A Mauritania Outlook

SUMMARY: In December this blogger spoke to small audiences about some of the issues facing Mauritania going into 2013. This post is built on the bullet-point notes prepared for these presentations, which were open to the public and represent only his views. This blogger is often more pessimistic than others (bias, admitted) and anticipates an eventful year in Mauritania. Protest movements are likely to grow in size and intensity. In thinking about Mauritania at this stage it is important remember that in trying for the best case it is possible to produce the worst. Much depends on whether fair elections are held and if the government fulfills its responsibilities to fill constitutionally mandated offices. At the same time, elections or appointments regarded as suspect by opposition currents may reinforce stalemate and gridlock. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that increasing western support for Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will feed into existing opposition sentiments that regard the current regime as illegitimate and the international community as more or less complicit in its exploit and excesses. The strong likelihood that Mauritania will be drawn into the French/ECOWAS-led intervention (this construction is deliberate) in northern Mali increases this possibility as Ould Abdel Aziz is likely to continue be seen as a basically reliable partner in regional counter-terrorism efforts (for a summary of this view in the American press see here; for a Mauritanian rebuttal of this line of thinking see here). Furthermore, the president’s reputation and relationship with the military may be a source of further instability emerging from potential war casualties, internal personal and political disagreements and potential shifts in the political scene. Trouble can be avoided but outsiders have serious challenges to ponder and should not assume away or downplay the very significant risks in the country stemming from basic qualities in its leadership and political system.

Continue reading

Mechanizations in Mauritania: Reports

After a month with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in hospital in France, members of Mauritania’s ruling party, opposition and military appear to be growing impatient. Early November saw the first mass protests since the president was shot in early October and Mauritania’s generals met on 17 October in a reportedly tense meeting during which the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohamed Ould Ghazouani came under pressure from some attendees to take a more assertive political role, which Ghazouani reportedly resisted. Articles in Essirage and al-Akhbar, two Mauritanian Arabic-language news sites, recently published reports describing parliamentary mechanizations that might lead to major changes in the political landscape in coming days and weeks. The report discusses efforts by members of parliament to find a way ‘out of the constitutional vacuum’. One should note how some external analyses of the situation in Mauritania over the last year have elided or ignored its constitutional dramas, set in motion largely by the president with the help of parts of the opposition (through passivity or inertia), not least the failure to hold parliamentary elections on time which has meant that the political system has been more or less extra-constitutional since about last October. Continue reading

RE: The ‘Accidental’ Shooting of the Mauritanian President

Summary. Some confusion exists around the shooting of the Mauritanian president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The post speculates about the possibility of a coup or assassination attempt on the basis of a number of rumors about potential motivations and scenarios behind the incident based on the current political environment and does not claim to offer a conclusive judgment. However, it is unlikely that the current situation does not present ambitious men with opportunities to take action and take what they want. Or not. Continue reading

Chart: Some Mauritanian responses to the Libyan crisis

Here is a chart mapping some of the responses to the Libyan crisis (thus far). The PDF is here.

It should be said: virtually everyone with eyes, balanced minds and souls seems to be repulsed and disgusted by the indiscriminate and unrelenting violence (and vulgar threats of violence) taking place in Libya right now. That includes many, many Mauritanians. Readers will remember that this blog has long taken special interest in Libya’s role in Mauritania’s recent foreign policy since 2008. Thus it is only natural that this blog might try to account for responses to the crisis there using mind mapping software and obnoxious colors.

Note that both parliamentary majority leader Khalil Ould Tayeb and Foreign Minister Naha Mint Mouknass both have exceedingly close ties to Qadhafi; Mint Mouknass in particular enjoys the personal favor of Qadhafi and both have enjoyed his financial patronage. The “pro-Qadhafi parties” are those that pledged allegiance to Qadhafi in 2010 (Ould Abdel Aziz himself has been strongly backed by Qadhafi since the Gaza crisis). More on this in a later post though. Libya was essential in stabilizing Ould Abel Aziz’s foreign policy following the 2008 coup (especially after Ould Abdel Aziz broke relations with Israel during the Gaza Crisis), as well as helping to build parts of his political alliance and helping the General balance western, Arab and African reprisals. Qadhafi attempted to intervene on Ould Abdel Aziz behalf and was one of the first foreign leaders to visit Mauritania after the coup, claiming that elections and coups were no different from one another in a speech, causing moans and groans in the opposition at the time. Ould Abdel Aziz (as well as many opposition and pro-Ould Abdel Aziz factions) made many important visits to Tripoli during the post-coup period with important effects on Mauritania’s foreign policy in the Arab region and its domestic politics. This period was followed on this blog with interest.

