Moroccan statesman Abderrahman El-Youssoufi passes away

An ardent defender of democracy, he played a key role in Morocco’s political transformation.
Sunday 31/05/2020
A 2001 photo of then- Moroccan prime minister Abderrahman El-Youssoufi in Rabat.(AFP)
A 2001 photo of then- Moroccan prime minister Abderrahman El-Youssoufi in Rabat.(AFP)

RABAT–Moroccan veteran politician Abderrahman El-Youssoufi passed away Friday in Casablanca at the age of 96.

El-Youssoufi was born in Tangier, in northern Morocco, on March 8, 1924.

He was one of the few people who kept close ties with a wide spectrum of lawmakers and activists from all affiliations in his country’s politics, science, and culture.

The deceased was a member of the general secretariat of the socialist Union of people’s forces (USFP), and editor-in-chief of its mouthpiece “Attahrir” between 1959 and 1965.

The late King Hassan II appointed him to form the government of alternation in  March 1998. He remained in the position of prime minister until 2002.

He was always a persistent and rigorous leader with realistic vision.  He was a committed activist who advocated progress despite obstacles.

King Mohamed VI had ordered the transfer of former Prime Minister El-Youssoufi to the Sheikh Khalifah hospital in Casablanca. He was admitted to the intensive care unit there. Sources close to El-Youssoufi said that he had been transferred to the same hospital 4 times during the lockdown enforced in Morocco  to curb the spread of the pandemic.

El-Youssoufi faced many health problems which caused the removal of his right lung in 1955 in Madrid. During the eighties, he was also diagnosed with cancer.

Moroccan elites agree on the important role El-Youssoufi played in the political scene, as he truly defended democracy and did not aim for personal gain.

With his sound management skills as prime minister, he shored up the stability of his country and its institutions.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El-Othmani apid tribute to El-Youssoufi as a political and national leader, and as a respected statesman who served his country and played a key role in the process of political reform and transformation in Morocco.

Internationally, Luis Ayala, Secretary-General of the Socialist International, praised the actions taken by the former prime minister, and his handling of the duties of Vice President of the Socialist International.

After decades of work in the service of his country, El-Youssoufi officially retired in October 2003, leaving politics behind.

In a tribute to political legacy, King Mohammed VI inaugurated Abderrahman El-Youssoufi Avenue in Tangier in 2016.

Abderrahman El-Youssoufi’s political career began in the 1940s with Al-Istiqlal Party, which was the leading political player in the Moroccan nationalist movement from the 1920s till independence in 1956.

He participated in establishing one of the first trade unions in Casablanca during the 1940s, in addition to his role in ensuring coordination with the Moroccan armed liberation movement that emerged in the early fifties.

Habib Belkoch, an expert on human rights and transitional justice, said that El-Youssoufi’s vision and  experience  ensured a major political transformation of the country. And when he became Prime minister, El-Youssoufi was credited with working tirelessly to solve many issues, including human rights problems. He maintained prisoner and detainee files and created a safe space for freedoms.

Political leader, Arbi Habchi, said  El-Youssoufi is one of the main catalysts of the transition period that modern Morocco experienced, as he established new bases for reconciliation, ensuring justice, and solving many social problems. He also played a major role in defending the freedom of assembly and engaging in peaceful protests, in addition to his prolific contributions to the reform of laws.

He was known for his role in the Socialist International organization of political parties which aimed to establish democratic socialism, and his activism to ensure equal human rights.

El-Youssoufi was a co-founder of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and he worked for the cause of gender equality.

Habib Belkoch described him as one of the most prominent activists, as he worked to guarantee that transitional justice standards were applied in Morocco.

The late Abderrahman El-Youssoufi contributed to reforming the legal and judicial system and refining human rights to achieve national reconciliation.

His funeral took place Friday at the “Chouhada” (martyrs) cemetery in Casablanca in the presence of a small number of the deceased’s relatives due to the ongoing pandemic.