Moroccan fruit seller fights corruption

One year after the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, Transparency Maroc has honoured another market vendor, Mourad Kartoumi, for his contribution to fighting corruption. Transparency International’s press intern Rosie Slater tells his story.

It will be a year ago tomorrow that Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable seller, set himself on fire. Our vice chair Akere Muna paid tribute to his sacrifice in a recent speech. Bouazizi’s actions were the catalyst for the uprisings that came to be known as the Arab Spring, protests proving that the people can topple corrupt rulers.

Later in 2011, Transparency Morocco presents its integrity prize to Mourad Kartoumi (left), a Moroccan fruit vendor who challenged corrupt local officials.

It is fitting then that a market vendor from neighbouring Morocco was presented with an Integrity Award last week on Anti-Corruption Day, by our chapter Transparency Maroc.

Mourad Kartoumi has struggled tirelessly to expose deeply entrenched corruption in his workplace, a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Casablanca. For the past ten years, he has put his livelihood and even his personal security at risk by speaking up loud and clear whilst others remained silent.

Kartoumi was the one who publicly revealed the extent of corruption at the market, which he described as a “theatre of financial crime.” In a legal complaint in 2010, he openly accused the director of the market of falsifying financial documents from lorry drivers, altering balance sheets handed in by vendors and farmers, and embezzling funds. According to reports, the market suffered estimated losses of several million dirhams. After Kartoumi’s allegations, a media storm ensued.

The mayor and other elected officials were implicated in the scandal. For reasons that remain unclear, the investigation was delayed and has yet to be concluded. According to Transparency Maroc, “the accusations have not received the follow up that they merit from the authorities.” A hearing is scheduled for December 20. In spite of these setbacks, Kartoumi never gave up. His struggles may have been met with deafening silence from the authorities, but they resonated with the Moroccan public, media and civil society.

Kartoumi’s story shows the difference that just one citizen can make when he or she takes a stand against corruption. Transparency Maroc hopes that his award will inspire others to come forward and join the fight for a fairer society.

Honouring the unsung heroes of the fight against corruption like Kartoumi is the idea behind our Integrity Awards, given at the global and national level – you can find out more about them here.

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