One might speculate that if Qadhafi were to fall it could lead to an important realignment in Mauritania’s foreign policy with respect to Morocco and Algeria and its relations with its west African neighbors (with whom relations are relative poor on a leader-to-leader basis and which have been in some cases stabilized by Qadhafi’s intervention). Surely Ould Abdel Aziz’s very public relationship with Qadhafi is damaging to his own standing with an increasingly unsettled population and an opposition long bothered by his tendency to brush them off. Ould Abdel Aziz has been seen as as increasingly autocratic and opportunistic by his critics and recent events at Fassala and over scheduled youth protests (which the government has obstructed) have led to violent clashes between citizens and police and threats of sit-ins from students and youth groups. If Ould Abdel Aziz loses Qadhafi, his important and rich patron, he may lose his ability to hold on to some of his allies in parliament and the political parties; he may also lose some steam in recruiting new allies if he no longer has the financial and political backing of Qadhafi. And if Qadhafi remains in power his brand, and perhaps by extension Ould Abdel Aziz’s brand, may be badly stained by the blood of the many Libyans that have been shot, dismembered, tortured and otherwise obliterated over the last several days as Mauritanians and the whole rest of the world watches. This will be relevant in upcoming municipal and parliamentary elections. If Qadhafi remains in power his money might still be powerful but this recent crisis might be able to do to Ould Abdel Aziz’s relationship with Qadhafi’s Libya what the Gulf War did to Maaouiya Ould Tayya’s relationship with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. One shudders to attempt to predict big shifts or big things but there are some real possibilities for important shifts in the region with Qadhafi gone; Mauritania is a place where these might be seen easily. These things are always uncertain though.

Also note that certain important political parties are missing; these will be added with more time to add and search for statements and communiques. Readers are welcome to point such statements (as well as off clarifications, corrections, etc.) in the comments section (in fact, please do help contribute to and improve this — especially where students and unions are concerned). Links to the news articles used to build this chart will be posted shortly, either within a brief narrative or listing.

AQIM assassination attempt on O. Abdel Aziz

Below is a vague timeline of the alleged AQIM assassination attempt on Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. It appears to have not gotten very far:

  1. Three AQIM vehicles were sighted near Nema over the weekend and the the Army, Gendarmerie and National Police tracked them from the air as they moved from the border region to the capital;
  2. Government forces discovered one truck at R’Kiz, Trarza and arrested three men carrying explosives, two Mauritanians and one from Guinea Bissau;
  3. Government forces encountered two AQIM trucks and engaged them in a gun fight outside of Nouakchott, one of which exploded (wounding 13 soldiers from BASEP, the Republican Guard) and another of which sped off and whose location is not yet known;
  4. Gun fire has been reported in parts of the capital, though no specific geographic details have come from the press in this regard, except that an Air Force barracks by the airport in Nouakchott was attacked by unknown gunmen;
  5. AQIM released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack and saying that the operation was intended to assassinate the Mauritanian President by car bomb as he returned from a visit to Ethiopia;
  6. The Defense Minister claims that one of the trucks was headed for the French Embassy, one targeted a military barracks in the Sixth Military Region (Nouakchott), which may explain the gunshots reported at the Air Force barracks, and a the third “providing logistical support for the other two.” Wether the two neutralized trucks were the bomb cars is unclear from news reports. No information on what the third car might be carrying. Continue reading

