On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of El Mehdi Ben Barka

Havana homage to ben barkaBy TONY SEED
With the attendance of Fernando González Llort, Hero of the Republic of Cuba and Vice President of ICAP, a flower offering was laid at the foot of the bust of the Third World leader El Mehdi Ben Barka on the 50th anniversary of his assassination on October 29, 1965 in Paris, France in a solemn ceremony held at the Havana headquarters of the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL).

The offering was accompanied by the members of the Executive Secretariat in OSPAAL, and representatives of Congo, Guinea, El Salvador and Puerto Rico. The ceremony was attended by other Secretariat members, ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps and Third World political representatives from 21 countries.

Tricontinental magazine further reports that the video film “For a Better World” of filmmaker Santiago Rony Feliu was shown, based on the homonymous song of singer and composer Pablo Milanes, with images of Ben Barka’s visit to Cuba in 1965 and his meetings with Commander in Chief Fidel Castro to ensure the preparation of the First Tricontinental Conference held a few months later, on January 3-15, 1966. The Tricontinental Conference gathered national liberation movements from all continents, while the Non-Aligned Movement was composed of, for the most part, states.

2015.Havana homage to ben barka1

OSPAAL Secretary General Lourdes Cervantes highlighted the history of the struggles of the Moroccan leader, initially in his native country and then at the head of the far-reaching African-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AAPSO). From that position, he established direct contact with the triumphant Cuban Revolution in 1959, and later exerted all his efforts to extend the Union in solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean, which culminated in the founding of the OSPAAL.

Mehdi Ben Barka giving a press conference in Casablanca in January 1959.EPA

Mehdi Ben Barka giving a press conference in Casablanca in January 1959.EPA

El Mehdi Ben Barka was born in January 1920 in Rabat, Morocco. According to the informative website African Heritage,

“Although from a middle class background, Ben Barka was among the first to attend the French school (which was mostly for rich people), as he was always the best and brightest in his class.  He was the first Moroccan to receive a degree in mathematics in an official French school in 1950.  He then taught mathematics in a local Lycée (high school), and at the Royal College, where young Hassan II was one of his students.  Working in parallel, Mehdi got involved in politics, and worked to challenge the French ‘Protectorate’ on Morocco.”

Mehdi Ben Barka speaking to a mass meeting in Morocco, 11th May 1963. One week later, he was elected to as MP for the working class suburbs of the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Mehdi Ben Barka speaking to a mass meeting in Morocco, 11th May 1963. One week later, he was elected to as MP for the working class suburbs of the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

He was one of the youngest signatories of the Manifesto of January 11, 1944 claiming the independence of Morocco. In 1943, he got involved in the creation of the National Istiqlal Party, for which he was deported in March 1951 south of the Atlas. Released in October 1954, he played a major role in the process leading to the independence of Morocco, March 2, 1956 from savage French colonial rule.

Morocco  – except for sections governed by Spain in the northwest and the southern coast, and the city of Tangier, an international zone – had been a French protectorate set up under the Treaty of Algeciras (1904). It possessed rich mineral resources such as iron ore and phosphates as well as a strategic position on the sea lanes coveted by the US. Formal political independence, within the framework of continued imperialist domination and the monarchy, failed to resolve any of the economic, social and political problems that were the legacy of French colonialism. Nor could it defend its sovereignty from the fierce inter-imperialist rivalry between the United States and France for control of French North Africa and West Africa, a struggle set in motion in the context of Operation Torch in November 1942 and the famous Casablanca Conference held on 14-24 January 1943 during World War II. [1]

“In 1955, Mehdi took part in negociations which culminated with the return of Sultan Mohammed V, who had been exiled by the French authorities to Madagascar. From 1956 to 1959, Mehdi Ben Barka was president of the consultative assembly of Morocco. In 1959, Mehdi broke off from the National Istiqlal Party after clashes with conservative opponents, and founded l’Union Nationale des Forces Populaires – National Union of Popular Forces (UNPF).”

King Hassan II

King Hassan II – the CIA had him on the payroll for years.

“After King Mohammed V’s death in 1961, Hassan II ascended to the throne, and claimed to want to make peace with his main opponent. Ben Barka returned from exile in May 1962. On 16 November 1962, Mehdi escaped an attack on his life (car accident, where his car was forced into a ravine by a police car), which had been fomented by the services of General Mohamed Oufkir and colonel Ahmed Dlimi. In June of 1963, Ben Barka was accused of plotting against the monarchy, and once again forced into exile; this was plot by King Hassan II, to dissolve the UNFP, the main opposition to his reign.  On 22 November 1963, Ben Barka is sentenced to death in absentia, for conspiracy and attempt to assassinate the king.  Some think that this was also caused by Ben Barka’s calling upon Moroccan soldiers to refuse to fight Algeria in the 1963 Sand War.  Ben Barka first went on exile in Algiers, Algeria, where he met with Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, and Malcolm X.  Then he went to Cairo, Rome, Geneva (where he escaped several attacks on his life), and Havana, trying to unite the revolutionary movements of the Third World for the Tricontinental Conference to be held in January 1966 in Havana.  As the leader of the Tricontinental, Ben Barka was seen as a major figure in the Third World movement, and supported revolutionary, and anti-colonial actions in various states, thus provoking the anger of the United States and France.  Just before his death, he was preparing the first Tricontinental Conference scheduled to take place in Havana, Cuba, from 3 -13 January 1966.”

