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Brokerage, Compensation and Reproduction of the Discharge

Community Reparation and Development of Mining Areas in South-Eastern Morocco
Mohammed Benidir
This article is a translation of:
Courtage, compensation et reproduction de la décharge [fr]


Community reparation for the areas affected by the presence of secret detention centers during the “Years of Lead” (1992-2002), and the development of areas impacted by mining operations were two programs initiated in the framework of the associative seminars organized in 2004 and 2012, respectively, in Zagora, south-eastern Morocco. The compensation for the collective harm suffered by the communities living near the detention centers and mining sites raises questions about the reproduction of discharge strategies through associative brokers and local notables. Exploring how compensation is allocated across different geographical scales, this article highlights the contrast between the rise to generality of the former and the descent to particularity of the latter. It shows how these contrasts shed light on the approaches to collective loss evaluation adopted by the State, the mining company, brokers, notables and activists. As well as analyzing the compensation of affected communities, it examines how these actors are themselves remunerated in return for this discharge and delegation, and the ensuing benefits reaped by both the State and the mining company in their policies defended by these intermediaries.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 To borrow the term of “authoritarian decompression” coined by Jean-François Bayart (1991)
  • 2 The National Initiative for Human Development was a “Reign-Long Effort” launched by King Mohammed V (...)

1Since completing its structural adjustment program (1983-1990), the Moroccan regime, thus “adjusted”, (Catusse, 2002) has engaged in a process of authoritarian decompression1 involving reforms that combine both economic and political liberalization and a broadening of opportunity. This broadening of opportunity (Cheynis, 2008) in the early 1990s, alongside the process of democratic extraversion (Saaf, 1992, 2015), the expansion of international cooperation projects and, in particular, the launch of the National Initiative for Human Development (Initiative nationale pour le développement humain, INDH)2 led to a recognition by the Moroccan State of the sociopolitical demands of civil society organizations. New groups of local actors emerged as a consequence, including local associations serving as recognized intermediaries in project implementation. Collective reparation for the losses incurred by the presence of secret detention centers and/or the development of mining areas were among the outcomes of this liberalization which facilitated the concomitant redeployment of former activists as associative development brokers in south-eastern Morocco.

  • 3 To implement the IER recommendations, the CNDH supervises 149 collective reparation projects in alm (...)
  • 4 For John Borneman, restitution/compensation includes financial compensation, restitution of confisc (...)

2In terms of political liberalization, transitional justice has been less successful in consolidating the rule of law and responding to the demands of victims than in appropriating, and even instrumentalizing the discourse on human rights and bringing closure to the “Years of Lead” (Laouina, 2016). The creation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (Instance équité et réconciliation, IER) in 2004 was an integral part of this process. In line with one of its recommendations, the collective reparation program aims to compensate for the collective loss incurred by regions subjected to severe human rights violations or collective punishment linked to certain violent and documented events, or marginalized due to the former presence of secret detention centers. A positive and symbolic approach to collective memory is applied for victim rehabilitation, understood in the broad and collective sense of the term, through the transformation of certain detention centers into socioeconomic or cultural projects, or into sociocultural centers. Qualified as “active” by the former president of the National Human Rights Council, Dris El Yazami (2007), this approach aims to achieve reconciliation on three levels: reconciliation with history by considering the history of detention through its diverse effects on individuals and groups; reconciliation with place(s) by integrating these centers into their social, political and cultural environment as spaces for preserving memory and consolidating a culture of human rights and citizenship; reconciliation between the different components of society through the involvement of diverse community of stakeholders in the process of conserving a collective memory.3 As in other similar initiatives, from Colombia to Peru, taken as points of comparison (Laplante, 2012; Firchow, 2014), community reparation in these regions involved restitution/compensation,4 rehabilitation, a restoration of trust between State and citizens, and guarantees of non-repetition (IER, 2009, 2010). It took practical shape via projects based on an assessment of “loss” and “needs” in order to restore the “collective victim’s” trust in the State. These projects were devised by agencies and government bodies on the basis of an agreement signed with the National Human Rights Council and local NGOs in the regional and local coordination bodies, for each of the eleven beneficiary regions (Vairel, 2019).

  • 5 For the history of the creation of ONA, see Natal (1987). For Georges Hatton, “during the entire pr (...)
  • 6 Managem is the mining holding company of SNI, renamed Al Mada in 2018. In 2010, SNI and ONA announc (...)
  • 7 As used by Max Weber, the term discharge corresponds to a “set of operations that were originally t (...)