Mauritanian MPs duke it out: Thoughts

Yesterday, Jamil Ould Mansour and Slama Ould Abdellahi broke into what has been variously described as a “brawl” and “a violent fight lasting several minutes” after a back and forth of insults and profanities during a parliamentary session on the civil status law. Al-Akhbar, which tends to give favorable coverage to Ould Mansour’s Tawassoul party (relevant because other accounts are more ambiguous about which MP made it physical), described the incident as an “attack” by Ould Abdellahi. According to their account, Ould Mansour exceeded his time limit while making a speech. Ould Abdellahi made an intervention to protest the excess. The two began to bicker and the committee chairman called a recess for the two to cool off and reconcile. Reports are unclear as to who began the pushing and shoving but after a few minutes of struggle, parliamentarians from the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR, which also happens to be Ould Abdellahi’s party) “urged Ould Mansour not to respond to what he considered an insult”. The same report paraphrases Ould Mansour as expressing “his regret at the tendency of some parties toward violence rather than dialogue or discussion.” CRIDEM writes that Ould Abdellahi made an intervention during which various MPs called out at in opposition; Ould Mansour then made a series of comments deriding the composition of a committee looking at the marital status law which “did not take into account the different components of Mauritanian society.” During the recess, Ould Mansour come upon Ould Abdellahi “n a very tense discussion interspersed with malicious comments, before coming to blows.” Beyond the personal dimension, there are likely other factors at work.

Continue reading

RE: Mauritania prisoner release

The video above credits the pardoning and release of thirty-five Salfist prisoners (many convicted on terrorism charges) in Mauritania during ʿEid ul-Fitr to the tirless work of “moderate ʿulema,” though it names none of those religious leaders. Among those released was a fellow by the name of al-Majlissi, with whom readers will be familiar. It must be understood that this is the result of maneuvering by Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew and Imam Ahmedou Ould Lemrabott between the Islamist tendency at large and with the Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz government, a process that has been roughly a year in the making — if not longer.

In fairness, there are men that have been detained on spurious grounds and treated poorly (to say the least) only for their associations with others. There are, on the other hand, men whose activities have been in themselves criminal or have aided in criminality and these men need to be subject to the appropriate, legal consequences. This is not to say that due process is especially well respected in Mauritania or that the conditions of men in prison is up to international standards (whatever those might be) — in fact many prisoners complain of abuse and are held extrajudicially (Islamist and otherwise). One cannot help but be puzzled, though, with the release of these men, many of whom were (and likely remain) efficient recruiters and supporters for what has become AQIM.

It is puzzling because it conflicts with the strong-man-tough-on-terror image that Ould Abdel Aziz has consciously cultivated for himself since his seizure of power in 2008. Indeed, there is some hypocrisy in this being done by a government that recalled its ambassador over a Malian prisoner exchange and that has fumed when its eastern neighbor released far fewer men with similar backgrounds. The move has severely angered France which has been a major back of Ould Abdel Aziz as a terrorist smasher for over a year. Continue reading

Lions and Foxes

Let us think, broadly and beyond the short-term.

Vilfredo Pareto once wrote:

A society does best when there is a predominance of lions among the population as a whole and a healthy element of foxes in the leadership. The leadership must allow for new blood to avoid degeneration. In war more lions again rise to positions of power, and as surely as the war disappears so do the majority of lions. Lions being ready to use force, relying on it rather than their brains to solve their problems. They are conservative, patriotic, and loyal, to tradition and solidly tied to supra-individual groups like family, the church and or nation. In economic affairs they are cautious, saving and orthodox. They dislike the new, and praise character and duty rather than wits. Foxes being ones that live by their wits. They put their reliance on fraud, deceit, and shrewdness. They do not have strong attachment to family, church, and nation and tradition (though they may exploit these attachments in others).

The above is relevant when one considers the widespread and growing discontent within the Mauritanian political class as result of recent developments in the country’s politics and economy. Continue reading

Mauritania Update

Maneuvers at Tourine. From "Al-Bayan Raqam Wahed," Aljazeera.

