Mauritania: Tragedy Prompts Protests Demanding Justice, Legal Reforms

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Marking a week of protests to demand action after the rape and murder of a little girl, the march organised by Nouakchott-based women’s rights activist group “Etkelmi” (Scream) has attracted a lot of support and positive reactions from political elites and fellow activists. About 50 protesters set off at 5pm Tuesday, 5th November 2013, from the Ministry of the Interior to the Palace of Justice. The young women leading the march covered the entire distance in their bare feet. They were accompanied by family, friends and supporters of the victims of recent violent assault, including the husband and friends of Penda Soghe, a young wife and mother who was expecting her second child at the time she was savagely beaten, tortured, gang-raped and murdered, after being abducted on her way home from work at the beginning of April this year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc0E4f_oD_c]
Once at the Judiciary HQ, there were statements of protest by supporters and several representatives of civil groups, to demand a change to the law in Mauritania relating  to rape, and the entrance gates to the building were covered in protest banners.

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The abduction, rape, and murder of six-year-old Khadji (Yaye) Touré, whose body was discovered Sunday, 27 October 2013 on the beach, not far from one of Nouakchott’s hotels, has shocked the entire community. The tragic details were unveiled against the backdrop of the annual Nouakchott short film festival, which had welcomed hundreds of guests from around the world. The Etkelmi event was the fourth protest in the past week.

The first protest saw more than a hundred people accompanying the bereaved family in a march to the Presidential Palace to demand serious action on the crime. The authorities responded by asking for a list of people who wished to attend a discussion, but no further news has been posted so far. News sites reported an announcement late on Tuesday, that police had arrested a man in connection with the abduction, and that he had confessed to murdering the little girl. There are some doubts about the veracity of this statement.

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Mid-week, a group of Mauritanian ex-pats living in Paris, which has staged weekly protests for the past several months, demanding a fair and transparent approach to registration procedures for Mauritanian citizenship, held a vigil in memory of the murdered child, adding their voices to the call for justice and legal reform.

On 1 November, 2013 the pro-morality activist group staged a protest immediately after Friday prayers in Nouakchott, which was also very well-attended.

It now remains to be seen whether this concerted effort can continue to build and raise awareness, eventually creating enough pressure to initiate the needed reforms. All those involved are aware there is little chance of making any real progress until after the upcoming elections, scheduled to take place on 23 November.

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Slavery: Ancient and Modern

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A new 2013 Global Slavery Index has been published by the Walk Free Foundation, in which we read that Mauritania tops the list of countries where slavery is an issue, when ranked in proportion to population size. Many media outlets were quick to transform this into a headline, which has already blazed its trail through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

There are some important observations to consider when reading these headlines, which I want to highlight:

  • The index uses a broad definition of “modern slavery” which includes child marriage and human trafficking, including illegal immigration. In the case of Mauritania, what exists there, and is still being witnessed today, is descendant slavery, as found in several countries in the index, and which is anything BUT modern. The number of Mauritanian citizens being trafficked is so tiny it defies measurement, and while child marriage is legal under Sharia law, marriage itself is so popular that once again, the numbers are going to be incredibly difficult to determine with any measure of accuracy. Those cases of child marriage we do hear of are mostly in more remote, rural areas with scant statistical records.
  • The population of Mauritania has not been reported using an official census since 2000, and even then, the numbers were deliberately under-reported, as noted by the World Bank and the UN, the secondary sources used by this new index. All numbers for population for the past 13 years have been estimated and extrapolated from other data sources. These sources are studies which will also determine the scope of aid programs, a major source of income for successive, corrupt, governments of Mauritania. Therefore we must assume the numbers reported for those studies is impacted by the opportunistic greed of the ruling administration.
  • The percentage arrived at by the index is 4%. This is in stark contrast to the figure of 10% to 20% usually reported by NGOs and human rights organisations. No explanation is offered for this apparent discrepancy. Clearly, the government, which remains sternly in denial of the continued existence or practice of slavery in Mauritania, will consider this a major PR coup in its favour.
  • Hillary Clinton has noted that the new index is “not perfect” and therefore, we should expect to see changes to it as it develops over time.
Freed into homelessness and unemployment, former slaves in Mauritania build makeshift villages from found materials. But they are often made homeless again, their shanty-towns bulldozed in land-grabs, as happened in Leimghetty, outside the capital, Nouakchott, in May 2013