3As part of its economic liberalization strategy, the government has privatized public companies and institutions in a variety of sectors, including that of mining. Qualified as the “pearl of the crown” (Diouri, 1992, 178), the ONA Group (Omnium nord-africain) was the main beneficiary of this privatization, via the acquisition of Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), privatized in 1994.5 In 1996, its mining interests were grouped into the holding company Managem.6 That same year, the State’s privatizable stakes in the mining industry – Société minière du Bougafer (Somifer), Compagnie de Tifnout Tighanimine (CTT) and Société anonyme d’entreprise minière (Samine) – and some of its share in the metal company Imiter (SMI) were acquired by the Managem group. This privatization of public companies or institutions in the 1990s, in the mining sector especially, is based on a logic of delegating7 bureaucracy from the State to the private sector, the two being interdependent (Hibou, 1998, 1999a). In other words, the sale of these public mining companies is an example of “crony capitalism” that benefits a handful of major groups who exploit their intimate knowledge – and in many cases their past membership – of the State technocracy (Catusse, 2008).

  • 8 In Morocco, the Makhzen is the Royal House, the territory over which its exercises its (central) po (...)

4This rationale of discharge inherent to privatization, as a form of governmentality whereby the Makhzen8 reshapes and redeploys its power, is not specific to the private sector. It is also a mobilizing force for the heads of local and regional civil society organizations who are entrusted with the Promethean task of building democracy and developing the country’s economy (Otayek, 2004).These actors operate within the local sphere as brokers between development institutions and local communities (Bierschenk, Chauveau and Olivier de Sardan, 2000; Benidir, 2016). In this narrow space between the public and private arenas where the acquisition of public mining companies takes place, the strategy of discharge is reproduced at the level of local communities or mining areas via associative development brokers and/or political figures who act as intermediaries, providing a form of brokering service. Their remit is to manage the distribution of mining industry costs and profits through development projects to compensate for the impacts of mining activities on the community.

  • 9 Like the management of security in the mining sector analyzed by Hönke (2010).

5For community reparation but also for mining area development, the intermediation process thus gives rise to another system of discharge in which brokers are confronted by a sort of “indirect rule”, notably for project implementation9. It operates through a mechanism of sub-contracting and successive delegation to regional and local associative brokers more and more directly concerned by the grassroots problems specific to these two programs. It thus resembles “a process of formal privatization of a part of the State apparatus based on a dynamic of cascade development which seeks to increase the strength and autonomy of intermediate links in the chain” (Pirotte, 2005), and where the actors, whether brokers or notables, are all intermediaries of each other. Following on from the work of Beatrice Hibou, we posit that a reciprocity of interest emerges and evolves in a relationship of mutual dependence between the State, the mining company and its associative or political intermediaries (Hibou, 1999b). It is to these links in the chain that the task of compensating the communities of victims is delegated and discharged – be it the communities neighboring the mining sites or those affected by the secret detention centers – under a system of interdependence between the State and the mining company. How did these two programs produce and transform these brokerage specialists? How were these various intermediaries, the State and the Managem mining company rewarded for their intervention?

  • 10 This study follows on from my PhD thesis on associative development brokers and the emergence of ne (...)

6To address this question,10 we will begin by explaining how community compensation and mining zone development have provided scope for the conversion of activists as brokers, and for a strengthening of the role of brokerage itself. We will then examine how the community of victims targeted by the two programs was constructed. In the third section, we will focus on the way in which compensation has become an arena for conflict and negotiation between public, private, activist and associative actors. Last, we analyze the remuneration of brokers by both the State and the mining company.

2. Redeployment of the Activists and the Rise of Brokerage

  • 11 Here, marginalization and elimination are two concepts used by left-wing activists redeployed as as (...)
  • 12 The ICTJ was set up in 2000 by Alex Boraine, vice-president of the South African Truth and Reconcil (...)

7Community reparation and mining zone development provide opportunities for the redeployment of political activists as development brokers and spokespeople for the population, enabling them to spotlight and “tame” the previously “uncontrollable” and insoluble issue of marginalization and elimination,11 by converting it into a “manageable problem” (Zittoun, 2016,pp. 70-71, 78). In 2004, a working group comprising some of these former activists met at an associative seminar in the province of Zagora in south-eastern Morocco to discuss the community reparation program for regions subjected to human rights violations. The measures in this program were based on practices promoted by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ),12 an NGO based in New York.

8In 2012, this same group met again in Zagora as part of the Associative Network of Zagora for Development and Democracy (Réseau associatif de Zagora pour le développement et la démocratie, RAZDED) and the Morocco Alternatives Forum (Forum des alternatives Maroc, FMAS).This meeting led to the launch of a mining zone development program in south-eastern Morocco, in partnership with the Managem group. For Managem, this program formed part of its strategy of mining investment regulation-legitimation and promotion of its social responsibility measures. These measures comply with the recommendations and standards laid down by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a London-based industrial organization bringing together major transnational mining and metals companies “dedicated to a safe, fair and sustainable mining and metals industry”. Via these two programs, these “advocates” of the fight against marginalization – “moral entrepreneurs” or “claims makers”, under the definitions of Howard Becker (1966) and Herbet Blumer (1971) – contribute to the circulation of standards of public action in Rabat, Casablanca, Zagora, Tinghir, Errachidia and Ouarzazate.