Three sets of observations on recent things related to Mauritania in terms of: (1) terrorism and the military, (2) Mali and (3) politics in general. On the whole, sources report general displeasure with the political situation among the political class, the tribes, among Afro-Mauritanians and parts of the military. This has been the trend, in general, since late last autumn. The Mauritanian president has strengthened his immediate inner circle while frequently alienating large segments of the population, including his own allies. Continue reading

More on Hanevy O. Dahah

A well-meaning Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for Hanevy Ould Dahah’s release, publish 1 February, appears to have played into the hands of Ould Abdel Aziz and company. The article was mistranslated (one can only conclude this was done deliberately) and distributed on the street and inside the courthouse as Ould Dahah was being tried and then sentenced to two years imprisonment on trumped-up charges. The thrust of the mistranslation is to the effect that Ould Dahah “left Islam” at age 18; the article states clearly that he in fact “broke with the Islamists” at age 18. Its intention is to portray the (former, he retired last week) editor of Taqadoumy as an apostate, a kafir and so on. A similar attempt was made when Ould Dahah went on a hunger strike at the beginning of the year; that effort was linked to “suicide” and therefore declared un-Islamic by clerics, at which point Ould Dahah gave up the strike. As one who has met Hanevy, there is no doubt that he is a Muslim, whatever his political views might be.

Who are the translators? The analysis by a University of Nouakchott English professor (drafted by Taqadoumy) has it that their translation bears little relation to the connotation, meaning or intention of the English text. RIM Media also put up a “disclaimer” regarding the potentially dangerous implications of the false translation. Taqadoumy has posted a full Arabic translation on its site (as well as the original English text).

The translators themselves are thought to be a set of public relations and communications wolves well introduced in official circles. Many think that this shows that the regime is increasingly receding into an increasingly thuggish and arbitrary style of rule. None of this should surprise any observer. In the writing circles there are suspicions about Who Done It. One cannot be certain as of yet. But two names especially float to the top among speculators. This should not be taken for accusation; it merely reflects suspicions relayed here by Mauritanians.

The ring leader is believed to be Abdellah Ould Hormatallah, was an ex-publicist under the Ould Sheikh Abdellahi government; one of his biggest projects was to construct a news website to promote the then-president. In time around the 2008 coup, it was used to promote Ould Abdel Aziz, though he had gone off to work for the head of parliament, Mohsen Ould Hadj as a PR secretary. He has published articles in al-Quds al-Arabi and appeared as a commentator on France24 after he 6 August coup (one can guess what his current political orientation is based on his argumentation there; those without Arabic can get a summary of the debate here, in French). His partners are also believed to include Kemal Ould Mohamedou (the little brother of Ould Abdel Aziz’s junta-era foreign minister, and his former partner in hip-hop shenanigans), whose “Generation Aziz” group put out the pamphlet “100 Reasons Why Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz Must be the Next President of Mauritania” during the 2009 election. These are men with deep ties to the regime and the Ould Abdel Aziz campaign.

Since then he has worked behind the scenes in a variety of posts for various junta and regime figures. He is especially close to the General and his Foreign Minister, Naha Mint Mouknass (with whom he is regularly seen around the capital likely in an advisory capacity). He occupies a similar position as the various Saudi journalists that drive the “Angry Arab” so mad. The idea is to take whatever opportunity possible to pain Ould Dahah as a non-Muslim, to sap public support and sympathy. But the major journalists associations and unions in Nouakchott have reiterated their support, as well as has the Committee to Project Journalists and others. So these efforts appear to have been dented by both common sense and the fact that the so-called “translation” of the WSJ piece attributes statements to Ould Dahah that simply do not appear in the original. These do not come down to semantic problems, but glaring, malicious word choices based on a political agenda, design to undermine free expression in Mauritania and that re-enforce the image of the General’s government as sitting somewhere in the proto-despotic phase of regime crystallization.

