In Mauritania, thousands rallied in the streets of the capital, Nouakchott, on Wednesday (12 July) to demonstrate their support for the new military leaders who seized power in a bloodless coup on Monday (10 July).
In Mauritania, thousands rallied in the streets of the capital, Nouakchott, on Wednesday (12 July) to demonstrate their support for the new military leaders who seized power in a bloodless coup on Monday (10 July). The deposed president, Moktar Ould Daddah, had governed the country since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960. The new government, a Military Committee for National Recovery, is headed by the former Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Moustapha Ould Salek.
SYNOPSIS: The crowds gathered outside the Presidential Palace in the centre of Nouakchott. Many were carrying banners and placards expressing their enthusiasm for the new government and also their desire for peace. Mauritania has been fighting Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas in the Western Sahara for more than two years, and Colonel Salek has promised to do all he can to stop the war. Polisario forces have been fighting for independence since 1976 when Spain ceded its former colony of Western Sahara to Mauritania and Morocco.
Since the Mauritanian coup, Polisario guerrillas have declared a unilateral ceasefire and the new Foreign Minister, Cheikma Ould Mohamed Laghdaf, has said the Military Committee will discuss the implications of this development.
Reuters News Agency reports that the cease-fire has been greeted in the capital as the first positive move towards a peace settlement, and the opening of negotiations with the Polisario forces. The war was unpopular since it drained the Mauritanian economy, already crippled by the effects of drought, crop failure and soil erosion.
After the rally, Colonel Salek outlined the reasons for the coup. He said the old regime was corrupt and had instituted "catastrophic" policies to deal with Mauritania's problems, allowing economic stagnation to swamp the country. He promised that the Military Committee would reflect the wishes of all Mauritanians.