9The first community reparation seminar was held on 10-11 September 2004 in Agdez, Zagora province, the location of a secret detention center during the Years of Lead. It was organized by the Draa development union (Union Draa pour le développement, UDARD) and the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (Association marocaine des droits de l’homme, AMDH), in the presence of the president of IER, the late Dris Ben Zakri, and the former president of the National Human Rights Council (Conseil national des droits de l’homme, CNDH), Dris El Yazami. The aim was to contribute to the development of sustainable development projects in the province by repairing the collective trauma resulting from human rights violations and the presence of secret detention centers.

  • 13 Société métallurgiqued’Imiter (SMI) is Managem’s main subsidiary and has contributed substantially (...)

10The south-eastern mining zone development program was first conceived in the wake of the Arab Spring, with two study workshops on 20 and 21 April 2012 in Zagora entitled Quelle stratégie pour le développement des zones minières du Sud-Est ? (What development strategy for the south-eastern mining zones?) Faced with the protest movement against the Imiter silver mine in south-eastern Morocco,13 the Managem group was obliged to respond, notably by taking part in this workshop organized on the initiative of RAZDED and FMAS with the backing of the provincial authorities.

11This meeting brought together 260 participants, including representatives of the local and regional authorities and of government agencies and departments from the provinces of Ouarzazate, Errachdia, Tinghir and Zagora, along with elected representatives of the municipalities neighboring the mining sites, associations and population spokespeople, professionals and experts interested in mining zone development issues. On the surface, the mining zone development program can be seen as the outcome of negotiations between Managem, the mining holding company of SNI, and civil society actors represented by RAZDED and FMAS to address the effects of mining operations in south-eastern Morocco. At provincial level, associative networks such as the Tinghir associative network for development and democracy (Réseau des associations de Tinghir pour développement et la démocratie; RATDED), the Tinghir federation of development associations (Fédération des associations du développement de Tinghir, FADT) and local village associations also took part in project implementation.

12In practice, the program aims more to ease tensions and create a climate of trust with rural communities in the mining zones than to promote measures of corporate social responsibility (CSR). With respect to the social and environmental impacts, but not financial compensation and reparation, it can be compared to the Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBA) (Laforce, Campbell and Sarrasin, 2012, p. 10). It is seen by the mining company managers and the public authorities as a complementary measure of mining investment regulation implemented in addition to existing legislation. It is a means for Managem affiliates to legitimize their presence on “common land” held under customary ownership by the tribal communities of south-eastern Morocco potentially affected by mining activities (Benidir, 2017b). Given the fragile boundary between public and private, between economic and political, the design and implementation of these informal legitimization measures are supported fully by local public authorities.

3. Delimiting the Community of Victims

13Controversies surrounding the scale of impact of mining activities or detention centers give meaning to the compensation and the groups who might be its legitimate beneficiaries. With respect to both collective reparation for human rights violations and the development of mining zones, the creation of collective memory by stakeholders is based on “evidence of suffering that identifies a group of victims as a singular community and that calls for recognition and compensation” (Bazin, 2014).

14Take, for example, the collective memory of the protest against the silver mine by the community of Imider, in which certain notables argued in favor of a “focus on the particular” by limiting the community of victims to just three villages (Aït M’hand, Aït Ighir and Aït Brahim). Located in the center of the municipality of Imider (in the province of Tinghir) this community of stakeholders is, in principle, largely untouched by issues at municipal, provincial, regional, supra-local and national levels. It is based on lineage solidarity and the individual interests of owners of large stakes in irrigation water and land affected by SMI drilling. In geographical terms, it is close to the well drilled by SMI in 1986, to the exploratory boreholes drilled in 2004 and to the mineral deposit itself, and lies alongside the valley (Oued Targuit) where sub-contractors extract the mining company’s supply of alluvial sand. In other words, it occupies a zone of interest in close geographical proximity (Le Floch, 2011), contrary to the more extensive zone defended by Mouvement sur la voie de 96. According to the president of the Imlil-Tidsa association of irrigation water users, which has represented this community of victims since 2005, these villages are more severely affected than others in the municipality, and clearly deserve priority status for compensation, in the form of projects, social services and stable, permanent job opportunities in the mine (Benidir, 2010).

  • 14 Tazmamart, the land of the lion in the Amazigh language, inhabited by a fraction of the Aït Seghrou (...)

15The situation is similar for populations neighboring the secret detention centers such as Tazmamart, Kelaat M’gouna and Agdez. The Tazmamart detention center,14 for example, cast a long shadow over the community and the families living in the village. While it was operating from 1971 to 1973, anyone wishing to come to the village had to justify the reasons for their visit before being allowed to enter. Farmers’ lives were severely disrupted due to an evening curfew, and the only school was closed from 1974 to 1978. In 1990, the Ministry of the Interior entered the collective land of Tazmamart into the land register, and inhabitants lost their rightsholder status (Ait Elafakih, 2019). This prevented them from exploiting the land or selling their share after division between families. Under the Green Morocco Plan launched in 2008, certain farmers lost their olive groves neighboring the detention center. In addition, all building work was prohibited to the south or north of the center. The Tazmamart association for culture and education is seen as the mouthpiece for these rightsholders, collectively harmed by the presence of this notorious center, and as the flagbearer for the community reparation project implemented in the locality.

