Issandr el-Amrani once wrote, half-jokingly: “Yes, nobody cares about Mauritania“. As Issandr and others know, some folks do.
- Fishy fish deal. The Chinese fish deal (French text) continues to cause controversy in Mauritania. The overall tone in Facebook and newspaper analysis points toward a sense that: (1) the deal represents a devaluation of Mauritania’s sovereignty by linking the country to China’s interests for 25 years (recall that China is Mauritania’s largest trading partner); (2) the deal really only benefits the Chinese and risks depleting Mauritanian fish stocks and put fishermen and workers out of work (in this sense it is called a “disaster“); (3) the deal will enable, if not encourage, corruption. Young people appear especially annoyed by the deal. Al-Jazeera [Arabic] covered the deal in a report that provides a good overview of the controversy.
- Recent comments from the President on AQIM, Libya. In an interview with AFP, Ould Abdel Aziz discussed AQIM and terrorism, saying that as a group the Maghreb/Sahel countries do not do enough (“What we do is not enough”) but that when they do cooperate they make progress; he also discussed Mauritania’s military operations in northern Mali which ended two months ago and said that AQIM set up two new positions near the border after the Mauritanians withdrew. (The Malians are now in the midst of their own offensive against AQIM; on 7 June the Mauritanian army held maneuvers in the second military region (light armored corps at F’derik) for media and parliamentary representatives, to “demonstrate the mechanisms at their disposal”.) He played up the country’s terrorist rehabilitation program, saying that 1 of 37 pardoned prisoners joined that maquis and that 14 other, hardcore prisoners are being held in an undisclosed “safe location”. These men, he said, were “in constant contact with [terrorist] networks, received money and recruited every day.” He also mentioned that weapons from Libya were feeding into AQIM’s hands, saying Libyan stocks have fallen into the hands of “goodness knows whom.” Mauritanian newspapers have picked especially on the point of prisoners being held in a “safe location”. Ould Abdel Aziz was also quoted as saying that Libya’s Mu’amar al-Qadhafi ought to step down so that a negotiated solution could end the Libyan crisis.
- Tawassoul joins the COD (opposition). Tawassoul, the Mauritanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, announced it would join the Coordination de l’Opposition Démocratique, the alliance of opposition parties at a press conference on 6 June. Party chief, Jamil Ould Mansour, said the party was seeking to join forces with other parties looking for “real democracy” in Mauritania. The party opposed the 2008 coup but recognized the 2009 presidential election results while much of the rest of the opposition complained of fraud and denounced the results. The party has attempted to position itself as an intermediary between the government and the Islamist movement in the country with some success and has generally attempted to cooperate with Ould Abdel Aziz since 2009 (although it has distanced itself from this tendency in recent months; see this interview with one of their elected members, for example). It also kept a distance from the youth demonstrations this spring (although its youth activists participated).
- Interesting articles: (1) “How do you reconcile revolutions between Islamists and secularists?” by Mukhtar Mohamed Chinguitti [Ar.]; (2) “The military state … and corruption!” by Abubakr Ould Ahmdedou [Ar.]; (3) Interview with Mustapha Ould Shafe’i here and here [Ar.]; (4) “Fishing in the middle of al-Farra” by Hanevy Ould Dadah [Ar.]; (5) “Revolution 2.0” by Isselmou Ould Khouna [Ar.]; (6) “Mauritania-Iran: The climate is appropriate to boost cooperation” [Fr.]; (7) “Death of the Desert Diva Dimi Mint Abba” [Fr.] (Famed Mauritanian singer passed away on 4 June; daughter of the author of the country’s national anthem; buy some of her music here).