The Qadhafi Virus Strikes Mauritania

Some points in the wake of Qadhafi’s visit to Mauritania. 

  1. The opposition is increasingly united in it irritation with Qadhafi’s mediation, which has been characterized variously as biased, “reckless,” and “dangerous”. His speech was in typical fashion: Harkening to Fatimid glory, the role of Mauritania in spreading Islam through Africa, the folly of democracy and the Mauritanian project in particular: “There is no difference between elections and coups” claiming that “elections lead to undermining the stability of countries, which is the most important thing in nations’ lives”. Opposition leaders Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, Ahmed Ould Daddah and others walked out. Mauritanians appear to have dismissed Qadhafi’s seven point plan for the resolution of the crisis: His remarks in support of the junta have rendered it without credibility. Instead of resolving the crisis, Qadhafi’s arrival seems to have brought opposition elements closer together in their opposition to the junta and to Libya’s attempt to move in. Despite his own appeals to the contrary it is widely believed that the visit was intended to aggrandize Qadhafi rather than to solve anything in Mauritania. According to elements from the opposition who were contacted by Qadhafi, Aziz told the Brother Leader flat out that he intends to run for president in this year’s election. Irritation with the junta’s external backers — at present Libya is the strongest — has turned a great deal of opinion, both within the opposition and among the people, against the junta. Factions within Ould Boulkheir’s party (e.g. Nasserists) have been working to bring the APP to Abdel Aziz, with little luck.
  2. The American policy holds increasing relevance in Mauritania, especially in the wake of the visit. Opposition figures wonder what the American position is, how or if it will change. A general sense is growing that the Europeans will compromise for a legal return to the status quo ante, without a resolution or reform of the country’s structural problems, that the African Union has let the country down (and that that it is incapable of doing anything else with Qadhafi at its head), and that the Arabs have used the country as a means of displaying their recurrent irrelevance (a former Mauritanian diplomat involved with the Arab League described the body as “an empty shell”). The United States’ uncompromising position that some Mauritanians are beginning to associate with a way out of the crisis and with a stand for legitimate rule. More on this in a later post, however. If this visit is any indication of how Qadhafi will handle crises as AU chairman going forward, the African Union is in for serious trouble: Like a certain virus, Qadhafi’s strategic ambitions generally require a host body (or institution) — be it of Arab nationalist or pan-Africanist form — and once the course has been run, the host institution dies, with chaos in its wake.
  3. Ironically, the country’s most fiercely anti-US political organization, the Islamist Tawassoul, is one of the prime beneficiaries of the stand against the junta. It should also be mentioned that the junta, having aped one of Tawassoul’s main issues — relations with Israel — has taken away much of its relevance from a populist standpoint. It is also notable that the responses to the closing of the Israeli embassy from the eastern Arabs — KSA, Jordan and Egypt — were especially muted. Even leftists seem to have ignored the move. The point was firstly for domestic consumption and secondarily a means of securing support from the better monied radical states like Libya and Iran. The Israeli Foreign Ministry, for its part, has blamed Algeria, Libya and Iran for Mauritania’s sour attitude: Naming Algeria does little to help their cause, as Algiers has been active in working to undermine the junta in Africa and abroad. 
  4. A note on turn out. It must be said that Qadhafi’s personnel took over security in the Nouakchott’s Olympic Stadium during the visit. A Mauritanian related a story in which he was asked somewhat gruffly by a Libyan security guard if he wanted to enter the stadium to see Qadhafi’s speech. He said no. Others were invited in, and many went on their way. Those who were in attendance, aside from the regular political jumble, were mostly poor locals, often paid to show up to [state-sponsored] political rallies or to greet foreign dignitaries in throngs at the airport or roadside. The mood was not described as hot with wonder at the robbed Libyan’s arrival. Rather, his arrival was described in terms of indignation — how dare the Libyans come into Mauritania with their guards and soldiers, try to impose a solution in support of an illegitimate military regime. “Another foreigner trying to outsmart us” is how one termed the visit. As for why Qadhafi turned in Nouakchott and not Azougui as was originally planned, the best bet is that he changed his mind at the last minute (Libya’s foreign policy seems to be made half from rational calculation and half on the basis of Qadhafi’s mood), considering the harshness and obscurity of that locale (a Mauritanian grumbled that “he is no real bedouin”) and that the capital would deliver his message more clearly. 

12 thoughts on “The Qadhafi Virus Strikes Mauritania

  1. Oh, and Factions within Ould Boulkheir’s party (e.g. Nasserists) have been working to bring the APP to Abdel Aziz, with little luck. was interesting to hear. Do you have something on that? A Haratine-Nasserist merger always struck me as a bit apart from God’s plan.

  2. I guess Qaddafi didn’t care about undermining the AU’s position on the junta by moving the event to Nouakchott, since the AU doesn’t have any credibility left to undermine in this matter. But I’m surprised he and the junta are so unpopular–when I was there this summer the junta seemed to have more popular support.

