The junta that seized power in Mauritania appears to have understood the message of the international community that military coups aren’t the right way to achieve government change.
Criticized and sanctioned by the African Union, Arab League, the United States and other nations for overthrowing and arresting President Sidi Ould Cheik Abdellahi, the generals controlling Nouakchott are trying to appear more democratic. Unfortunately, the operative word here is “appear” because their actions fall far short of what is required to restore constitutional order to the West African nation.
Coup leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz organized what he called a political forum to seek public input for changing the constitution. Such a move would seem to be inclusive, but in fact was aimed at building support for allowing the military to run for the offices they now hold by fiat.
At least a third of the nation’s parliament boycotted the forum. Nevertheless, the junta has called for a presidential election to be held in June, presumably with military officers on the slate.
President Abdellahi has attempted to offer his ideas for resolving the crisis, but last week was barred from entering the capital for a public appearance. Security forces stopped the president’s convoy before it reached the capital, imposed restrictions on his travels, so he returned to his hometown of Lemden, where he remains under defacto house arrest.
These and other actions by the junta violate basic democratic norms. The United States repeats its call for an immediate return to constitutional order in Mauritania. And that can be achieved only by restoring President Abdellahi and the military withdrawing from the political scene.