Mohammed VI of Morocco

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Mohammed VI
محمد السادس
Amir al-Mu'minin
Mohammed VI and his family
Mohammed VI in 2015
King of Morocco
Reign23 July 1999 – present
PredecessorHassan II
Heir apparentMoulay Hassan
Prime Ministers
Born (1963-08-21) 21 August 1963 (age 58)
Rabat, Morocco
Spouse
(m. 2002)
Issue
Detail
Names
Sidi Mohammed bin Hassan al-Alawi
سيدي محمد بن الحسن العلوي
Arabicالملك محمد السادس
Dynasty'Alawi
FatherHassan II of Morocco
MotherPrincess Lalla Latifa
ReligionSunni Islam

Mohammed VI (Arabic: محمد السادس; born 21 August 1963)[1] is the King of Morocco. He belongs to the 'Alawi dynasty and acceded to the throne on 23 July 1999, upon the death of his father, King Hassan II.[2]

Upon ascending to the throne, Mohammed initially introduced a number of reforms and changed the family code, Mudawana, which granted women more power.[3] Leaked diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks in 2010 led to allegations of corruption in the court of Mohammed, implicating him and his closest advisors.[4] Widespread disturbances in 2011, a Moroccan element of the Arab Spring, protested against corruption and urged political reform. In response, Mohammed promulgated a program of reforms and introduced a new constitution. These reforms were passed by a public referendum on 1 July 2011.[5]

Mohammed has vast business holdings across several economic sectors in Morocco. His net worth has been estimated at between US$2.1 billion[6] and over US$8.2 billion,[7][8] and, according to the American business magazine Forbes, he was the richest king in Africa and the fifth wealthiest monarch in the world.[9]

Mohammed is regarded by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre as the seventh most influential Muslim in the world in 2022.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Mohammed with his father King Hassan II

Mohammed VI was born on 21 August 1963 and was the second child and oldest son of Hassan II and his wife, Lalla Latifa Hammou.[11] As their oldest son, Mohammed became heir apparent and Crown Prince from birth.[citation needed] His father was keen on giving him a religious and political education from an early age; at the age of four, he started attending the Quranic school at the Royal Palace.[1]

Mohammed VI completed his first primary and secondary studies at Collège Royal and attained his Baccalaureate in 1981, before gaining a bachelor's degree in law at the Mohammed V University at Agdal in 1985.[12] His research paper dealt with "the Arab-African Union and the Strategy of the Kingdom of Morocco in matters of International Relations".[1] He has also frequented the Imperial College and University of Rabat.[citation needed] He was furthermore appointed president of the Pan Arab Games, and was commissioned a Colonel Major of the Royal Moroccan Army on 26 November 1985. He served as the Coordinator of the Offices and Services of the Royal Armed Forces until 1994.[citation needed]

Prince Mohammed in 1989

In 1987, Mohammed VI obtained his first Certificat d'Études Supérieures (CES) in political sciences, and in July 1988 he obtained a Diplôme d'Études Approfondies (DEA) in public law.[1] In November 1988, he trained in Brussels with Jacques Delors, then-President of the European Commission.[1]

Mohammed VI obtained his PhD in law with distinction on 29 October 1993 from the French University of Nice Sophia Antipolis for his thesis on "EEC-Maghreb Relations".[1] On 12 July 1994, he was promoted to the military rank of Major General, and that same year he became president of the High Council of Culture and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Moroccan Army.

The New York Times reported that prior to ascending to the throne, Mohammed VI "gained a reputation as a playboy during the years he spent waiting in the wings, showing a fondness for fast cars and nightclubs."[13]

King of Morocco[edit]

On 23 July 1999, following the death of his father, Mohammed VI ascended to the throne as king[14] and was enthroned in Rabat on 30 July.[15]

Social reforms and liberalization[edit]

Mohammed VI (right) talking to U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on 23 April 2002
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meet with Mohammed VI in Washington, November 2013

Shortly after his ascension, King Mohammed VI made a national televised address, promising to take on poverty and corruption, while creating jobs and improving Morocco's human rights record. His reformist rhetoric was opposed by Islamist conservatives, and some of his reforms angered fundamentalists. In February 2004, he enacted a new family code, or Mudawana, which granted women more power.[3]

Mohammed VI also created the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER), which was tasked with researching human rights violations under Hassan II. This move was welcomed by many as promoting democracy, but was also criticized because the commission's reports could not name the perpetrators. According to human rights organisations, human rights violations are still common in Morocco.[16][17][18]

In January 2017, Morocco banned the manufacturing, marketing and sale of the burqa.[19]

2011 protests and constitutional reform[edit]

The 2011 Moroccan protests, led by the 20 February Movement, were primarily motivated by corruption and general political discontentment, as well as by the hardships of the global economic crisis. The demonstrations were influenced by then-recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt which overthrew their respective leaders, and demands by protesters included "urgent" political and social reforms, including the relinquishment of some of the King's powers.[20]

In a speech delivered on 9 March 2011, Mohammed VI said that parliament would receive "new powers that enable it to discharge its representative, legislative, and regulatory mission". In addition, the powers of the judiciary were granted greater independence from the king, who announced that he was impaneling a committee of legal scholars to produce a draft constitution by June 2011.[21] On 1 July, voters approved a set of political reforms proposed by Mohammed VI in a referendum.

