Abderrahim Bouabid, the first politician to openly oppose King Hassan II

25 years ago, Abderrahim Bouabid, a politician and former minister passed away. The founding member of the National Union of Popular Forces was known for his firm positions when it comes to the first constitutional referendum and the Western Sahara cause. History.

Abderrahim Bouabid, a Moroccan politician./Ph. DR
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On the 8th of January, 1992, Abderrahim Bouabid, known as one of the leading figures of the Istiqlal party (Independence) in the Kingdom passed away, leaving behind a remarkable yet controversial legacy. The Salé native, born on the 22nd of March 1922, was one of the youngest activists and politicians to sign the Proclamation of Independence, a manifesto presented by the Independence party on January the 11th, 1944 demanding full independence, national reunification and a democratic constitution.

An activist and politician

During his studies in Rabat, at Moulay Youssef high school, he frequented a number of distinguished personalities who shaped the future of the country. A friend of Mehdi Ben Barka, the young man was introduced to the National Movement at the time, cultivating the hidden activist inside of him. In 1939, after graduating high school as one of the brightest students of his generation, the politician moved to Fes to become a teacher, meeting nationalist organizations.

Returning to Salé, Bouabid was arrested alongside a number of Istiqlal leaders and was later released in 1945. In fact, on the 28th of January 1944, Abderrahim Bouabid led a big demonstration in his city denouncing the arrest of some influential figures of his party. He was jailed and released a year later. The politician’s attempt to fight against the Protectorate did not stop there, and even after being arrested several times, in 1946 he joined Mehdi Ben Barka in France to write a report on the situation in Morocco and submit it later to the United Nations.

Opposing the king

Once Morocco was granted independence, Bouabid was named State Minister for negotiations under Mbarek Bekkai’s government. In 1956, he became ambassador of Morocco in Paris, and he was later appointed a Minister of national economy. On the 12th of May 1958, he was in charge of the Ministry of national economy and agriculture in Ahmed Balafrej’s cabinet.

Although Abderrahim Bouabid was assigned a number of positions inside the government, he was not afraid of opposing King Hassan II in some of his decisions. In 1962, and as a founding member of the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP), Bouabid boycotted the constitutional referendum launched by the sovereign at the time, and supervised a series of meetings opposing the political event.

In one of the meetings organized in Rabat to tackle the topic, he said : «We are faced with a fundamental choice. Either we continue as a people or as an organization rooted in the masses to struggle for the liberation of our country from colonialism, feudalism and reaction, or we accept a constitutional text falsified and prepared by clerics of colonialism; if it were to be so, we would be responsible for committing a crime against future generations».

This decision made Hassan II launch a campaign of arrests and repression among party leaders and sympathizers alike. This operation culminated in 1965, in the abduction of the leading figure in the party Mehdi Ben Barka.

Emprisoned by Hassan II

In 1981, the late Moroccan King Hassan II traveled to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to participate to the OAU summit. In his address to the African Summit, he announced Morocco's acceptance of a referendum in the Sahara.

On the 5th of September of the same year, a communiqué was issued by the Political Bureau of the Socialist Union, in which the party's stance on the Moroccan Sahara issue was determined. Following the acceptance of Hassan II to hold a referendum on self-determination, the party expressed its opposition to the idea of a referendum in the Sahara. He stressed that «the nation should be consulted too when it comes to a referendum on territorial sovereignty», which angered the late King Hassan II.

On September 24, 1981, the Court of First Instance in Rabat sentenced Abderrahim Bouabid, Mohamed El Yazghi, Mohamed El Hababy, Mohamed Mansour, and Mohamed Habib El-Furqani to one year in prison, Mohamed Mansour to a two-year suspended sentence, and Mohamed Habib Al-Farkani to a one-year suspended sentence. Abderrahim Bouabid said at the end of this trial : «This trial will make it to history», shouting : «Oh my Lord, being emprisoned is better than remaining silent».

On the 1st of May 1991, Abderrahim Bouabid's last public appearance was at a trade union ceremony held for Labor Day celebrations. On January 8, 1992, the politician passed away in Rabat, at the age of 69.