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.
AllAfrica.com runs a story from Nigeria's Abuja Daily Trust on the insistence of Niger's President Mamadou Tandja, has dismissed reports that his country is experiencing a famine. "The people of Niger look well-fed as you can see," he told the BBC. He acknowledged there are food shortages in some areas following poor rains and locust invasions, but said this was not unusual for his country. (How comforting.) Tandja said the idea of a famine was being exploited for political and economic gains by opposition parties and the United Nations. The World Food Programme denied that the scale of the problem had been exaggerated.
Mauritania's recently-ousted president Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya, now in exile in Niger, pledged to return to power, and appealed to the Mauritanian armed forces to launch a counter-coup on his behalf. He made the appeal in an interview on Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, broadcast throughout the region, including in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott. Taya said he would "return soon" and issued orders "in my capacity as president of the republic to the armed forces to restore the natural order and put an end to this crime."
The UN is pledging to lead an investigation into the helicopter crash that claimed the life of Sudan's newly-installed vice president John Garang, longtime leader of the southern guerillas. (UPI, Aug. 3) Violence since his death has already left at least 84 dead. Garang's position, both as vice president and leader of the SPLA guerillas, is to be assumed by his second-in-command Salva Kiir Mayardit, described by the New York Times as "a fierce fighter with traditional Dinka tribal scarring on his forehead" who has "fought shoulder to shoulder and occassionaly face to face wth Mr. Garang for two decades." (IHT) This commentary by Julie Flint in Lebanon's Daily Star (excerpts below) makes clear the multiple challenges Kiir Mayardit faces—first, to hold together his own SPLA organization, which unites several southern peoples. Not included in the recent peace agreement are the conflicts in Darfur in Sudan's west and the much less-known Beja region in the east. We hope Garang's contentious air crash will not be remembered in the same light as that of Rwanda's President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994.
Hundreds have taken to the streets of Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, shouting and honking car horns in celebration after the army announced it had seized power and ousted long-ruling President Moawiya Ould Tayeh. Convoys of vehicles with people hanging out the sides shouting "Praise Be to God" and making victory signs paraded down one of Nouakchott's main avenues. (Reuters, Aug. 3)
You'd think right on the heels of the Live 8 hype, the world would be doing something about this, no? The response to the crisis, which was building throughout the Edinburgh hoopla, appears to be dramatically too little and too late. And people wonder why there is popular discontent fueling Islamic extremism in this part of the world. Via TruthOut:
The new peace deal in Sudan, ending a 22-year civil war in which two million people lost their lives, took effect July 9, when Col. John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was sworn in as Sudan's first vice president in Khartoum, the capital. After six years of power-sharing between Garang's SPLA and President Omar el-Bashir's National Congress Party, there will be a referendum to decide Sudan's future, with the southern stronghold of the SPLA potentially having the option to secede.