Contrary to the refusal of many ordinary Moroccan and Riffian families to cooperate with the colonial occupier, a small Moroccan elite thought otherwise. For example, during the French and Spanish protectorates (1912 – 1956), ordinary families often refused to send their children to the colonial schools and prevented them from serving in the colonial army, although they were obliged to do so according to the Moroccan sultan Abd el Aziz ibn Hassan (1878 – 1943) and the European occupiers. They needed the North African people to fight their colonial wars.
A small and rich Moroccan elite saw the colonial system and schools as the way to a successful career for their children. They sent their children to European schools and universities or military academies. In this way, they and their children had access to political and military key positions, even after the departure of the occupying forces from Morocco. Kettani Ben Hammou was one of them.
Kettani Ben Hammou was born in Berrechid, near Casablanca, in 1910. He trained at the French military school Dar-El-Beida in Meknés. He joined the French army in 1923. He belonged to the Tabors, a unit composed entirely of Moroccans. With this unit, which he later took charge of, he took part in several military expeditions in Tunisia, Italy, France and Germany. Until he was wounded twice in 1944, and was decorated.
General Kettani Ben Hammou was called up to work for the French Resident General in Morocco after the Second World War. He then continued his training at the l’École Supérieure de Guerre, a French academy for senior officers.
This Colonel Kettani ben Hammou was promoted to general in August 1954 in the French newspaper Le Monde. Thus Ben Hammou became the first Moroccan with the rank of general in the French army. This timing was important, because two years later France would ‘leave’ Morocco. From that moment on, Ben Hammou’s general stars were able to shine in ‘independent’ Morocco.
General Kettani Ben Hammou was part of the staff of the French occupying army in Germany. However, he remained loyal to the Sultan of Morocco, Mohamed Ben Youssef.
In November 1955, on his return from exile, King Mohammed V called him to Rabat to assist Crown Prince Hassan in the formation of the royal forces FAR.
In 1956, Ben Hammou was commander of the armed forces, and in this capacity Kettani represented the sultan at the surrender of the governor of Tafilalt Aâddi Oubihi who had rebelled against the Hizb Listiqlal (Party of Independence) in power in 1957.
Two years later, in 1959, a major popular uprising in the Rif, which began in 1958, was brutally and violently suppressed by the Royal Army of Crown Prince Hassan. It was up to a.o. General Kettani to oversee the further subjugation of the Riffians.
General Ben Hammou went to the Congo on behalf of the UN in the 1960s as an advisor to the Congolese Chief of Staff of Mobutu Sese Seko. John Batist Mlima Makoubi, member of the Union of Congolese Youth, accused Ben Hammou of helping Mobutu to power through the CIA. Furthermore, he allegedly enabled Congolese dictator to seize power by having the independent leader Patrice Lumumba assassinated and thus eliminated.
This accusation does not come across as strange given Ben Hammou’s statements in the newspaper Le Monde. During the war of liberation in Congo he made the following statement: ‘What this country (Congo red.) needs is a Lyautey’. General Lyautey was the head of the French army that conquered Morocco.
General Kettani Ben Hammou was also chief of the Military House of King Hassan II. He died of a cardiac arrest in 1965. The newspaper Le Monde reports in its issue of 14 April 1965 that Kettani suffered a heart attack during a ceremony of the religious feast Aïd El Kébri. He congratulates the king on behalf of the army and collapses. Despite the treatment he received immediately by the king’s doctors, the general died a few minutes later without regaining consciousness.
Translation: Najat M.