Monday, March 23, 2009

Aicha Bint Jeddane Runs Again in Mauritania Presidential Elections

Published on Magharebia‎ ( ‎

First female presidential candidate breaks gender barriers in Mauritania


When Mauritania holds presidential elections in June, one candidate will be a brave young woman who has done it all before. Aicha Bint Jeddane talks with Magharebia about why she is seeking the country's highest post for the second time.

Interview and photo by Mohammed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 20/03/09

[Mohammed Wedoud] Aicha Bint Jeddane says women's ambitions are limitless.

Aicha Bint Jeddane became Mauritania's first female presidential candidate in the 2003 elections, winning support – especially from young people – during a campaign characterised as daring and influential. Last week, she declared her candidacy for the June 7th presidential elections. Magharebia spoke with Bint Jeddane at her Nouakchott home about why she is determined to join the race.

Magharebia: Why did you decide to run again for the presidency?

Aicha Bint Jeddane: Actually, I feel like I am speaking on behalf of women, who constitute half of society and yet still suffer from illiteracy, poverty, divorce, disease and all the ensuing problems that require urgent solutions.

Therefore, I was always first to discuss women's problems. I have decided to run for president to be able to solve those problems. I am confident that the level of awareness among young people and women will be in my favour. They have been constantly understanding of the efforts that I've made for them and for beloved Mauritania. My slogan is, has been and always will be: 'You have tried a male president; why not try a female one?'

Magharebia: Have Mauritanian women obtained all of their rights?

Bint Jeddane: The constitution and all laws ensure her right to run for all positions, including the presidency, which I am currently striving to attain. Laws and regulations on their own, however, are not sufficient to improve women's condition. I am urging men in Mauritania to let their female compatriots take over the reins for at least one term.

I believe in the notion of rotation of power. I believe this is the life jacket for the present and future of the Arab Maghreb. Our country is not a monarchy. We should never lose sight of that. The road to power is through ballot boxes, not coercion – as long as they are targeting peace, security and social welfare.

Magharebia: How do you view the current political scene? Are you confident you will achieve good results in the coming elections?

Bint Jeddane: I believe that the current political scene is influenced by results triggered by the August 6th coup, which – directly or indirectly – led to the current division among political parties. Thus, I am inviting everyone to the negotiating table to work out a solution to the current state. Only we know what is best for our country.

Magharebia: What is your reaction to Libyan leader and African Union Chairman Moamer Kadhafi's recent trip to Nouakchott?

Bint Jeddane: Kadhafi's visit was one of the world's endeavours to put an end to the Mauritanian political crisis. Kadhafi offered his take on the situation, a vision with which some agreed, others expressed reservations about and still others rejected. However, the problem has not been solved. We need to propose a national solution that preserves the superior interests of our homeland, which cannot sustain all this contention.

Kadhafi has his own views. But I believe that elections are the safest path to lead nations to a better future, where authority is shared and each gets their rights. True, our democracy experience is still young and strong. But we must nurture it, so it would offer us a safe haven in the present and future of the Mauritanian people.

Magharebia: How, in your view, can Mauritania resolve the current situation?

Bint Jeddane: I believe that the solution lies in adopting the principle of serious national dialogue, which primarily upholds the interests of the people as its goal, away from foreign intervention.

Finally, I am certain that women's ambitions are limitless. They are able to preserve their sanctities and respect their traditions, while making their way in the world, taking care of their families and competing against their fellow brothers politically and democratically.

They will surely come out victorious.

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