Rabat- Protesters on Sunday packed the streets of Rabat after political parties, unions and non-governmental groups called for a national demonstration. Authorities claimed there were up to three million people taking part.
The march departed from Bab Chala, one of the most emblematic areas of the Moroccan capital.
Waving portraits of King Mohammed and Moroccan flags, protesters chanted the “The Sahara is ours, the King is ours” as they packed the streets near the parliament building in a rally supported by the government.
Ban Ki-moon made statements that, according to Moroccan government, have nothing to do with the impartiality and neutrality he should show as Secretary General of the United Nations.
The statement caused uproar in the country, prompting to issue a communiqué on Tuesday in which Morocco denounced Ban Ki-moon of “bias” in favor of the Polisario, a separatist movement supported by Algeria.
Morocco’s government last week accused Ban Ki-moon of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara conflict, saying that he used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in the region that has been at the center of a dispute since 1975.
The UN has been trying for years to hold a referendum on independence for the territory, which was seized by Morocco when Spain withdrew in 1975.
The Polisario Front, which claims the territory belongs to ethnic Sahrawis, fought a rebel war against Morocco until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, but the two sides have come to a deadlock since that agreement.
UN spokesman said the secretary-general again called for “genuine negotiations in good faith and without preconditions at each stop in his recent trip.”
Moroccan Head of the Government Abdelilah Benkirane, the leader of the Justice and Development Party told Asharq Al-Awsat that the march witnessed in Rabat reflects the citizens’ trust in their King and in the justice and legitimacy of their country.
He said it exceeded all expectations especially that it was arranged in only two days. He added that Moroccans are not looking for problems with the UN Secretary General, yet they are not willing to give up their historical, constitutional and religious rights.
Benkirane confirmed that Moroccans could accept diplomatic concessions, which have been offered by Morocco for over forty years now in order to find solution to this fabricated conflict; however, they could never accept their country to be described as “occupied”.
He said that Moroccan citizens are peaceful and understanding, but they are careful not to accept their country’s sovereignty to be overrode. To them, Morocco is a red line that should not be crossed.
For his part, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Salaheddine Mezouar promised firm response to Ban Ki-moon’s statements during his trip to Algeria and the camps of the Polisario Front in Tindouf.
On the sidelines of his participation in the march, Salaheddine Mezouar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the diplomatic response will be given in the proper time and the proper method.
Mezouar confirmed that the UN Secretary General “did not take into consideration the Moroccans’ feelings and the sanctities of the country when he decided to give irresponsible statements.”