16In a reverse dynamic, the activists of the mine protest movement, and certain associative network leaders working for collective reparation, have moved towards a more general approach. Their focus was now on in the inhabitants and the population, rather than the rightsholders alone. However, this broadening of perspective fluctuated between a “requirement for desingularization” (Boltanski, 1990) and a rhetorical generalization, while positioned on a specific geographical level, that of municipality, town or city. In the case of the Imiter silver mine, the activists limited their scope to the community of petitioners: seven douars (villages) rather than three. They define themselves as private citizens deprived of the basic public services to which they are entitled in return for the exploitation of the silver mine, water resources and the land occupied by the alluvial sand deposit. They also present themselves as victims of an allegedly unscrupulous mining operation, involving many years of disrespect and marginalization for which reparations must be made. From the activists’ viewpoint, if the mining company reserves 75% of jobs for inhabitants of the municipality’s seven douars, SMI will have repaired the damage caused by the mining activities that began in 1969.

17Some 60 kilometers from Ouarzazate, Kelaat M’gouna, a city of 169,000 inhabitants, is known not only for its annual rose festival. Between 1970 and 1980, it was also the site of a detention center for political prisoners who included the Bnouhachem group (named after the leader of the Marxist-Leninist organization Ila al-Amam). The community reparation program targets the city’s entire population, not just the inhabitants living close to the former barracks and detention center. The project is coordinated by an association that operates on the scale of the Dades and M’goun valley.

  • 15 Interview, La Nouvelle Tribune, 13 December 2012.
  • 16 For more information, see Nahhass (2020, pp. 228-229).

18The program designers look beyond these intermediate scales of victimization, broadening their scope to include all populations living near ore deposits. Regarding the protests against the Imiter silver mine, the head of the Managem holding company explains that “Imider is not the only municipality in this equation. We operate on land belonging to other municipalities and we maintain an overall balance across all municipalities of the region […]. We have involved other stakeholders in the region (notables, village heads, elders, trades unions, local authorities) and civil society via the networks (RAZDED) and the Forum des alternatives Maroc (FMAS).”15 Addressing the dialogue committee at a consultation meeting, he adds “you have cooked a delicious tajine; and we wanted you to share it between yourselves [the inhabitants of Imider] alone. But as you do not accept our proposal, this tajine, produced by your own hands, will now be shared with others [the inhabitants of neighboring municipalities]” (Nahhass, 2020). Reading these words, it becomes clear that this extension of the populations affected by mining deposits and secret detention centers is occurring in parallel with the appropriation of a “meta-ideology” of sustainable or human development and of CSR with its attendant commerce of slogans, hardware and software (Olivier de Sardan, 1995, p. 58). This extension and this appropriation serve to conceal the specific damage incurred by the communities directly affected, and to dilute the responsibility of the State and of the mining company towards these populations. To seek reparation for its suffering, a municipality can no longer deal exclusively with the State or the mining company, who count upon the diversity of interlocutors to drown out the voices of those who demand priority treatment.16

  • 17 As shown by Yasmine Berriane for women’s former exclusion from rights to community land (Berriane, (...)

19The different scales used to classify the communities of collective victims harmed by mining activities and the presence of detention centers present numerous inconsistencies in terms of inclusion and exclusion. A first inconsistency is observed between the social groups covered by the programs, and the populations actually affected (Lavigne Delville, 2000). A second concerns the ideal-typical category targeted: the community rightsholders, or the municipal population as a whole. And among the rightsholders, should priority be given to those claiming to be descendants of individual victims of the Years of Lead or members of the community directly affected by mining, or rather those in the more general category of collective victims, considered by the former as “non-rightsholders”?17 A third, spatial, inconsistency exists in the discrepancy between the places covered by the associations or associative networks that lead or coordinate the projects (Ouahmane, 2009) and those where the populations directly targeted actually live; between the sociocultural factor of the tribe or patrilineal lineage (Thompson, 2001, 115) and the geopolitical factor of zoning in the Years of Lead (Ait Elafakih, 2012a), or of riparianity and residential proximity. Last, in practice, individual reparation affects collective reparation in the sense that exchanges take place between individual victims and the collective victim, between the harm inflicted on individual community members and that wreaked upon the community as a whole. These inconsistencies stem from the diverse interpretations and controversies surrounding the spatial allocation of compensation for collective harm.

4. Beyond Reparation and Development: Compensation

20Controversies about the delimitation of the victim community give meaning to the commensurability, the temporality and the evaluation of the collective harm incurred, either now or in the past. Should compensation for harm be provided in a global manner, through a convergence of political measures on human rights, CSR and development? Clearly, interactions exist between ideas, institutions and interests (Clavier, 2013), with economic and political spheres, and the public and private sectors characterizing, in many respects, the explicit privatization of what precedes, or what Abdellah Saaf calls a sort of “de-nationalization of the national economy” (Saaf, 1989). Hence the similarities between the attitudes and actions of the State towards all citizens, those of the government towards the collective victim, those of the mining company towards neighboring communities.

