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Mauritania Brief

April 22, 2009
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snitchesgetstickesBelow is a quick roundup of a few relevant points on Mauritania, readers are encouraged to contribute their thoughts and insights. The presidential “race” appears to be shaping up quite predictably, but how the opposition and wider society responds may yet reveal something more substantial.

  1. General Abdel Aziz’s resignation is meaningless. This much anyone even glancing at Mauritania should know. The junta leader resigned from the HCE and from his position as head of state. He did not, however, resign from the military as doing so would have separated him from the crucial BASEP unit, which functions essentially as his personal praetorian guard (authority over which he achieved from Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi). It is the basis of his political relevance and power and he will not give it up, meaning that his candidacy and potential presidency will be illegal, though in his mind and that of those behind behind him this matters very little.
  2. A merger of forces between RFD/FNDD towards a boycott of the polls and a massive civil disobedience campaign seems likely. The junta has made efforts to divide the opposition parties, employing familiar tactics (see below), opposition members increasingly see the necessity of a common front against the junta in de-legitimizing it and rendering its ability to carry on. Messaoud discusses his relationships with Abdel Aziz and Sidioca in an interview with Al-Akhbar, where he also describes his meetings with Ahmed Ould Daddah.
  3. Efforts at collapsing the opposition were dealt setbacks recently. The Constitutional Council rejected the application of Hamidou Baba for candidacy on the RFD ticket, finding no evidence that he was in fact backed by the RFD, which is, after all, boycotting the process. He will have to run as an independent. In the second place, a member of the Council resigned, a slap in the junta’s face.
  4. Libya’s personality cult will not extend into one part of Mauritania, contrary to the ambitions of some. The Nouakchott Urban Council refused to re-name a street after Muamar al-Qadhafi, citing his failure to settle the country’s crisis. This adds to junta’s trouble: The agent of the junta’s current circumstance cannot find Mauritanians to honor him, and it will be likely that down the line the junta will grumble for the same reason. For a discussion of Libyco-Mauritanian relations, see this interview with former Mauritanian minister and ambassador Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Weddady. He also provides insight into the RFD’s position.
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