Freed into homelessness and unemployment, former slaves in Mauritania build makeshift villages from found materials. But they are often made homeless again, their shanty-towns bulldozed under order of state officials, as happened in Leimghetty, outside the capital, Nouakchott, in May 2013

We must take the issue of slavery seriously, because it is widespread and damaging and goes against everything decent human beings hold dear. But we don’t need glossy reports or “world leaders” (see video below) moralising about the subject as much as we need to see real concrete plans about how this scourge is going to be eradicated, and sensible actions which offer practical help for the victims to regain a dignified independence as well as their liberty.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGnJCF2aeeM]

At the moment, it looks like the main concern about slavery as far as many states are concerned, is that the proceeds are part of the “grey economy,” and therefore those doing the enslaving are also avoiding paying tax. It would seem that governments are more comfortable with the notion of fostering the sprawling mass of aid and development organisations, and collecting income tax from their often very highly-paid executives, while the rest of the agencies’ funds are able to legitimately avoid standard company tax because they are registered charities.

With new, harsher penalties being announced by the UK for anyone found guilty of trafficking, there is a great deal of justifiable public concern for the fate of the victims in all this, which is not clear from the statements being issued. These concerns are echoed in every country where trafficking or slavery is a problem. In Mauritania, for example, “international pressure” has led to a succession of rules, laws and proclamations from the government of the time, paying lip-service to the exhortations of donor organisations and countries willing to invest or otherwise bring revenue into the state coffers, with humanitarian strings attached. Yet each time the regime has banned or outlawed the practice of slavery, it has led to groups of people being “freed” by their former owners out of panic and fear, rather than concern. This has created a group of socially isolated former slaves, cast out of a bad but familiar situation, into an even more extreme state of insecurity, with no food, shelter, or work, and lacking even a basic education.

How extreme? Bad enough that some of them were forced to seek shelter in the refugee camp built to house those displaced from the conflict in neighbouring Mali. What happened when they were supposedly discovered? The UNHCR refused to feed them, and stopped issuing food rations to the entire camp, provoking a riot during which the food stores were broken into and rations seized by angry, humiliated, hungry, people with nowhere else to go and no other choices. That camp has been open since January 2012, and those Mauritanians were there almost from the start, but they were initially useful in boosting numbers for fund-raising appeals and supplying dramatic subtext to help justify the deployment of French and other military forces in Mali. Now, they’re surplus to requirements. Ironically, it is against the law to be homeless in Mauritania, land of the nomad. Expelling these Mauritanians from the refugee camp will subject them to risk of arrest and possible imprisonment, and certainly to harassment.

Such groups are likely to be found in every country where slavery is a current issue, and several where it has supposedly been eliminated, although their situations will vary. They all need support, and it should be delivered with as much publicity and enthusiasm as the speeches and statements and statistics, if not more.

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The Week in Mauritania – 23 July 2013

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The obsession with events in Egypt eased off a little, thanks mainly to the unexpected victory of the national football team in the African Nations Championship regional qualifier, winning 2-0 against visitors Senegal. Just as with Egypt, dozens of people who before had not shown the slightest inkling of interest in soccer, much less the national team, were suddenly overcome with the need to express their opinions.

الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | تأهل موريتانيا لكأس إفريقيا للمحليين
الأخبار (نواكشوط) – تأهل المنتخب الوطني الموريتاني (المرابطون) لكأس إفريقيا للمحليين والتي ستنظم في جنوب إفريقيا 2014، بعد فوزه على ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

For people outside Mauritania, the biggest news of the week was Canadian terror suspect Aaron Youn being released after his 10-year sentence was reduced to 18 months, a little less than time served to date.

Aaron Yoon
No one seemed to notice that 5 Salafists were also released after their sentences were commuted to time served by the appeals court. One of them is the brother of Sidi Ould Sidna, who was arrested with two others on suspicion of killing 4 French tourists in 2007. The brother, along with a clerk and two police officers, was jailed for aiding and abetting his escape in 2008. Sidi Ould Sidna was later recaptured.