  • 18 In accordance with the 2007 poverty map drawn up by the Office of the High Commissioner for the Pla (...)

21The zones targeted by the two programs, considered at the time to be areas of severe deprivation, were defined by the INDH under its program to alleviate rural poverty. Among rural communities with a poverty rate of 30% or above, 403 were identified as beneficiaries.18The three provinces (Ouarzazate, Zagora and Errachidia) to which these municipalities belong are among the country’s 20 poorest provinces, with poverty rates one a half times higher than the national average (32.4%, 18% and 16.3%, respectively).In the three provinces of the Tafilalet-Draa region, the municipalities neighboring the mining sites (Imider, Skoura El Ouassat [Bouskour], Ouaklim, Agdez, Blaida, BouAzzer, Amerzgan, Hssaia, Boudnib) and those with former secret detention centers (Agdez, KelaatM’gouna, Skoura, Tagounit, Tazmamart) have high levels of poverty, inequality and vulnerability.

22In this respect, the brokers heading the associative networks, keepers of the positive and symbolic collective memory, defend the alignment of community reparation projects with those of the INDH. As one of the FMAS leaders explained at the national forum:

The INDH leaders must include projects favoring reconciliation on the sites concerned by community reparation…. We have not developed a project; we have not dug a well, we have not built a school. Our role was to ask the State to develop projects. The expected projects were symbolic, political and cultural. How can this reconciliation be achieved? […] The philosophy of collective reparation involves the communication of ideas, ideas for projects, from the bottom up. For us, people must not be given directions about what should be done […] Reparation has not solved the development problems, but it has opened up the debate. (Khémissat, 27 January 2012)

  • 19 For example: “realization of the municipal school in partnership with the external services, local (...)

23With regard to the mining zone development program, we thus note that INDH is still one of the main partners of the activities proposed under the action plan discussed at the first meeting in Zagora.19 The two programs examined both reproduce the INDH rhetoric and take account of the projects it proposes. “With the support” or “in the scope of the INDH” are recurring expressions in documents concerning the actions taken under the initiative, sometimes in addition to (Bono, 2009), sometimes in combination with, those of the mining zone development program and the agreements signed by the company with the municipalities concerned.

  • 20 Interview, Imider, 12 August 2019.

24The activists protesting against Imiter mining activities since 2011 adopt a radically different approach. As stated vehemently by one protester: “reparations must be made in the mining zones before they are developed […]. In the zones targeted by the INDH, no land, mining or water resources shall be exploited by the State in return for its projects”.20 The consequences of State repression, which amounted to a collective punishment for certain regions suspected of being centers of dissidence or resistance, are compared to those resulting from the exploitation of mineral and natural resources in the territories concerned. In this respect, should reparation and reconciliation between the State or mining company and the society/community necessarily take the form of development and/or compensation measures? For Mohamed Tozy (2005, 2008) rapporteur of the national community reparation forum (Forum national de la reparation communautaire), “in the current state of research, it is difficult to establish a single causal relationship between the under-development of certain regions and an explicit marginalization policy; but the fact that the populations of a region believe that such a relationship exists, and are convinced that the Makhzen and the State have programmed their marginalization is sufficient for this presumption to be taken seriously (p. 12)”.

  • 21 This storytelling around collective memory is reminiscent of the documentary films Sur nos lieux in (...)

25Repairing the wrongs caused by marginalization “would involve considering the past and the sequence of causes and responsibilities that led to the suffering endured” (Boltanski, 1999, p. 121; Vairel, 2019). The approach adopted by certain families of victims of the Years of Lead to overcome their trauma might provide a useful point of comparison for measuring and evaluating the harm wrought. Like these families, the activists speaking on behalf of the local community have found a means to take control of their past or, to a certain extent, to make it their own. They have moved away from the stereotypes of “reconciling society with its history” and adopted the following motto: “accept the past to build the future” (Hegasy, 2017, pp. 103-105). To do so, these families conducted a daily “autopsy” of the regime as part of the process of transformation/conservation of collective memory. And the protest movement activists, for their part, are conducting an autopsy of SMI and the Managem group21.

26To illustrate our argument, we used the example of the activists of Mouvement sur la voie de 96, a protest movement against SMI which held a sit-in between 1 August 2011 and 17 September 2019 (Benidir, 2017a). In their view, the Managem group’s so-called social responsibility policy must necessarily be linked to the reparation of the collective harm suffered by the population since the start of SMI’s mining activities in 1969, as was the case for the community reparation program. According to the statement of 22 April 2013, “real development is founded on long-term improvement of the population’s living conditions, a halt to the depletion of natural resources and reparation of the harm suffered and the damage inflicted by mining operations”. In the words of certain activists:

We are fed up with agreements based on bartering and exchange. We just want to be compensated for past violations, for the exclusion and deprivations resulting from fifty years of exploitation of our wealth and destruction of our environment. We want to get out of this ugly game”. (Interview, Imider, April 2019).