  3. Kal,

    You said it all and nothing can be added to what you have beautifully summarized. Nothing. In a nutshell, Gadhafi came to sell himself to Mauritanians (very important to him as he wants to raly his tribes of the Sahara), to the Africans, to the Arab World (the junta kicked Israel out of its Embassy 2 days before Gadhafi arrival and that Embassy’s premises are now used as the Headquarters of the Gadhafi Foundation – you see the trick). He is over as a mediator and the junta is ending up with only 2 friends: Gadhafi and the Iranians. That is not good for the junta’s business.

    Bizarre tat the Israelis are going against the Algerians. It is rather l’ennmi de mon ennemi est mon ami and not the way around. His peers at the AU will not miss him at their next meeting and in particular Boutef, YarÁdua of Nigeria, Kikwete of Tanzania, Musoveni of Uganda and the South African President. I think Gadhafi burried his United States of Africa initiative in Mauritania’s sand dunes with his blundr in Nouakchott.


    Rulers in Mauritania are used to pay for popular support in using tribal support against money handout to tribal leaders, juicy positions in high positions for some used to clap hands for every leader we have known these 30 years since Moctar Ould Daddah was toppled by the minitary in 1978 and others hired from the street. What you have seen in the summer was just part of that practice, in particular those from the former regime that was not given positions in the administration. This junta has been trying to sell ther “rectification” since August 2008, did not succeed and will not succeed.

    Cheers to All.

  4. The dude striking Niger too. And will strike Mali again as soon as his Presidency of the African Union (AU) ends in a year time or even less. He got Ag Bahanga in Tripoli, messed up Mauritania, messed-up Guinea-Bissau and already undermining the litte credibility the AU has managed to get the last five years or so in just two weeks.


    El Ghadhafi, opposé à la limitation des mandats présidentiels en Afrique

    Le dirigeant libyen Mouammar El Ghadhafi s’est déclaré contre la limitation des mandats présidentiels en Afrique, lors d’une visite à Niamey où des partisans du président nigérien Mamadou Tandja espèrent un changement constitutionnel pour qu’il reste au pouvoir.

    “Je prends parti pour les amendements des Constitutions africaines. Je suis pour la liberté de la volonté populaire, il faut que le peuple choisisse celui qui doit le gouverner, même pour l’éternité”, a déclaré M. El Ghadhafi lors d’un banquet à la présidence nigérienne samedi soir, 14 mars.

    “Ce que je voudrais dire, c’est qu’annuler ou supprimer tout article qui limite le mandat du président, ce n’est pas antidémocratique”, a dit le président en exercice de l’Union africaine (UA), au pouvoir dans son pays depuis 1969. Cette déclaration intervient alors que des partisans du chef de l’Etat nigérien Mamadou Tandja lui demandent de rester aux affaires au-delà de la fin de son deuxième, et normalement dernier, mandat qui expire fin 2009.

    Ces derniers souhaitent qu’il reste au pouvoir pour “parachever de grands chantiers”, notamment la construction d’un barrage, d’un second pont sur le fleuve Niger ou d’une raffinerie. Mais la majorité de la classe politique nigérienne, qu’elle soit proche de l’opposition ou du pouvoir, s’oppose à toute modification de la Constitution qui permettrait à M. Tandja de se maintenir au pouvoir après dix ans à la tête du pays.

    “Si le peuple est d’accord avec les performances du programme d’un chef d’Etat, il peut lui demander de continuer un troisième, un quatrième et cinquième mandat”, a estimé Mouammar El Ghadhafi en demandant à “l’opposition de ne pas s’y opposer”.

    “A supposer que la Constitution interdise à un président de briguer plus de deux mandats et que le peuple dise : «moi je veux de ce président», est-il raisonnable de respecter le texte écrit sur un bout de papier et ne pas respecter la volonté populaire?”, s’est-il interrogé.


  5. The Peace & Security Council of the AU has condemned the junta in Mauritania yesterday. This is a recognition that Gadhafi failed on Mauritania and the case has been taken off his hands. This seems to be the end of the junta.

    Will Gadhafi restore any credibility in Doha? I think no. This failure will haunt him the whole year and money does not buy happiness.

    A l’issue de la réunion d’Addis Abeba hier, le Conseil de paix et de sécurité de l’Union africaine (CPS-UA) a réaffirmé “sa décision d’imposer des sanctions à l’encontre des personnes civiles et militaires, dont les activités ont pour objet de maintenir le statu quo anticonstitutionnel”. Comme il est désormais de tradition, Taqadoumy est le premier organe de presse mauritanien à publier le communiqué officiel de cette rencontre.

    Le CPS-UA décide, en particulier, que les sanctions s’appliquent à l’encontre :

    (a) des membres du Haut Conseil d’Etat ;
    (b) des membres du Gouvernement ;
    (c) de toutes les personnes, aussi bien civiles que militaires, dont les activités ont pour objet de maintenir le statu quo anticonstitutionnel en Mauritanie.

    A cette fin, le Conseil demande à la Commission de l’UA, présidée par Jean Ping d’établir la liste détaillée des catégories de personnes visées par les sanctions ciblées, dans un délai d’un mois à partir de la date de publication du communiqué.

  6. Good to see. And he is still calling for the sanctions to be lifted and publicly supporting the junta. He’s not making many people happy, as per usual.

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