A communique broadcast over the national radio in Nouakchott, Mauritania today (10 July) announced that President Moktar Ould Daddah had been overthrown and that a military committee for national recovery had taken power in his place.
A communique broadcast over the national radio in Nouakchott, Mauritania today (10 July) announced that President Moktar Ould Daddah had been overthrown and that a military committee for national recovery had taken power in his place. Moktar Ould Daddah who is 53, was Mauritania's first President, and has governed the country ever since it became independent from France in 1960. Unconfirmed reports say he was taken from the presidential palace at dawn to an unknown destination.
SYNOPSIS: President Ould Daddah ruled a nation which, in the past 18 months, has been drained economically and militarily by drought and guerrilla war. Mauritania and Morocco divided the Western Sahara between them when Spain gave up control of the territory. But the Polisario Front, backed up Algeria, has kept up sporadic guerrilla attacks on them, with the aim of winning complete independence. Mauritania's army of 15,000 men is totally dependent on French supplies and equipment, and the nation itself relies heavily on economic aid from France, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. President Ould Daddah has expressed suspicions on Morocco, but said he had no choice but to enter into a defence pact with King Hassan. He also welcomed French military support, sent in from Senegal. Lately, however, a feeling has been reported in the Mauritania army that the deserts of the Western Sahara were not worth fighting for.
The Mauritania President - who received the Moroccan Minister of Posts in April -- headed a one-party government. According to today's communique, the government, parliament and party have been dissolved. The reports of the coup caused surprise, as Mr. Ould Daddah was one of Africa's longest-serving Presidents, and his position had been thought to be unshakeable.
Madame Marie-Therese Ould Daddah, who is French-born, was in Senegal at the time of the coup, attending an international conference on women lawyers. She received recognition from the Red Cross this year for her work in founding the allied Red Crescent In Mauritania. And she has played a prominent part in the nation's public life during her husband's long time in office.
One of the main tasks of the Red Crescent in Mauritania has been the relief of drought victims. Camps in Nouakchott provide land, and the chance of a living, for people who used to be nomads. They were driven from their natural way of life by the droughts of the last four years. Rain has fallen only twice in the past 18 months, and without irrigation, much of the rest of the country is gradually reverting to desert. This alone has made Mauritania one of the world's poorest nations; the added strain of fighting a guerrilla war has left formidable problems for any new government to tackle.