[Marxism] Indications of popular support for Mauritania coup
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Aug 7 16:10:41 MDT 2005
Mauritanians vow support for coup
Sunday 07 August 2005 12:36 PM GMT
Supporters say they felt condemned under the old order
Jubilant at the ousting of their president, Mauritanians have cast aside
international condemnation and pledged support for a military government
that has promised to lead them to democratic rule.
The army seized power on Wednesday, while President Maaouya Ould
Sid'Ahmed Taya was out of the country, and installed what it called the
Military Council for Justice and Democracy which has vowed to hold
presidential polls within two years - and promised none of its members
Thousands of people clad in traditional blue and gold boubous marched
through the sandy streets of Rosso, a frontier town on the Senegalese
border, late on Saturday after the military outlined its plans for the
West African country.
"Mauritanians had lost all hope of development, democracy and social
justice. But this is our moment," said Ahmed Diop Moctar Neche, a
pharmacist shouting to be heard above the crowd.
"This is not the Mauritania of yesterday. They cannot tell lies to the
people," he said.
One man held a picture of Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, the military
government's leader, above his head in the middle of the throng.
Police officers and soldiers were among the crowd.
"We felt trapped, condemned, like a prisoner who had lost all hope of
being freed," said Baba Ould Soufi, 48, an agricultural engineer.
Past coup bids
Taya seized power in a 1984 coup and ruled with an iron fist for two
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
ruled with an iron first for 20 years
Dissident soldiers nearly toppled him in 2003 and the government says it
foiled two more coup bids in 2004.
Thousands of black Africans - who make up about one-third of the
population in a country where light-skinned Moors have long dominated
government - were forcibly expelled from the region around Rosso during
"We are listening. If the new rulers do something that is in our
interest we may go back," said the elderly head of a community of
refugees in Dagana, a village close to Rosso on the Senegalese side of
The United States, former colonial power France and the United Nations
have all condemned the putsch. The 53-nation African Union (AU) has
Junta leader Ely Ould Mohamed
Vall promises to hold a plebiscite
But Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Babana, Mauritania's ambassador to Ethiopia
who sits on the AU's human rights commission, said he believed the AU
suspension would not last long.
"It's a provisional suspension. If they came here, they would see how
people have received the new regime. The AU will come back to its senses
and see the will of the people," he said.
The self-styled military government promised on Saturday to hold a
referendum on changes to the constitution within a year to be followed
immediately by legislative elections.
It has met members of the Islamic Republic's opposition parties, Taya's
own party, business leaders and diplomats based in the capital
A judge freed 21 people jailed since 25 April on charges of plotting
against the state, said Captain Ahmed Ould Abeid, head of the central
prison in the capital. The group has yet to be acquitted of charges.
They included Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew, spiritual leader of many
Mauritanians the government brands as Islamic radicals, and Moktar Ould
Mohamed Moussa, an Islamic leader who previously served as ambassador to
the United Arab Emirates.
At least 50 other people remain in prison on similar charges. Taya
jailed scores of opponents during his rule, including politicians,
soldiers and Islamists he portrayed as terrorists plotting his
Older Mauritanians find the promises familiar - a military committee
staged a bloodless coup in 1978 pledging democracy only for another
putsch to overthrow it two years later.
"The dictator's time has come to an end"
El Hacen Soumailim,
But many hope this time it will be different.
The prospect of oil wealth when the country starts pumping crude early
next year, and people's pent-up anger at years of misrule and
corruption, mean more is at stake than ever before, they say.
"The dictator's time has come to an end," said El Hacen Soumailim, a
student in Rosso.
"My support for the military council is almost total, but their promises
have to be wholly respected in the next two years. We've had enough of
heads of state who stay on for decades."
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