Friday, September 10, 2010

Ribat El Kheir aka Ahermoumou and the Attempted Coup of 1971

Army. The curse of Ahermoumou
by Abdellatif El Azizi (translated from French)

If, in his vindictiveness, Hassan II thought scratching the story "Ahermoumou" by renaming the village guilty of having housed the school of the mutineers of the putsch Skhirat, his attempt failed. 35 years later, the curse of Ahermoumou is a hard life. Latest victim, Hamidou Laanigri.

Was Hamidou Laanigri caught in this famous curse because of his classmate, Mohamed Belbachir? Just weeks have passed between the retirement forced the powerful boss of military security and the departure of the direction of Laanigri. The two generals had spent their entire stay on the same bench of the famous school of Ahermoumou.

Laanigri as Belbachir and two or three other top officers are the exception since they are the last survivors of the school. However, it seems that one cannot escape the curse of Ahermoumou even when we had no role in the coup of 1971. Hamidou Laanigri and Mohamed Belbachir have in fact among the first developments in the late 50s. The man who talks about him, is part of the cadets who were lucky enough to be sick and bedridden when the rebels took the road to Skhirat. "It does not stop me from being thrown into the street like a dirty scoundrel," sighs the fifties now reduced to begging. Victim of vindictive royals wanted no part in any coup contagion, and the man still considers himself fortunate to have escaped Tazmamart and his life was saved. His comrades, they have not been so lucky.

A little history
Recall the facts that date back to July 10, 1971. That day, 1400 Ahermoumou Military School cadets leave their camp in the morning in two motorized columns, under the command of Colonel M'hamed Ababou, for a so-called maneuver to Benslimane. The convoy passed through the gates of the royal summer palace of Skhirat which held a reception to mark the 42nd birthday of Hassan II and as his men landed, the cadets who do not really know what they are doing here. Their officers have just said: "The king is in danger. He is surrounded by enemies. We must go and deliver. For three hours, the rebels carry out orders and shoot "anything that moves". It's carnage: children, women, old, young, rich and poor. No quarter among the dignitaries of the regime and foreign guests. The mutineers have somehow faithfully applied the instructions given to them: the dead and wounded, there were 1,036 victims around the pool Skhirat but the king is safe. Cadets and their leaders are arrested. The execution of those responsible for the killings took place September 13, 1971, before the television cameras and is followed by a mock trial, on February 29 next year. Then the famous verdict of Kenitra, which for much of the mutineers, opens the gates of hell Tazmamart and other prisons, forever engraved in the pantheon of prison horror.


For Hassan II, this is no doubt the home of incubation, the instrument of the plot are ideal: the military Ahermoumou School, located a hundred kilometers north of Taza, Mount Bouyeblane, which are derived most of the actors in the plot. The king, pushing its logical conclusion, convinced of the educational value of exemplary punishment, will make every effort to eradicate the evil, he decided the seizure of the property of rebels "for creating a fund Compensation of victims "who, incidentally, will never see the day, and the final closure of the school. He does not forget to erase forever from the map the name of the place. "Delenda is" Ahermoumou, at least on maps, the cursed village is now renamed Ribat El Kheir, a decision that sounds the death knell for the future of the school and the whole village. "Even those who had nothing to do with the coup have been punished", said Farid Belmejdoub, which has experienced hell just because he belonged to the same class as the mutineers.

Admittedly, in defense of the sovereign, that the attack Skhirat was not the first warning shot. January 1971 had been a first attempt of assassination of Hassan II in El Hajeb by Ababou and his accomplices. The king, who was to attend military exercises in the mountains above the village, was saved by officers at the moment when the weapons were heard on the range. But at the last moment, when the maneuvers were already well advanced, the sovereign had fled to board a military helicopter. The sergeant Belmejdoub Farid ran the elite commando No. 5: "We had no specific instructions, but apparently Ababou was in cahoots with other officers to shoot the king”. Arrested while returning from leave, Belmejdoub was not freed until two years later, after having toured all torture centers of the time.

New Carthage
And now? Thirty-five years after the events of 1971, the Military School Ahermoumou is still under a blockade. The area is still under close surveillance and guards watch over the barricaded entrance to the main gate. The famous training center, built under the watchful eye of a few CIA agents in 1969 that Ababou presented proudly to his visitors, was invaded by weeds. "Ahermoumou neither Saint-Cyr or West Point, though Ababou had the ambition to make it the cradle of the first elite corps of the army. In 1971, the drills have been intensified with combat exercises and firing live ammunition, but at no time did we imagine what was happening and would happen in Skhirat, "recalls Belmejdoub Farid who was in charge to train the commandos of the elite training center.

The school, built on 24 hectares, is located more than 1000 meters of altitude in an area surrounded by forests. According to the villagers, the dungeons which were used to stop inmates Tazmamart are still there. "The house of Colonel Ababou, and those of other officers coup plotters, are uninhabited and in disrepair," recalls an ex-military officer, who miraculously escaped the purge. "I had just been transferred to Taza for disciplinary reasons. ”That saved my life "he sighed.

Punishing the school also punished the village. The closure of the training center has had a clear impact on economic activity in the region. After the coup, the railway station was closed. "You should know that thousands of soldiers who occupied the school represented a windfall asset both for the farmers and traders in the region", said our retiree. "The only offense Ahermoumou is to have housed the School of Military NCOs. Today, more than thirty-five years after the events of Skhirat, the entire population still hopes to see this page fully closed, "concludes a recent unemployed graduate of the village.

While the main economic activities of livestock, agriculture (cereals, olives, apples) are dying, young people themselves, killing time at sidewalk cafes, dream of alternatives to rampant unemployment: illegal immigration, or ... engagement in the military.

1 comment:

B said...

Have you read "This Blinding Absence of Light" by Tehar Ben Jelloun? It's a fictionalized account of the soldiers' life in Tazmamart prison. Really an affecting read.