O. Abdel Aziz in Tehran: More thoughts

Mauritanians place a high value on pragmatism. The Essentialist would have it that they are “by nature” pragmatists; the country’s politics and foreign policy would support the claim.  When Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz traveled to Iran and met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicted the destruction of Israel and described a united Muslim effort against it, one would assume that in sitting so closely to so polarizing a leader the Mauritanian President was getting something substantial in return. Ould Abdel Aziz has used anti-Israel language to great effect since seizing power in 2008; this was justified as a means of gaining financial support from wealthier “radical” states — Libya and Iran especially — because western governments cut aid in protest of his coup. Since the 2009 election, though, Ould Abdel Aziz has been rehabilitated by Mauritania’s major partners, notably France. He was given classical treatment during his visit to Paris last autumn. But he has consistently moved to engage and bring in other actors into his patch of Francophonie; not just Libya, but Venezuela and Iran as well. The French are not happy about his visit to Tehran; there is a rumor among some diplomatic circles that Ould Abdel Aziz received a bitter message from the French, so worrisome that he departed more hastily than planned. Knowledgeable people believe that the process leading up to that visit, with all the Francafrique cash-flow it entailed (which is too much to get into here) convinced Ould Abdel Aziz that he could buy off the French and carry on however he would like; the French do not seem to be one of mind with him there.

Three agreements were signed at Tehran, all related to development or finance; notably a guarantee of 500 taxis and 250 buses (to help reduce urban congestion). Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Nouakchott sometime in the near future. The pragmatists would seem to be utterly unimpressed. Ould Abdel Aziz has been an annoyance to many in Washington, not simply for his coup, but for his anti-Israeli rhetoric and action. But because this is a small country largely irrelevant in the actual goings on of the Palestinian issue, it is not difficult to shrug it off and offer a little less money to its government. The whole thing carries the double mantle of Islamic solidarity and south-south cooperation. It forces more consideration. Continue reading

O. Abdel Aziz in Tehran

Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has made some headlines by visiting Turkey and Iran this week. The Iranian visit is more important. Its context is Ould Abdel Aziz’s cultivation of the Axis of Bombast during his time as junta head, especially after his harrowing use of the Gaza crisis to break Mauritania’s ties to Israel and thereby win himself kudos at a popular level. His rise to power had already alienated many western aid-givers, and he went especially cash strapped after expelling the Israel Ambassador; but it was all in the plan, as Libya and Iran (and Qatar, too) were ready to pick up that slack and buy some influence in Nouakchott toward their own purposes. All that is colored in terms of Islamic solidarity and south-south cooperation. The Iranian Foreign Minister visited Nouakchott last year; many find the whole thing curious, if not suspicious. It more the latter than the former but here it is considered generally. Continue reading

Dialogue in Mauritania: Clean from the purpose of the things themselves

The release of the Mauritanian businessmen arrested on corruption charges from the Ould Taya years was mediated by Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew. Well known as the spiritual leader of much of the country’s Islamist movement, Dedew’s mediation is now said by reliable sources to have been sought on the recommendation of Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir. Al-Bashir is believed to have encouraged Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to call in Dedew during his visit to Nouakchott in late December, when the two signed fourteen cooperation agreements. These sources have it that Ould Abdel Aziz sought al-Bashir’s advice in how to get out of the bind created by the affair’s public outcry. Al-Bashir is said to have both made the suggestion and then contacted Dedew for Ould Abdel Aziz. The motivation on al-Bashir’s part is believed to be heavily ideological — an example of Islamist solidarity across borders. There is more Ould Abdel Aziz’s outreach to Islamist elements than ideology, though.

The move certainly raised Dedew’s profile in official circles, and cast him as a power broker; this works to the benefit of both the General and the Shiekh. It was also designed to smooth out relations between the government and Islamist circles; co-opting or exploiting the Islamist agenda and personages has been a constant thread in Ould Abdel Aziz’s political calculus since 2008. This is seen in his use of the anti-Israel card during the Gaza Crisis, the reciprocal courting of Tawassoul and the government following the elections and other episodes. Dedew, due to his power in the Salafist movement, is useful to Ould Abdel Aziz for propaganda reasons and for setting up and extending “good will gestures” to potentially or already violent Islamists. This is special part of a broader process by which Ould Abdel Aziz has moved to gain allies by stroking egos or spreading around money. Dedew was rewarded for his work with a dinner and three hour meeting with Ould Abdel Aziz, also attended by the businessmen; they “agreed to put the past behind them and work toward building a new Mauritania.” Continue reading

All Things Considered: Mauritania’s anti-Terror Law

Infected with D'Evils?