27In this statement, they consider that the mining zone development program is an instrument of illusion and disinformation, an embodiment of the rationale of alms-giving and charity, imposed with the blessing of the provincial authorities. In other words, reparation of the harm caused by years of illegal exploitation of natural resources (water, sand, community land and mines) takes priority over development.

28Bnouhachem, a former detail in the centers of Agdez and Kelaat M’gouna, expresses a similar opinion:

They [the public authorities] want to wash away the memory of this prison camp [Agdez] through local development projects. We’re not against the idea, but these were places of immense human suffering, whose memory must be handed down intact to future generations.

29The Managem group executives, on the other hand, are opposed to any transposition or reproduction of reparations, whether individual or collective, into the CSR measures, including the south-eastern mining zone development program. This was made clear by the Managem CEO:

Our programs are not linked to community or individual reparation, but we follow a development policy that forms part of our strategic plan with the associative network and regional stakeholders, applying a recognized collaborative approach. (Interview with Y. El Hajjam, Ettajdid, 6 February 2013)

30Corporate executives refuse to consider the mining zone development program as a form of collective reparation. They argue that they cannot take charge of development in place of the State, especially for the supply of basic services to all citizens living in the zone. The goal of concession-holders is to reject all responsibility for the social and environmental harm resulting from mining operations. Officials in associations responsible for INDH project coordination have been appointed as intermediaries for implementation of the mining zone development program. For the Managem executives, this arrangement counts among the measures taken to promote CSR which give legitimacy to mining investments and are separate from community reparation initiatives, contrary to what is claimed by the Mouvement sur la voie de 96.

31This contest between development and reparation is taking place on a compensation battleground where the different stakeholders fight over what it means to evaluate harm. For representatives of the community of victims of mining activities, a genuine reparation policy must take pains to preserve a memory of the past via collective compensation that goes beyond the right to development. For them, this is how the status of victim is forged, starting from the exploitation of minerals or groundwater, or the presence of secret detention centers and enforced disappearances. From this viewpoint, the past has largely replaced the future as the timeline of political action (Torpey, 2006). Yet the strategy of the State and the mining company aims to wash away this past – notwithstanding its repressive and environmentally destructive nature – to consign their history to the dust heap and reinvent their present (Rajak, 2014, 260-262). This strategy is based on a convergence of the systems designed to compensate for community harm via political notables or associative brokers.

5. Conclusion

32The implementation of collective reparation and of corporate social responsibility by the mining industry in south-eastern Morocco confirms two indissociable hypotheses. First, it reveals how systems of discharge are reproduced, from the State onto society and from the company onto the affected communities. Second, this reproduction sheds light on how brokers and notables are rewarded in return for their services as intermediaries between stakeholders, notably for the implementation of projects or agreements with the municipalities concerned.

33For certain brokers, upward social and professional mobility are the rewards reaped from a partial transfer and reworking of two models to the political arena, and from the network of relationships established between CNDH members in Rabat, local and provincial authorities, and Managem executives in the Twin Center in Casablanca. Thanks to their activist trajectories and their expert know-how, these brokers are regularly recruited or seconded to CNDH structures (Vairel, 2019). Here, the figure of the patron-client-bureaucrat analyzed by John Waterbury (1977) among the national elite can also be applied to these new local elites. In addition to controlling key material resources, associative brokers thus become members of the State bureaucracy, serving as intermediaries for other projects or programs in the zone. In a neo-patrimonial society such as that of Morocco, their legitimacy depends upon their capacity to redeploy the types of relationship they establish with client networks within the social and State structure (Saaf, 1989).

  • 22 In a similar vein to the “oil for food and medicine” program (1996-2003) which involved complex bro (...)

34Beyond the strategic framework of compensation through development, the Managem mining company, via its “policy of employment in exchange for drinking and industrial water”22 reinforces the political and economic power of the notables considered as its allies by offering stable jobs to their sons or families. In other words, the mine promises jobs in exchange for the village notables’ support for unrestricted exploitation of local water resources. Rather than recognizing the community in itself, the Managem executives define it in relation to the company’s own needs, placing themselves at the heart of the local power arena, with the other parties gravitating around them (notables, association representatives, elected representatives, farmers, etc.) (Jenkins, 2004; Boidin and Simen, 2016). The mining company and the State reproduce inequalities of power, redefining and reinforcing certain geographies of inclusion and exclusion (Dolan and Rajak, 2016). Via these CSR initiatives, Managem becomes involved in local community problems, “discharges” to them via intermediaries, thereby exercising real power over them (Mujica Bermúdez and Piccoli, 2014, 95; Rubbers, 2013, 21). The company broadens the influence of these interlocutors by redistributing resources in the zones where it operates. It assimilates or enrolls some of them, while excluding those – protest movement activists or notables – whose discourse on compensation does not match their own.

