What if change never comes?


Are you waiting for change? Change that was promised to you in the last election campaign, or the one before that, or even earlier? What if that change never comes? The clips in this video highlight something we all know but either ignore, or feel powerless to change. Politics is losing its appeal, the lines are blurring, and political leaders, regardless of their party affiliation, seem to be singing the same tired old tune.

Having allowed ourselves to be seduced by bold political promises ay election time, when we look back we often see that, in reality, very little has changed. Certainly it feels like there have been very few significant changes for the better in recent years. It’s common to see articles complaining about how “they” – usually meaning one or other political leader – have failed to introduce beneficial changes, while at the same time introducing unexpected changes that have a negative impact, or are imposed on us without consultation. However, what should ultimately determine genuine change at the political level, is the extent to which we, as individuals, want that change. It should depend on whether we are willing to accept change, and the costs or benefits it brings.

But we also know that people do not always welcome or enjoy change. Much of the time, it scares them and makes them feel anxious and insecure. Even beneficial changes, like getting married, having a baby, or starting a new job, are among the most stressful events in our lives. The politicians making those bold speeches about “change” know this too. In fact, they rely on it to prevent people complaining about broken promises, or banding together to demand consultation on important changes, or campaigning to repeal new laws that represent abuse of power.

If you really want ‘change you can believe in’, start by believing in your power to think and reason for yourself. Learn how to step back and resist the impulsive urge, or urgent authoritative command, to jump to conclusions or follow the herd. Give yourself permission to not have an opinion, at least until you have had time to consider all the evidence and to think critically, outside of the margins of the information being presented to you. Be OK with “I don’t know yet” or “I’m not sure yet” and even with “I might never know.” You don’t have to believe everything you hear or read. You don’t have to be a “follower” just because someone else is a “leader.”

The strange part is, we all accept that we don’t and can’t have the answer to absolutely everything, but we can easily be swayed to react in a certain way whenever we are reminded of just how much we don’t know, or if we are made to feel threatened. These are cheap vaudeville tricks, which have earned their place in the entertainment industry, but they can take on a darker aspect when used by statesmen, media, or corporations, to manipulate public opinion. Uncertainty is not the enemy, it’s one of the most fundamental principles of life. Don’t give it up without stopping to think or question.


Mauritania Opposition Reaffirm Rejection of Mali Military Intervention


Musicians entertained people with traditional songs as they gathered for another massive rally in Nouakchott on the evening of Tuesday,18 December 2012.

Demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the departure of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and that the military quit its involvement in politics.

Opposition leaders addressed tens of thousands in the yard of Ibn Abbas mosque, at the Festival entitled “Promise of Victory”.

Ahmed Ould Daddah, arguably the most eminent statesman in the opposition coalition line-up, gave a stirring speech invoking hope for the future, and ambition to restore the pride and dignity of the country. Ould Daddah also gave a stern warning against any military intervention in Mali, including providing logistical support, highlighting concern that any involvement would reflect negatively on security and stability for Mauritania. Being committed to fight terrorism, he argued, does not mean engaging in activities that are against the interests of the nation. The real enemies, he added, are ignorance, poverty, hunger and internal strife.
In conclusion, he wished Ould Abdel Aziz a speedy recovery, stressing that he bears him no personal malice, despite his unsuitability for leadership.

In other news, Mauritania’s second president, Mustafa Ould Salek, died in a Paris hospital on Tuesday 18 December, aged 86. Ould Salek was the pioneer of Mauritania’s enduring tradition of coups d’etat: he seized power from  President Mokhtar Ould Daddah in February 1978. Given that the Election Commission – despite a recent statement promising to set a date – admitted that they are still not in a position to stage the much-delayed elections, it seems there is little chance of Mauritania outgrowing Ould Salek’s legacy in the foreseeable future.

Photos: Latest News Network.

20 Dec Update: Another video from @jnsRFD  shows the true extent of the attendance at the festival, being reported rather grudgingly by some media as “hundreds of supporters”.

In a further, related move, authorities have withdrawn approval for the youth section of the opposition to hold a meeting in the Old Youth House. The youth say they are determined to go ahead with their plans regardless.

#Mauritania massive 2 May 2012 protest rally and sit-in


Police attacked the protesters at around 3am, just a few minutes after I closed this blog post.