The French connection is interesting because it brings to mind the recent visit from a former French judge who met with President Aziz, and the statement this week from French authorities identifying a body found some months ago as one of the French hostages thought to have been held in Mali.

12 of the 30 people arrested after riots broke out near Kaédi last week were acquitted, the rest remanded to detention, leading to protests demanding their release.

اليوم السابع | محكمة موريتانية تفرج عن كندى متهم بالإرهاب
محكمة موريتانية تفرج عن كندى متهم بالإرهاب الإثنين، 15 يوليو 2013 – 03:21 صورة ارشيفية نواكشوط (دب أ) قضت محكمة الاستئناف الموريتانية مساء أمس ..
http://www.youm7.com

Other protests include:

  • Farmers in Nouadhibou, who are concerned about land grabs, as are some residents.
  • Porters in the Autonomous Port of Nouakchott protesting management’s failure to keep to the terms of the agreement reached following their recent strike action. The Director of the Port resigned a few days earlier.
  • Villagers in Algayerh protesting spiralling food prices, especially meat
  • Family members of the officials detained on charges of corruption in the deal to build Nouadhibou Stadium.
  • and an inspiring candlelight vigil conducted by youth from villages in and around R’kiz, representing around 100,000 inhabitants, who have access to only 10% of their electricity needs.
تظاهرة احتجاجية تضيئ سماء مقاطعة اركيز بالشموع - وكالة العلم الإخبارية
تظاهرة احتجاجية تضيئ سماء مقاطعة اركيز بالشموع – وكالة العلم الإخبارية

There were vigils also in memory of the MCM mining worker Mohamed Ould Machdoufi, who was beaten to death one year earlier by National Guards, sent to break a peaceful sit-in staged by workers who had been cheated of their rights. The union made fresh demands for his killers to be brought to justice.

Alakhbar | Mauritanie-MCM: Ould Machdoufi a été "bastonné" à mort ...

Under the scandals and corruption sub-topic, the suspect police inspector exam results were withdrawn, and the corruption charges against Urban Committee chairman, Ould Hamza, were dropped just as mysteriously as they had appeared.

A scandal-in-the-making could lead from the appointment of former Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Taya as president of credit card and electronic banking company “GIMTEL”.

آتلانتيك داون

There was some drama with the weather on Wednesday, as a sandstorm immediately followed by a thunderstorm hit Nouakchott, swiftly reducing visibility and making traffic even more chaotic than usual (if that is possible).

999022_10151495039927096_2026395447_n

Rains came to many parts of the country, and at least one youth has drowned while swimming in flood waters.

About a dozen Mauritanians died during the week, including 5 murder victims. Three were stabbed to death in Mauritania in separate incidents, one was strangled in Libya, and another was dismembered after being kidnapped.

Finally, the elections are still the subject of much debate, and the cause of much political mudslinging. The main opposition coalition (COD) has reconfirmed it does not intend to participate in elections under current circumstances, and intends to disrupt them through peaceful means. There were about 70 conditions in last year’s document on the subject from COD.

Meanwhile, the UN has pledged to support elections, as has the EU and the US.

The Week in ‎Mauritania – 14 July 2013

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This week began with the COD political rally in Nouakchott as planned. The president of the socialist RFD party, Ould Daddah, called for the closure of “Sal Ahaddin” prison in the north – assumed to be the location of 14 disappeared Salafi prisoners. Other speakers echoed his calls for increased transparency, and again called for President Aziz to step down. Everything was much as expected: speeches, applause, and everyone returned home. I think turnout was quite low compared to last year.


مـوقع الطـواري الألكتـروني

عاجل: الالآف يهتفون بإسقاط النظام في ساحة ابن عباس 2013-07-07 17:25:00 الالآف من أنصار منسقية المعارضة يهتفون بإسقاط النظام الموريتاني أفاد ..
http://www.tawary.com

July 7 was also supposed to be the date for release of Baccalaureate exam results affecting thousands of young Mauritanians. In fact they came out the next day, and the results were pretty dismal, with a pass rate around 10%. Among the success stories was a student with a talent for poetry, who achieved the highest score in mathematics; and a 17 year-old from Nouadhibou, who scored the highest marks overall. A nice touch that this top achievement goes to a female student, as there was a call this week for implementing positive discrimination to improve opportunities for women.

