The Week in ‎Mauritania – 6 July 2013

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Roundup of news and images from Mauritania during the week ending 6 July 2013

4 July 7 Ndb youth march to Nkt again

7 youth who set out on foot from Nouadhibou almost 2 weeks ago are within 50km of the presidential palace in Nouakchott. They are marching to protest the marginalisation of youth, and have the support of their peers back home in the nation’s economic capital. 

Scandals are plentiful in Mauritania, and the past week yielded a bumper harvest, from the Minister of Culture being dismissed after a fraud investigation opened into her husband’s affairs, to the resignation of a director of the mining company SNIM. One which almost escaped attention occurred the previous week; a meeting between the president, one of his lawyers, and a former French judge who was himself embroiled in scandal. This meeting (pictured below) led to much speculation about the “Mamere Case” and “GhanaGate”: Aziz was described in a TV interview with French journalist and politician Noël Mamère last year as a “drug lord”. The Mamère statement came to light at the start of 2013 and eventually – after certain damaging recordings allegedly between Aziz, one of his ministers, and an individual in Ghana were released by local media – Aziz decided to sue Mamère for slander, according to news reports.

27-06-2013-Aziz meets former French judge

An officer on his way to work at Dar Naim prison in Nouakchott was reportedly the victim of an attempted kidnapping by a group of people thought to be friends or relatives of one or more jailed Salafists.

A talented high school student put on a one man show to draw attention to the visual arts.

A young visually impaired man with a verbal agreement to work for Radio Mauritania was dropped at the last minute because of the political views he shared on Facebook.

Ministers have agreed a draft agreement to finance a school in Mauritania for specialist training in mining and metals in a partnership agreement between national mining entities, foreign mining companies, and the World Bank. The timing of this decision is interesting because on 30 November 2010, Kinross Gold announced a $10 million budget to be spent over a period of 3 years on this project, saying at the time:

“The Mauritania Mining School will have two campuses, located in Nouakchott and Akjoujt, and will focus on developing both technicians and engineers for careers in the mining industry. The three-year technician program will focus on mineral technology, and will be based in Akjoujt.

The five-year engineering programs will focus on management of mineral resources and on electro-mechanics, and will be based in Nouakchott. At full capacity, the school is expected to host a total of 340 students and to graduate 50 engineers and 30 technicians annually. The school is scheduled to start up in 2013-2014.

Planning for the school is being coordinated by the Mauritanian Mining School Implementation Unit, under the direction of an Orientation Committee comprising all major stakeholders in the project, including government, mining companies, and other project contributors, and overseen by the Mauritanian Ministry of Mines.”

President Aziz has been touring the country in what is widely considered an early start to campaigning ahead of the long overdue parliamentary elections, currently rumoured to be in planning for October. The media has obediently trotted behind the Aziz entourage, yet few journalists have noted the low turnout compared to previous outings. They have also avoided mentioning the president’s health issues, which this tour has made glaringly evident. Arriving late to scheduled appearances is nothing new, but when he does finally show Aziz is visibly pale, his movements slow and hesitant, and there are occasional delays as he appears to adjust what is assumed to be a colostomy bag under his garments. At every location, requests for an audience have been refused and other arrangements cancelled as the exhausted head of state is whisked away without explanation.

On the link below, blogger Moulay Abdallah concludes that Aziz is risking his life for political gain.

It is worth noting that the voter registration process which started in 2011 is still incomplete, and there seems little likelihood of establishing a legitimate election within the next few months.

Demands for drinking water and electrical power erupt wherever Aziz plans to visit, but gendarmes were dispatched to remove protest banners and empty water containers placed along the road near Rosso. This is the same route Aziz took on his last visit to Rosso in 2012, when activists from the 25 February movement famously created a string of graffiti images saying simply “Leave”. The group has since established branches in different regional capitals, which manifested in protest during the current presidential tour.

كثبان اترارزة تقول "ارحل" وستقولها هضاب تكانت والعصابة وغيرهم .. ارحل تلاحق عزيز أينما حل وارتحل

Some news oddities from last week include self-promoting script kiddie “Mauritania Hacker” (aka @An0nGhost) being interviewed. I have seen tweets of the link with text describing his antics as a global “cyberwar” defending Islam against the West, which is laughable considering he is an indiscriminate defacer of random websites who occasionally posts information from previous hacking claims lifted from pastebins etc, and edited or photoshopped to look current.

Let’s bear this in mind as we see increased claims about the activities of an Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) franchise in Mauritania.

For good measure, we can add bold assertions that Ansar al-Sharia is also now mobilising people to demand the application of Sharia law. As @HannahHaniya put it “Ansar al Sharia in Mauritania and mosques call for sharia. I don’t see how Mauritania could be any more Sharia-compliant than it already is.”

In other news

  • A woman with a degree in International Law was appointed to head the national TV station, prompting her to resign from the ruling political party.
  • Ramadan is almost upon us, and some poor families have been given charitable aid, while all families are now seeing prices of food and other goods increase in the markets.
  • There has been some good rainfall in rural areas, bringing hopes of a second consecutive year with a good agricultural harvest, and encouraging herders about grazing and watering their livestock.
  • The first batch of Malian refugees has returned to Goundam, near Timbuktu. About 100 people from 20 families left Mauritania, with assistance from UNHCR.
  • The Aziz tour sparked a series of competing political meetings and rallies all over the place. There’s a larger rally planned for Sunday 7 July by the Coordination of Democratic Opposition parties (COD). It will beinteresting to see what kind of turnout they get.
  • All of the above has been somewhat overshadowed by the consistently high level of interest within Mauritania for events in Egypt this past week, which has seen several protests – the largest in favour of Morsi, and the usual ream of statements commending or condemning the actions of the military.

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