Mauritanian police on Wednesday 16 May 2012 broke up a fresh anti-regime protest as dozens of youths gathered to demand President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz leave power.The protesters had gathered outside parliament to march to the interior ministry for an unauthorised sit-in, but police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Although there have been dozens of popular protests against the Aziz regime over the past 15 months called by civil society groups such as February 25 Movement, this was the first protest by a political opposition group that had been organised without seeking a license from the authorities. “The police tried to convince the youths to leave, their march was not authorised, but they refused and chose confrontation,” said a police commissioner at the scene.
Angry youths threw stones at the police, set tyres ablaze and blocked traffic, attempting to regroup at various points around the capital without success. Police attacked protesters with batons and surrounded their HQ, trapping several youth party members inside. There have been reports of several injuries, mostly severe bruising to limbs and torso from baton attacks.
At least 20 protesters were arrested, including the leader of the youth wing of the Coordination of a Democratic Opposition (COD), a coalition of 9 political parties. The COD has accused Aziz of despotism and mismanagement.
Journalists trying to observe and report on the scene were also attacked and harassed, and some had cameras and equipment confiscated.Members of Mauritanian RFD party’s youth group say they remain determined to continue after today’s planned protest was disrupted.
COD lawmaker Moustapha Ould Bedredine said the president had “turned his back” on commitments made in the so-called Dakar accords which led to his election in 2009, a year after he seized power in a coup d’etat.
“Having refused inclusive dialogue stipulated in this agreement and chosen the route of despotism and of a reign without sharing, the only path left to us is removing the regime peacefully, via an agreed transition.”