04/12/2021 12:34
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  G. Governance  


Mauritania becomes Africa's democracy pioneer  

None of the junta members ran for president in Sunday's final poll, which swept former economics minister Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi to power.

The elections were regarded as the first really transparent presidential vote since Mauritania became independent from France in 1960.

They were preceded by an equally democratic constitutional referendum and legislative, local and senate elections.

The US embassy in Nouakchott 'congratulated' Mauritania on Monday, describing it as a 'democratic model.'

Just 20 months ago, Mauritania would have appeared an unlikely candidate for such role.

The impoverished country consisting mainly of the Sahara desert had experienced nine coups or coup attempts by the time Ould Vall took over.

Ould Taya, who also took power in a coup, had subjected Mauritania to 21 years of authoritarian rule marked by allegations of electoral fraud, press censorship, political repression and cronyism.

Inhabited mainly by cattle-herding nomads until recently, Mauritania has the kinds of strong clan structures that often do not favour modern democracy.

On the other hand, the small number of voters - slightly over one million - and a certain individualistic mentality are seen as factors facilitating democracy.

President Abdallahi and the new authorities will face the challenge of consolidating democracy and of bridging the political and economic divide separating the traditionally dominant Arab-Berber 'white Moors' from the rest of the population.

The less privileged groups include largely black descendants of slaves, who adopted the Arab culture of their masters, and of Africans speaking languages such as Pulaar or Soninke.

Slavery was abolished officially in 1981, but there is evidence that it persists, albeit to a disputed extent.

The line between slavery and voluntary servitude is sometimes difficult to draw in a society where slave families may have served their masters for generations, creating complex economic and emotional ties.

The new authorities will also be expected to strengthen democracy economically by seeking an equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth.

Mauritania, whose natural resources were limited to fish and iron ore, became one of Africa's new oil producers last year, extracting an average of 37,000 barrels a day.

Minister under founding father Mokhtar Ould Daddah and later under Ould Taya, Cheikh Abdallahi has the advantage of rallying both former Ould Taya supporters and some opposition figures.

Some Mauritanians, however, fear that his consensual approach could lack the decisiveness the country needs at this delicate juncture

Source: monstersandcritics.com  


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