The reforms consisted of the following:[5]

  • The Berber language[22] is an official national language, along with standard Arabic.[23]
  • The state preserves and protects the Hassānīya language and all the linguistic components of the Moroccan culture as a heritage of the nation.[23]
  • The king now has the obligation to appoint the prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in the parliamentary elections, but it can be any member of the winning party and not necessarily the party's leader. Previously, the king could nominate anybody he wanted for this position regardless of the election results. That was usually the case when no party had a big advantage over the other parties, in terms of the number of seats in the parliament.[5][24][25]
  • The king is no longer "sacred or holy" but the "integrity of his person" is "inviolable".[26]
  • High administrative and diplomatic posts (including ambassadors, CEOs of state-owned companies, provincial and regional governors), are now appointed by the prime minister and the ministerial council which is presided by the king; previously the latter exclusively held this power.[27][28]
  • The prime minister is the head of government and president of the council of government, he has the power to dissolve the parliament.[29]
  • The prime minister will preside over the Council of Government, which prepares the general policy of the state. Previously the king held this position.[29]
  • The parliament has the power of granting amnesty. Previously this was exclusively held by the king.[30]
  • The judiciary system is independent from the legislative and executive branches, the king guarantees this independence.[29][31]
  • Women are guaranteed "civic and social" equality with men. Previously, only "political equality" was guaranteed, though the 1996 constitution grants all citizens equality in terms of rights before the law.[25]
  • The king retains complete control over the armed forces and the judiciary as well as matters pertaining to religion and foreign policy; the king also retains the authority to appoint and dismiss prime ministers.[32]
  • All citizens have the freedom of thought, ideas, artistic expression and creation. Previously only free speech and the freedom of circulation and association were guaranteed.[25][33] However, criticizing or directly opposing the king is still punishable with prison.

Western Sahara[edit]

Mohammed VI (left) with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2004

The Western Sahara conflict is considered one of the longest-running on the African continent. Mohammed VI has repeatedly stressed that the "Moroccanness of the Sahara" remains an "indisputable fact",[34] a stance adopted by Morocco following the 1975 Green March during the reign of Hassan II. He visited Western Sahara in 2006 and 2015,[35] and has asserted that Morocco was not negotiating over the territory, as the issue "never was - and never will be - on the negotiating table".[34]

In March 2006, Mohammed VI created the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), an advisory committee which defends Morocco's claim over Western Sahara. In 2021, the CORCAS condemned the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, citing human rights concerns.[36]

Morocco's stance on the Western Sahara is that it is an integral part of its territory and it has proposed a plan for its autonomy, provided it remains under Moroccan sovereignty. The Polisario Front, the main opposite party to the conflict, insists on ultimately pursuing for the establishment of an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Morocco and the Polisario Front reached a ceasefire agreement in 1991, which included the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINURSO) to oversee and conduct a potential referendum on the future status of Western Sahara; to this day, such a referendum has never occurred.[37]

Since 2019, several primarily African and Arab countries have established consulates in Laayoune and Dakhla. In 2020, an escalation of the conflict began when Sahrawi protesters blocked a road connecting Guerguerat to sub-Saharan Africa via Mauritania. Morocco responded by intervening militarily to resume movement of people and goods through Guerguerat, which the Polisario Front claimed had violated the 1991 ceasefire agreement.[38][39]

Foreign policy[edit]

Mohammed VI shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow, March 2016
Mohammed VI and other world leaders attending an Armistice Day centenary ceremony in Paris in 2018

Mohammed VI increasingly prioritized African relations in Morocco's foreign policy. Morocco had previously withdrawn from the Organisation of African Unity, precursor to the current African Union (AU), in 1984 after the Polisario's Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was admitted to the organisation. In July 2016, Mohammed VI sent a message to the 27th African Union summit being held in Kigali, in which he requested Moroccan readmission to the AU, and justified his country's withdrawal saying that "the admission of a non-sovereign entity, by means of transgression and collusion" had prompted Morocco to "seek to avoid the division of Africa".[40] Morocco would later be admitted to the African Union in January 2017.

