In the Mauritania capital of Nouakchott life appeared calm only a day after a bloodless military coup had toppled the government of President Moktar Ould Daddah, on Monday (10 July).
In the Mauritania capital of Nouakchott life appeared calm only a day after a bloodless military coup had toppled the government of President Moktar Ould Daddah, on Monday (10 July). President Ould Daddah, aged 53, had ruled the country since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1961. The new leader, Colonel Mustapha Ould Salek, was formally the Army Chief of Staff.
SYNOPSIS: The sight of soldiers in the streets of Nouakchott is not uncommon. Mauritania has been involved in fighting a guerrilla war against Algerian Polisario forces in the Western Sahara for more than two years. The disputed territory was ceded to Mauritania and Morocco by Spain in 1976 and the Polisario guerrillas have been waging a war of independence ever since. Reuters have reported speculation that disillusionment with the war could be the reason for the military take-over.
The new President said his government, a military committee for National Recovery, will honour all treaties with foreign powers signed by President Ould Daddah, including those with Morocco. But he says he will do all he can to end the war. The involvement has severely drained the Mauritanian economy, already seriously stretched by efforts to combat the effect of drought.
Rain has fallen only twice in the past 18 months and much of the country's scanty vegetation is being destroyed by soil erosion. Colonel Salek has described the previous government's attempts to deal with these problems as "catastrophic" and said these failures were the reason for the coup.