19 Feb: AQIM has reportedly ambushed an army convoy in Mauritania, injuring two, who are being airlifted to Nouakchott for treatment. The attack happened in the eastern basin. Source: [Ar] http://snup.us/s4o
19 Feb: A prominent retired colonel, Abderrahmane Ould Boubacar, has joined the opposition coalition in Mauritania. The COD, as it is known, has staged an ongoing boycott of government in protest at the failings of the current regime.
He made his move at a huge rally in Aleg, staged by the opposition movement. Speakers emphasised that they believe the fall of the current regime is imminent and necessary, and called on all citizens to take responsibility for effecting the required change. In other words, they called for the people to topple the regime.
Boubacar was the Military Chief of Staff in Mauritania at the time of the 2005 coup d’état that ousted dictator Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya while he was in Saudi Arabia attending the funeral of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and replaced his leadership with the Military Council for Justice and Democracy.
In the new administration, Boubacar resigned as Chief of Staff and took up the post of Commissioner in charge of Food Security.
19 Feb: Detained Mauritania students are still in custody, the police have reneged on their previous plan to send their case to the prosecutor’s office. A protest against their repeated detention was held this afternoon. (before the Barca – Valencia soccer match, of course!). And the ISERI student’s “Day of Rage” set for 22 Feb 2012 still on despite ISERI’s demand not to close the college being met by the government.
If you want my opinion, this is a poor decision, if they actually stick to it. They may find less enthusiastic support from marginal protesters now that the government has backed down. 25th Feb is the anniversary of the protest movement in Mauritania, and is on a weekend, rather than the 22nd, which is a Wednesday. Deciding to go out on the 25th instead would give them 3 extra days to prepare, and an opportunity to show some solidarity for other causes, which has not been a feature of their own protests so far. From their past performance (burning tyres and throwing rocks), and because of the way police aggression has been escalating recently, I believe they would benefit enormously from some extra preparation and a few days of reflection.
19 Feb: Police broke up a protest organised by #Mauritania Students Union in support of detained black students, inc 8 girls, and against summary suspension and expulsion of student activists. All the detained students were arrested after peacefully gathering to demand their basic rights, and are therefore prisoners of conscience. The authorities have not made formal charges, and have restricted their visitation rights. The girls have been held for a week in substandard conditions, with male officers in charge, and with common criminals held in the same detention area; an unprecedented event in the country and in contravention of accepted human rights mandates for treatment of prisoners of conscience. Today’s protesters, including the Secretary General of the Student Union [pictured], were briefly detained. tw:
Gunshots were heard for several minutes around 2am Sunday morning, 19 February, by residents in some areas of Nouakchott. The sounds were said to be all coming from one direction, in other words, it was not an exchange of fire. The cause remains a mystery but local wags are suggesting it might be General Aziz’ trigger-happy son Badr practising his skills with the ladies.
Police re-arrested two students on Saturday 18 February who had been detained earlier this week, one of whom was only released on bail on Friday. Activists report that the authorities intend to refer them to the Prosecutor’s office on Sunday 19 February. Several other students, including eight girls, are under detention.
The brother of Mohamed Abderrahmane Ould Bezeid, the young teacher who died last week, has been dismissed from his job at an iron ore company after demanding an investigation into Mohamed’s death. Speaking to the local press on the evening of Saturday 18 Feb 2012, Ahmed Mahmoud Ould Bezeid revealed that the hospital refused to allow the family to see his brother’s body or to remove the bandages before the hastily arranged burial. This has raised suspicions that the cause of death may actually have been one or more gunshot wounds, since there were reports from the scene on the night that Mohamed was taken to the hospital, of Palace Guards opening fire on him as an “intruder”. CCTV camera footage has still not been released. Ahmed also disclosed that the doctor who recorded Mohamed’s cause of death as resulting from burns refused to give his identity, casting yet more doubt over the entire situation. Ahmed again called for an independent inquiry.
Local news reported a case today of a man who has been imprisoned by the authorities on the order of the military, and had his land seized. The husband and his wife have owned the deeds to a plot of land which housed a few shops in an area with full planning permission for several years. After the military decided to occupy a large adjacent plot, they evidently wanted to expand their territory, and have done so in the most alarming and illegal manner possible.
Opposition MPs are on the second leg of a nationwide tour of Mauritania, with rallies drawing large crowds and lots of sound-bites from MPs. Today there was a reasonably well-attended gathering in Gorgol, which has not previously featured in my protest reports.
There was another first earlier this week, on Thursday, when local youth held a standing protest in the Bedouin village of Bareina, in Trarza, the south west of Mauritania.
Video has just been posted of workers from Ksar, who held a protest in Nouakchott on Thursday 16 February demanding payment of wages that have not been made for 10 months.
Also on Thursday 16 Feb, dozens of citizens staged a protest in Adrar over the arrest and sentencing of a local man for murder. The accused happens to live close to the location of an attack which happened late one night in January. He was the first person to arrive on the scene and give aid to the victim. His relatives and friends say that the charges are motivated by racism, and that he is being victimized by the authorities. It is also true that the incident happened near Atar airport on the day the president was scheduled to arrive, and some feel that as a result local officials have acted with improper haste in an effort to impress the top brass. I assume the murder victim was the taxi driver who was found severely beaten, yet with his money and mobile phone still on his person, and who died just as they got him to the emergency room. When I first read about the attack, two news stories from January came to my mind: the first was of a young woman in Nouakchott who narrowly escaped being sexually attacked by a taxi driver. The second was of dozens of US troops arriving in Atar mid-January. And now, we discover through this protest that General Aziz also travelled to Atar in January.
Opposition MP Badr al-Din today remonstrated the government for the excessive punishments being used against students, and especially the racist nature of the arrests, interrogations and detentions. As a friend of mine pointed out, since the government has remained in place despite being in violation of the constitution (which some of the new laws are set to change) and has not held elections on time, every session is now an emergency! Earlier this week, another opposition MP, Jacob Ould Moine, presented a series of questions regarding the new legislation being rushed into effect in a series of emergency sessions. To give an example of Mr Moine’s witty rhetoric, he cited the change to the constitution that says there will be no statute of limitation for anyone who has been involved in a coup. When he asked about certain members of the cabinet and the president having come into power as the result of a coup, Mr Moine was told ‘it’s not applied retrospectively’. Why then, he asked, is the new law dictating that employees of security companies must be military service veterans, and which will cause 8,000 people to lose their jobs, not being applied only to new companies!?