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History : When President Franklin Roosevelt promised Morocco’s independence

Morocco has played in the 40s a crucial role in World War II, helping the Allied forces to defeat fascism in Europe. Following the Anfa conference held in Casablanca, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to support Morocco’s wish to be independent of French.

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On the couch: Sultan Mohammed V, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Anfa conference in 1943./Ph. DR

Operation Torch, known as the Anglo-American landing in North Africa, was a turning point in modern history. Indeed, the successful operation, initiated to defeat fascism that was tearing Europe apart in 1942, has also contributed to strengthening the bilateral ties between Morocco and the United States. As the two nations are celebrating on November, the 75th anniversary of the momentous landing and the Casablanca conference attended by the U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, it is time to recall America's promise to help Morocco be independent of French. 

In fact, the American statesman and war leader was known for campaigning for Morocco’s independence. The 32nd U.S president, who appreciated the kingdom’s crucial collaboration during the Second World War, has promised in several occasions to help Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef in ending the French protectorate.

casablanca, morocco, 1943, franklin d. roosevelt, president roosevelt, winston churchill./Ph. DRcasablanca, morocco, 1943, franklin d. roosevelt, president roosevelt, winston churchill./Ph. DR

Based on the account provided by the U.S Embassy official website, during the Anfa Conference held in Casablanca to map out strategy for the war, President Roosevelt hosted a dinner party inviting Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef and Moulay Hassan. «At the dinner, the discussion centered on Morocco’s natural wealth and the possibility of development, and on efforts to raise health and education levels», mentioned the same source.

«The two leaders also talked of increasing U.S.-Moroccan trade and economic cooperation. President Roosevelt asserted that the Sultan should not allow other countries to exploit Morocco’s natural resources».

The president, who was angered by the French exploitation of Morocco’s resources, suggested that Moroccan engineers, educators and scientists be educated in America and offered to assist the Moroccan development.

Encouraging the Sultan in his quest for independence

Known for encouraging the Sultan of Morocco in his quest for independence, the same document indicates that Roosevelt promised that he «would do all in his power to support Morocco’s wish to be independent of the French.

Other sources have confirmed the same account. According to volume 19 of «North Africa Studies» (Issue 4, 2014), a book by Nabil Boudraa and Joseph Krause, «during the course of the Anfa Conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) had a private dinner with Sultan Mohamed ben Youssef, which came to change the course of Moroccan history».

«Although the details of the conversation between the two statesmen remained shrouded in mystery due to FDR's untimely death just two years later, the Moroccan side later claimed that the American leader had promised to support their country's independence once the Second World War had ended».

President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at the Villa in Casablanca where the conference were held./Ph. PinterestPresident Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at the Villa in Casablanca where the conference were held./Ph. Pinterest

«Anything must be better, than to live under French colonial rule»

Although, Morocco has claimed in the past that Roosevelt promised Morocco’s independence, a document has emerged later stressing his position. In a declassified document released by the Central Intelligence Agency, the President wondered «why does Morocco, inhabited by Moroccans, belong to France ? … Anything must be better, than to live under French colonial rule. Should a land belong to France ? By what logic and what custom and by what historical rule ?»

«When we’ve won the war, I will work with all my might and main to see to it that the United States is not wheedled into the position of accepting any plan that will further France’s imperialistic ambitions».

Unfortunately, the president’s promises were surprised by death. In April 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away in office 11 years before Morocco was proclaimed independent of the French.

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