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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > Political Transition in Mauritania

Political Transition in Mauritania

Cairo/Brussels  |   24 Apr 2006

The leaders of Mauritania’s recent coup have made a promising start, but the international community must press them to respect their promises of democratic transition.

Political Transition in Mauritania: Results and Prospects,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the complex ties between the new and the old power structures in Mauritania. The new rulers, some of whom are closely linked to the regime they overthrew eight months ago, may prefer not to redress past injustices. This could fuel political tensions before long. Mauritania’s international partners should assist efforts to preserve stability by maintaining economic aid and cooperation, but should also hold the new government to its promise of a transition to legitimate civilian institutions.

“Deep and controversial reforms cannot be completed in a short time, but at a minimum the government should work closely with other national political forces to take initial steps”, says Robert Malley, Director of Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program. “Its first challenge, given that its two most important leaders are closely linked to one of these oligarchic groups, will be to avoid tribal favouritism”.

On 3 August 2005, a junta led by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, Director-General of the Sûreté Nationale, and Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, commander of the presidential security battalion, seized power in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The coup, which responded to the growing unpopularity and declining legitimacy of President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya’s regime, signifies a partial break with the past but also reflects significant continuity in terms both of method and personalities.

The new Military Council has promised to organise a return to legitimate institutions within a reasonable timetable: a constitutional referendum is scheduled for 26 June 2006, municipal and legislative elections for 19 November 2006, and senatorial and presidential elections for 11 March 2007.

Until the parliament has been elected, however, a framework for regular consultation should be established and unilateral decisions avoided. The endemic corruption and the omnipresence of oligarchic groups should be limited as much as possible to promote a fair allocation of public contracts, and the rule of law must be promoted.

“A military coup is a disquieting precedent in a region that has had too many”, says Hugh Roberts, Director of Crisis Group’s North Africa Project. “The establishment of democracy and the rule of law within a reasonable time frame is in the interest of all”.

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