Following up on the previous post on Mauritania, the text and language of the new anti-terrorism law bears examination. In n the previous post it is alleged that Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is using the pretext of terrorism (and other troubles) to strengthen his hold on power and consolidate what he has already got. The vague and expansive nature of what is “defined” as terrorism under the new provisions illustrates this. Its blatantly self-serving language, too, gets to the point. In Article I it is said that “…The State, as the embodiment of the national entity, bears the full responsibility of contributing effort of the international community in combating all forms of terrorism …” (إن الدولة، بوصفها تجسيدا للكيان الوطني، تتحمل كامل المسؤولية في الإسهام في مجهود المجتمع الدولي في مجال مكافحة كل أشكال الإرهاب) This would be reassuring were the rest of the law to provide for protections of constitutional or human rights. Instead, it sits as a sparkling rhinestone designed to foreign governments the impression that the government takes terrorism as a serious issue, and thus warrants their patronage. Continue reading

The politics of anti-terrorism in Mauritania

All for show

Alex Thurston the vigorous author of the Sahel Blog wrote an important post yesterday on “Popular and Opposition Perspectives on Counterterrorism in the Sahel”. He writes that in both Mali and Mauritania, the areas of greatest worry where violence from groups like AQIM are concerned, there is skepticism about both foreign and domestic counterterrorism efforts. Here, popular refers to the view of ordinary Malians that AQIM violence could increase rather than diminish if American “support” were conspicuous in the form of bases or troops. One should quickly agree that a heavy American military presence  would be stupid and counter productive (and “heavy” in the Sahel should be considered relative to elsewhere). Additionally, he quotes Ahmed Ould Daddah, head of Mauritania’s main opposition party, the RFD on the recent revisions to the anti-terrorism law passed by a parliament dominated by acolytes of Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Ould Daddah says it “contains articles contradictory to the shari’a, to morality, and to Islamic values as well as principles of democracy and liberty.” Strong words. Many others in the opposition agree with him as well. These are not “appeasers” or Droukdel enthusiasts. But like many Mauritanians, he knows that the government’s talk about fighting terrorism is a way of consolidating power and using the parliament to give a glossy sheen to an incompetent leader unserious about terrorism, or much else apart from sitting in office. Continue reading

Hanevy: Prisoner of Conscience to Detainee

On Hanevy Ould Dahah [errors are original; "Hanafi" and "Hanevi" are interchangeable transliterations from the Arabic, the latter being the Hassaniya pronunciation]:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, ANHRI, warned of the serious health condition of the Mauritanian Hanafi Oueld Dah , being on a hunger strike since 28/12/2009 after the court had rejected his release procedures though his term ended on 24/1/2009. Oueld Dah was sentenced to six months in prison in a lawsuit filed by a former presidential candidate as a result of an article that Oueld Dah had wrote.

After having completed his term, there is no legal justification for holding Oueld Dah prisoner , which is a notable threat to freedom of expression and journalists’ safety.

The judge ,Ahmed Fal, rejected an appeal to release Oueld Dah, claiming that service terms issue was prosecutors’ or prisons directors’ responsibility and that Hanafi’s file was not at the court of appeal, thereby the court was incompetent regarding release orders!!

The defense team submitted an appeal mentioning that Hanafi has served his term and paid the fine and all other court expenses, but the judge rejected the appeal.

Moreover, the Mauritanians journalist union had made great efforts to release Oueld Dah, editor of ,Takadomi, e-paper who served his term 10 days ago and has not been released yet. Prime defense team member , Ibrahim Oueld Abeti mentioned the possibility of escalating the issue and prosecuting the Mauritanian government at the International Committee for Human Rights and the African Court for Human Rights as well as all those responsible for the continued detention of Oueld Dah.

Oueld Dah defense team has issued a statement accusing the prosecutor of holding Hanfi’s file without reason. The statement mentioned that the prosecutor would not forward the file to court of appeal, despite the many correspondences, notes and calls asking the prosecutor to deliver the file to court .

More evidence of the rampant and growing gangsterism of Nouakchott’s latest mafiosi government.

Breaking news: businessmen released

Direct from Nouakchott: The businessmen held on corruption charges are said to have been released (Mohamed Ould Noueighidh, Ould Abdallahi and Abdou Ould Maham). These were those associated with the Ould Nagi case, belonging to the Smasside tribe. Revolving door justice? Or something else? More to come.

