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Mauritanian Junta Appoints New Government


The premier of Mauritania's military run government has named a new cabinet. Following the move, analysts say the military may be determined to govern the country for the long term, despite international condemnation. Brent Latham has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Mauritania's new government has 22 ministers, some from the previous government who had supported the coup that removed the nation's first democratically elected president from power last month.

The move may signal the intention of the military to retain power over the long term, says analyst Kissy Agyeman, of London-based research firm Global Insight.

"I think what it shows is that the junta is serious about governing the country in spite of the international condemnation. As to when it plans to exit from power and hand over to a civilian government, we are still in the dark, it has not given a clear timeline of how things should proceed," said Agyeman. "But this does say that the junta is here to stay in the meantime, and that it is resolved to governing the country."

The government of the former colonial power, France, a major donor which has cut off much aid since the coup, immediately denounced the new government as "illegitimate."

The junta is still holding deposed President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi under house arrest. Even in the face of international outcry, the government has refused to set a date for new elections.

Agyeman says the delay does not help Mauritania's fledgling democracy.

"The fact that the junta came in and deposed the very first elected leader does not speak well for Mauritania's nascent democracy," said Agyeman. "This time last year Mauritania was held as a model of transition."

The justice minister in the new government, who held the same post previously, Ahmedou Tidjane Bal, said there will be general consultations with all political parties and civil society groups to determine at which point it is feasible to prepare new elections.

Supporters of the deposed president, who are a small vocal minority at this point, say he should be put back in power immediately.

Mr. Abdallahi, who faces possible prosecution over alleged corruption, became Mauritania's first democratically elected president last year, after a previous military-led regime organized elections.

That government was led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, who said at the time that the era of military government in Mauritania had ended.

Agyeman says Vall, who has recently returned to Mauritania, is closely monitoring the actions of the new junta.

"His reemergence on the political scene is not surprising, given the very influential role that he still has in the military. There are rumors that he is not on terribly good terms with the junta leader so this could make for some intriguing times ahead," added Agyeman. "There are rumors going around that he is looking for a means to muscle in and perhaps be given a high level post pre and post elections."

Vall led the military coup in 2005 which overthrew long time ruler Maaouya Ould Taya, who had held power since 1984. Before his return to Mauritania in recent days, Vall says he was studying English in Ireland.

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