The African Union's ultimatum to Mauritania's new military leaders to free ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and return the country constitutional rule expires Monday. It's not clear what the AU would do if junta leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who seized power August 6 this year, does not release ousted President Abdallahi from house arrest.
Meanwhile, Mauritanian security forces on Sunday used tear gas to disperse anti-coup protesters. A coalition of pro-democratic parties called the National Front for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD) had called for a day of protest on Sunday despite a ban on demonstrations by the military junta.
Mauritanians in the United States also held demonstrations Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio against the coup leaders. Mohamed Fall Sidatt is vice president of the Association of Mauritanians here in the United States. He told VOA Sunday's demonstration was in solidarity with Mauritanians back home.
"The day is a special day for us because we know it represents the ultimatum that was put by the AU to denounce the takeover of the military against the President, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi who was democratically elected a year ago," he said.
Sidatt said Mauritanians are hoping the African Union would raise the stakes higher after the ultimatum ends Monday.
"We hope the African goes one step ahead in sanctioning the military leaders. A couple of options were put on the table. The first one was to freeze all the assets of the coup leaders, and second to impose isolation on the country. All cooperation between and all African nations," Sidatt said.
He said he shares the view of some who believe that perhaps the African Union needs a standing army unit to back up its threats against coup leaders on the continent.
"We are hoping that this time around the AU would put its standard very high because this is one of the stupidest coups that ever happened in the region. Two years ago, all the international standards were met in the elections in Mauritania, and nobody really can understand the reason of this coup d'edtat. No reason whatever was even put by the military themselves but their greed and their willingness to stay in power. Therefore we are hoping that the AU this time would use all means necessary to remove these people," he said.
Sidatt said while there are some Mauritanians here in the United States who support the military junta, most Mauritanians here are in favor of the restoration of democracy in their country.
He said Mauritanians back home are also for the restoration of their ousted president as was evidenced by Sunday's demonstrations in the capital, Nouakchott."We know that the majority in Mauritania is also with this for many reasons. The first one is because we spent over two to three years organizing these elections, and we feel like it's basically taking us back again to the era of the dictatorship Ould Taya. And the second reason is because we just elected a president and we didn't give him enough to go ahead with his plan for the country," Sidatt said.