UpdateTaqadoumy confirms the previous report above. According to a source quoted in Taqadoumy‘s report, the men will pay a “small percentage of the funds [which they embezzled] to help save face for Ould Abdel Aziz.”  Al-Akhbar reports that “hundreds demonstrators” gathered outside of the prison where the men were held, greeting them on release. The paper (as well as Taqadoumy) further reports that Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Ould Deddew negotiated with Gen. Ould Abdel Aziz for the businessmen’s release. Al-Akhbar also has stories on the investigation’s halt, as well as multiple stories on Hanevi Ould Daha, the detained editor of Taqadoumy.

The release is a blow to Ould Abdel Aziz’s anti-corruption campaign and credibility; it exposes the entire ordeal for the political charade it was. It also speaks to the influence of Sheikh Deddew as a moral and political figure, ready for action and use in politics, and public life at large. His role as a negotiator will make for interesting investigation when more information become available. Again, more to come.

MP Noma bint Mogaya censored for denouncing Ould Abdel Aziz

Mauritanian MP Noma bint Mogaya had an outburst against the Ould Abdel Aziz government recently, calling pro-Ould Abdel Aziz MPs hypocrites, rounding off with a long Qur’anic quotation. Her remarks were censored on state television. (In Arabic, will attempt a translate parts of it if time allows, later. Readers are welcome to their translations in the comments box, too.)

Note: The references to corruption are meant to refer to Ould Abdel Aziz’s relationship with Mohamed Bouamatou, one of Mauritania’s wealthiest men. It should be understood in the context of the false anti-corruption activities of the current government, causing much indignation and irritation in the country. No instance is more exemplary than the case of Ould Nagi, et al. Earlier this fall, when the government made much about the arrest of a series of bankers — including the former governor of the Central Bank of Mauritania (BCM), Sid’El Moctar Ould Nagi — for “economic crimes” this was to direct attention away from Bouamatou who has been charged with using usury to bankrupt the national airliner, as well as other firms. He was one of Ould Abdel Aziz’s greatest campaign donors and remains among his closest allies. The so-called “Ould Nagi” affair resulted in the ex-head of the central bank being forced to return $95 million in embezzled funds. The CEOs of several other banks were also implicated in the ring of corruption. The cynical say that the funds brought back to the public by the arrest of these fiends hardly approaches the potential gains that would be made if the government were to investigate and hold to account members of the president’s own entourage, by which practically everyone means Bouamatou. Bouamatou, it is said has aggressively working to expand his own business empire in the last two years, frequently by questionable means and at the expense of large existing institutions.

The Ould Nagi case, then, is quite cosmetic, especially given that the funds in question were embezzeled in 2001 and 2002. Ould Abdel Aziz has gone a binge for sacking members of government for corruption or incompetence, causing a grave sense of insecurity and paranoia in the ranks. After the December kidnappings, he moved to sack military men for slipping up on the anti-terror front. The result has been increasing dissatisfaction in the barracks. The “Ould Nagi Pandora’s Box” appears to have set ill at east both those with dirty records and accounts with the opposition.

Update: For the non-Arabic-speakers: Nasser at Dekhnstan has an English transcription of the video. His post includes notes on Mogaya’s repeated references to Gen. Ould Abdel Aziz’s Moroccan family connections and calling him out on practically any issue one can think of. Readers will also enjoy her lines smashing the myth of Ould Abdel Aziz as “the president of the poor,” a label shown to be spurious earlier this autumn by Ould Abdel Aziz’s own inattention.

New Mauritanian-American blog

I should like to direct my readers to a fellow Bostonian blogger, of Mauritanian origins, writing especially on the Ould Abdel Aziz’s government’s attacks on Hanevy Ould Dahah of Taqadoumy, which remain on going. Hanevy has been locked up, been due for release and then locked right back up again for around six months or so. He is the editor of Taqadoumy. He is on the fourth day of a hunger strike at the moment. The blog’s clever title is Dekhnstan.

To read Hanevy in his own words, see his columns at Taqadoumy and his defense in court from this past August.