary monarchy?

The “Danielgate” is a turning point in the history of Morocco. In three days, it managed to do what independent newspapers in early-2000s tried to demonstrate for a decade through their controversial headlines and investigations, and what the February 20 Movement tried to denounce in 2011: It succeeded to give a concrete example of the flaws of monarchical absolutism.

For the first time in the country, Moroccans protested against a mistake made by the King. And for the first time, the King confronted the public opinion by admitting, yet unofficially, this mistake “made in his name”.

At first sight, the “Danielgate” is an unfair case whose initial victims are the most fragile and innocent human-beings, children. But it is above all, the fruit of a fatally flawed system in which all Moroccans are condemned to be victims- if they are not already: A system where the country is ruled by the royal entourage, a shadow-government that Moroccans never elected, and that they know nothing about. People who have no names, no functions and even less legitimacy. An entourage that makes crucial political and economical decisions on a daily basis, out of any control nor accountability.

There is no such thing as power without accountability. This is not what we call democracy.

For how long will this power remain invisible, playing every day with all Moroccans fate? When will it stop?

To err is human. Mistakes are everywhere, but If Mohammed VI doesn’t decide to reduce efficiently his powers, call into question his entourage, and in an ideal world, get rid of them, he is more likely to take the blame for mistakes others “commit in his name”. And in that case, he should be willing to confront his subjects and international opinion more often.

That is what Moroccans should understand and take from this unfortunate case. Let the Danielgate serve as an educational lesson. Democracy is not given, but is torn off. And in Morocco, it is well known and proved that lessons are learned the hard way. 

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