Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mauritanian Parliament Opens Special Session

NOUAKCHOTT 20 August 2008 Sapa-AFP


The Mauritanian parliament opened a special session here Wednesday two weeks after generals ousted president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi as thousands of people marched in an anti-coup rally.

The session was officially called to discuss "the reasons for the blockage of democratic institutions" which led to what the general's supporters are calling "the change" of August 6.

Pro-coup deputies, who hold the majority in parliament, have said they will use the session to name eight members to a special high court of justice, which could decide to put Ould Cheikh Abdallahi on trial.

A minority of 32 members of parliament, which includes members of the lower house and the senate, boycotted the session which they branded illegal. In all the parliament has 151 seats.

Earlier on Wednesday thousands of people demonstrated against the military coup, led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and called for the return of the country's first democratically elected president.

Under heavy police surveillance the protest, which had been allowed by the new military leadership, followed Nouakchott's main road from the central hospital to a square close to the lower house of parliament.

"The army have imposed an anti-constitutional regime on the
Mauritanian people and taken (their) civil liberties and the
democracy," Mohamed Ould Moloud, leader of the anti-coup UFP party, said at the start of the march.

He called on the military junta to reinstate president Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

The protest march was organised by the National Front for the
Defence of Democracy formed by the PNDD party of the president, an Islamic party, the APP party and the UFP.

The coup on August 6 was almost universally condemned by the
international community.

On Tuesday the UN Security Council adopted a non-binding statement condemning the coup and demanding the president's immediate release and the immediate "restoration of the legitimate, constitutional, democratic institutions."

Ould Abdel Aziz has promised quick and transparent elections and has moved forward with forming a new government with the support of a majority of parliament.

Ould Cheikh Abdallahi's 15 months in office coincided with the food crisis, security concerns and social unrest in Mauritania, an impoverished desert country of 3 million inhabitants whose main resources are fisheries and iron ore.

On Sunday the new military leadership promised again that "all of the countries problems will be resolved" like corruption and the deterioration of the standard of living.

A pro-coup rally in Nouakchott brought together 20,000 people over the weekend, according to official figures.

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