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Mauritania Opposition Parties Unhappy With Military Junta

Mauritania's opposition political parties are expressing dissatisfaction after the military rulers refused to set a timetable for elections or guarantee they will not stand as candidates. The parties say the military junta has reneged on its promise to return the country to democratic rule after ousting the country's only democratically elected President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in a coup de'tat. The United States, the European Union as well as the African Union have unanimously condemned the coup de'tat and called for an immediate return to constitutional rule.

The U.S has frozen around $25 million in military and development aid to Mauritania warning that much bigger sums of future aid is at stake. Kabiru Mato is a political science professor at Nigeria's University of Abuja. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that there is need for the military junta to announce their plans for the future.

"What I find rather interesting and repulsive is the failure to announce to the people of Mauritania what programs they have in terms of a new transition time table that would see to an early election so that a democratic government could be elected in Mauritania. But again in another breadth that is generally part of the military tradition whenever they take over power. They don't easily respond perhaps to the aspirations of the people or the political class unless of course they are under tremendous pressure to be able to do that," Mato pointed out.

He urged Mauritanians to put more pressure on the military junta to return the country to constitutional rule.

"I think what is important now is for the political establishment in Mauritania to put a lot of diplomatic efforts, especially the African Union to not only isolate the new military government, but force the government to make preparation for an early election," he said.

Mato said the military junta should be forcefully impressed upon to hand over power to civilian rule.

"The African Union must go beyond simple political rhetoric. It must also contend with tremendous diplomatic pressure on the new government, and there must be a very clear picture showing to the new government that the Union would not obviously recognize the new military leadership. They would be isolated and Africans may even contemplate a possible blockade or certain forms of diplomatic embargoes and so on and so forth as a strategy to show the new military rulers in Mauritania that it is serious. If it doesn't go beyond simple political statement, the soldiers would certainly remain unchecked and they will continue to remain in power without necessarily perhaps bringing up an acceptable time table that would see their immediate exit out of power," Mato noted.

He said Mauritania has had a history of dictators since the country's independence.

"The dominant feature in Mauritania today is poverty and therefore poverty will always have a very central role to play in determining the pattern of political system that you have in that country. And remember that the government that was overthrown by these soldiers was the first democratically elected government in that country since its political independence in the early 1960s. So, the problem here has to do with the fact that the political culture of the people themselves is that which is closely and neatly tied to dictatorial tendencies and ruler ship," he said.

Mato said the country has also been destabilized for a long time after its independence.

"Another thing also is that Mauritania has a history of political instability over time. So, the concept of democracy as propounded by the western liberal theory is therefore not very much grounded with the people of Mauritania. But then the fundamental question here has to do with the fact that there has to be very conscious political elite that will apparently mobilize the citizenry towards waging a united front against military dictatorship," Mato pointed out.