Under his reign, Morocco endorsed partnerships with the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as other non-traditional great powers, mainly China and Russia, aiming to diversify trade links and foreign investments and to limit Morocco's traditional reliance on the West, particularly the European Union (EU).[41][42][43] Morocco has also offered to act as a mediator in the Libyan crisis, and remained neutral in the Qatar diplomatic crisis.[44][45]

The Bush administration designated Morocco as a major non-NATO ally of the United States in 2004. Mohammed VI had previously visited the White House in June 2000, alongside his sister, Princess Lalla Meryem, and attended a state dinner with President Bill Clinton.[46] Washington and Rabat later signed a free-trade agreement in 2006, the only one of its kind between the U.S. and an African country, which was met with some criticism within Morocco due to increasing trade deficit.[45]

Joint U.S.-Israeli delegation meeting with Mohammed VI during a visit to Rabat on 22 December 2020

Morocco and Israel restored diplomatic relations on 10 December 2020, as part of the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement involving the United States, which at the same time recognized Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.[47] In June 2021, Mohammed congratulated Naftali Bennett on his election as Israeli prime minister.[48] On the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in November 2021, Mohammed announced that Morocco would continue to push for a restart of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. He called on both sides "to refrain from actions that obstruct the peace process".[49][50]

Despite calls by Mohammed VI for reconciliation, relations with neighbouring Algeria continued to intensify over the course of his rule.[51] In July 2004, Mohammed announced that Morocco would lift visa restrictions for Algerians, with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika reciprocating the measure in 2005.[52] Tensions gradually escalated in the 2020s, primarily as a result of the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement and Guerguerat border clashes. In August 2021, Algeria accused Morocco of supporting the Movement for the self-determination of Kabylie, which it blamed for wildfires in northern Algeria,[53] and later severed diplomatic relations with Morocco.[54]

Business and wealth[edit]

Graphic detailing ownership of the palace-controlled holding[55] the Société Nationale d'investissement as of June 2013

Mohammed is Morocco's leading businessman and banker.[55] In 2015, he was estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth US$5.7bn[7] although in 2019 Business Insider quoted a figure of just US$2.1 billion.[6] The Moroccan Royal Family, meanwhile, has one of the largest fortunes in the world.[56] Together, they hold the majority stakes in the Al Mada holding, formerly named the Société Nationale d'Investissement (SNI), which was originally state-owned but was merged in 2013 with Omnium Nord Africain (ONA Group), to form a single holding company that was taken off the Casablanca Stock Exchange—resulting in the scrapping of an equivalent of 50 billion Dirhams Marketcap (~US$6 billion).[57] Al Mada has a diverse portfolio consisting of many important businesses in Morocco, operating in various sectors including: Attijariwafa Bank (banking), Managem (mining), Onapar, SOMED (tourism/real-estate and exclusive distributor of Maserati), Wafa Assurance (insurance), Marjane (hypermarket chain), Wana-Inwi (telecommunications), SONASID (Siderurgy), Lafarge Maroc, Sopriam (exclusive distributor of Peugeot-Citroën in Morocco), Renault Maroc (exclusive distributor of Renault in Morocco) and Nareva (energy).[58][59] It also owns many food-processing companies and is currently in the process of disengaging from this sector.[58] Between mid-2012 and 2013, the holding sold Lessieur, Centrale Laitière, Bimo and Cosumar to foreign groups for a total amount of ~$1.37 billion (11.4 billion Dirhams including 9.7 billion in 2013 and 1.7 in 2012).[58]

SNI and ONA both owned stakes in Brasseries du Maroc, the largest alcoholic beverages manufacturer and distributor of brands such as Heineken in the country.[60] In March 2018, the SNI adopted its current name, Al Mada.[61][62]

Mohammed is also a leading agricultural producer and land owner in Morocco, where agriculture is exempted from taxes.[58] His personal holding company SIGER has shares in the large agricultural group "Les domaines agricoles" (originally called "Les domaines royaux", now commonly known as "Les domaines"), which was founded by Hassan II.[58] In 2008, Telquel estimated that "Les domaines" had a revenue of $157 million (1.5 billion Dirhams), with 170,000 tons of citrus exported in that year.[58] According to the same magazine, the company officially owns 12,000 hectares of agricultural lands.[58] "Chergui", a manufacturer of dairy products, is the most recognizable brand of the group.[58] Between 1994 and 2004, the group has been managed by Mohammed VI's brother-in-law Khalid Benharbit, the husband of Princess Lalla Hasna.[58] "Les domaines" also owns the "Royal Golf de Marrakech", which originally belonged to Thami El Glaoui.[58]

His palace's daily operating budget is reported by Forbes to be $960,000—which is paid by the Moroccan state as part of a 2.576 billion Dirhams/year budget as of 2014[63]—with much of it accounted for by the expense of personnel, clothes, and car repairs.[56]

