Magazine article New African

A Man of the People

Magazine article New African

A Man of the People

Article excerpt

Mauritania's new president, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz (pictured right), is considered by his people as a man with a mission to improve the lot of the country, even though the outside world may not see it that way. But if what he says in this interview with Hichem Ben Yaiche is any guide, Mauritanians are in for a very good time.

After your election victory and international recognition, what next?

I believe that it is the people of Mauritania who emerged victorious after an ordeal that lasted almost three years, after the hopes of change of 3 August 2005 were not fulfilled by the various governments. This victory proves that Mauritanians have opted for a change that will help the country move into an era that we hope will be better, an era of progress towards development, political stability and security.

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This period has offered you valuable insights?

Indeed, this period brought me a lot of knowledge. I am convinced that much can be done for this country, a rich country. I have always said it and I will prove it. Unfortunately, Mauritania has been a victim of its elite and of a political class who reigned over the country during the 50 years of independence till today. Speaking of politicians, I don't single out any particular individuals. It was the vision, strategies and design that were negative. Thanks to the Mauritanian people, that page is now turned.

What do you think of those who continue to challenge the election results despite their validation by foreign observers?

Such challenges are not unique to Mauritania. Each election has a winner and sometimes many losers. Therefore, it is not unusual that the losers contest the results. In any case, if there was any fraud, it was not in my camp. This is the first time I have run for office and my staff was made up of young, inexperienced people. My opponents had better electoral experience, they knew how to practice fraud, manipulation and misinformation. As they have lost, they must find a reason for their defeat.

One cannot help questioning the circumstances of the coup of August 2008. Was it really necessary? What was the justification?

I think we should go back to 2005, and even before, to understand what happened in August 2008. There was a democratic facade in place--in reality a dictatorship--that had brought about dire living conditions co Mauritania, including attempted coups, social injustice, corruption and waste. Anything you can imagine in a country without rule of law. It was the total disenchantment which led to change in 2005, [people] hoping to bring the country back on track. Unfortunately, after only a few months, the team that was in charge failed to maintain the new line of thwought.

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Yet you were associated with it.

No! I was not really involved, even if, in reality, I had probably been the principal architect. I acted with some officers for a change that would allow us to turn the page. Unfortunately, after a few months, we came back to our starting point: the same people symbolising the past had regained control. We had to manage the situation to hold democratic elections that were free, transparent and credible. But life is sometimes disappointing, and ultimately, we elected a president worse than the previous one. He was conspicuous by his absence and, thus, those who reigned for half a century were back in power once again. On the other hand, parliamentarians, representatives of the people who wanted change, were resisting: they protested against the urge to return to the past. The teams were then able to advise the president to get rid of the main opponents and to sack the key military leaders, in a single morning. So this is what occurred without the slightest respect for the law. On the morning of 6 August 2008, I went to my office to work, and not for a coup d'etat. My hand was forced by the illegal actions of the former president. …

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