A lull for the West African music genre Afrobeats was expected in the first month of 2023. This much can be predicted for the first quarter of ... 2023, a necessary spell of relative silence and rest from the dashing throttle of the last few months of 2022.
Moulay Hicham’s first book, Journal d’un prince banni (‘Diary of a banished Prince’), airs his family’s dirty laundry.
Hicham is the son of Prince Moulay Abdallah, the brother of Morocco’s late king Hassan II, making him king Mohammed VI’s cousin and third in line in the succession.
4 March, 1964 – Born in Rabat
1985 Degree in politics – Princeton University
2000 Carter Center delegation to monitor Nigeria elections
2010 Created the Moulay Hicham Foundation to encourage research on the Middle East and North Africa
2014 Published Journal d’un prince banni (Grasset)
His family relations through his mother, Lamia es-Solh, make him a cousin to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud.
Nicknamed the Prince Rouge (‘Red Prince’) for his support of democratisation in the Moroccan kingdom, Hicham uses his book to explain his very public break-up with the regime.
The tome, published in April, sparked fierce debates in Morocco. In it, he argues that king Mohammed VI “risks bringing about the country’s downfall”.
He criticises the government’s handling of Western Sahara and the opacity around the palace’s business relationships.
Some see Journal d’un prince banni as a rallying cry for a so-called ‘cumin revolution’ and a transition to a liberal democracy. Others see it as a career-enhancing missive serving the Prince Rouge‘s agenda of undermining the palace’s authority.
In the introduction, Hicham explains that the book offers a chance to expose the manoeuvres that pushed him out of Moroccan public life.
Despite his criticism of the monarchy as a ruling system, he still claims the power due his rank.
King Mohammed VI has allowed the book to be sold in Morocco, robbing Hicham of the chance to pose as victim and undercutting his claim to be a banished prince with a banned book.
Though newspapers and social networks have been filled with buzz about the book, they have not turned against the current government.
Some journalists, stung by the prince’s criticism of the media, point to the close relationship between Hicham and certain members of the press who vociferously support his views.
Despite his heritage, Hicham was marginalised from the royal entourage just a few years after Mohamed VI’s coronation in July 1999 because of his critical views, which were widely pushed in Western media.
His public support of the Mouvement du 20 février, which called for greater freedom in Morocco in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, finally sealed his divorce from his cousin’s reign.
Though he claims he was forced to leave the country – he has been living in the United States (US) since 2002 – Hicham still possesses lucrative businesses in Morocco. Critics claim he uses royal privileges to win deals in Morocco and abroad.
In his book, he talks about his role as a consultant for French arms manufacturer Thomson- CSF in the United Arab Emirates.
He runs the Hicham Moulay Foundation and donates to universities in the US. He supported the creation of the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia at Princeton, his alma mater.
The foundation also financed the Program on Good Governance and Political Reform in the Arab World at Stanford University, where Ahmed Benchemsi, founder of news weekly TelQuel and the supposed ghostwriter of the book, is a fellow.
Hicham is seen either as a role model for Moroccan democrats or a traitor for those who support the monarchy. He himself rejects all labels bar the one of a ‘bad prince’ fighting for “a kingdom for all” Moroccans. ●
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