Sorry about the video quality, but it’s really hard to upload video in Mauritania because the connection speeds are abominable, so we must be patient and understanding.

If he thought he could dampen people’s enthusiasm for the latest mass rally called by the group of opposition parties in Mauritania, or divert their attention, Aziz got it dead wrong. Despite his efforts to (re)position himself as a man of the people, a “president of the poor” to echo his election campaign statement, and regardless of news promising jobs and pay increases, tens of thousands of people still turned out to deliver the same message: “leave”. This time, in fact, they were joined by even more youth movements.

This video of the march is just as impressive as the ones from March and April.

And here are the February 25 Movement protesters in fine form

When Biram ould Abeid, the president of anti-slavery group IRA, decided to burn some books of Islamic jurisprudence because they mentioned slavery, it was all over state TV. But this huge rally, like the others, was given about 45 seconds of airtime.

Here is a gallery of images from the events of the day so far – remember they intend to stage a sit-in, they have erected tents, brought supplies, and even arranged a water truck, and are hoping to survive the night. There have been several stories going around about the police planning to kick them out, or attack the camp in the early hours. Most of these images came from the Mauritanie Demain and February 25 Movement FaceBook pages. you can also find more news and updates on Twitter under the #Mauritania hashtag, and if you read Arabic or can cope with half-baked Google translate, on this blog and from these Twitter users: @medabdou, @ahmedj85, @ahmedbah, @Rev25fev, @nahmedou, @babadeye, @sidimedlemin, @darchhr, @eddennine, @mahmoume, @tahabib    @mauritaniedem1

#Mauritania’s Bonfire of the Vanities


It took considerable self-control to suppress my gag reflex at the sight of Abdel Aziz rushing from the palace to greet the protest march against Biram Ould Abeid’s sacrilegious act, dressed in full al-dara’a and head scarf traditional dress. I know he said that they should forget democracy, that Mauritania is Islamic, and promising swift and sure action.  There was also something about secularism, but I confess, I was too dazzled by the crispness of his powder-blue cotton Marabout costume to pay attention. I assume that was the idea in any case. A pretty stage show to mollify the mob. Not only was Aziz in the palace on a weekend, conveniently dressed in his “man of the sands” fashion mockery, he was also able to reel off the names of several distant locations where protests had also “spontaneously” erupted. The president’s new media advisor certainly seems to be earning his keep.

The first time I read about anything being purposefully burned in Mauritania, beneath that scorching desert sun, it was from 2009, and the prescription medicines that the government destroyed because they were either out of date, or illegally imported pseudo-meds, in both cases highly dangerous. They had a bonfire, same as the little springtime ceremonies in Nouadhibou, where police torch impressive quantities of illicit drugs captured from the well-established trafficking routes. The drugs trade bonfires are likely timed to coincide with a visit by representatives of a source of international funding for the prevention of trafficking.

And the last time I read about anything being burned in Mauritania, it was not books of Islamic jurisprudence, it was approval being granted for Chinese residents to build funeral pyres to cremate their dead. There are a lot of Chinese store owners, business people and workers in Mauritania, and China is an essential trading and investment partner. So we need not be concerned or surprised by the double standard of allowing burial rituals that are not in the Islamic tradition, while simultaneously telling people to forget democracy, Mauritania is a nation of Islam, and they are all soldiers in the fight to defend their faith.

The book burning was televised, yet the area was surprisingly free of police or security, and the entire scene played out without them appearing. This is highly unusual, as the police are the constant shadows of the media in Mauritania, and indeed have frequently harassed, abused, physically assaulted and arrested journalists and photographers, especially when they are covering protests or issues that Aziz would prefer were kept out of the spotlight. Clearly this was not such a time. In my archive I have a growing collection of videos from protests created by citizen journalists and a few independent local media outlets, showing the police cracking out the tear gas and batons as soon as the first discarded tyre begins to smoulder. In many cases the police don’t even wait for anyone to start a fire; they just attack.