Controversies[edit]

Royal pardon scandals[edit]

Pedro Sánchez at a dinner with Mohammed VI and his entourage, 2022

Protests broke out in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, on 2 August 2013, after Mohammed pardoned 48 jailed Spaniards, including a pedophile who had been serving a 30-year sentence for raping 11 children aged between 4 and 15.[64]

It was also revealed that amongst the pardoned was a drug trafficking suspect, who was released before standing trial.[65] The detainee, Antonio Garcia, a recidivist drug trafficker, had been arrested in possession of 9 tons of hashish in Tangier and was sentenced to 10 years.[66] He had resisted arrest using a firearm.[65] Some media claimed that his release embarrassed Spain.[66]

Allegations of corruption[edit]

Royal involvement in business is a major topic in Morocco, but public discussion of it is sensitive. The US embassy in Rabat reported to Washington in a leaked cable that "corruption is prevalent at all levels of Moroccan society".[4] Corruption allegedly reaches the highest levels in Morocco, where the business interests of Mohammed VI and some of his advisors influence "every large housing project," according to WikiLeaks documents published in December 2010 and quoted in The Guardian newspaper.[67] The documents released by the whistleblower website also quote the case of a businessman working for a US consortium, whose plans in Morocco were paralysed for months after he refused to join forces with a company linked with the royal palace. The documents quoted a company executive linked to the royal family as saying at a meeting that decisions on big investments in the kingdom were taken by only three people: the king, his secretary Mounir Majidi, and the monarch's close friend, adviser and former classmate Fouad Ali El Himma. This corruption especially affects the housing sector, the WikiLeaks documents show.[68]

In April 2016, Mounir Majidi, the personal secretary of Mohammed VI, was named in the Panama Papers.[69][70]

Family and personal life[edit]

Mohammed has one brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, and three sisters: Princess Lalla Meryem, Princess Lalla Asma, and Princess Lalla Hasna. The New York Times noted "conflicting reports about whether the new monarch had been married on Friday night, within hours of his father's death [in 1999]... to heed a Moroccan tradition that a King be married before he ascends the throne." A palace official subsequently denied that a marriage had taken place.[13]

His engagement to Salma Bennani was officially announced on 12 October 2001.[71] They married in private in Rabat on 21 March 2002[72][73] and their wedding was officially celebrated at the Dar al-Makhzen in Rabat on 12 and 13 July 2002.[74][75] Bennani was granted the personal title of Princess with the title of Her Royal Highness on her marriage. They have two children: Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, who was born on 8 May 2003, and Princess Lalla Khadija, who was born on 28 February 2007.[3]

Mohammed's birthday on 21 August is a public holiday,[76] although festivities were cancelled upon the death of his aunt in 2014.[77]

In 2020, Mohammed reportedly purchased an €80 million mansion in Paris from the Saudi royal family.[78]

Children[edit]

Name Date of birth Place of birth Age
Crown Prince Moulay Hassan (2003-05-08)8 May 2003 Royal Palace, Rabat, Morocco 19
Princess Lalla Khadija (2007-02-28)28 February 2007 Royal Palace, Rabat, Morocco 15

Health[edit]

Many questions have been raised about King Mohammed VI's health both within and outside Morocco. On one occasion, following a speech commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Green March, Moroccan online activists reportedly pointed out facial features which may have been implied as a sign of health issues, while others offered sympathy and prayers.[79]

In 2017, Mohammed VI underwent a successful surgery at the Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital in Paris to remove a pterygium in his left eye.[80] In February 2018, he underwent a radiofrequency ablation, also in Paris, to normalize an irregular heart rate, and was visited by members of the royal family.[81] In September 2019, the King was advised to rest for several days to recover from acute viral pneumonia, with his son Crown Prince Moulay Hassan representing him at former French President Jacques Chirac's funeral.[82] In June 2020, he underwent a procedure in Rabat to treat a recurrence of atrial flutter.[83]

In June 2022, Mohammed VI tested positive for COVID-19.[84][85] His personal doctor said he did not exhibit symptoms and recommended "a period of rest for a few days", while Jeune Afrique reported he contracted the disease in France, where he had previously arrived for a private visit.[86] On 10 July, he made his first public appearance since his COVID-19 recovery, performing Eid al-Adha rituals and prayers.[86]

Honours[edit]

Royal styles of
King Mohammed VI of Morocco
Coat of arms of Morocco.svg
Reference styleHis Majesty
Spoken styleYour Majesty

National orders:

Mohammed has received numerous honours and decorations from various countries, some of which are listed below.

Foreign orders:

Honorary prizes:

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Mohammed VI
Born: 21 August 1963
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Morocco
1999–present
Incumbent
Heir apparent:
Moulay Hassan