Moulay Hicham’s newly published memoir, Journal d’un prince banni, retells his personal life within the context of devastating political critique against the Moroccan political system, its authoritarian monarchy, and the “deep state” within that resists democratic change, the Makhzen. Written during Moulay Hicham's time as a fellow at the Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at Stanford University, the volume is neither a settlement of accounts nor a gossipy narrative of frivolous stories. It instead uniquely ensconces vivid personal recollections within the context of authoritarian politics. The prince witnessed the rise of the system under King Hassan II, the long-lasting ruler who eliminated all opposition, centralized power, and linked a loyal community of courtiers, elites, and cronies to his will—the Makhzen. The memoir reveals how Moulay Hicham’s aspirations towards autonomy and independence were constantly blocked by this system, often by either the King himself or his coercive apparatus, comprising the intelligence services and military. At the same time, the nearly half-century reign of King Hassan exposes critical insight into the development of Moroccan politics and identity, from his acumen regarding the Western Sahara problem to his ability to make the kingdom a focal point of Arab politics after the demise of Nasserism.
Those personal observations on governance continue with the royal ascent of Hassan’s son, Mohamed VI, who assumed the throne in 1999 and is Moulay Hicham’s cousin. Replacing Hassan’s powerfully intent personality was this more humane yet political disengaged new king. His inability to curb the Makhzen and enact meaningful democratic reforms shows the system’s very success. Whereas the pressures of conforming to the system crushed many of those personalities who grew up in the court, Moulay Hicham managed to elude this destructive side through his self-imposed exile to the United States and his intellectual decision to criticize an authoritarian machine to which he was meant to belong. As the memoir concludes, such resistance to change implicates the monarchy’s future. Decades of political exclusion, false promises, and rising inequality have alienated much of the Moroccan public. As the Arab Spring showed, such discontentment portends to future social and political conflict that could well discredit the monarchy, resulting in its overthrow after 350 years of continuous reign.
Journal d’un prince banni has become a literary and political phenomenon in Morocco and the Moroccan diaspora worldwide. Its release ignited tumultuous debates within the press, social media, and civil society. Dubbed an “exceptional document” by Le Nouvel Observateur, the memoir has become one of the best-selling non-fiction works in France. Though print versions are currently unavailable in Morocco, electronic versions have been downloaded and disseminated on an exponential scale. Arabic, English, and other language-editions are scheduled for release in the near future.
Hicham Ben Abdallah received his B.A. in Politics in 1985 from Princeton University, and his M.A. in Political Science from Stanford in 1997. His interest is in the politics of the transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
He has lectured in numerous universities and think tanks in North America and Europe. His work for the advancement of peace and conflict resolution has brought him to Kosovo as a special Assistant to Bernard Kouchner, and to Nigeria and Palestine as an election observer with the Carter Center. He has published in journals such Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique,Pouvoirs, Le Debat, The Journal of Democracy, The New York Times, El Pais, and El Quds.
In 2010 he has founded the Moulay Hicham Foundation which conducts social science research on the MENA region. He is also an entrepreneur with interests in agriculture, real estate, and renewable energies. His company, Al Tayyar Energy, has a number of clean energy projects in Asia and Europe.