The level of public outrage is doubly impressive when you consider that about 50% of the population is illiterate. That doesn’t explain why 99% of commentators fail to mention any specific content in the books while raging about their destruction, or why all the focus is on Maliki’s text – as I write, someone just created a “We are all Maliki” Facebook page. Only those who have read them will know that the books do indeed contain reference to slavery. But there is another reason to keep discussion of this hot topic on the back burner, and keep those pots of boiling invective and racist insults frothing and bubbling at the front. The last thing any pious rent-a-pitchforker wants is to have to admit that slavery exists, that it is an ongoing issue, that it is written in the Quran, or that Maliki or anyone else wrote about it. No one is going to bother mentioning that slavery is also mentioned in elaborate detail in the Bible, and also in the Torah – I believe there’s a reference to maidservants, which intimates child slavery, right after the commandments. They do not know how to eliminate it, so they choose to avoid it.

Why do we not see such generous media coverage when people go out onto the street to protest the many injustices in this country? Why does Aziz not rush to meet protesters outside the palace promising swift action for inequality and corruption instead of sending his thugs to greet them with tear gas and beatings?

What does it mean to burn something? It’s an outward expression of anger, a violent act. Fire can be a tool of oppression, of protest, of control. But it also contains an aspect of hopefulness. There are many alternative methods of destruction, but only fire has that deep significance and special symbolism earned as man’s constant companion since the dawn of humanity, of being both destroyer and life-giver, of being the prelude to new beginnings. Of the many things that have burned in Mauritania, I hope this event signifies an end to isolationist principles and egoism, and the birth of a new period of reflection and reconciliation.


Note: I do not condone the destruction of books and especially not those which have special religious significance because it is hateful and intended to insult believers, which is a form of victimisation or religious persecution. For these reasons, I condemn it totally. As symbolism, it represents too many things I despise. As an act, it is puerile and vulgar.

The Bonfire of the Vanities is a novel by Tom Wolfe about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980’s New York

#Libya’s NTC sacks Cabinet


Libya’s interim ruling council has fired the nation’s Cabinet just five months after it took office, citing incompetence, two senior officials said Thursday, just two months before the country’s first national election.


Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib and NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil

Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib and NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil
National Transitional Council official Fathi Baja told The Associated Press that 65 of the NTC’s 72-members approved a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib in a meeting Wednesday. 

It’s the latest blow to Libya, struggling to reorganize after the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The move throws into question the country’s ability to hold the election in June, where Libyans are supposed to elect a 200-member assembly to form a government and prepare for writing the country’s new constitution. 

Another senior NTC official, Moussa al-Kouni, confirmed the vote and said the decision was not made public because of the council’s failure to agree on a new Cabinet. 

The NTC is divided over who should be the next prime minister. Islamists support Mustafa Abu-Shakour, el-Keib’s deputy. Others oppose appointing a senior member of a Cabinet they say has failed, suggesting Labor Minister Mustafa al-Rajbani instead. 

El-Keib assumed his post in November, after an eight-month civil war that ended with the capture and killing of Gadhafi in October. 

During his term, el-Keib and the NTC exchanged angry accusations over who was responsible for the failure to integrate revolutionaries into government forces, form a national army and disarm militias, as well as the alleged waste of billions of dollars on treating wounded Libyan fighters abroad. 

Most recently, scores of Libyans have been killed in ethnic and tribal strife in southern cities of Kufra and Sabha, with little intervention from Libyan authorities. 

On Thursday, six prisoners and guards were killed in an exchange of gunfire in the eastern city of Benghazi, when a group of inmates tried to break out of the al-Kawifiya prison, witnesses said. 

Baja said the decision to dismiss the Cabinet came after a stormy meeting between el-Keib and six of his ministers with top NTC members. 

“El-Keib was very angry, and he wouldn’t listen to our complaints,” Baja said, adding that he left the meeting in protest at the inaction of NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who “ordered us not to talk and remain silent.” 

Abdul-Jalil, according to Baja and al-Kouni, stayed away from Wednesday’s meeting, which ended with dismissal of the Cabinet. 

“The NTC itself has a big problem; it is paralyzed and he (Abdul-Jalil) doesn’t want to take responsibility,” Baja said. 

On Wednesday, el-Keib harshly criticized the NTC in remarks carried by the state-run TV, accusing the council’s members of hindering his government’s work and delaying elections. 

“These remarks came as a surprise to us,” al-Kouni said. “His government has failed, but he wants to act like a hero.”

North Africa United.