More Fast Thoughts

Nouakchott seems to be awash with rumors of a deal with France regarding a possible prisoner exchange. According to knowledgeable sources in and outside of Mauritania, rumors that Joyandet’s visit to Nouakchott would be used to press the Mauritanians to  to meet AQIM’s demands over a Frenchman kidnapped in Niger are credible. These sources say that a prisoner swap was at the top of the agenda at Alan Joyandet’s meeting with president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and that the two reached some kind of an understanding on this early. It is said that this came with assurances of French solid support (including financial aid) for Ould Abdel Aziz pending his compliance with this request. Ould Abdel Aziz would release (presumably) Salafist prisoners and AQIM would release the French citizen currently held. Additionally, other sources say that Ould Abdel Aziz planned to leverage his relations with Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew to manage Islamist opinion regarding last week’s verdicts. He was initially embarrassed by Ould Dedew’s comments but after the Aleg 3 may be more comfortable.

The French also registered their opposition to the death penalty, which may help the government in maneuvering away from Sidi Ould Sidina, Mohamed Ould Chabarnou and Maarouf Ould Hiba’s death sentences; executions are highly impolitic in Mauritania, as they risk upsetting tribal relations. Given that at least one of the killers comes from a large tribe, and that all three have launched appeals, it is seems possible for their sentences to be commuted in the future. But, as many in the media have noted, the episode is the first of its kind in Mauritania and many things are in play.

Ould Abdel Aziz’s visit to Khartoum for the inauguration of Omar al-Bashir was a demonstration of support and gratitude (for al-Bashir’s advice and backing earlier). He is now preparing for a visit Paris (as well as Nice, for independence celebrations). Also abroad this week was General Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (the second most powerful figure in the regime) has been in discussions with French and Chinese officials. His mission to Beijing includes military and economic issues (with emphasis on the economic side; think fish). The outcome of both Paris visits will be especially relevant, as will be the results of the Brussels donors meeting. The economic situation (especially in agriculture) will make this summer a rough one and the government knows that it will need as much help as it can get. Workers’ strikes are threatened, staged or obstructed almost weekly (more on that later) and the opposition has capitalized on several of them thus far. More are likely to come as the summer progresses.

UPDATE: Ould Abdel Aziz’s original plan was to travel directly from Khartoum to Paris; he re-routed his travel arrangements so that he could head to Paris from Nouakchott. According to local sources this was a quick and abrupt return and its purpose is still obscure.


5 thoughts on “More Fast Thoughts

  1. Thank you Kal for this summary that confirms what we hear here and there regarding the outcome of the trial and the move from France to deal with what to de with the Aleg 3. They will not face death at the end, but probably released some time with pressure from Ould Dedew or freed against the French and the two Spaniards. Algeria will protest of course for te form, but there is no other solution. Act I started yesterday with the appeal from Dedew seeking the forgiveness of Aziz regarding the Aleg 3:

    Le Cheikh Dedew sollicite la grâce présidentielle pour les condamnés salafistesvendredi

    28 mai 2010 / 21 :38

    Le Cheikh Mohamed Hacen Ould Dedew a exhorté le président Ould Abdel Aziz à « prendre une position honorable en graciant les condamnés qui ont déclaré leur repentir ».

    L’érudit, qui s’exprimait sur Al Jazeera, aujourd’hui, a estimé que la qualification des accusations de « combattants ou de bandits » à l’encontre des prisonniers était « incorrecte », car au pire des cas, ils pourraient être considérés comme des « agresseurs » et dans ce cas, la jurisprudence veut que si l’agresseur dépose les armes, cela pourrait constituer, pour lui, une amende honorable.

    On another subject, we read that Ag Bahanga is between life and death around North Mali/South Algeria from a Malian newspaper. Could be false news as Belaouar was “killed” 2 or 3 times by the Algerian press, to see him later giving few blows to Mauritania (if we can believe the transcripts of the questionning of chabarnoux and Ould Sidna leaked to Ouest-France in 2008 and the press under control as usual).

    My question is: what about the Spanish hostages? If we believe that the Malian and US forces have blown Ag Bahanga’s group, where the Spanish hostages (everybody should know where they are now)?

  2. Dear Kal, I could use some help to trace the links in this story re General Mohamed Ould Ghazouani discussion with France & China: they appear to no longer be available, but would appreciate if you could check that they are the right links, no typos etc?

    • Those are the right links, though they may have expired. I recall Taqadoumy having gone through some changes on their site which made older links go dead. I would do a search on the French website for the key terms there.

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