Mauritania in Paris to convince the international community

Press review – week from February 16 to 20, 2009

On February 20th, the military junta in Mauritania has presented its proposal to end the crisis, in Paris. The High State Council, set up by the junta since the 6th of August coup, which had ousted the democratically elected President Sidi Cheikh Abdellahi Oud now rules the country. The international community has largely condemned the disruption of the democratic order.

It has to be recalled that on October 20th, representatives of the junta were in Paris to meet the European authorities. On that occasion France 24 reported a press release of the French Presidency of the EU saying that « The European Union considers that the coup occurred in Mauritania on 6 August 2008 constitutes a serious violation of the essential elements of (…) the Cotonou Agreement « , and » could not noted satisfactory proposals.” The EU had expressed its wish to hear the positions of President Abdellahi and had given a one-month period to the junta to prove its good will after which sanctions would be taken. In addition, the French Presidency had concluded that « the ongoing cooperation activities would be limited to the actions of a humanitarian nature or of direct benefit to people and the implementation and payments relating to contracts already in execution that can not be interrupted. »

At the expiration of the ultimatum, no sanction had been applied, relates the information siteAfrik.com, despite a meeting in Addis Ababa between the African Union (AU), the EU, the UN, the International Organization of the French speaking world, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League on November 21st. On this occasion, members of the former democratically elected government who were Paris have expressed support for the proposal of Mr Kouchner of targeted sanctions on officials of the junta. Meanwhile, representatives of the junta also came to Paris and declared that the EU did not understand that the purpose of the junta was not to establish a dictatorship, but to liberate the country from a corrupt government. The junta had also stated that if Europe does not support it, it would turn to other trading partners like China.

No economic sanctions have been taken yet by the EU, which has even signed a new agreement with Mauritania. This agreement was concluded under pressure from Spain and provided for the payment of 86 million euros in annual contribution of fisheries agreements between Nouakchott and Brussels. Spain is indeed the first country to exploit the fisheries resources of Mauritania.

In December the junta somehow yielded to international pressure. On December 21st, it frees deposed President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdellahi. The website Afrik.com emphasizes that the former president had spent 136 days in his guarded house in Lemden, his native village. The release had been agreed earlier this month and had to be applied before 24 December.

A few days later, the High Council of State showed another effort to meet the requirements of the African Union and the European Union and calls on all political actors in the country for days of national consultation from December 27th to January 5th to schedule a presidential election.

Following these days, called the General states for democracy, the opposition party of the Rally of Democratic Forces opposed the conclusions. On January 8th, the information websiteAfrique en ligne reported that the leader of the RDF, Ahmed Ould Daddah, had withdrawn from the consultation a few days before the end of the works, believing that the junta did not take any clear position concerning its participation or not in the upcoming presidential election. The opposition party said on this occasion that this consultation had taken place « in an atmosphere of confusion, opposing the expectations of Mauritanians and in an atmosphere of election campaign, with the blessing of the military. »

The RDF has remained on its positions and the news agency Xinhua reported that it refused the plan that had been proposed by the junta to get out of the crisis, on Wednesday. This proposal is intended to be presented in Paris on Friday. It provides for the resignation of General Ould Abdel Aziz, the current President, 45 days before the presidential elections scheduled on next June 6th.

The AFP reports a release of the RDF, which states that the resignation of the head of the junta « will be a cosmetic operation, unacceptable and lip. » The opposition movement accuses the General Abdellahi of « processing with minute adjustments and placing men of trust at different levels of the State apparatus, thus locking the end of the competition. »

On the international side, the results of Friday meeting are expected. The Xinhua news agency reported that as Chairman of the African Union, Muammar Gaddafi has offered a Libyan mediation to resolve the crisis in Mauritania. His spokesman, Mr. Medani, urged the Mauritanian forces to get around the table to reach a solution. Speaking of the Libyan experience, he also cautioned against any transfer of the Mauritanian field to the Security Council of the United Nations, knowing the possible economic and diplomatic sanctions that would follow.

We know by a communiqué of the IOF that Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the organization of the French speaking world, met last Wednesday in Paris with Jean Ping, President of the African Union Commission to discuss the Mauritanian crisis.

Invited by the International Organization of the French speaking world, the international contact group set up to manage the crisis met in Paris on this Friday 20 of february.

Today, the meeting conclusions had not been published yet.