Dakar accord brings Mauritania closer to democratic elections
By Mohamed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 08/06/09
Political events in Mauritania are moving quickly since a June 2nd agreement was reached in Dakar to end the political impasse in place since the August 2008 coup. Popular reaction has been good to the new agreement, which sets the stage for next month's presidential elections.
Former Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef was released from prison Thursday (June 4th) after serving nearly eight months behind bars. Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, architect of the 2005 coup, announced over the weekend that he would stand in the July election for president.
El Waghef's party, the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, celebrated his release and saluted the efforts by negotiators to end the country's political crisis.
Speaking to reporters after his release, the former prime minister vowed to defeat former junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in the upcoming elections.
According to the Dakar agreement, President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi – ousted in the latest coup – must resign in order to make way for presidential elections on July 18th, with a second round to be held – if necessary – in August. The agreement also stipulates that a national unity government will be formed, with contributions from the interim majority and the opposition.
On Sunday, an Abdellahi spokesman told AFP that the deposed president "wishes to see the dissolution of the (junta's ruling council) before he voluntarily resigns".
Also on Sunday, representatives of General Abdelaziz, the anti-junta coalition and the opposition bloc of Ahmed Ould Daddah began consultations with international mediators in Nouakchott to allocate ministerial posts in the new national unity government.
Based on the agreement, half of the seats in the Independent National Elections Commission (CENI) will be given to the majority and half to the opposition. Additionally, candidacy will be reopened for those interested and electoral lists will be reviewed.
Many citizens were pleased with the accord.
"The release of El Waghef and his colleagues cannot be separated from the Dakar agreement that killed the coup and laid down foundations for a new era of democracy," said Mohamed Ahmed.
Aisha Bent Ahmad, a merchant, told Magharebia, "The best part was seeing parties to the political crisis shake hands and hold one another in amity, marking the end of a period of aggravation and the beginning of an era of openness and dialogue."
Bent Ahmad expressed gratitude to neighbouring Senegal, as well as to international organisations for sponsoring the negotiations.
"There is no denying that Senegal played a great role throughout the crisis," she said, "embracing all parties and urging them to come to terms with each other."
Political analyst Mohamad Ould Lakthaf expressed great optimism about the accord. "The international negotiations forced the Mauritanian parties to listen to reason," he said. "The coming elections are going to be exceptional since they will be organised by a government of national unity on the one hand, and under international supervision and sponsorship on the other."
Ould Lakthaf said democracy "will be put back in place in Mauritania, which is in desperate need of political stability, in order to be an efficient member in its political and African circles".
In the same vein, political observer Mohamed Lamin commented, "All political forces are now aware that Mauritania cannot be built without a democratic, harmonious rule that believes in and strives for dialogue. The times of military coups and totalitarian regimes are gone forever."
Ahmed Ould Daddah, official leader of the opposition and Secretary-General of the Union of Democratic Forces Party, said in a Jude 2nd press conference that the current agreement "has turned over – for good – a dark chapter in the history of Mauritania. It is an agreement for the welfare of Mauritania in the present and the future."
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