As leader of the Moroccan opposition in exile (he was sentenced to death in absentia by Morocco), and an emblematic figure of the anti-colonial movement, he was “disappeared” in the middle of Paris in an operation conducted by the secret services of King Hassan II with the complicity of French police and gangsters. At 12:15 a.m., two policemen from the vice squad, and Roger Louis Souchon Voitot forced Ben Barka to get into a car wherein sat Anthony Lopez, an informant of the ESDP (now the DGESE secret service). It drove to Fontenay-le-Vicomte in the region Paris, to the villa of a middle figure, George Boucheseiche. He was never seen again.

This case has never been fully elucidated despite two judicial investigations: Ben Barka’s body has still not been found, the circumstances surrounding his death have not been established and the mystery of the culprits continues to this day.

Both France and the US have refused to declassify files they acknowledge having in their possession. The CIA archives alone contain, under the name of Mehdi Ben Barka, some 1,800 documents of three or four pages each. On December 29, 1975, Time magazine published an article called “The Murder of Mehdi Ben Barka”, stating that three Moroccan agents were responsible for the death of Ben Barka, one of them former Interior Minister Mohammed Oufkir. Speculation persists as to CIA involvement. French intelligence agents and the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, were also involved, according to the article. [2] The King’s right hand man, the Minster of the Interior, Mohamed Oufkir, was widely believed to have been responsible but charges were never pressed. (General Oufkir was involved in two unsuccessful coup attempts in 1971 and 1972.)

The veil that covers many of the unscrupulous operations orchestrated by the CIA is lifting. Today we know that plans or actual attempts to assassinate political leaders, as in the case of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution and other heads of State, represent one of the CIA’s main courses of action, which is enshrined in the Obama Doctrine.


1 The world’s attention was fixed on the adventurous declaration issued at its close by Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the “unconditional surrender” of Germany would be the only basis of negotiations with the Axis powers, and their overdue proclamations of support for the heroic struggle being waged by the Soviet Union and its Red Army virtually alone against the Hitlerite invasion. The disinformation was typical: a bombastic and adventurous decision that, by making no distinction between the Hitlerite Nazis and the German people, was to serve to stiffen their resolve and was vitiated by Anglo-American attempts to negotiate a separate peace without and against the Soviet Union, e.g., Operation Sunrise.

In fact, something else also occurred at the Casablanca Conference. As recounted by the 1946 memoir, As He Saw It, by FDR’s son Elliott Roosevelt, on 22 January 1943 Roosevelt hosted a dinner between himself, his wife, Churchill, Sidi Mohammed Ben Youssef, the young Sultan of Morocco, his grand vizier and his chief of protocol. Roosevelt, a political leader of great strategic foresight, craft and guile, began direct negotiations with the Sultan, stating at the outset that the postwar position of colonies would be very different from their prewar status. Then he recalled the ties between French and British financiers, who had formed joint syndicates to exploit the colonies, “talked animatedly about the rich natural resources of Morocco and the vast development opportunities offered to this country,” and concluded with his own commitment: “When we’ve won, I will work with all my might and main to see to it that the United States is not wheedled into the position of accepting any plan that will further France’s imperialistic ambition, or that will aid or abet the British Empire in its imperial ambitions.” Roosevelt pointed out that, in order to tap Morocco’s fabulous natural resources (1) the United States could arrange to train Moroccan specialists in the best American universities, and (2) the Sultan would have no difficulty in negotiating contracts with American monopolies, which would both work the country’s natural resources and provide revenue. The Sultan was delighted. “Churchill fidgeted in his chair. He seemed embarrassed.” The Casablanca Conference reveals the real aims of the USA’s own postwar expansion into Africa, at variance with the ideals proclaimed by the Atlantic Charter, that “all peoples have a right to self-determination,” and its neo-colonial aim in North Africa and in Europe, in this case France.

2 The role of the Mossad in the assassination of Ben Barka was not fortuitous. Hassan’s covert role in supporting the Zionist state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians was closely co-ordinated with the US. Nearly all of the quarter of a million Jews living in Morocco were encouraged to leave for Israel, which depended upon immigration for survival. Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were among the Israeli leaders who, in elaborate disguises, flew in Hassan’s private planes for high-level secret visits to Morocco at crucial moments. Mossad set up a station in Morocco and developed close ties with Moroccan security forces. As Joseph Alpher, a former Mossad official and director of the American-Jewish Committees’s office in Israel, said: “For Morocco, it provided the King with additional intelligence and know-how to stabilise his regime. For the Israelis, it was good as a window into the Arab world.” (Cited by Jean Shaoul, “King Hassan of Morocco: world leaders mourn a ruthless despot,” 8 July 1999, www.wsws.org)

