When the junta grabbed both power and President Sidi Ould Sheik Abdallahi, it said it would restore legitimate rule. Since then, however, the generals have moved to consolidate their power, have rebuffed calls from the international community to free the president, and have called for a "national gathering" to decide the country's future.
The coup leader, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, defends the action, saying Mr. Abdallahi mismanaged the nation's political institutions and economy. The fact that he was overthrown shortly after he dismissed the army's top generals, however, suggests it was more of a power struggle than a disagreement over governance issues.
With the president's election last year, Mauritania was poised to make social and political progress denied it under previous authoritarian rule. That promise is now in tatters as the nation is dragged back into autocracy.
The Mauritanian people deserve the right to the democracy they worked so hard to obtain. Mr. Abdallahi should be unconditionally released and returned to office and constitutional order should be immediately restored.