Youth in Mauritania are planning a march on 1 June 2012 after Friday prayers at Ibn Abbas mosque* in Nouakchott a second phalanx will leave from the Arafat district, both headed to the Supreme Court.
(Former) Chief Justice Ghilani of Mauritania
This can be seen as a show of support for the indiscriminate decision last week to replace Chief Justice Ould Ghilani almost three years before his five-year tenure was up, and reassign him as Ambassador to Yemen. Things came to a head on Sunday when Ghilani showed up at the Supreme Court and was denied access by a special unit of the guard. Several of his co-workers were also searched and prevented from entering the building. Justice Ghilani promptly took up position on the street outside and offered up two prayers. Despite a new Justice being sworn-in Monday, Ghilani is refusing to quit his post and the Bar Association is supporting him. The move has been denounced as illegal and an abuse of power by president Aziz.
To add insult to injury, on Tuesday police confiscated both Ghilani’s vehicles – a 4×4 and a runabout, because they were perks.
*Regular visitors may recall that Ibn Abbas mosque courtyard was the scene of two sit-ins organised by the political opposition coalition (COD) during May this year, the first of which was attacked at 3am by police with water cannon, tear gas, sound bombs and batons. As 3am approached during the second sit-in and police showed up with the drugs squad’s sniffer dogs, the COD leadership called the sit-in off. Youth have returned to organising their own protests – during which they get attacked without fail – and COD is on the third leg of a road-trip to more remote regions of the country.
Al Jazeera video [ar] showing the return of the remains of 91 martyrs from Israel, where they had been in a Jordan Valley cemetery for years. Families can now pay proper respects to their loved ones. The ceremony was conducted by the Palestinian Authority. 12 of the coffins were received in Gaza by ‘representatives of all factions’ according to the description.
Yemeni forces continue to push against fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda. Their major victories come on the heels of the inauguration of Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, who is now entrusted with the task of leading the country through a peaceful transition. A new constitution and presidential elections are expected by 2014.
Faced with the most strenuous of circumstances – the unyielding ruling family, the US-lead war on al-Qaeda, sectarian tension, unsettled political divides between south and north, and unforgiving poverty – the youth of Yemen successfully managed to introduce a hopeful chapter to an otherwise gloomy modern history. While they should be proud of this, they must also remain wary of the challenges awaiting them in the next two years.
The next phase will be decisive one for Yemen. It will either take the country a step forward towards real reforms – which should resolve some of the country’s most protracted regional strife and confront the rampant inequality – or leave it to suffer a worse fate than that under Saleh’s family. The early signs are worrisome, compelling regional experts to warn that Yemen may be heading the same route as Somalia.
“With two conflicts carrying on simultaneously, that of the Houthi Shia in the north and the secessionist movement in the south, the militarization of Yemen and the primary US focus on it as another battlefield in which to engage al-Qaeda, is only set to continue,” wrote David Hearst in the Guardian on May 25.
The US has much unfinished business in Yemen. Like other US military adventures, the focus often stays solely on military targets, without taking much notice of the larger social and political challenges in the country. Needless to say, from a Yemeni viewpoint the US must be the least attractive foreign power engaging their government. During the popular revolt against Abdullah Saleh last year, Yemenis were irritated by US support of their discredited president. They were also unhappy with the US’ constant meddling in Yemeni affairs, and its unrelenting war on various militant groups. The current open coordination between the Yemeni president and the US is sure to prove costly to both parties in the long run. A recent Al Jazeera report claimed that, “Washington has stepped up drone attacks in Yemen since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, and the Pentagon said it had recently resumed sending military trainers to the Arab state” (May 24). This kind of reporting is hardly helpful to the image of the new president who many hope will lead the country to independence.