Mauritania's military leaders are going ahead with plans for new
elections in June, despite African Union sanctions meant to force the
return of the toppled civilian government.
military government says the African Union's decision to impose
sanctions ignores everything soldiers have done to improve the country
since toppling the nation's first freely-elected leader last August.
secretary-general of the ruling council, Colonel Ahmedou Bemba Ould
Baye, says the path the military has chosen for Mauritania is
irreversible. He says AU sanctions not only fail to recognize what he
says are the "positive developments" since last year's coup, but also
the military's willingness to work toward a return to constitutional
The African Union's Peace and Security Council last week
instructed member states to freeze the assets of and impose a travel
ban on civilian and military members of the government in Nouakchott.
The action was taken after military leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel
Aziz ignored a deadline to reinstate toppled president Sidi Ould Cheikh
Communications Minister Mohamed Ould Meine says the
sanctions will not change anything in Mauritania because the government
is committed to organizing new elections in June. He says it is
pressing ahead with voter registration, and an extraordinary session of
the National Assembly to nominate an independent electoral commission
and to change the constitution to allow soldiers to run for office.
Pro-coup parliamentarian Sid Ahmed Ould Ahmed says he is shocked by the AU decision.
says AU sanctions do not take into account the military's release of
former President Abdallahi or the steps it is taking to resolve the
crisis through new elections. As those were the main demands of the
international community and the African Union, Ahmed says the decision
to impose sanctions is clearly biased against Mauritania.
African Union suspended Mauritania following the coup and refused to
seat a delegation from the military government at last week's summit in
Opposition leaders and members of the toppled civilian
government are also against the sanctions. Former president
Abdallahi's spokesman says the sanctions are regrettable because they
could lead to a tougher international embargo that would hurt the
Mauritanian people. The African Union is passing its decision on to
the United Nations.
Mauritanian engineer Seyid Ould Mohamed Vadel fears the economic impact of the AU action.
says the suspension of international assistance following the coup has
made life more difficult. He says further action will increase that
hardship, especially without international investment.
France and the World Bank suspended most of their assistance following
the coup. The United States is blocking $15 million in military
cooperation, more than $4 million in peacekeeping training, and $3
million in development assistance.
African leaders are not
refusing to negotiate with General Aziz. The African Union says its
sanctions should be accompanied by African and international efforts to
work with all Mauritanian parties toward the rapid return to
That starts with reinstating President
Abdallahi. But General Aziz says returning the president to power
would not serve the greater interests of the Mauritanian people. He
believes changing the constitution to allow soldiers to run for office
best reflects what he calls Mauritania's "new political and cultural
General Aziz is widely expected to run for president in the June vote, but has not publicly announced his candidacy.