Major protest planned for Nouakchott spread to other cities in Mauritania on this National Day of Anger organized using a combination of social media and more traditional communications. The campaign started off small with simple interaction between disgruntled young Mauritanians on Facebook, but in the past few months it has spread across the country.
The movement has publicized a 28-point list expressing grievances such as lack of representation, poverty and inequitable distribution of goods.
As the tide of Arab uprisings swept to the most westerly member of the African League, protesters formed a march which stretched almost a mile down the main road in the nation's capital, leading towards Bockate Square. Police descended on hundreds of demonstrators who sought to enter the square in downtown Nouakchott, which has been declared off-limits for protesters since rallies began in late February.
Using tear gas and batons, the police broke up the demonstration of several hundred youths demanding the ouster of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, detaining about 20 protesters. Protesters were also calling for the Senate to be dismissed and the minimum wage increased to 73,000 Ouguiyas (around $269).
Three women who were arrested were later released after strong protests, which continued though the night, demanding release of the remaining detainees. A few more were released Tuesday morning but around a dozen are still held, including popular local activist and blogger Ahmed Jidou.
The civilian government of Mauritania was overthrown on August 6, 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. In April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the July elections, which he won.
About 20 percent of the 3.3 million Mauritanian population currently lives on less than $1.25 per day. The country is one of the worst hit by al-Qaeda activity in the Islamic Maghreb.