Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mauritania: coup attempt

According to reports, members of the presidential guard took over the armed forces headquarters, and state television and radio stations today. President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was out of the country at the time, having left to attend Tuesday's funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. Taya is now in Niamey, Niger.
"We have heard that there has been a coup d'etat but we don't know who's involved. We don't know whether it is something that has succeeded or failed," Sid Ahmed Abeidna, the British honorary consul in Nouakchott, told Reuters. (source)
A bit more detail ....
A military source said "several senior officers" had been arrested but could not say if they had been detained by loyalists or rebels.

In June 2003 a bloody uprising failed to unseat Ould Taya, and was followed in August and September of last year by two more alleged coup attempts. (source)
UPDATE It's a coup ...
Many people headed to work as usual in the capital [on Thursday, August 4]. Traffic flowed freely and small groups of soldiers guarded key buildings, though in smaller numbers than on Wednesday.

State radio said the 17-member military council would be headed by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, naming a list of members comprised of officers in the various security forces.

Widely respected by fellow officers in Mauritania, Vall had for a long time been regarded as a close ally of the president, having participated in the 1984 coup that brought Taya to power and served as his security chief.

Analysts said the high-level backing for the coup in the security forces reflected widespread discontent with Taya, although it was unclear how far its leaders were motivated by ending repression rather than by personal gain.

"It definitely seems to me that there's a degree of unanimity with in the security forces, evidenced by the fact that there was nobody killed yesterday," said Mike McGovern, West Africa project director for the Crisis Group think-tank.

"The level of popular discontent in Mauritania is quite high."

The United States, African Union, South Africa and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan all condemned the seizure of power in the country of 2.9 million people. (source)