  • 23 As defined by Max Weber. See Mbembe (2000).

35In a relationship of mutual dependence with the State and the mining company, the remuneration of development brokers and notables is not in contradiction with the symbolic and political objectives of the two public action programs. As “henchmen”23 acting on behalf of the State or the mining company, they have become the foundations upon which a new form of governmentality is being constructed, and the sub-contractors of the Managem group’s strategy of collective reparation and CSR. Collective reparation provides opportunities for the State to make amends to collective victims (for collective punishment or the presence of secret detention centers), and the CSR enables the mining company to head off contestation and silence conflict with local and neighboring communities while maintaining its working capacity and its social license to operate.

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1 To borrow the term of “authoritarian decompression” coined by Jean-François Bayart (1991)

2 The National Initiative for Human Development was a “Reign-Long Effort” launched by King Mohammed VI in 2005. The latest 2011-2015 platform includes five programs: the cross-cutting program, the program to fight against precariousness, the program to combat exclusion in urban areas, the program to alleviate rural poverty and the program for territorial upgrading. A third phase (2019-2023) was launched recently, built around four main programs (bridging the gaps in infrastructure and basic social services; support for people living in precarious situations; improving income and economic inclusion of young people; boosting the human capital of upcoming generations).

3 To implement the IER recommendations, the CNDH supervises 149 collective reparation projects in almost 21 provinces via programs aiming to promote human development, open up marginalized areas, increase income and build stakeholder capacity.

4 For John Borneman, restitution/compensation includes financial compensation, restitution of confiscated property, access to healthcare, social reintegration, etc. (Borneman, 2011, cited by Laouina, 2016; IER, 2010). In the present article, and as we shall see in empirical terms below, compensation is understood as a central discursive component which encompasses reciprocity in land and mining rights, redistribution of mining, land and development rents, and involvement of diverse local stakeholders in defining citizenship, sovereignty and residents’ rights in their own terms. In short, this is a competitive arena where discourse on measures, calculations and the commodification of government procedures is pitted against negotiation, militancy and opposition to the practice of politics (Levacher et al., 2016; Le Meur and Levacher, 2019).

5 For the history of the creation of ONA, see Natal (1987). For Georges Hatton, “during the entire protectorate, and even today, ONA is still considered by some as not just a company name, but as a symbol of predatory colonial capitalism; and Jean Épinat, the man whose name is linked to the company, as a personification of the ruthless racketeering that bled Morocco dry for more than four decades (Hatton, 2009).

6 Managem is the mining holding company of SNI, renamed Al Mada in 2018. In 2010, SNI and ONA announced their merger. The creation of the new entity involved the delisting of the ONA-SNI block (comprising ONA, SNI, Cosumar, Lesieur, Centrale laitière, Attijariwafa Bank, Wafa Assurance, Lafarge Ciments, Sonasid, Managem and SMI stock).

7 As used by Max Weber, the term discharge corresponds to a “set of operations that were originally the prerogative of the State but which at some point were taken over by henchmen, thereby laying the foundations of the Oriental feudal system” (Mbembe, 2000, pp. 118-119). In short, it consists of the delegation of coercive and extractive authority from central rulers to local power holders (Hönke, 2010). As pointed out by Béatrice Hibou, it did not signify a dilution of the State’s role, but could reflect an unwillingness to assume the cost of running the State apparatus (Hibou, 1999b).

8 In Morocco, the Makhzen is the Royal House, the territory over which its exercises its (central) power, and its administrative appendages.

9 Like the management of security in the mining sector analyzed by Hönke (2010).

10 This study follows on from my PhD thesis on associative development brokers and the emergence of new rural elites in south-eastern Morocco (Benidir, 2016). It is a longitudinal investigation of their role in various public action programs, including those examined here. In addition to semi-structured interviews, it draws upon informal encounters and discussions, and a wide range of documentation (petitions, press releases, articles, reports, videos, appeals) produced by activists of the protest movement, Managem corporate managers and officers of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH). I am very grateful to Pierre-Yves Le Meur and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an initial version of this text.

11 Here, marginalization and elimination are two concepts used by left-wing activists redeployed as associative actors to identify inequalities and represent reality in the places where they occur. The idea of marginalization places the population at the periphery of a center, and that of elimination claims that this center ostracizes and excludes the population, banishing it beyond a frontier that is constantly redefined, in the name of a public order upheld by the State (Fassin, 1996). Via these two notions, these activists make a dialectic interpretation of the divide between the classes that contribute to and profit from industrial output, and those who do not or are excluded, and who are eliminated and ostracized by the former. From their viewpoint, their communities of origin belong to this second category. For them, militancy is the only option, as revealed by this interviewee: “in a region like ours, you have to take action whether you want to or not”. (Interview, Kelaat M’Gouna, 8 February 2010)

12 The ICTJ was set up in 2000 by Alex Boraine, vice-president of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Paul Van Zyl, Secretary General, and Paul Van Zyl, TRC specialist, with the backing of Human Rights Watch and liberal US foundations. Its mission is to disseminate ideas, standards and practices relating to reconciliation and “transitional justice”. It provides technical assistance for the creation of truth commissions across the world.