Evidence of tampering is suspected in this year’s test results for children wanting to enter secondary schools, as detailed in the story below.  Considering the authorities have been unable to complete biometric registration of less than 4 million people in over two years, I find the notion that they are not capable of marking tens of thousands of exam papers – whether for high school or university entrance – entirely credible.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | شبه تلاعب بالتصحيح والرقابة بموريتانيا

الأخبار (نواكشوط) – أظهرت تحقيقات أجرتها وكالة الأخبار المستقلة على عينات من نتائج مسابقة دخول السنة الأولى الإعدادية 2013،وجود شبه تلاعب ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

Dozens injured in Sunday's riot in the town of #Kaedi #Mauritania. Photo via D. Camara and Saidou Wane
Dozens injured in Sunday’s riot in the town of #Kaedi #Mauritania. Photo via D. Camara

A market near Kaédi, ‎in Gourgol, southern Mauritania, was forced to close shortly after 7am Sunday morning, after an altercation between a shopkeeper and street trader reportedly sparked “ethnic clashes” 3 hours later. The story below includes a photo of a large crowd of youth who appeared around 10am to protest. Clashes erupted and several people, including 2 policemen, were reportedly injured. By Monday 8 July, at least seven arrests were reported by activist Mariame Kane:
Gando Dia
Maissou Salli Sy
Aboubakry Ba
Diawli Mamadou Moussa
Abdoul Sy
Aly Baba Ndiaye
Ousmane Thierno Ndiaye
Gorel Niang (son of the street trader who was assaulted)


مواجهات عنيفة بين الشرطة ومجموعة من الشبان في كيهيدي

شهدت مدينة كيهيدي جنوب موريتانيا مواجهات عنيفة صباح اليوم بين الشرطة ومجموعة من الشبان حاولت اقتحام سوق المدينة اثر خلاف بين تاجرة ..
http://www.saharamedias.net

The detentions increased to 30, including a local community leader, and they are all set to appear in court.

All Eyes on Egypt

Hard to imagine that anyone will be paying attention, but a Mauritanian MP from the RFD party, Ould Mini, succinctly pointed out that what happened in Egypt bears a striking resembleance to events in Mauritania in 2008. That was when the military, under General Aziz, overthrew the country’s first democratically-elected president Abdallahi in a coup. At the time, the US, EU and African Union withdrew their support.
More elections followed, after which the Aziz regime was granted a veneer of legitimacy by the African Union and Western allies, notably France. President Aziz has himself claimed, during a 2012 conference on the subject, that Mauritania was the first country to “benefit” from the “Arab Spring”. No one realised at the time he was not merely grandstanding.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | برلماني: انقلاب مصر مستنسخ من موريتانيا
الأخبار(نواكشوط) دعا رئيس الفريق البرلماني لحزب تكتل القوى الديمقراطية المعارض عبد الرحمن ولد ميني الحكومة الموريتانية إلى التنديد ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

An article on one of the more sensationalist news sites investigates the fast-growing trend of publishing sexually provocative video and images of Mauritanian girls, often without their permission, but on other occasions with their full knowledge and consent.


فتيات موريتانيات.. خارطة الجسد على قارعة “الفيسبوك (تحقيق)
المحيط نت
elmohit.net

Meanwhile, the campaign against pornography is seeking a court injunction to force local ISPs to block websites containing adult content of a pornographic nature.


منظمة ترفع دعوى ضد سلطة التنظيم لحجب المواقع الإباحية
بدأت منظمة آدم لحماية الطفل والمجتمع في إطار “مشروع لا للإباحية”، في إجراءات استصدار حكم قضائي بحجب المواقع الإباحية في شبكات ..
http://www.saharamedias.net

After levying new passport fees of 30,000 MRO for a passport, and enforcing mandatory renewal before old passports expired, authorities have now introduced a 64-page version with a 100,000 MRO fee.
Business customers are also now being asked to show a valid passport for bank withdrawals of 100,000 MRO or more.
It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that over 500 fake passports were seized by police during the 13 July arrest of a gang of forgers.

