Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Same coup, second verse: military takes over in Mauritania

Mauritania's military overthrew its elected government in a coup today, arresting both the president and prime minister. Language and general ignorance collude to keep me uninformed on Mauritania, so I'll let Alle at Western Sahara Info take it away:
A tragedy for Mauritanian democracy, on the one hand, but that didn't stand much of a chance anyway; but more importantly, a giant setback for the country's broader chances of political development. While President Abdellahi and his cronies aren't exactly angels, Generals Ghazouani and Abdelaziz represent the very worst military-parasitic element of the Mauritanian regime, and their refusal to let the civilian side of the regime settle down in power threatens to undo it completely in the long run.

If the last coup, in August 2005, could be met with cautious understanding by the international community, having unseated President ould Tayaa, and eventually with praise as it led to a real transformation, this time around it is different. What happened in 2005 was that a military-personal-tribal dictatorship was overthrown and the chance arrived to replace it with a civilian semi-authoritarian structure that respected most democratic norms most of the time, and which made sensible moves towards national reconciliation, refugee return and economic development; not heaven, but infinitely better.

This change is now being reversed. The putschists -- even though they are some of the same people as acted in 2005 -- must be condemned and the result of the coup overturned if possible; Mauritania had a golden opportunity to break its vicious circle, and it is now slipping away.
Emphasis and paragraphing mine. Military coups of this sort--friction between civilian and military leaders, civilians try to take out the military, military responds with a coup--are much scarcer today than in 1960's Africa. It's too bad Mauritania had to suffer one.

The coup is good a time as any to share a favorite song of mine, The Loud Family's "Why We Don't Live in Mauritania". I like the song, but its reason for not living in Mauritania ("we like something else going on") seems pretty flimsy. Between coups, restive Sahrawis, and al-Qaeda, what more excitement do you need?


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Also see:

  2. Thanks for the links. That's some intense stuff, especially the president's wife hitting the soldier and the president's daughter calling AFP.

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