Jun 26, 2019

Compromised Spaces: Mauritania

UNPO Member Biram Dah has deemed the Mauritanian Presidential elections as a "Coup d'Etat." On 22 June 2019, presidential elections were held in Mauritania, following President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s retreat from power after two five-year terms. Ruling party candidate and former head of the domestic security service Mohamed Ahmed Ould Ghazouani obtained 51,5% of the votes. The reported turnout was of 62.68%. The election’s outcome is disputed in light of his previous role as Abdel Aziz's chief of staff and consequent proximity to the governing elite.

In protest, four of the opposition candidates have officially challenged and dissociated themselves from the results. Amongst them, anti-slavery candidate and UNPO Member Biram Dah Abeid, who came in second with 18,5% of preferences. He reportedly referred to the outcome as a “coup d’etat” and declared unity among Ghazouani’s opponents. Yesterday evening [25th June 2019], in the name of all four opposition leaders, he presented an appeal to the Constitutional Council, calling for a review of the results. 

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has rejected all allegations of their bias in favor of the ruling party and guaranteed that the elections were conducted properly. Peaceful protests started taking place earlier on Sunday in coastal areas and then spread to other areas of the country in the beginning of the week, but were met with repression. 

Sources on the ground report that Ghazouani self-proclaimed his own victory long before the closure of polling stations and ordered the deployment of tanks on the streets already in the afternoon of the elections, in a massive display of power. Since then the situation has worsened, with one protester killed from being run over by a police car, others arrested, and many hundreds wounded. The internet has been cut off for the past three days and telecommunication lines are disrupted, with suspicions of phone tapping. 

The representative of the Haratin people within the UNPO, Biram Dah Abeid, who gained absolute majority in diaspora polls, has been paying visits to hospitals and to families of the wounded, all by denouncing the excessive use of force and encouraging his supporters to maintain a non-violent approach. Abeid and the other three opposition leaders have themselves been targeted by an intimidation campaign that saw their party offices in Nouakchott being seized and destroyed by police forces last night. 

As representatives of the Mauritanian abolitionist movement (IRA Mauritania), the UNPO is observing the developments in Mauritania with great concern and firmly supports the opposition’s request to shed light on the dubious electoral results. Denouncing Ghazouani’s crackdown on his opponents, the UNPO urges protesters to maintain a non-violent and peaceful approach and calls for a firm positioning from the international community.


Photo courtesy of BBC