Mauritania: A New Era?

Following a coup d'état a year ago, the election of the coup's leader, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to the presidency, and the country's first-ever suicide bombing in early August, Mauritania continues to experience massive changes.

On August 12, the Peace Corps suspended their program in Mauritania, citing safety and security concerns.

A Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Mauritania provides her perspective at Becky's Mauritanian Adventures:

As you've noticed, there has been a lot of instability in Mauritania since the beginning of my service last year. As I suspected, they have decided we will not be allowed to return to Mauritania. Today was obviously a very sad day for all of us, but I'm trying to remember that this also opens up a whole world of possibilities for the future. I will be back in America (again) probably within the next week. I've got a lot of ideas about what comes next, but I'm pretty sure it involves more Peace Corps service. I'm not going to write all the details here, because I don't know them all, but I'll be sure to keep you all updated.

Assessing the situation, news blog Newstime Africa stated [Ed. note: the post has since been deleted]:

The deci­sion to close the Peace Corps Cen­tre in the coun­try came as a sur­prise to the nation because the vol­un­teers were really help­ful to the peo­ple. The Peace Corps whose head­quar­ters is in Wash­ing­ton is active in 74 coun­tries around the globe. Since 1967, the Peace Corps started imple­ment­ing human­i­tar­ian pro­gramme in the Islamic Empire of Sand; more espe­cially in the agri­cul­tural, health and edu­ca­tional sec­tor and they have largely improved the stan­dard of edu­ca­tion in the coun­try even though major­ity of the peo­ple pre­fer Islamic edu­ca­tion to west­ern one. Their depar­ture have caused a big blow to the gov­ern­ment more espe­cially the rural peo­ple who have become more accus­tomed to them due to their gen­eros­ity. Pres­i­dent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has promised to fight against the extrem­ists in all form deem best for the secu­rity of the coun­try.

The blogger went on to say:

Mean­while the for­ma­tion of the new gov­ern­ment which com­prised of twenty one min­is­ters is still the talk of the coun­try, four days after their nom­i­na­tion. They are all edu­cated elites with supe­rior diplo­mas in var­i­ous Uni­ver­si­ties and insti­tu­tions both in the coun­try and out­side.

More specifically, the talk of the country (or at least the blogosphere) is Naha Bint Hamdi Ould Mouknass, recently appointed by the government to the position of foreign minister; As blogger The Moor Next Door points out:

Ms. Bint Ould Mouknass is the first woman to hold the post in any Arabic-speaking country; she is joined by five other female appointees in General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s government.

The blogger goes on to explain the significance of this posting:

Her appointment is at once clever and utilitarian: Bint Mouknass’s appointment, like that of her predecessor, is an attempt to appeal to outside audiences with a fresh and “soft” face. The General is also offering spoils to his supporters (more on this later). It also puts a wedge between the new government and the Islamist movement, whose policy it co-opted prior to (and during, mind you) the presidential election (e.g., Israel), it is thought to be politically beneficial to act contra the movement’s ideology, thereby clearly distinguishing himself from it, especially in light of his efforts to “fight terrorism,” though this was surely thought up well before last week’s suicide bombing (and likely without their possibility in mind).

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