#Mauritania News in Brief 12 July 2012

12 July 2012: A plane has crashed[fr] in Mauritania, plane crashed after a fuel leak caused it to burst into flames shortly after take-off. All 7 occupants, comprising military personnel and civilians, were killed. Elmohit reports [ar] that it was a regular shipment from the Kinross gold mine at Tasisast. Alakhbar news adds further details [ar], explaining that the plane encountered difficulties very shortly after take-off, and the pilot tried to return to Nouakchott airport, but flames engulfed the cockpit and the plane crashed in an uninhabited area near the province of Dar Naim. Hundreds rushed to the scene, including the Minister of Defence and the President, according to this report.
Mauritanian customs agent Mahgoub Ould Mohamed Salem was late for this morning’s gold run flight. This had happened once before and he was determined to be on time. But first his car wouldn’t start, then he got a lift but was held up by traffic.  Finally, he arrived at the airport too late, in time to see the plane take off.. and then crash moments later, killing all on board.

Kinross Gold Corp. said it chartered  the military plane, and confirmed that two pilots, two customs officials and three security personnel were killed in the crash. It said no Kinross personnel were on board, nor was the plane carrying any gold.

Kinross said the crash hasn’t affected normal operations at the mine, where last month mine-processing activities were temporarily halted as a result of a nearly week-long strike by workers. There is no information about any plans to mark the deaths by Kinross, although Mauritania will observe a period of national mourning, and an investigation has been promised in a statement from the Dept. of Defence.

12 July 2012: A new strike action by MCM mining workers in Tasiast has been reported.
Workers decided to strike on Wednesday night after a meeting to discuss their situation, which has been a recurrent source of strikes for well over a year. Once again, employer MCM has failed to make good on promises made during workers’ protests.
Thursday morning the workers gathered at the entrance to the complex, forming a picket line to prevent or persuade other workers from entering.
11 July 2012
Villagers in Bekmoun, Mauritania, who demanded [ar] resolution of agricultural land dispute, or threatened to take action themselves received a swift but vindictive response.
On Monday, villagers reported [ar] that a trench was dug across the road by the contractor working on agricultural land reclamation, SIMEX, effectively isolating the village. They say that this act was performed without warning or consultation.
Something like 3,000 head of cattle were stranded as a result, unable to return to their homesteads for feed and water – which is essential because of the severe drought conditions – and reports [ar] say dozens have already died.
Deputy Under Secretary reported the destruction of 22 tons of liquor, 59 kg of hashish and large quantities of narcotic ans psychotropic substances on Wednesday morning, 11 July 2012, on the road between Nouakchott and Akjoujt.
Such events are routine in Mauritania, which is known to be criss-crossed with long-established smuggling routes for trafficking people as well as contraband and weapons. There have also been a couple of reports in recent months of the military and well-connected contacts being involved in smuggling operations.
Chiefs of Staff from the military of Algeria, Niger and Mali [ar] met with Mauritanian counterparts in Nouakchott to discuss the ongoing situation there, and reported that they still had hope for a political solution to the crisis. This is significant, because Niger’s FM has stated previously [ar] that he believed military intervention was the only possible response. Mali’s southern neighbours, Burkina Faso,  Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal were not represented, perhaps because of their strong involvement in ECOWAS initiatives which are calling for a military solution. Independent journalists were barred from the meeting. There is growing concern in Mauritania about the prospect of a military intervention in Mali.
The slow-burning scandal of mismanagement and corruption with the government’s “Hope 2012” food assistance program – 50% funded by international donors – continues to smoulder. PM Laghdaf (pictured) managed to dodge being questioned in parliament, and lost no time issuing a glowing report on how great the programme is doing. Now the judiciary reportedly wants to question his advisor. Given that the judiciary has been compromised by president Aziz and can’t be considered independent, I assume this means the hapless assistant is the nominated fall-guy.
Meanwhile, an investigation into fraud allegations is being carried out, and several officials have been presented to the prosecutor already. The latest news [ar] has investigators complaining that the magistrate’s office in Aleg doesn’t have air conditioning.
A spate of fatal road accidents has claimed the lives of at least six Mauritanians in the past week – including a child killed by a truck in a hit and run incident – and injured several more. These tragedies are felt deeply by the close-knit community, and have reinvigorated protests about the poor conditions of roads, lack of adequate lighting and signage, incompetent traffic policing and notoriously bad driving habits.
Roads in several areas have been adversely affected by flash floods; Tintaine residents lost part of their road surface last week and came out to protest.
Another poor week for human rights in Mauritania, with 7 anti-slavery activists still behind bars, now allegedly facing charges of supporting terrorism, after the original case of apostasy was thrown out. A peaceful protest was attacked and 13 activists of the February 25 Movement arrested on Tuesday 10 July, as well as two journalists. Police moved to disperse the group soon after they had begun to gather outside the Constitutional Courthouse to protest the 34th anniversary of the military coup, and demand that the military relinquish its hold on the country. The Observatory of Human Rights has denounced [ar] the widespread use of violence against the civil population.
While media reported the governments plans to introduce internet monitoring, Mauritania’s biggest operator, Mauritel, seems to have taken matters into its own hands, and introduced severe restrictions on internet access to specific websites, including the very popular FaceBook app. For the past 3 weeks or more, reports of intermittent service, inability to view images, and general connection problems have plagued internet users in the country, and there is a marked reduction in the volume of Facebook posts and web traffic. A website has been created [ar]to monitor and report on Mauritel’s repression.

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