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Mauritania: The Day Ould Taya was Toppled

Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya ruled Mauritania for more than 20 years, following a military coup he initiated against his predecessor Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah, on December 12, 1984. His reign was one of the most controversial periods of Mauritania's history. It started as a military regime and then turned into a democratic system, in submission to international demand and pressure. His political opponents assert that democracy during his mandate was a mere joke and was marked by electoral fraud and political arrests.

A photo of Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya used from his Facebook Page.

Maaouya's term also witnessed horrible human rights violations, such as the execution of hundreds of black people between 1987 and 1989, in addition to the displacement of thousands of people which left the Mauritanian state with a heavy legacy. During the last years of his rule, he launched a severe campaign of political arrests considered as one of the largest and most diverse in the country's history and which eventually led to a political crisis which persisted until his ousting, in another military coup, on August 3, 2005. Ould Taya was toppled by his head of police force Ely Ould Mohamed Vall , who seized the opportunity of the president being out of the country for the funeral of the Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz to carry out the operation, putting an end to longest reign in Mauritania's modern history.

Remembering Ould Taya's ousting, netizens shared some of their memories and impressions. Melika writes [ar]:

@Melika37قضيتي مع معاوية كانت شخصية بامتياز كانهوالشرير الذي يعتقل والدي والذي يجعل اخي الصغير يبكي عند نهاية كل زيارة
My case with Maaouya was personal per excellence. He was the villain who arrested my father and made my little brother cry at the end of every visit.

She continues:

@Melika37 كنت صغيرة لا استوعب الكثير ولكن كنت مدركة لامر واحد “معاوية يجب ان يسقط
I was young and didn't understand much but one thing I knew for sure was that “Maaouya” had to fall.

Khadija adds:

@5addoOo اليوم أنا أعي معنى أن نتخلص من مفسد.. أتمنى أن نحتفل معاً هذه المرة بسقوط العسكر، سأصرخ فرحاً لا خوفاً ! #mauritania
I realize today what it means to get rid of a corrupt ruler. I hope we will celebrate this time the fall of the military. I will scream from joy and not fear.

February 25 Movement activist Tah Ould Habib recalls his joy after Ould Taya was toppled:

@tahabib كانت فرحتي لا توصف بعد إذاعة البيان لأني لم أكن أتصور كيف ستكون موريتانيا دون معاوية وهو الرئيس الوحيد الذي عرفت منذ بدأت أدرك ما يحيط بي
My joy could not be described following the announcement because I couldn't imagine how would Mauritania be without “Maaouya” and he the only president I knew since I started to be conscious of what surrounds me.

He adds:

@tahabib: وعندما عدت إلى الحي الجامعي ليلا بعد بوم حافل،‏ عرفت من إحدى الإذاعات أنه تم الإعلان عن مجلس عسكري يترأسه اعلى ولد محمد فال…
At night, when I went back to the University street following an eventful day, I heard on one the radio channels that a military council was established headed by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall.

And notes:

@tahabib: وكانت خيبة أمل لا توصف ولم أستطع النوم.‏ كل هذا من أجل هذا؟ نستبدل معاوية بشرطيه الأول ومدير أمنه وأحد رموز الفساد في عهده.
It was an indescribable disappointment and I couldn't sleep. All this to end up with that? We replace Maaouya by his head of police and security and one of the corruption symbols during his era.

Baba Ould Deye also remembers that day very well:

@babadeye يوم الإنقلاب علي ولد الطائع كنت عائدا من البادية،في مدينة #تكندوصلني الخبر،حاول السائق ثنينا عن مواصلة الي #انواكشوط لكنني رفضت. #موريتانيا
The day of the coup against Ould Taya I was on my way from Tagant when I head the news. The driver tried to dissuade us to continue until Nouakchott but I refused.

The story goes on:

@babadeye: كان السائق خائفا ويقول لي أن الطريق ستكون مغلقة، لكنني مستعدا للوصول إلي #انواكشوط ولو حبوا،وصلنا وذهبت إلي منزل الوالد في عرفات #موريتانيا
The driver was afraid and telling me that the road will blocked but I was ready to get to Nouakchott even crawling. We reached our destination and I headed to my father's house in Arafat.

Then he associates the event with today's military regime:

@babadeye: اليوم وبعد سبع سنوات من سقوط ديكتاتور ولد الطائع،مازال يحكمنا العسكر،فقط ولد الطائع غادر إلي #قطر وبقي نظامه ليحكمنا بأسماء مختلفة.#موريتانيا
Today and after seven years of the fall of the dictator Ould Taya, we are still governed by the military. Only Ould Taya left to Qatar and his regime remained to rule with different names.

Haymoudane also has something to say about that day:

@Haymoudane أذكر أنني كنت أول من شاهد الخبر على التلفزيون في منزل خالتي، ركضت أصرخ إلى المنزل “معاوية طاح.. معاوية طاح*”! سمعني كل سكان الحي.. كنت فرحا!‏
I remember I was the first one to see the news on TV in my aunt's house. I ran to the house screaming “Maaouya fell … Maaouya fell” the entire street heard me. I was happy.

He further explains:

@Haymoudane: يومها لم أكن أفهم معنى الحرية والديمقراطية.. لكن كنت أشعر بقهر شديد جراء الظلم البشع الذي يمارسه ولد الطايع في حق الشعب الموريتاني..!‏
Backthen, I didn't understand the meaning of freedom and democracy but I was really very sad from the the ugly oppression of Ould Taya against the Mauritanian people

And notes:

@Haymoudane: اليوم أشعر بأسف بالغ على ذالك الانقلاب فلو كان ولد الطايع يحكمنا اليوم لكانت #موريتايا تلت #تونس إلى الربيع العربي..!
Today I feel very sorry for that coup for if Ould Taya was governing us today, Mauritania would have followed Tunisia's steps in the Arab spring

Abdel Fetah Habib recalls:

@afetah كنت في بتلميت فجاءت قريبة لي صباحا فقابلتها الوالدة لكنها رفضت الحديث لأنها تحمل نبأ سارا خاصا بي.. أخبرتني وهي خائفة
I was in Boutlimit, a relative came to see me in the morning, so my mother welcomed her but she refused to talk to her because she said she carried good news especially for me. She told me this while she was scared.

And continues:

@afetah:كلمت شابا في نواكشوط فأكد لي خبر الانقلاب فسافرت إلى العاصمة فرحا. شاركت الجميع في فرحتهم بغد أفضل لكني لم أكن مرتاحا للقادة الجدد
I spoke to a guy in Nouakchott who confirmed the news of the coup. I headed to the capital very happy and shared the joy of a better tomorrow with everyone but I wasn't really feeling at ease about the new leaders

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