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N’Diaye on Mauritania

March 18, 2009

Boubacar N’Diaye is probably (perhaps besides Jourde) the only author that manages to get Mauritania into mainstream academic journals. In the recent Journal of Modern African Studies he gives a detailled analysis of the recent ‘democratic’ experiment in Mauritania and its failure. To sum it up: I think it’s the most solid  (yet not detailled) analysis of the matter that I’ve come across and nicely displays the manipulative role of the military and the motivation behind it.  I thought it’d be a good idea to share just a few points new to me or that I thought were put nicely. Above all the description of Sidi as “reassuring grandfatherly figure”…

(– N’Diaye, B., 2009. “To‘midwife’ – and abort – a democracy:Mauritania’s transition from military rule, 2005-2008.” Journal of Modern African Studies 47(1) –)

“Given the small size of its population, Mauritania has now one of the highest ratios of men in uniform to population in the sub-region. There are nearly 21,000 men in just the regular bodies of the military (including 5,000 in the gendarmerie), compared for example to 15,620, including 5,000 gendarmes, in neighbouring Senegal, and 15,150 in Mali, including 1,800 gendarmes and 4,800 other paramilitaries (IISS 2008). With ongoing rebellions, Mali and Senegal have arguably more obvious security needs. Mauritania’s defence and security budget as a percentage of GDP is far higher than that of its neighbours.” (133)

“After a bloody coup attempt in 2003, led by Nasserist officers from the Oulad Nacer and Laghlal tribes from the south-east of the country, he  (Taya) beefed up the BASEP, promoted ultra loyal officers from his own and allied (northern) tribes, and weakened other branches of the military. Some of these officers were typically positioned in strategic commands or made heads of key parastatals, and given a free hand to use public funds as they pleased. This weakened the military institution and increased the resentment of many junior officers left out of promotions and the largesse of the regime. In turn, these divisions were to destabilise relations between the regime and the security apparatus, as regime survival became dependent on the fealty of a few men, in particular the commander of the BASEP Colonel Ould Abdel Aziz, whose cousin (also from the commercially prosperous Oulad Bousbaa tribe) happened to be the director of National Security. It did not help that this tribe was locked in fierce competition over shares of the economy, in particular the newly discovered oil sector.” (134)

the election process “started in earnest with the combined municipal and parliamentary elections on 19 November and 3 December 2006. On those dates, with no sense of a predictable outcome, and powerless to stop the fraud and manipulation associated with polls for more than forty years (and most certainly the last twenty), Mauritanians directly elected the National Assembly and the municipal council members of more than 200 municipalities.” (138)

“it is undeniable that it produced, with a voter participation rate of 73.42% (first round) and 69.49% (second round), the most politically plural National Assembly ever in Mauritania’s post-colonial history. No less than sixteen parties and ‘independents’ (supposedly without political affiliation) were represented after the second round of elections on 3 December 2006.” (139)

“In November 2005, as the transition got under way, the leader of the junta said on Radio France Internationale (…) that the future civilian president would have nothing to fear from the army so long as he governed the country correctly, without elaborating on just what the expected ‘ correct perspective’ (his phrase) means. In other pronouncements he had, for example, excluded the possibility that military officers, particularly the former head of state, might ever be put on trial.” (145)

“Indeed, it was quite relevant to the future of Mauritania and to the manner in which it would address its many challenges to recall that, because of his age, Ould Abdallahi would have been ineligible to stand for a second term (Art. 26 of the Constitution). This may have been one of the main reasons for the support he received in 2006 from the MCJD, particularly its chairman Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, whose ambition to replicate the itinerary of the current head of state of Mali is an open secret.” (149)

btw, a short side note: I just attended a presentation by the director of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria, Jibrin Ibrahim. He told the story of being at a conference in the US that discussed good and bad elections in Africa. He was in the bad elections group with Zimbabwe and Kenya and the other (good elections) group included Sierra Leone and Mauritania. At the end of the discussion the board reached the consensus that Mauritania was by far the most successful election. That was in July 2008. 😉

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tidinit permalink
    March 19, 2009 15:38

    Thanks hnnsbhrnbrg. Your last sentence re – the saying of Jibrin Ibrahim: that was 6 days before the coup. Thanks for the material from Boubacar Ndiaye. He indeed knows well the country. seen references to Journe, but never read him. Will look for his articles.

  2. Tidinit permalink
    March 24, 2009 15:42

    Found Ndiaye article and thanks.

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