Protests this week include:

  • temporary workers employed by the state
  • residents of several rural towns and villages who want reliable access to water and electricity
  • fishing industry workers who were laid off
  • political groups in support of Egypt’s former president Morsi
  • transport drivers concerned about road safety and the new security procedures to prevent fuel smuggling
  • Kaédi district, as noted above


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | المفصولون من وزارة المالية يشكون عدم التجاوب
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ أعرب مجموعة العمال الـ 290 المفصولين من وزارة المالية عن أن السلطات الحكومية تتعامل معهم بطريقة مهينة تتمثل في عدم ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | تفاقم معاناة البحارة المسرحين بمدينة نواذيبو
الأخبار(نواذيبو) – تفاقمت معاناة البحارة المسرحين فى العاصمة الاقتصادية نواذيبو وسط دعوات بتوفير بدائل للعاطلين وخلق فرص عمل فى ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | سكان قرى آفطوط الساحلي يشكون العطش
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ وجه سكان قرى آفطوط الساحلي نداء إلى رئيس الجمهورية محمد ولد عبد العزيز يشكون فيه من أن حظهم من مشروع آفطوط الذي علقوا ..
http://www.alakhbar.info


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | سكان كزرة طب زايد: تخطيط الأراضي يتجاوزنا
الأخبار (انواكشوط) ـ قالت المتحدثة باسم سكان كزرة طب زايد: حورية بنت دادك ولد اصنيبة إن سكان هذه الكزرة يسكنون فيها منذ عام: 1986م، وظلت ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

4 July 7 Ndb youth march to Nkt again
The youth who marched 450km on foot from Nouadhibou to the presidential palace in Nouakchott reportedly met with the president. I have not see photos or reports of the meeting so far.

One village, demanding electricity and water supply, is in an agricultural area plagued by locusts.
They threatened that they would not vote for Aziz again if these issues are not resolved. The promises of Aziz during his current tour to provide these essential services could be causing an outbreak of protest as a form of bargaining.

Ramadan Mubarak مبارك عليكم الشهر Image: Maryam Al-attiya

The feast of Ramadan started – this year is one with a lot of daylight hours and extremely high temperatures in Mauritania. When it is time to break their fast, people have to contend with paying between 10 and 140 percent more for their groceries than the same time last year, according to research by deyloul.com.
The government issued a short statement from Aziz in which he boasted of the relative security and stability in the country. Two days later it was back to issuing dire warnings about threats to security and stability.
Several donations of food and social aid were announced this week, aimed at helping the poorest families during Ramadan.

Days after news that Benin would be seeking expert advice from Mauritania on building an airport, we heard that the new Nouakchott international airport project is stuck in the hangar.
In other news, there are concerns of impropriety in the administration of the police inspectors exam, and the chief executive of the sports stadium project has been arrested following a fraud investigation.
This week’s biggest corruption scandal comes (as so often) via alakhbar.info, which revealed extra-legal activities in assigning contracts with the finance ministry.


الأخبار: أول وكالة أنباء موريتانية مستقلة | صحيفة “الأخبار انفو” تكشف بالوثائق عن تعيينات خارج القانون بوزارة المالية
الأخبار (نواكشوط) كشفت وثائق ومعطيات رسمية نشرتها صحيفة “الأخبار إنفو” الموريتانية في عددها الصادر صباح اليوم الأربعاء عن اختلالات ..
http://www.alakhbar.info

Despite his office’s longstanding travel advisory notice warning against it, UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt visited Mauritania this week, immediately meeting with the new charge d’affaires on his return to London.
Other interesting visitors included the wife of Mali’s interim president Traoré, and a delegation from international philanthropist Sheikha Mozah, mother of the new Qatari ruler.
A new Mauritanian ambassador was accredited in Senegal.
This page is about Mauritania news, otherwise I would be adding an item about the release of hostages from South Africa on the border of Senegal and Guineau Bissau here.

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.