Fifty six years ago this week (October 29), on a chilly afternoon in Paris, Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Moroccan opposition movement, was kidnapped, by French secret service agents supposedly collaborating with the right-wing royalist Moroccan regime and never found. Having been born in 1920, this is his centenary year.
One of Africa’s brightest hopes, ben Barka collaborated with fellow revolutionaries Amilcar Cabral, Che Guevara and Malcolm X on the setting up of the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana. He tried to unite the revolutionary movements of the Third World and was a major figure in the Third World movement, supporting revolutionary, and anti-colonial actions in various states. An original, but rather unsung revolutionary theoretician, compared to the likes of his more illustrious counterparts like Cabral, Che and Frantz Fanon, he was much more than just a “travelling salesman of the revolution”, as unkindly claimed by the historian Jean Lacouture.
At Havana in 1966, just a year before his unfortunate disappearance, ben Barka had observed, significantly, at a press conference, “the two currents of the world revolution will be represented there: the current [that] emerged with the October Revolution and that of the national liberation revolution”.
As the slain revolutionary singer Franklin Boukaka would sing, ‘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.