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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mauritania Coup -What the Blogs Say

The president of Mauritania was today deposed in a coup led by the former chief of his official guard, who appointed himself the head of a junta ruling the west African nation.

Troops seized Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who became Mauritania's first democratically-elected leader last year, after he announced the dismissal of senior members of the impoverished country's armed forces.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the head of the presidential guard, was among those sacked.

A brief announcement, read out on state television several hours after the president was detained, said Abdel Aziz would head a new "state council" to govern Mauritania.

The message described Abdallahi as the "former president", annulling the decree that brought the sacking of Abdel Aziz and other senior military figures.

Mauritania, a former French colony that recently became Africa's newest oil-producing nation, has suffered several coups since gaining independence at the end of 1960.

Earlier, a spokesman for the deposed president said he was being held at the presidential palace in the capital, Nouakchott.

Soldiers also detained the prime minister, Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef, the spokesman added.
State radio and television went off the air and soldiers were seen being deployed throughout the capital, although no violence was reported.

The president's daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said troops had arrived at the presidential palace shortly before 9.30am local time (1030 BST).

"The president has just been arrested by a commando, who came to fetch him, arrested him here and took him away," she told France's RFI radio. "This is a real coup d'etat."

Mauritania has been in the throes of a political crisis in recent weeks. On Monday, almost 50 MPs quit the ruling party following a vote of no confidence in the government.
Soldiers began gathering at the presidential palace early this morning after the country's state-run news agency published a decree announcing that the top officers had been sacked.
Abdallahi last year replaced a military junta that had ruled since toppling an earlier president, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, in a bloodless coup in 2005.

Taya had ruled after seizing power in a coup of his own in 1984.

Mauritania became Africa's newest oil-producing country after offshore fields began operating in 2006.

The largely desert nation borders Algeria to the north and Mali and Senegal to the south and east.

Despite hopes of prosperity from country's still mainly unexploited reserves of oil and gas, it remains desperately poor and imports more than 70% of its food.

It also faces pressure from international human rights groups to eliminate slavery, which was outlawed in 1981. Amnesty International says there is evidence that the practice still exists in the country

The Rest @ The Guadian

The Moor Next Door Says:

My Mauritanian sources tell me that when the troops entered the Presidential Palace, they forced Sidi to take off his dara (the long flowy robe Mauritanian leaders often wear) and shirt (in order to establish some kind of hierarchy).
  • His daughter, also an aide to the President, phoned AFP to put out news of the coup. She was forced to hang up (though evidently not before putting out the news;
  • The President’s wife smacked one of the soldiers whilst shouting. He popped her back (three times).
  • I am also told, by the same source, that after Sidi [tried to] sack Chief of Staff Ghazouani, the new CoS (Col. Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Ismail) showed up at Army HQ and informed the guard that he was the Chief of Staff.
  • The guard responded with “tiyer” or “**** off.”
Western Sahara Info says

a tragedy for Mauritanian democracy, on the one hand, but that didn't stand much of a chance anyway; but more importantly, a giant setback for the country's broader chances of political development.
  • While President Abdellahi and his cronies aren't exactly angels, Colonels Ghazouani and Abdelaziz represent the very worst military-parasitic element of the Mauritanian regime, and their refusal to let the civilian side of the regime settle down in power threatens to undo it completely in the long run.
  • If the last coup, in August 2005, could be met with cautious understanding by the international community, having unseated President ould Tayaa, and eventually with praise as it led to a real transformation, this time around it is different.
  • What happened in 2005 was that a military-personal-tribal dictatorship was overthrown and the chance arrived to replace it with a civilian semi-authoritarian structure that respected most democratic norms most of the time, and which made sensible moves towards national reconciliation, refugee return and economic development; not heaven, but infinitely better.
  • This change is now being reversed. The putschists -- even though they are some of the same people as acted in 2005 -- must be condemned and the result of the coup overturned if possible;
  • Mauritania had a golden opportunity to break its vicious circle, and it is now slipping away.

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