Mauritania: Student Scandal Rocks Presidential Palace

On May 3 a group of Mauritanian students made a surprise revelation [ar] at a press conference they organized that was covered by Mauritanian state television. They announced that the president's chief of staff Isselkou Ould Izidbih [former president of the University of Nouakchott] had attempted to bribe them to give up their struggle for students’ rights as well as to stop sit-ins and protests.

The group's spokesperson said that the president's chief of staff had asked them to split from the National Union of Mauritanian Students in return for a position paying 500 000 ouguiya [approx. $1700] as well as financial support for a number of students and a scholarship in a country of their choice.

The group said that after a number of meetings with Izidbih in the Presidential Palace they had made him believe they would split off, and would announce it in a press conference. They prepared everything, such as arranging media coverage and booking a hall in the luxury Al Khaima Hotel.

But they gave him a slap in the face when they revealed his plot to the media and exposed him to the public, giving evidence of his direct interference in the university and attempt to incite unrest within it. The students also accused the president's chief of staff of being behind racist incidents at the university by hiring and inciting some students.

The following video [ar] shows part of the press conference:

After the announcement Mauritanian state television withdrew from the press conference; it is worth mentioning that this was the first time it had been present at an event of this kind.

Blogger Dada Ould Sheikh Ibrahim wrote about the case:

منذ فترة وأنا أسمع بالاضرابات والإحتجاجات والاعتقالات في جامعة موريتانيا الوحيدة (جامعة نواكشوط) وكذلك بطرد عدد كبير من طلابها وتعذيب بعضهم ومنعهم من الصلاة أثناء الاعتقال… إلا أنني لم أفهم حقيقة ما يجري في كواليس تلك الجامعة التي غادرتها سنة 2007 لأدخل في عالم البطالة كآلاف الشباب الموريتانيين
لكنني اليوم فهمت ما يجري فقد عقد بعض الطلبة مؤتمراً صحفياً بفندق الخيمة ليعلنوا انسحابهم من الاتحاد الوطني لطلبة موريتانيا وقد حضر إلى المؤتمر عدد كبير من أفراد الأمن بزي مدني وبعض أعوان النظام وما إن بدأ المؤتمر حتى فجر الطالب: ألمين ولد حمادي عضو المكتب التنفيذي للإتحاد الوطني لطلبة موريتانيا حقائق قوية عن إغرائه بالتوظيف والمال من طرف مدير ديوان رئيس الجمهورية ورئيس جامعة انواكشوط السابق السيد إسلك ولد إزيد بيه لشق صفوف الاتحاد الوطني بإشراف مباشر من العضو السابق بنفس الاتحاد السيد إطول عمر.
For some time now I've been hearing about strikes, protests and arrests at the only Mauritanian university, the University of Nouakchott, as well as about the expulsion of a large number of students, the torture of some, and their being prevented from praying during their detention. However I didn't understand what was really happening behind the scenes in the university – the very one that I left in 2007 to enter the world of unemployment, like thousands of young Mauritanians.
But today I finally understood what's going on. Some students arranged a press conference in Al Khaima Hotel, to announce their split from the National Union of Mauritanian Students. The press conference was attended by a large number of security personnel in plain clothes, as well as some government agents. Just after it started Almeen Ould Hamadi, member of the executive office of the National Union of Mauritanian Students, surprised everyone. He revealed that Isselkou Ould Izidbih, the president's chief of staff and the former president of the University of Nouakchott, had offered him a job and money to split the union, under the direct supervision of a former member of the same union, Mr Itwal Omar.

The Victims Against Corruption group made a statement about the case:

لقد صُدمنا وذُهلنا في “ضحايا ضد الفساد” بما تم كشفه مساء الخميس الموافق 03 ـ 05 ـ 2012 في فندق “الخيمة” خلال المؤتمر الصحفي الذي نظمته مجموعة من القيادات الطلابية، والتي كان من المفترض أن تعلن عن انشقاقها عن الاتحاد الوطني لطلبة موريتانيا، وتأسيس ما كان سيسمى بالاتحاد الوطني لطلبة موريتانيا الأحرار
وإننا واعتمادا على المعلومات المفزعة التي تم تقديمها خلال هذا المؤتمر الصحفي، والتي أشفعت بأدلة قوية لم يتم تفنيدها حتى الآن من الجهات المتضررة، لنعلن :
1 بأن صدمتنا كانت كبيرة من تحول ديوان رئاسة الجمهورية إلى إدارة لتقديم الرشا لبعض الطلاب ولإغرائهم بمنح وبوظائف في المستقبل، وذلك لتحقيق مكاسب سياسية ضيقة وآنية.
2 كما نعلن عن أسفنا الكبير من تحول إدارة ديوان الرئيس الذي يرفع شعار الحرب على الفساد إلى إدارة فاسدة تعمل على تفشي الفساد وعلى اتساعه بدلا من المساعدة في محاربته..
We at Victims Against Corruption were shocked and astounded by what was revealed on the evening of May 3, 2012 at the Al Khaima Hotel, during the press conference arranged by a group of student leaders who were supposedly going to announce their split from the National Union of Mauritanian Students, and their establishment of the National Union of Free Mauritanian Students.
We are relying on the alarming information presented in the press conference, supplemented with strong evidence that has not been refuted so far by those concerned, to announce the following:
1. We were greatly shocked that the president's office has turned into a department offering bribes to some students, tempting them with scholarships and future jobs, in pursuit of temporary and narrow political gains.
2. We are also greatly saddened that the administration of the president's office, which raised the banner of fighting corruption, has become corrupt itself and is spreading the problem instead of helping to eliminate it.

The activist known as Mahmoum bi Mauritania tweeted:

‏ @mahmoume مابين الميكانيكي ومدير ديوانه يختزل حال موريتانيا في كذب ومؤامرات خسيسة
Between the mechanic [the president's nickname] and his chief of staff, Mauritania has been reduced to lies and despicable plots

Nasser Al Hashemi also tweeted about the case:

@n_nasser56 في الديوان أبرمت الصفقة ، يالحزني على ما ألت اليه رئاسة الجمهورية ،ا لبلاد شاسعة أبرموا صفقاتكم بعيد عن مؤسساتنا الجمهورية
The deal was signed in the president's office. I'm really sad for what the presidency has come to. The country's big; sign your deals away from the institutions of our republic.


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