3 A non-exhaustive list of assassinated political leaders from Africa would include:

  • Ruben Um Nyobé, leader of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), killed by the French army on September 13, 1958
  • Barthélemy Boganda, leader of a nationalist Central African Republic movement, who died in a plane-crash on March 29, 1959, eight days before the last elections of the colonial era.
  • Félix-Roland Moumié, successor to Ruben Um Nyobe at the head of the UPC, assassinated in Geneva in 1960 by the SDECE (French secret services).
  • Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was assassinated on January 17, 1961.
  • Burundi nationalist Louis Rwagasore was assassinated on October 13, 1961, while Pierre Ngendandumwe, Burundi’s first Hutu prime minister, was also murdered on January 15, 1965.
  • Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of Togo, was assassinated on January 13, 1963. He would be replaced by Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo for nearly forty years; he died in 2005 and was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé.
  • Nigerian leader Ahmadu Bello was assassinated in January 1966.
  • Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of FRELIMO and the father of Mozambican independence, was assassinated in 1969, allegedly by Aginter Press, the Portuguese branch of Gladio, NATO’s paramilitary organization during the Cold War.
  • Pan-Africanist Tom Mboya was killed on July 5, 1969.
  • Abeid Karume, first president of Zanzibar, was assassinated in April 1972.
  • Amílcar Cabral, leader of the liberation movement of Guinea-Bussina and Cape Verde was murdered on January 20, 1973, reportedly by an Aginter/PIDE agent.
  • Outel Bono, Chadian opponent of François Tombalbaye, was assassinated on August 26, 1973, making yet another example of the existence of the Françafrique, designing by this term post-independent neocolonial ties between France and its former colonies.
  • Herbert Chitepo, leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), was assassinated on March 18, 1975.
  • Dulcie September, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), who was investigating arms trade between France and South Africa, was murdered in Paris on March 29, 1988, a few years before the end of the apartheid regime.
  • Finally, the execution by US proxy forces (National Transitional Council) of Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, on 20 October 2011 during the Battle of Sirte, his native city. At the moment Gaddafi was captured he was still alive. After the capture he was dead – the video footage shows him having a bullet hole in his left temple. This is enough to qualify his killing as a war crime. It is a bitter irony that the UN General Assembly rejected Muammar Gaddafi’s appeal to investigate the killings of all state and government leaders of UN member countries throughout 65 years of the organization’s history.

Many of these assassinations are still unsolved cases, but foreign power intervention is undeniable in many of these cases — although a few were for internal matters. The Phoenix Program, a CIA program of assassination during the Vietnam War, over 600 documented attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, and the assassinations of scores of Palestinian political leaders should also be named.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decolonization#Assassinated_anticolonialist_leaders

For further reading and viewing

“France accused 44 years on over Moroccan’s vanishing,” The Guardian, October 29, 2009

Today’s tribute by human rights groups and Ben Barka’s family – his elderly widow and four children – came at the end of a month which had been expected to bring a breakthrough in the case. But his son, Bachir Ben Barka, who was 15 at the time of the abduction, cried foul when the most ambitious attempt in years to shine a light on the episode was put on hold by French prosecutors.

Hours after they were issued, international warrants for the arrest of four Moroccan suspects – including the chief of police, General Hosni Benslimane – were suspended. A statement from the Paris prosecutor’s office said that Interpol had requested more details.

Accusing Morocco and France of actively preventing justice being served, Bachir Ben Barka said the warrants had fallen victim to the same political obfuscation that has dogged the investigation from the start. “It is always the same,” he said. “As soon as a window opens it shuts again. This is purely political. Why, after 44 years, do we still have this blockage to finding out the truth?”

AFP October 10, 2005, “Paris pays tribute to Ben Barka 40 years after his disappearance”

Paris delivered Monday evening a solemn tribute to Mehdi Ben Barka “freedom fighter” during the baptism of a place in his name and the unveiling of a plaque near the Brasserie Lipp in Saint-Germain-des – near where the Moroccan opposition was removed 40 years ago …

AFRIK.COM 31.10.05

I saw Ben Barka Get Killed

The film by Serge Le Peron returns to the removal of the Moroccan opposition


Check out this interview of Bachir Ben Barka, Mehdi’s son, who was aged 15 at the time of his father’s abduction.

Mehdi Ben Barka affair by Bachir Ben Barka

African Heritage: Watch this really good documentary below which details the life of Mehdi Ben Barka.  50 years after his disappearance, the “Ben Barka affair” still remains an open dossier.  One can only sing, like Franklin Boukaka, ‘Mehdi nzela na yo na bato nyonso’ … Mehdi your work is that of humanity! So long brother, your work and vision will keep guiding us. ‘Oh O Mehdi Ben Barka, Mehdi nzela na yo na bato nyonso.’

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One response to “On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of El Mehdi Ben Barka

  1. Pingback: This Day. A reflection on Amílcar Cabral, Portugal and NATO | Tony Seed's Weblog

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