Mauritania: junta consolidates power

The African Union (AU) Aug. 9 reversed its position on the coup in Mauritania, giving a tacit conditional support to the new military junta. The move came after Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olu Adeniji, led a delegation of four AU ministers landed in the Northern African State. Adeniji said the delegation had meetings with all the stakeholders in that country, from the leader of the military council, to labor unions and human rights groups—and found they all supported the coup. “The amazing thing is that there was no single dissenting view,” he said. Adeniji did say the AU would not accept the two-year transition period, which it considers too long.

Adeniji said judging by the situation on ground, ousted president Maaouyia Ould Taya could not come back to power without a bloodbath. He accused Taya of such unconstitutional actions as banning Mauritanian nationals who were his opponents and sending them into exile. The minister also noted was that Blacks complained that slavery is rampant in that country it was encouraged by Taya.

The United States has also backed down from its initial hardline position. The State Department is now said to be working with the junta to ensure that multi-party elections are held as soon as possible. Said US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli: “The guys running the country right now are the guys we’re dealing with, because they’re the ones making the decisions and we are trying to get them to make the right decision.”

None of Taya’s ministers have been retained in the new government, but Ahmed Ould Sid’Ahmed, the foreign minister who signed the 1999 deal establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, has been given his old job back. The head of the junta, Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, seems set to take on the duties of defense minister.

The junta pledges to hold elections within two years, and forbid any junta member from standing for office in that contest. (This Day, Lagos, Aug. 10, via AllAfrica, Aug. 10)

See our last post on Mauritania, and the politics of the Sahel.