Mauritania. The annual Dakarrally, which is partly run in
Mauritania, was canceled in January 2008 for safety reasons at short
notice. The reason was that four French tourists had been
killed in the vicinity of Aleg in southwestern Mauritania
December 24, 2007. The French government recommended
organizers to stop rallying and advised everyone not to
travel to Mauritania.
In January, at least nine suspects were arrested in
for the murders of tourists. In addition, another five
suspects were arrested and extradited from Guinea-Bissau.
According to prosecutors, all connections to a group allied
with the terror network al-Qaeda.
On February 1, a group of six unidentified men fired the
Israeli embassy in the capital of Nouakchott. Two civilians
were injured, but none from the embassy staff. Prior to the
attack, several political parties had demanded that the
government suspend its diplomatic relations with Israel.
is one of the few Arab countries to have full diplomatic
relations with Israel, which the country has had since 1999.
Islamic terrorists were suspected of the embassy attack.
Seven people were arrested shortly after the incident, but
were later released for lack of evidence.
Countryaah reports, President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdellahi dismissed Prime
Minister Zeine Ould Zeidane in early May. The reason was
unclear, but the dismissal took place at the same time as
violent protests against sharply raised food prices took
place in the country. The president gave one of his close
associates, economics professor Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, the
task of forming government instead. The largest government
party became the Waghfs Nationalist Party for democracy and
development. With the new prime minister, the Islamic
opposition joined the government for the first time ever in
the form of moderate Islamic Tewassoul. The Left Party
Progressive Union also became part of the government. The
largest opposition party, the Assembly of Democratic Forces,
refused to join the government, although its leader, Ahmed
Ould Daddah, said he was open to dialogue.
On July 3, Prime Minister Waghf filed his resignation
application after 32 members from his own party had
requested a statement of no confidence in the government.
However, the President instructed the Prime Minister to form
government again. In the new government, the opposition
parties received no items.
On August 6, six members of the Presidential Guard
conducted a bloody military coup against President
Abdellahi. Earlier in the day, the president had dismissed
four senior officers, including President of the Guard,
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. General Abdel Aziz refused
to accept the dismissal and was the one who led the coup.
The coup ended a burgeoning democratic rule in
Mauritania mapped on Digopaul.
President Abdellahi had been elected in 2007 in the
country's first free elections ever. Mauritania has since the
independence of France 1960 been marked by military coups.
The coup makers placed the democratically elected
leadership in house arrest and presented their junta,
consisting of eleven militants, led by Abdel Aziz, on August
7. The military junta would rule the country pending
A few days later, the prime minister and the interior
minister were released, but the former president was still
held captive. The coup was condemned by the African Union,
which excluded the country. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki
Moon, USA, EU, Arab League and Islamic Conference also
rejected the coup. In addition, France, the United States
and the World Bank halted portions of their assistance to
In addition, the United States introduced travel bans for
some of the junta members.
More than two-thirds of MEPs supported the coup makers.
In an official statement, the elected officials said the
army had done its duty only when it deposed President
Abdellahi, whom they accused of violating the country's
constitution. Some analysts believed that the reason for
Abdellahi's dissatisfaction was his inability to cope with
rising food prices as well as constant corruption charges
against his wife.
The military junta appointed Mauritania's EU ambassador, Moulaye
Ould Mohamed Laghdaf, as prime minister. The downed Prime
Minister, Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, called the appointment
"illegal" and was arrested by the police a few days later.
A transitional government was set up at the end of
August. Most ministers were people who supported the
military coup. In October, General Abdel Aziz promised that
elections would be held within 14 months, i.e. no later than
About nine of the approximately 30 political parties
operating in Mauritania expressed their opposition to the coup.
Supporters of these parties demonstrated during the fall,
demanding that the coup makers relieve and reinstate Abdellahi as president. The demonstrations were banned and
on October 6 the police deployed tear gas to disperse
protesters who protested in Nouakchott despite it. On this
date, AU had set a limit to restore Abdellahi's power. In
December, Abdallahi was released from house arrest.
In November, three men were each sentenced to ten years
in prison for belonging to "al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb," the terrorist network's North African branch.
According to M's previous government, this terror group was
behind the assassinations of the four French tourists in
December 2007 and the attack on the Israeli embassy in
The coup leader Abdel Aziz has said that one of his most
important tasks is to defeat extremism. An internet message
reported to be sent from "al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb"
in August appealed to Mauritanian to take up arms to fight
the coup makers.