13 Société métallurgiqued’Imiter (SMI) is Managem’s main subsidiary and has contributed substantially to its overall performance. Organized as part of the protest movement known as “Mouvement sur la voie de 96”, the municipality neighboring the Imiter site demanded compensation for the exploitation of land, water and alluvial sands in mining operations that began in 1969. Since 2011, local inhabitants have manned a camp and a sit-in two km from the village of Imider, the municipality’s principal village, and five km from the mine, to block a valve on the pipeline that diverts water to the mine. In response to these protests, the mining holding drew up an agreement with the municipal council of the principal village and launched a mining zone development program on a regional scale for the whole of south-eastern Morocco. For more information on this protest movement, see Benidir (2017a). Note that Imiter, the name of the company that exploits the silver mine, is a phonetic deformation of Imider, the village where it is located. Imiterite Ag2HgS2 is the name of a new mineral from the Imiter Mine, from which its name is derived. In reflected light, it is white grey, with a pleochroism from bluish to pinkish. Its anisotropy is strong, from blue to reddish brown (Guillou, Monthel, Picot, Pillard, Protas and Samama, 1985). The rural municipality and the principal village have kept the original name of Imider, which literally means “hollow” or “market garden”.

14 Tazmamart, the land of the lion in the Amazigh language, inhabited by a fraction of the Aït Seghrouchen tribe, is one of the infamous detention centers that came into being in the Years of Lead. Located in an isolated desert zone close to Er-Rich, between Errachidia and Midelt, in the region of Tafilalet-Draa, it was built between 1972 and 1973 inside an abandoned military barracks to hold military prisoners suspected of involvement in the two coups against Hassan II (1971 and 1972). In 1991, the authorities declared that the death camp had been destroyed.

15 Interview, La Nouvelle Tribune, 13 December 2012.

16 For more information, see Nahhass (2020, pp. 228-229).

17 As shown by Yasmine Berriane for women’s former exclusion from rights to community land (Berriane, 2015).

18 In accordance with the 2007 poverty map drawn up by the Office of the High Commissioner for the Plan (Haut-Commissariat au plan, HCP) on the basis of the 2004 population and housing census and the 2000-2001 national survey of household consumption and spending. Éric Cheynis argues that this map was established by the HCP not simply on the basis of current international recommendations, adapting Moroccan statistical tools to international standards. This geographical targeting is fundamental to the INDH (Cheynis, 2008, p. 233), for which “poverty is paradoxically transformed into a question about the status of individuals, yet without being attributed to individuals” (Bono, 2009, p. 240).

19 For example: “realization of the municipal school in partnership with the external services, local communities, the mining company and the INDH in the short and medium term (Ait Elafakih, 2012b, p. 31); “implement a hydrogeological study of mining zones in the near future in partnership with the operating company, the water basin authority, the local community and INDH” (Ibid, 24); “creation [in the mining zones] of income generating activities (IGA) with the support of the INDH. More striking expressions are found in the agreement between SMI and the Imider municipal council in 2012: “contribute to the drinking water supply project… which falls within the scope of the INDH”; “contribution to the acquisition of a refuse collection truck within the scope of INDH”; “contribute to the construction of a maternity unit that will be incorporated in the scope of INDH”. Note also that most of the community reparation projects in Zagora are co-funded by the INDH under an agreement with the associations concerned.

20 Interview, Imider, 12 August 2019.

21 This storytelling around collective memory is reminiscent of the documentary films Sur nos lieux interdits (2008) by Leïla Kilani and Fragments (2009) by Hakim Belabès, both cited by Sonja Hegasy (2017), and of Amussu (movement) by Nadir Bouhmouch (2019).

22 In a similar vein to the “oil for food and medicine” program (1996-2003) which involved complex brokerage and compensation operations in Iraq and the United Nations (Burkel and Poncet, 2009); to the principle of “land for peace” established at the Madrid Conference in 1991 and reframed in the “Arab Peace Initiative” of 2002 to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict; and the “Peace to Investing” slogan of the “Deal of the Century” and the normalization agreements with the State of Israel under the Trump Administration.

23 As defined by Max Weber. See Mbembe (2000).

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Electronic reference

Mohammed Benidir, Brokerage, Compensation and Reproduction of the DischargeInternational Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement [Online], 13.1 | 2021, Online since 21 April 2021, connection on 15 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Mohammed Benidir

Mohammed Benidir is a lecturer in sociology at the National School of Architecture in Tétouan. He holds a PhD in social and political sciences awarded jointly by the University of Liège and Mohamed V University in Rabat. At the intersection between development anthropology and political sociology, his work focuses on elites, brokerage and development, residents’ practices, circulation of urban models, the land tenure and mining question.

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